Eyre’s ‘Plant’


Eyre’s ‘Plant’

Eyre made a “plant” of equipment in February 1841 at Fowler’s Bay.

Different men claimed discovery of this significant deposit. While claims and counter claims make the details a little murky, the likely sequence of events was that Constable Richards first uncovered it in 1861, breaking through its surface by chance when out walking. On unearthing the rations and equipment, he was surprised how well it had all been preserved after twenty years, no doubt because of the dry climate. The candles, for example, lit up and burned perfectly. He removed a few items but then covered up and left the remaining stores.

It was then “rediscovered” twice in 1863, first by an old shepherd and former soldier William Little and then later by a drover George Foreman, by which time little of value remained besides candles, one of which Foreman presented to the Royal Geographical Society as a memento.

A letter by Bill Howie of Caltowie, written on the 20th of January 1902, is interesting because it records some of the contents of the plant. Taking excerpts:

Here are the contents as well as I can remember:

1 tarpaulin doubled up into two or three folds a few inches from the surface

1 cask nearly full of pickled pork, of course useless

The staves of a rum cask

1 harness cask used for pickling mutton but containing a small set of balance scales and weights, from 4 lbs down to half an ounce, adhered with rust (I kept the two smaller ones for some years).

1 hammer and cold chisel, in a fair state of preservation

1 empty stone jar

About ½ cwt of horseshoes (25½ kg) including one pony set [for the ill-fated Timor pony]

A quantity of gunpowder, tea and tobacco (useless)

About a dozen rounds of shot

Some evidence of bags of sugar

Some clothing (rotted)

And a bottle of curry, brought in by Little on Saturday night, which was used for Sunday’s dinner and pronounced by all as excellent!

And 36 wax candles, one of which is in my possession today.