K.I. not a paradise

Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 - 1918), Saturday 10 April 1909, page 3

Kangaroo Island.


Mr Harry Jackson, M.P., who is a member of the Kangaroo Island Railway Commission, sent us an interesting letter. He says:—

On board the Governor Musgrave splendid food was available, but few of the Commission availed themselves of the opportunity. This was on Tuesday. On Wednesday food was plentiful, though, on account of the surroundings, somewhat dirty, but all hands turned up for dinner and relished it. This was in the bush on Kangaroo Island.

All day Wednesday we travelled through country that was very uninviting, and after leaving the metal road about 10 miles outside of Kingscote met very few signs of habitation and still less of industry. The Kohinoor mine was passed this day, but was not working, the day previously having been the day for finishing up the mine, when a sale of machinery and other assets took place. This was the place where the Commissioner of Crown Lands broke a bottle of champagne over a new set of stampers about 12 months ago. It is said that the liquidation was brought about on account of insufficient capital. The whole of the capital in the show was locally obtained, the residents being desirous of showing their faith in their own country.

It is a very heavy journey to the top of the tableland, and after getting there one or two nasty creeks have to be passed, in one of which our provision cart with three horses got stuck and had to be unloaded. This caused us to camp for the night instead of going on to Tin Hut, which, by the way, is so-called because a tin hut has been erected for the use of the men engaged in looking after the telegraph line to Cape Borda. And a good job for us we did camp, for if we had attempted to get to Tin Hut we should have had a very bad time, as the gullies were steep, and, in the state of our horses, we should probably have had to unload our provision cart two or three times. The beds of the creeks passed were mostly clay and very adapt able for " bogging."

The character of country passed through can be summed up as being undulating, stringy bark trees, not very large, yaccas in profusion—from which a gum is procured that fetches about £3 5s per ton at Port Adelaide, and which is used—so it is reported—for the making of explosives and furniture polish, and a considerable amount of bush of various descriptions, the soil being of a yellowish sandy nature. copiously sprinkled with ironstone rubble and a yellowish clay subsoil.

On Thursday most of us were up very early, the cold having driven us out of the tents to the fire that had been alight all night. For the first few miles of travelling this day, we went over some very rough country, with steep hills to climb, after which the country was very level for about 14 miles, a good deal of which was heavy white sand. We camped for dinner on the side of Starvation Creek. There were a few very good gum trees here, a great quantity of bracken fern, and a considerable amount of honeysuckle, the sword leaf variety predominating. After dinner we retraced our steps for a few miles, and then turned off to the south. Up till mid-day we had been travelling west all the time. It may be appropriate to say that when we started in the morning, we left that old and experienced bushman, and manager of the party, Mr E. B. Jones, with the provision dray, with the understanding that he was to go south when he reached the point above mentioned, and on to the Surveyors camp, and pitch tents. Now, when we got back to this southerly take off, speculation was very rife as to whether our friends had got that far, because whilst there were tracks of vehicles which would correspond to those we had left behind, no other indication was present to show they were the tracks of our friends, and many of the party said "They have not arrived yet or Mr Jones would surely have left a note." We plodded on, however, on the off-chance of things being alright, but when we reached Kangaroo Lagoon, lost traces of the wheel tracks. After a deal of fossicking we picked up the tracks again, but not until we arrived at the camp could some of the party believe our provision cart had gone on ahead of us. It was beastly cold again this night and some of us were up long before day. light. It rained a little this night, too.

The next day we pushed on to the Karatta Station and took the evidence of the owner. One member of our party here left us and went to the Rocky River, which is spoken of by the islanders as a perfect paradise, whilst the rest went to the Eleanor River Station. We camped about two miles from Vivonne Bay. On Saturday morning we took the evidence of the owner of this place, who was delightfully ignorant of the amount of rent he was paying before the Government arranged for the surrender of the lease in exchange for a piece of freehold. Very little work had been done at this place, and apparently the only reason for the witness being here was to give evidence to the Commissioner, and the only apparent reason for hanging on to the place was for the purpose of selling to someone else at a big profit as soon as the railway is built, or better facilities provided at Vivonne Bay.

From Karatta to here our journey had been east, but on Saturday morning our course was north-east, over limestone hills and low wet flats to Mount Pleasant—which is neither mountain nor pleasant—and after leaving the homestead about 100 yards, we found things decidedly unpleasant, as we had to traverse a lagoon for about half a mile with the water just up to the body of the waggon, and when in about the middle a swingle-tree hook broke, and our horses stopped, and gloomy forebodings of having to wade through the water with our swags, were uppermost in our thoughts. Luckily for us, we had a plucky team of horses who pulled us through splendidly, so that except for a little water penetrating our bags and portmanteaux, and the driver getting wet to his waist, we came through alright. Our thoughts were not yet turned to pleasantries, however, as apart altogether from the many miles of white soft sand wo had to plough through, during which many of us walked a great distance. The weather was very oppressive, a hot wind blowing all day, making us very hot and very dirty, and it was with the greatest satisfaction imaginable that we got back to Kingscote just before six o'clock. A speedy refreshing dip in the briny and a warm bath quickly following, found us ready to do justice to a pleasant repast, which, in comparison with the lunch we had had during the day, when we ate our " tinned dog" with plenty of burnt bush, formed a very enjoyable contrast—a contrast that only compares with the opinions expressed by the Islanders with what the country appeared to us. No body of men could have felt more tired and weary than our band did on Saturday night, and, if ever the comforts of civilisation were thoroughly appreciated by anyone, they were by us that night.

The character of the vegetation on the Island changes very little, whether on the limestone rises, the boggy flats, or the sandy patches, being composed mostly as described on our first day's journey, of low stringy bark, dense dwarf sheoak—which I think is wrongly named, aa the cattle refuse to eat this on the mainland—edible food, yacca, honey suckle and various bushes. There is not a rabbit on Kangaroo Island, and a big penalty stares anyone in the face who should attempt the innovation. Thus there is one curse the farmers would not have to trouble about if the country is farmed. We saw very little life, either bird or beast, until we got towards the western and southern parts of the Island, and then we saw a fair quantity of macaws and ducks and swan on the lagoons. The evidence of kangaroos and porcupines was plentiful, but we got sight of neither of these animals. We were told, however, that it would be an easy matter to make a living catching wallabies. I don't believe there is one inch of the Island that is not defaced by the charred and blackened result of fire. This gives the place an ugly appearance with very little good resulting, as grass is very sparingly distributed, and whenever one wants to light a fire he has to get devilish dirty to do so.

The party has been admirably looked after by Mr E. B. Jones, his unfailing kindness and thoughtfulness being much appreciated, and there can be no doubt that he was the right man in the right place.

As yet I could not recommend anyone to take up land here, and if you can extract anything from this letter, that may assist in giving the land-hungry an idea as to what this place is like, I should be pleased if you would do so.

Kangaroo Island - Not a Paradise. (1909, April 10). Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 - 1918), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95468672