Lost Worlds Australia

The Ultimate Anthology

This Early Australian Science Fiction anthology is a collection of 13 tales considered to be among the most influential Australian works in the lost world genre. They are the works most referred to by researchers and academics when they evaluate Australian colonial science fiction. Some have been made available for Kindle for the very first time and are exclusive to ROH Press.

What people are saying

Out of the Silence: For anyone who wants to read an early sci-fi classic that isn't bent on killing you with detail, this is an excellent novel." ~ John Conrad, Goodreads.com

The Last Lemurian: “A fun read for those who enjoy the older lost race kinds of stories.” ~Charles, Goodreads.com

Fugitive Anne: “A "lost race" adventure novel in the tradition of H. Rider Haggard, Rosa Praed's Fugitive Anne (1902) also confronts important issues of the day, including colonialism and the difficulties faced by women trapped in bad marriages.”

Eureka: "One of the finer books of its kind, unfortunately very rare.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Lost Race Check Guide

Marooned on Australia: “Mr. Favenc is very well equipped to write a stirring tale of this country, and in his new book a Marooned on Australia he has produced a romance in which he so cleverly used the legends of the past, the varying natural characteristics, clash of races, and daring adventure that it ought to be enjoyed by a wide it circle of readers." ~ The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Dec, 1896

