A PEDESTRIAN TOUR THROUGH THE PORT LINCOLN DISTRICT.
PARTICULARS OF THE GREAT FIRE.
Having just completed a pedestrian trip along the west coast from Port Lincoln, and witnessed the results of the terrible fire that has just ravaged this pastoral region, it may perhaps interest the public if you will kindly permit me to give you a few details concerning my wanderings. On landing from the Royal Shepherd, I was grievously disappointed to find Port Lincoln quite a little township, unworthy of its magnificent harbor. After breakfast I started off and walked to the "Fountain," about 16 miles, through a barren heath country, passing two large swamps on my left. About three miles from Port Lincoln a good view is obtained of the surrounding country. Looking seaward the scene is enchanting. The land-locked harbor affords a delightful prospect. During the day I saw clouds of smoke in the distance to the westward. This place derives its name from a natural fountain, yielding a never-failing supply of water.
Next day I walked about eight miles through the same description of country, when I came to Lake Wangary. Some very pretty views here relieved the eye, and there seemed to be two or three nice farms around the lake. About four miles from here saw in the distance what is called Coffin's Bay, a magnificent view. Continued my walk through Warrow Station, which is considered one of the prettiest places round Port Lincoln, owing to its fine gum-trees and the marble range in the background.
The ravages of a fearful fire now became manifest, the ground being covered with burning timber and fences. I journeyed on for about three miles through a low limestone country, heavily timbered with sheaoak and a few stunted gums, passing the Overland Telegraph survey party, who were encamped by the roadside, until I reached Mr. Kennett's eating house, where I stopped for the night. Mr. Kennett took me over his farm, showing me the damage he had sustained from the fire. His fences were totally consumed, also grazing, and a fine crop of oats. Up to this point the roadway had been very good. Next morning continued my journey through the Warrow Area, comprising some half dozen small farms. From the nature of the land I should not think them very remunerative.
Travelling towards Mount Drummond, the desolation caused by the fire became more apparent. Immense tracts of burnt and charred bush presented themselves to the view. Clouds of dust and smoke made the scene still more dismal. Until within two or three miles of Mount Drummond the country was stony and thickly wooded with sheaoak, when it became more open and sandy. I slept at Dowdle's eating-house. Mount Drummond I should think is about 600 feet above the level of the sea, and, strange enough has a well on the top of it, from whence good water is procured all the year round. The country in the vicinity of the Mount seems to be fair land, though rather sandy. The base of the Mount is of granite formation; the crown of limestone. The scenery is charming, embracing views of Mount Greenlees, Marble Range, Mount Dutton, North Block, and the sea.
Resumed my journey next morning through same description of country to Mount Hope (five miles), where for about two miles the land was scrubby and sandy. The fire must have raged very fiercely about here. The air was thick with smoke and ashes. Almost blinded with dust and parched with thirst, walking became a penance rather than a pleasure. Continued for about three miles through low limestone undulating country, dotted here and there with stunted sheaoaks, when I came to Ulipa well, by the roadside; thoroughly fagged and weary, I drank most heartily of its water, and did a spell.
After resuming my journey, a few small showers of rain fell. I was soon wet through, but a strong wind and a hot sun very quickly dried me again. I finally reached Lake Hamilton, which I skirted for about eight miles, arriving at Lake Hamilton Eating-House at sundown. Here I gathered many particulars about the fire, which appears to have been very severe, desolation and ruin staring one in the face on every side. Fires seem to have commenced independently of each other in three places, viz , at Warrow, Cooladie, Lake Hamiliton, and the Wedge (Messrs. J. & R. Love's station). The fire at the Wedge originated through the carelessness of a man smoking, who confessed to the manager of the station to having been the cause of the fire. It is supposed that the fire at Lake Hamilton was caused by a neighbor burning some scrub, and the fire at Warrow by a party travelling. At Warrow they just managed to save the home station, though 90 picked sheep and several prize rams were burnt to death. At Lake Hamilton the men had a severe battle with the flames; the "beaters" had to retreat before the hot scorching fire. If the wind had not changed, the destruction must have been incalculable. Providentially the rain fell, and all felt relieved.
I must not omit one incident in connection with the fire. During the thunderstorm that helped to put out the fire, the lightning passed down the chimney of a shepherd's hut on Lake Hamilton Run, severing the chain used for cooking purposes, and passing out of the door where the shepherd's wife and son were standing, doing them no permanent injury, but killing five goats, two dogs, and seven fowls, that stood outside the doorway. This was, indeed, a most miraculous escape.
