Mounts Pierre, Krauss, George, and Barrett, and Mueller Range. The country gradually became more open, although ranges had to be crossed here and there. On 20th July, in lat. 18°, the leader described from the summit of a low range what he termed in his diary "the most splendid grassy plain" it had ever been his lot to see. "As far as the eye could reach to the south-south-east and south-west was one vast level expanse of magnificent feeding ground, and at our feet a running stream, which we could trace far out into the distance. These plains, which are granitic in formation, comprise, according to my calculation, not less than 1,000,000 acres, and, judging from the richness of their herbage, would carry, I imagine, no less a number of sheep." Thence the explorers went north-east over splendid pastoral country watered by running streams. On 2th July, the good country ended in rough ranges, which were crossed with difficulty. Patches of fair country were traversed on the other side, and on the 2nd August the Negri and Ord Rivers, near the border, were named. The land thereabouts was fairly grassed, but somewhat rough. Pierre was now seriously ill, and his compatriot, Dower, was little stronger. The party had already been compelled to partake of horse-flesh, and another miserable beast had to be killed and dressed for food. A halt of two days was made, and on 7th August the onward journey was again begun. After the 3rd August the explorers had travelled in South Australian territory; Behu River and Connaught Range, set in country covered with rank grass, were named. Tommy Pierre, the explorer of thousands of miles of Australian country, was now so weak that he had to be strapped to his horse. Stirling Creek, named by Gregory in 1856, was surveyed on 9th August. Rough travelling and great sufferings brought them to the Humbert River and the Rudolph Range (named by Forrest), and on the 14th the Wickham and Victoria Rivers were seen in the distance, the first of which was reached on the following day. Another horse was killed for food, and on the 18th the explorers arrived on the banks of the Victoria, where a snake, ten feet long, was killed and eaten. Towards the telegraph line the country was level and waterless, and extreme difficulty was experienced in getting over this tract. After abortive attempts, Alexander Forrest and Hicks on the 29th August left their companions under Mr. Hill, with the intention of making a desperate effort to reach the line. The main party was instructed to wait at their camp near good water until the 10th September. Forrest estimated that the telegraph line was 100 miles ahead. It was the most dreadful journey he had made during all his extensive exploring experiences. The heat in the day was intense, and as no water could be found the two men suffered terribly from thirst. The horses were in the last stages of exhaustion. At sundown on the 31st August they rested in miserable country. A hawk was shot; and the men drank its blood, thinking to slake their thirst; but it did them no good. Forrest wrote in his diary on that night—" .... We must hope for the best; we are in God's hands, who has guided us safely so far. To go back would be impossible; but, unless on our onward journey we reach water by this time to-morrow, we shall probably go to swell the list of those who have perished of thirst in the bush." When it was dark, they saddled the two horses, and two miles away reached a dry creek, which they followed for a short distance, when Forrest's horse, from sheer exhaustion, lay down in the creek. The saddles were taken off, and, lying by their horses, the men tried to sleep. But in their state of mind it was impossible. Finally Forrest rose and told Hicks that they must start again and try and reach the line before morning. Forrest continues—"At half-past ten we set off, Hicks leading my horse, and I following on foot. We had scarcely travelled a mile when Hicks suddenly shouted out that the telegraph line was ahead. I could scarcely believe the evidence of my own eyes, and, forgetting our thirst, out through the night rang our cheers! When the first tumult of our joy was over, we sent up a short prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty for His mercies during our long journey and for guiding us safely in our great distress."
The line was followed to the north, and three miles away they came to an iron tank full of water, with a clay pool, also full, close beside it. On 4th September they met a repairing party, under Mr. Woods, fifty miles from the Katherine Station. On the 6th, with four good horses and ample provisions, they started back to relieve their companions, and on the 11th September met them coming towards them. It was a wonderful relief, and Forrest writes in his journal:—"The moment they caught sight of us they began wildly cheering, firing off their revolvers, and making the forest resound with their joyous and delighted welcome." On 19th September they all arrived at the Katherine Station, where Forrest received telegrams of congratulation from the Governors of South and Western Australia, from Baron Von Mueller, the editors of the Register, Advertiser, and Western Australian Times, and from private friends. On the 6th October, with horses supplied by the South Australian Government, the party reached Southport, whence they travelled by steamer to Palmerston, the chief town in the Northern Territory, where they were hospitably treated. On 15th October they left Palmerston in the steamer Atjeh, and returned to Western Australia per Sydney and the southern coast. Tommy Pierre only lived long enough to reach King George's Sound, and to be buried in his own country.
The results of this expedition were immediate and far reaching. Alexander Forrest estimated that about 25,000,000 acres of pastoral and agricultural lands were discovered. At Beagle Bay, where he reported that a good site for a township might be found, the country was excellently adapted for settlement. The Fitzroy, from ten to thirty miles back from the river, was suitable for sheep, cattle, and horses, but from December to March these areas were liable to inundation during floods. The country from this river to the boundary of the colony was well watered, and was not subject to floods. Mr. Fenton W. Hill found traces of copper, and expressed the opinion that auriferous deposits existed towards the Stephen Ranges. He was convinced also that auriferous areas would be found towards the head of the Fitzroy. Numerous natives were met with by the party, and because they generally wore pearl ornaments Forrest considered that pearl beds would be discovered between Beagle and Collier Bays. The aborigines were friendly, and he did not think they would afford much opposition to settlement.
As usual, such encouraging reports attracted pastoralists. Numerous enquiries were made of the Government as to the terms upon which this land would be leased or sold, and the authorities issued on 29th November, 1880, special regulations. All that portion of the colony lying north of the parallel of 19° 30' south latitude was designated and known as the "Kimberley district," named after the Secretary for the Colonies. For fee-simple lands a price of ten shillings per acre in rural sections of a minimum area of 200 acres was declared. In case of resumption by the Crown, compensation was allowed. A bonus of a fee-simple of 500 acres was offered on the production of tea, sugar, coffee,