January 3, 1906
In a dry and thirsty land like Australia the European is naturally at a loss for water ; but the native has many ingenious methods of obtaining it, and can live comfortably where a white man would perish miserably.
The Natives of Australia
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Among articles of diet may also be mentioned clay, which is eaten without preparation, both in times of scarcity and as dessert after an ordinary meal. Honey was not the only sweet substance known to the Australians. In various parts a sweet secretion, probably of a species of Psylla, was collected from the trees, and sometimes eaten, sometimes infused in water and fermented. It was gathered in the summer and eaten with various kinds of animal food. A fermented drink was also prepared from the fruit of the pandanus. In a dry and thirsty land like Australia the European is naturally at a loss for water ; but the native has many ingenious methods of obtaining it, and can live comfortably where a white man would perish miserably. In many places are found what are called native wells — narrow deep holes, the position of which is known to the natives, for otherwise they would hardly be able to find them. But when these holes and ordinary water-holes fail them, they are far from being at the end of their resources. In the mallee scrub they dig down and get pieces of root some eighteen inches long ; there is plenty of water in this, which, when the root is turned on its end, drains out into a vessel placed beneath. Where the pandanus- tree grows the moisture below the surface is tested by pushing a spear three or four feet into the ground ; if the point is moist, a bunch of dry grass is rammed down ; this acts as a strainer, and the water is sucked up with a reed. Sometimes the base of the Melaleuca- tree bulges out ; when this is cut open it is found to contain a pint or two of water. Where real water is not obtainable the native refreshes himself with a sweet substance from a Sterculia. They also cut holes in the trunk ; the water lodges in these holes and rots the inside of the tree. When water is wanted they cut a foot or two below the original incision and obtain an abundant supply from their reservoir.