John McDouall Stuart at Andamooka Waterhole
From Stuart’s journal – Monday, 21st June, 1858:
Monday, 21st June, Water Creek.
Started at 9.30 a.m. on a course of 25 degrees. At a mile passed a small table-topped hill to the west of our line; at three miles and a half crossed the creek; at four miles passed another table-topped hill connected with the low range to the east, and passed the first ironstone hill; at seven miles changed to 55 degrees; at eight miles halted at a large permanent water hole (Andamoka).
I can with safety say that this is permanent; it is a splendid water hole, nearly as large as the one at the mouth of the gorge in the John.
The low range to the east of our course, and running nearly parallel with it, is composed of conglomerate, quartz, and a little ironstone.
Part of to-day’s journey was over low undulating sandy and very well grassed country.
There seems to have been a little rain here lately; the grass is springing beautifully.
At eleven miles we came upon a salt lagoon (Wealaroo) two miles long by one broad. From the north end of it, on a bearing of 55 degrees, one mile and a half will strike Andamoka.
I think we have now left the western sand hills behind us; and now that we have permanent water to fall back on, I shall strike into the north-west to-morrow.
The distance travelled to-day was fifteen miles.
The country around this water consists of bold stony rises and sand, with salt bush and grass; no timber except mulga and a few myall bushes in the creek.
On an examination of the creek, we have found salt water above and below this hole. In one place above there are cakes of salt one inch and a half thick, a convincing proof that this is supplied by springs.
Well, John McDouall Stuart had some things right about Andamooka Waterhole and the surrounding area but on others he was mistaken.
On my first visit to Andamooka Waterhole, in August 2006, it was dry and I was told it had been so for several years.
When full, the waterhole would be about 200 metres long, stretching around a bend in the creek and about 10 to 20 metres wide. In depth, for the most part, it would vary from zero to a metre and a half, maybe two metres. At the down stream end is a hole, maybe another metre and a half deeper than the rest.
This hole had a bottom of mud, and was strewn with cattle bones. A little way up the bank was a large, dished rock holding about 20 litres of water from rain a week previous to my visit.
However, on my visit in October 2007, I saw Andamooka Waterhole as John McDouall Stuart saw it, and I drank the water, which despite the area smelling of cattle, didn’t taste too bad at all.
Quite clear, with with a green tinge to it on this warm, spring day, the water rippled in the breeze. I’d have had a swim had I not been alone.
On both trips I found the salt refered to by Stuart, above and below Andamooka Waterhole. How there comes to be good water in between is beyond me.
Myall creek has a catchment extending about 25 kilometres to the south and south east. The water I found in Andamooka Waterhole was from good rain in January 2007.