I started off next day about 8 o'clock. Country very stony, rough, and poorly timbered; passed Mr. Tucknott's Station (about 18 miles), which had also suffered severely from the fire. Sheep in trying to get through the brush fences got their heads entangled, and many were found with heads burnt off and bodies scorched. In another two or three miles came to the Tangata Police Station, on the borders of the Three Lakes. This Police Station had a very narrow escape from the fire; the adjoining building, used for stores, was thoroughly gutted, the Station being saved by the great presence of mind of Trooper O'Shannon, who, just returned from the neighbouring fires, was in the nick of time to deluge his Station with water, and thus avert a total loss.
Here, alas! I followed the wrong track, and after walking about three miles, came to the cliffs on the coast, when I knew that I had made a mistake. I made a hasty retreat, and took up another track, which led me a most horrible dance over burnt land. At every step thick dust and ashes rose, filling eyes, mouth, and nose. Violent gusts of wind, followed by heavy showers of rain made matters worse. I was soon wet through, yet I trudged on, hoping to find the track, but a thick mist came on, and I could not see more than a few yards before me. At length night darkened the scene with horrid blackness; still I trudged on, blundering and stumbling at every step. The burnt bushes caught me by the leg, throwing me down several times. I fell into two or three wallaby holes. At last I went down a "cropper" into a wombat hole, striking my shin against a piece of rock. I thought I had broken my leg, and lay groaning with great agony. The rain was still falling, and the wind howling most fretfully. I was in a pretty pickle. At length I managed to scramble to a bush, and threw myself down, and tried to sleep, but alas! without a rug or a blanket. After a few minutes the cold wind and rain made me shiver and tremble like an aspen leaf. I felt I must walk, if only to keep up the circulation; so I continued on, but feeling my way very cautiously with my stick. About 11 o'clock I saw a light in the distance. When I came up to it I found a burning log, where I determined to camp for the night, doing sentinel round the fire to keep it alight and dry myself, for I was wet through three times before the morning. The charms of the pipe would on such a night convert the most violent anti-smoker.
At daybreak I started off again, and after three hours' walking found myself at Mr. Tucknott's, who kindly refreshed the inner man, and lent me a horse, which took me safely to my destination. I was more fortunate than one bushman who helped to put out the fire, and who was lost for four days. Since my arrival at Nilcoloo I have been over the surrounding country, visiting the Wedge and Bramfield, witnessing the sad effects of the late terrible fire, which seems to have extended from east to west for about 100 miles, and averaging about 10 to 13 miles in width. Old bushmen declare the fire to be the most severe ever seen in the colony. The raging element in places defied human interference.
One can hardly conceive a grander sight; the hills robed in rolling flames lighted up the sky with a lurid red, and the brush fences all aflame seemed like living belts of crimson gold; and when the bush was fairly under the fiery sway it was Milton's Pandemonium made visible. Terrified animals could hardly escape the vengeful heat, and many fell victims-sheep, kangaroos, dogs, &c., being found scorched and dead in many places. In some parts where men had succeeded in beating back fire or arresting its progress by clearing and burning ahead, whirlwinds took up the lighted fragments to an immense height and scattered them all around, so that the men had to run for their lives. The fire raged so furiously that often the fleetest horse could not overtake it. The severity of the fire must be attributed to the brush fences. The stone fences could not stop it, but the ignitable brush increased the devastation. I don't know what the squatters will do-fences down, feed destroyed, and sheep scattered. I hear on good authority that it will cost about £10,000 to replace the fences, &c, and about 12 months labor.
Space forbids me giving you any more details of the fire, but it may interest "selectors" to hear a little about the land, which I understand the Government will shortly resume for agricultural purposes. I have been over many miles of the lately-declared new Hundreds in this part, and I am astonished at the Government throwing open such country; and I feel it my duty to warn intending settlers to look and judge for themselves, for to say this land is fit for agricultural purposes is a delusion and a snare, and apt to lead many astray. With the exception of a few miles of black grass sandy land in the vicinity of Mounts Drummond and Hope, and an occasional flat, 10 to 30 acres in extent, few and far between, the land from Warrow to Bramfield and the Wedge is an extensive flat rock of limestone with a thin covering of soil.