Dangers of Bush-Travelling [15 February 1871]

[Editor: An article about the dangers of lack of water and hot weather faced by itinerant workers traveling in the bush. Published in The South Australian Advertiser, 15 February 1871.]

Dangers of Bush-Travelling.

A bushman named John O’Flaherty has called upon us and given a very melancholy account of his experiences on “the wallaby-track” in the Port Lincoln district, from which he has just returned. As the fencing of runs has become more and more in fashion, the number of hands required on the sheep-stations has very much diminished, and as soon as shearing is over a great many men are, of course, out of work besides the shearers. In the Port Lincoln district this is peculiarly unfortunate for the hands who have to seek fresh employment, as the country, from its want of surface-water, is very ill-adapted for pedestrian travelling.

A short time ago, our informant states, a bushman was found by the mail boy some miles from Franklin Harbor, on the road to that place from Salt Creek, in a state of extreme exhaustion, having in fact lain down to die. The distance from Salt Creek to Franklin Harbor is 60 miles, and there is no permanent surface water on the way. This poor traveller of course could not carry water sufficient to last him such a distance, and was at last prostrated by fatigue and thirst. When found he had with him a canteen containing salt water, which he no doubt drank, so adding to his sufferings. The mail-boy acted the part of the good Samaritan — gave him fresh water, and stopped with him some time, supplying him occasionally with small quantities of food; and then riding quickly to Franklin Harbor, informed Mr. McKechnie, who, with the smallest possible delay, sent a vehicle and pair of horses for the sufferer, had him brought into the station, and kept him there till he had recovered his health and strength.

John O’Flaherty had a much longer journey to perform, for besides passing over this 60 miles from Salt Creek to Franklin Harbor, he travelled from thence to Port Augusta, a distance of 120 miles, and ran the most imminent danger of losing his life from thirst. It appears that over that distance there are only four places where the water lodges for any length of time after a rain. These are what are called rock waterholes, familiar, and often welcome enough, to persons accustomed to travel much in the neighborhood of the Western Coast. Fortunately, as our informant was toiling over this stretch of waste country, there came some rain, but for which he must have left his bones in the wilderness. As it was, he nearly succumbed towards the close of his journey. When he arrived at a place called Port Lincoln Gap, 14 miles from Port Augusta, he could not speak. He had been four hours doing the last three miles, and was footsore, blistered, parched, and starved. The proprietor showed him the utmost humanity and kindness, and it was needed, for it was 24 hours before the worn and weary wayfarer came fairly to himself.

Mr. O’Flaherty wishes to point out the risks working men run, and the hardships they must expect if they venture into such regions in search of employment. Working men accustomed to station life, however, should know what kind of country they will find the Port Lincoln district and all the western coast to be, and what chance of employment they will have after the busy season is over, and should prepare themselves accordingly. Such journeys as John O’Flaherty describes are undoubtedly not safe in summer time, as in such regions men might, and too often do, perish alone, even on the beaten bush tracks. In going to such portions of the colony men should calculate their return by vessel or passenger traps, as part of their expenses to be considered in making their agreement.

The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 15 February 1871, p. 3

Editor’s notes:
trap = a general term used for any two-wheeled light carriage (or cart) with springing, pulled by a single horse or pony, and designed for two passengers; however, the term is also applied to similarly-built carts which are four-wheeled and designed for four passengers; in the early years of the development of motor vehicles, motorized traps were built

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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