The Secret of the Australian Desert

Chapter 1: The Start for the Burning Mountain—Sand and Scrub

IT IS THE BEGINNING OF November—November in the Southern hemisphere, not the raw, foggy month of the North—November in Central Australia, where the sun rises hot and red in a breathless morn, and sinks at night in a heated haze, hovering around the level horizon.
It has been a day to doze in the shade if possible, and dream of icebergs. The short twilight is rapidly fading into the darkness of a moonless night. Scarcely darkness, however, for the brilliant constellations of the south and the radiant evening star in the west lend their rays to light up the scene. Under the verandah of a rough hut—mud walls with galvanized iron roof,—three men are sitting indolently smoking the evening pipe that usually follows the last meal of the day. It is far up in the north of South Australia, in fact almost on the boundary line that divides that colony from its dependency, known as the Northern Territory. The hut is the principal building on a cattle-station, where, as on most other outside stations, the improvements are of a very primitive kind. The three occupants of the verandah are—the owner of the station; a young relation staying with him to gain that much-talked-of commodity, “colonial experience”; and a friend, a squatter from a neighbouring run.
“Well,” says Morton, the owner, a sun-tanned, wiry little fellow, addressing his neighbour, “what do you say, Brown, to having a look for the burning mountain?”
“Umph!” grunts Brown, who differs considerably in size, owning as he does some six feet two inches of humanity; “isn’t this weather hot enough for you without looking for burning mountains?”
“We’ve nothing much to do for two or three months, and I’ve made up my mind to see if there’s any truth in this yarn the niggers have.”
“I never could make head or tail of it,” said Brown.
“Nor I,” returned Morton; “but although everybody puts it down as a burning mountain, I am not of that opinion. I have questioned them very patiently, and can only find out that there is a big fire always burning in the same place, but when I ask about a mountain, they say no. None of them have ever been there; they have only heard of it from others, and they seem almost frightened to speak of it.”
“They use much the same word for rocks, stones, and mountains.”
“Yes; and I think it is rocks that they mean.”
“What has your boy, Billy Button, to say about it?”
“Billy comes from a tribe nearly a hundred miles from here. He has heard the yarn, but has never seen any blacks who have been there.”
“Let’s see. It is supposed to lie rather north of west from here. How far have you been in that direction, Morton?”
“Some fifty miles. It’s all scrub and sand. The niggers, however, get across in some seasons of the year, and I think this is the time; there have been plenty of thunder-storms that way lately.”
“Well, I’ll make one; a little scorching more or less does not matter much up here. You ought to have kept some of the camels back the last time the team was up here.”
“Didn’t think of it. But I fancy horses will be handier, we have a thunder-storm nearly every day.”
“And shall have until we start,” replied Brown, “then you see they will knock off at once. How many of us will there be?”
“The pair of us, and what do you say, Charlie? Are you anxious to distinguish yourself?”
“I certainly hope you won’t leave me behind,” returned his young cousin, in an injured tone.
“All right. Billy Button will make four, and that will be enough. To-morrow we’ll have all the horses in and get ready for a start the next day.”
“How long shall we be away?” asked Charlie, who bore upon his shoulders the onerous duties of storekeeper.
“Can’t say. What do you think, Brown? Six weeks? Two months?”
“We surely ought to find something in that time, if it’s only the remains of Leichhardt.”
“Make up three months’ rations for four, Charlie; I hate to run short. Lucky we killed the other day, the beef will be just right for carrying.”
On an outside cattle-station, where so much camping-out has to be constantly done, the preparations for such a trip do not take long, and the morning of the second day found everything in readiness. Brown had sent over to his place for his own horses, and they started with fourteen in all. Two apiece for riding, four packed with rations, and two with canvas water-bags and the necessary blankets, tent, &c. At the last moment the blacks about the station tried to dissuade Billy from going by telling him horrible tales of the fate surely awaiting him at the dreaded burning mountain, but Billy stoutly refused to be frightened, and scorned to remain, although given the option by Morton.
The first thirty miles of the journey was over familiar country, and they camped that night at a small water-hole lately filled by a thunderstorm. Beyond them now stretched a waste of sand ridges and mulga scrub, into which Morton had once penetrated for some twenty miles. With full water-bags, and a determination not to be beaten back without a struggle, our adventurers commenced the second day’s journey with light hearts.
During the whole of the day the sombre scrub and heavy sand continued, without break or change in their depressing monotony. Scarcely the note of a bird or insect broke the silence, as they toiled on without much heart for conversation. Towards evening a piece of good fortune befell them. On a small flat between two sand ridges they crossed a patch of short green grass, the result of a recent thunder-storm. No water could be found, the hot summer sun having evaporated all that had been caught in the shallow clay pans. The green grass was, however, a boon to the horses, who did not feel the want of water so much on the soft young feed.
Next morning they were saddled and packed up, ready to start by sunrise. About ten o’clock they ascended a sand ridge somewhat higher than those they had formerly crossed, and from its crest they were able to look around on the sea of scrub that surrounded them. Not far off, in the direction in which they were going, Morton drew the attention of his companions to a thin column of smoke.
“Burning mountain already?” queried Brown.
“Niggers travelling and hunting,” replied Morton. “The scrub looks thinner there. They won’t be far from camp at this time in the morning; but I expect the water is only a soakhole, of no use to us.”
In less than an hour they were riding over patches of still-burning grass, thinly scattered through a forest of bloodwood-trees; but neither the sharp eyes of Morton or Billy could detect a sign of the hunters. After searching for some time the boy found the tracks of a blackfellow, two gins, and some pickaninnies coming from the westward, and these they followed back for about a mile to a freshly-abandoned camp. It was situated on a fairly open piece of country, partly covered with coarse drift sand. Not far from the camp was a ragged old shell of a gum-tree, covered with tomahawk marks. Billy, who had at once gone to this tree, gave a low whistle, and the others came up. He pointed to a small hole near the butt, and dismounting put his arm down and then peered into it.
“Water long way down,” he said. “Gone bung, mine think it.” By which they understood that the supply had dried up. After some searching about, a long sapling was procured and thrust down. The hole was about ten feet deep, and the end of the sapling brought up some wet mud.
“How did the blacks get down for the water, Billy?” asked Brown.
“Pickaninny go down,” replied the boy, pointing to a tiny foothold in the side of the hole.
“Well, boys,” said Morton, who had been poking the sapling down vigorously and examining the point, “I don’t see much to be got out of this. Evidently there’s been one little family living on this hole, and now they’ve been dried out. It would take us two hours to open up this hole, and then we should probably get nothing for our pains.”
“Water gone bung,” repeated Billy.
“What do you say to following this flat? It’s going partly in our direction, and may lead to something.”
No one having anything better to suggest they resumed their journey once more, until a mid-day halt was made.
“Well, respected leader,” remarked Brown, after the meal was finished and pipes were lit, “I’m afraid our horses will look mighty dicky to-morrow morning unless we get them a drink to-night.”
Morton glanced lazily at them, where they stood grouped under whatever scanty shade they could obtain.
“They are beginning to look tucked up,” he replied, “but we’ll pull up something before dark.”
“I sincerely hope so,” said Brown as he stood up. “Go ahead once more, Captain Cook.”
About four o’clock the open flat which they had followed grew narrower, until at last the scrub closed in entirely and they found themselves confronted by a thicker growth than any they had yet met with. The mulga having given place to a species of mallee.
Morton, who was leading, stopped.
“We must push through,” he said. “It may be only a belt, and if we start to follow it round we shall be all night in it.”
“Right,” replied Brown. “I’ll take a turn ahead if you like. I prefer being first in a scrub.”
Morton laughed and dropped behind, and for about an hour very slow progress was made, the scrub getting worse and worse. The sun was sinking low, and the cheerful prospect of a night in the scrub was before them, when, to the relief of all, Brown suddenly called out:
“Hurrah! we’re out of it!”