William Brahe's Report.
(Received 1st July 1861.)
I have the honour to report to you, for the information of the Committee, that on the 16th December last, Mr Burke gave me charge of the depot formed by him at Cooper's Creek and started for Eyre's Creek en route for the Gulf of Carpentaria at 6.40 a.m. on the same day. His party consisted of himself, Mr Wills, King and Gray. He took with him six camels and one horse. The party was provided with provisions for twelve weeks. I accompanied the party for a distance of twenty-two miles along the watercourse of the creek.
The party remaining at the depot consisted of myself, Patten, McDonough and Dost Mahommed. My instructions, received by word of mouth, were to remain at the depot three months, or longer, if provisions and other circumstances would permit. I left the party at 4 o'clock p.rn. on the some day and returned to the depot. On the following day, the 17th December, we commenced cutting timber, for the purpose of erecting a stockade.
Natives, about twenty-five in number, approached the camp, but I considered it advisable not to allow them to come near the tents.
On several days during the week were annoyed by number of natives. On Wednesday they succeeded to steal six camel pack-bags, which we had washed that morning and spread out on the turf on the water's edge to dry. The thief, by keeping under shelter of the high bank, escaped unobserved. Noticing the loss only late in the afternoon I did not think it advisable to go in pursuit. During the night of Thursday I, observed two-blacks within a hundred yards of the camp. but on my shouting to them they ran off. On the 23rd, finished the stockade, 20 by 18 feet, and put up Mr Burke's tent within it. In this tent I kept the ammunition and firearms. From within the stockade we had the other tents and the camels, which were kept tied up at night, under cover of our guns.
Observed some blacks stealing stealthily along the bank of the creek towards the camp, while one of them directed them from behind a big tree. I allowed them to come to within twenty paces of the camp, when suddenly I called out to them, we at the same time firing off our guns over their heads. They seemed much frightened and hardly able to run away. Great numbers of blacks camped near us.
6th January 1861
A large number of natives carve to the camp, whose demeanour roused my suspicions. Got hold of a, young native and shoved him off, when he fell down. In the afternoon the whole tribe returned, the men armed, some with spears and some with boomerangs; most of them had painted their faces and bodies. I met them at a short, distance from the camp, and marking a circle round it, I gave them to understand that they would be fired at if they entered it. On some of them crossing the line I fired off my gun into the branches of a tree, when they retired, and did not molest us any more.
24th December [sic]
I should like to explore the neighborhood a little but cannot safely leave the camp for longer than three or four hours, one of the men looking after the camels the greater part of the day, while the other is away from four to five hours daily to prevent the horses from straying. I should have mentioned that I had charge of six camels and twelve horses, two of the camels very scabby. Grass is getting very dry and scarce near the camp. We are obliged to hang all our stores on boughs of trees to protect them from the rats, of which we killed about forty every night for some time.
I rode up a conical hill bearing N.W. by N. from the depot. It is distant about nine miles and one of a chain of hills running NE and SW. From the top of this hill I saw another range, distant about fifteen to twenty miles, much broken and considerably higher than the one I was on. The country between the two is stony, like that between the first range and the depot.
Natives less numerous. Looking out anxiously for Mr Burke's return. One day I took a ride up the creek which joins Cooper's Creek opposite our camp. coming from ESE, following it up about six miles, and found bed and banks thickly timbered with myall. The country in that direction is very stony. From the top of a stony rise I saw a low range running E and W, distant about fifteen miles. Blacks passing now and then offering us nets and fish; we made it a rule never to accept the least thing from them, but made some of them little presents, as left off clothes.
About twenty-five natives with their families passed here last night an their way up the creek, offering nets and fish. They gave me to understand that there would be plenty of water in the creek shortly, and that we might swim on the flat the stockade was on.
During the first twenty-four days of March the heat has been greater than might be expected for the season and especially the nights were intolerably sultry, a great deal more so than the warmest of January. On the 24th there was a sudden change, it began to blow hard, the nights became very cool. On the evening of the 29th we observed lightning in all quarters, and heard thunder in the north. A slight shower of rain fell between 8 and 9 o 'clock, p.m., and another on the following morning, not sufficient however to lay the dust. The blacks stole a camel pack-saddle from us on the 27th, while I was away from the camp. They carried it about a mile down the creek, where Patten overtook them and recovered the saddle, but it was torn to pieces.
Patten commenced shoeing the horses, lest he might become incapacitated by disease, as he felt very unwell.
Patten, after shoeing two horses, was obliged to take to his bed, suffering acute pain, and was not afterwards able to move about.
