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Blanchewater, 22 October 1862.

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2085/5a, Item 30.
Dispatches sent by members of the Victorian Relief Expedition to the Exploration Committee.
Alfred Howitt's dispatch, [Blanchewater], 22 October 1862.

 

Received by the Exploration Committee in Melbourne on 13 November 1862.

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Blanchewater, S.A.
Octr 22/62

Sir,
I have the honour to report my arrival at this place with the V.E. Party - all well - bringing down the remains of the late explorers, Burke and Wills.

On returning to the depot from my last journey, I buried stores as directed - four and one half bags of flour, and other things, and clothes, in proportion, which, of course will not now be needed.

Before leaving for the settlements, I also collected the natives of our part of the creek, and, informing them that we were now returning to our own country, gave them clothes and other presents provided, and also the brass plates furnished for that purpose by the committee. I may here state that the natives, far from having in any way molested us, have always kept away from the country run over by our horses and camels; and even when compelled of late to resort to our waters for fish, the other holes below being exhausted, they never commenced fishing until one of their number had been down to our camp to request leave.

I returned to Lake Hope partly in my old track, leaving it at a native well at Murducolou, which Mr Aitkin had cleaned out, and of which he had reported favorably. It is ten feet deep, through blue clay, forming the creek bed, the water rising out of loose quicksand, into which we were unable to penetrate without slabs. The water is excellent, and supplied us with nearly six hundred gallons the evening we camped at it, standing at a level of three feet an hour afterwards. The well is about forty miles from the lowest water in Cooper's Creek, and fifty miles from Lake Hope. It is shown on one of my charts.

We reached the latter place without difficulty, although the weather was exceedingly hot. On crossing Lake Torrens, heavy rains had set in, which not only delayed us for two days at Manuwalkaninnie, but rendered the travelling very severe to this place. In coming down, every creek was running and the plains were little better than bogs. Lake Torrens appeared full of water.

Of the missing camel, I have gained no tidings, and some of the natives who had just come down Cooper's Creek from a long distance had seen nothing of him. I expect that he will next be heard of in Queensland, as the flood-waters would turn him in that direction. I gave the brands and description - Mostana, dark colour, thick coat, numerous tumours on the neck, PV off cheek, VO near thigh.

A young camel was dropped a few days before we left, but as its mother would neither allow us to catch her nor handle it, and as it was very weak, I had it shot. Camel-breeding and exploring are not easily combined.

From here I remove tomorrow into the hills to a place where Mr Frank James has kindly offered to show me abundance of grass, and when I shall give the camels and horses a spell before going down, which they require, after the long stages, poor feed, and heavy travelling on the road down. On finally leaving here, I shall proceed to Angipena, where I propose giving the cattle a short spell while the horses are shod, after which I expect to be able to reach Adelaide without further stoppages. I believe that I shall be down about the middle of December, but will communicate on the way down.

Having returned to the settlements, and having in so far carried out our mission, it becomes my pleasing duty to record the manner in which the members of the party have performed their various duties. I feel myself to have been most fortunate in the officers. Dr Murray, besides having always been zealous for the interests of the expedition, has gained the perfect confidence of every one by the skill and judgement he has show in the treatment of such cases as came under his hands.

Of Mr Aitkin, the storekeeper and officer in charge of camels, I need only say that I have found fully borne out the high opinion I had formed of him from a previous knowledge during two expeditions.

The party in general, on all occasions, and under all circumstances, so far vied with each other in cheerfulness and zeal, that I could leave the depot with the satisfactory feeling that, as far as depended on the care of its officers and the good feeling in the party, all would be well.

I must finally mention that in Mr Weston Phillips, who was with me in the Contingent Party, I have found an experienced bushman, on whose judgement I could rely, and who, besides being an excellent smith, possessed a remarkable mechanical genius that on many occasions was of the greatest service to us.

Messrs W L Galbiaith and G Tenniel, who alternately have had charge of the horses at the depot and on the road have discharged their duties in a manner highly creditable to themselves.

I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
A W Howitt,
Leader, Victorian Exploration Party.

The Hon John Macadam, Hon. Sec.
Exploration Committee, Melbourne.

 
     

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