Explorers and pioneers are usually the people who name things in the European fashion, and those original names usually persist. However, in the Mound Springs country, that may not always be the case. The explorer John McDouall Stuart discovered many springs in his visits to this region while surveying and seeking out country suitable for grazing. On Monday May 30th 1859, he came upon “a beautiful spring in the bed of the creek, for which I am truly thankful. I have named this “The Spring of Hope.” It is a little brackish, not from salt, but soda, and runs a good stream of water. I have lived upon far worse than this: to me it is of the utmost importance, and keeps my retreat open. I can go from here to Adelaide at any time of the year, and in any season. Camped for the rest of the day. Lat., 28 degrees 33 minutes 34 seconds.”
However, there are no springs known today by the name Spring of Hope. They were obviously significant finds in Stuart’s opinion. So the obvious question is – just where are they? On the recent FOMS field trip, the group visited Tarlton Springs, which is protected by a fence, providing an enclosure zone. These springs are located at the foot of the Davenport Range, north of William Creek in S.A. The absence of spring activity and the death of vegetation around the five vents inside the enclosure suggests that we have witnessed the ‘death’ of the five springs inside the enclosure. Also inside the exclusion zone are remnants of a stone building; possibly a stockman’s hut on the original Mt Margaret run. There is one viable spring about 400 metres to the south, and it appears to be heavily utilised by native and feral animal species.
Here-in lies the value of field work. By noting from topographical maps that Tarlton Spring is on Hope Creek; by obtaining GPS observations which demonstrate that Tarlton Springs is at the same longitude & latitude as the Spring of Hope; and by matching Stuart’s other observations, there is a strong possibility that they are the same place. However, on our FOMS visit, there was one other clue that we sought to verify. Stuart’s journal records that he “built a small cone of stones on a reef of rocks that runs along the top of a hill about half a mile west-north-west from the spring, to which it will act as a landmark.”
A search on foot was not able to find the cone of stones, but this is not unexpected. FOMS member Rick Moore has located many of Stuart’s ‘Cones of Stones’ in recent years, (in 2004 he presented the Royal Geographical Society’s annual Brock Lecture, entitled ‘Cones of Stone’) and says that some of these would have been very low and easily disturbed by livestock over the last 145 years.
So, is Stuart’s Spring of Hope nowadays called Tarlton Spring? – very likely. If so, how did the name change come about? Ah, the small unsolved mysteries that make field work all the more interesting & challenging!