A Lost and Desolate Wanderer –

Evening Journal, Adelaide, 30 January 1894           A Terrible Experience at Coolgardie.

A well-known and respected resident of Kent Town has received a letter from his son, who recently went to Coolgardie from Adelaide, from which the following is extracted :—
“On December 24 and 25 (Merry Christmas Day) I was dying, a lost and desolate wanderer in the bush. How little you at home thought of it when drinking the health of the absent member of the family. I was then parched, hungry, weary, footsore, and troubled, with death yawning round me. But I thank God it is all over now. Last Sunday I went out for a walk and saw from the top of a hill near here another hill about ten miles distant, and I made off in that direction to ascend it and get the view. After walking a long time and not arriving at it I turned to go home, just a suspicion that I was out in my bearings, flitting across my mind. I knew I ought to be home by this time, but I could see nothing at all; the timber was so high and thick that I could not see more than 100 yards around. The country about here is mostly undulating and petered with forests and scrub, wearisome in its monotony and dullness.

Darkness set in, and I still wandered first in this direction, then in another, over miles and miles of country, till I got tired and lay down to sleep. I slept about half an hour, and then woke up frozen and stiff. I could hardly get on my legs I was so tired. I had a look at the sky, and determined on steering a south-west course and keeping it till I dropped. I reckoned that wherever I was, two days walking would hit the Coolgardie and Southern Cross track, and I thought a lost man could struggle along for three days.
Off I went shaping a course between Sirius and the Southern Cross. I don’t know anything about astronomy, but that Sirius was always west and the Southern Cross south. For hours I followed this course, feeling parched and weary, my legs just dragging one after the other, and my toes kicking the ground.

Every dozen steps. I kept on all night like this, and lay down again done up. I had not lain long when the faint tinkle of a horse bell sang out, and I listened. , Yes, it was a bell; very faint, and a long way off. I got up and made through the scrub towards it, thinking that where there were horses or camels there would also be men. I walked for a couple of miles, I should think, through the thickest scrub, stopping every five minutes to locate the sound, and at last I came across two horses. There was no one about, and I stopped with them for a couple of hours, but they were evidently stray horses. The bush is full of strays. They are too expensive to keep on chaff at 7d per lb. and water at one shillings gallon, so they are let go, and others stray away when camped for the night. The sun rose, and I determined to keep on as best as I could before my thirst got unbearable.  I made a neck rope out of the bell straps of the horses, and mounted one, and resumed my south-west course, but got full up of the sharp backbone after about five miles travelling, so got off and let him go striking out again on foot under a blazing hot sun. About 9 o’clock I came to a sandy strip of desert country, and found a puddle of dirty water in claypan and drank greedily of it. I camped there for an hour, but the sun got too hot to stay, and I went on. Shortly after I came across some fresh footprints in the sand, and I walked more briskly to catch up to the man who made them,  I followed the tracks for a couple of hours, when it struck me all of a heap that they were my own foot marks made during the night, and I had gone round in a circle. This broke me completely, and I laid down feeling the very personification of woe. To think that all those weary miles of walking’ through the night were done for nothing! I lay down under the bush for long time, and it was hot. I thought to myself, Here I will die in this God-forgotten desert, and will lie here for fifty years without being found, and you will all wonder what became of me, and all that sort of thing. I suffered the agonies of fifty deaths here, but I cannot describe them, I was so thirsty.

After a time two crows came and settled on a tree and began cawing dolorously. I could not stand it, so I started off again on my march. I went on for twenty miles more, every step an agony through blistered feet and with swollen and heavy legs, till at last in some open scrub I came across some foot marks which I tracked with difficulty, sometimes losing them altogether, but picking them up again. These led to a single part wheel track, and my troubles were now over as regards mental strain. I knew the cart must have come from somewhere settled and I followed it. It led down to a patch of beautiful water collected from a thunder storm a few days ago, I drank again and was refreshed.

There I found  a condensed milk tin and filled it and took it with me. Following the track all day long through the sweltering sun, sipping my precious water as long as it lasted, . By evening I came on the Coolgardie road and made my way there, told them what was the matter, and lay down to sleep. I was too tired out, but got up in a few minutes to drink some more, and then fainted. I was very ill all night, and could not sleep for my weary muscles, but took a meal and lay up all Thursday. I must have gone a great distance whilst lost and walked twenty eight hours without water. My one idea was to get through quickly lest I should die of thirst, and I did it. Search parties were out on Monday and Tuesday, but none of them found my tracks; I was too far away for them. A camel party came into Coolgardie the day after me, and they said they wondered whose tracks they were they saw forty miles up. A friend of mine employed on one of the adjoining properties found an 7oz. nugget whilst looking for me on Christmas Day: This put about £70 in his pocket which he shared with me.

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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  1. melrootsnwrites says:

    What an experience! It is amazing that he survived the ordeal after all that walking with no food or water.

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