Patten is getting worse. I and McDonough began to feel alarming symptoms of the same disease.
There is no probability of Mr Burke returning this way. Patten is in a deplorable state, and desirous of being removed to the Darling to obtain medical assistance, and our provisions will soon be reduced to a quantity insufficient to take us back to the Darling, if the trip should turn out difficult and tedious. Being also sure that I and McDonough would not much longer escape scurvy, I, after most seriously considering all circumstances, made up my mind to start for the Darling on Sunday next, the 21st. The horses have lately got into the habit of straying; missed five of them a few days ago and found them about fifteen miles from the camp. Last Monday we had a welcome rain for the first time since 8th December (except some slight showers on 24th and 25th March). The last three days have been, line and cool, but now it again looks like rain, although the barometer is very high - higher, indeed, than it has been during our stay here.
Left the depot at 10 o' clock am., leaving 50 lbs. of flour, 50 lbs. of oatmeal, 50 Ibs. of sugar, and 30 lbs. of rice buried near the stockade, at the foot of a large tree and marked the word "dig" on the tree. I took 150 lbs. of flour, 75 lbs. of sugar, about 70 lbs. of oatmeal, 1 bag of rice, 4 lbs. of tea, and a small quantity of biscuits. Taking into consideration that we would be obliged to travel slowly on account of Patten, and on account of the scarcity of water which I calculated to have to contend with, and would probably be on the road to the Darling at least six or seven weeks, I considered that I could not take less provisions. Patten was placed on a quiet camel. We travelled very slowly, and halted at 5 o'clock pm, having made about fourteen miles.
Started at 8 o'clock, and reached Camp 63. (Rats' Hole) at 11.30 am. finding the frame of a camel pack-saddle stuck in a tree. We had put away the saddle in some bushes when we abandoned the place on account of the rats, but the natives had found it. Halted at Camp 62.
Were visited by about seventy or eighty natives, some of them old acquaintances, Threw away a bag of camel shoes to lighten the burdens of the two sick camels. Travelled twenty-eight miles, and halted at Camp 60. Splendid grass in bed of creek.
Filled two pair of water-bags with water, and started for Bulloo at 12,30 pm, going ESE. Finding a little water and plenty of good grass, halted at 5 pm. Was compelled to throw away nine pair of water-bags to be able to carry water. Finest country in the neighborhood of Cooper's Creek.
Started at 8 a.m. from eleven o' clock passed over very stony country. Three o'clock stony range. Halted at 6.15 pm between ranges without water or grass.
Having kept a careful watch over the camels and horses, we were enabled to start at 6.30 am. Till eleven o' clock, very stony and scrubby country to pass over. When clear of ranges, followed an ESE course, crossing several creeks without water running; SW bank of creeks thickly timbered with gum. The creeks looked likely to contain some watery but pushed on without searching for it. At 3 pm came upon sandy, well grassed and thinly timbered country; saw a variety of birds, as pigeons, crows, etc; halted at a creek, probably McDonough's Creek. We had to watch our cattle closely the whole night, as want of water made them inclined to ramble and they showed no inclination to feed.
Started at 6.4 am taking an E by S course, as the appearance of the ranges to the N and NE led me to believe that I had kept rather too much to the south. I continued on this course till 9 a.m., when I got a glimpse of a high ridge, which I recognised as the western boundary ridge of the Balloo Plains. Went east till 10 a.m. then E. by N., and arrived at the Bulloo Creek, at Camp 52, at 1.45 pm. When crossing Mr Burke's old track I noticed fresh tracks of horses and camels going in different directions, which were not more than ten, to twelve days old, and I conjectured that the party left at Menindee had been at Bulloo, or were there still. As I could not expect to find water down the creek, I followed up our old track, knowing that there must be water in a large channel, which we had passed on our way to Cooper's Creek, about five miles from Camp 51. At 4 pm I reached several small but deep water holes with plenty of water, and camped there. We had much trouble to keep the horses from plunging into the water, most of them having had no fresh water for exactly 100 hours. I decided upon remaining there the whole of the following day, not only to refresh the cattle, but also to search for traces of the Darling party.
Went very early in search of the horses up the creek. At about daylight I got in sight of them, at the same time observing smoke rising within 300 yards from me, and near the horses. There was not light enough to see well and I thought I had dropped upon a camp of natives, and resolved to try to obtain some information from them respecting the Darling party. After going a few yards further, I saw to my great surprise a European advancing towards me. It was Mr. Hodgkinson. He led me to Mr Wright's camps, and after bringing our party in with horses and camels, &c., I placed myself and party under the orders of Mr Wright.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most obedient Servant,