& the Australian Exploring Expedition of 1860
London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- The Explorers determine to move towards Mount Hopeless. Reasons for Mr Burke's Choice of
- hat Route.
- Two Camels killed.
- Kindness of the Natives.
- The Supply of Water fails.
- The Party are obliged to retrace their Steps.
- Find the Nardoo Plants, and resolve to make a last Attempt to reach Mount Hopeless.
- Mr Wills's last Visit to Cooper's Creek.
- Friendly Conduct of Natives.
- He reaches Depot, and deposits Journals, &c.
- The Natives visit Mr Burke's Gunyah.
- A Fire breaks out-Mr Wills rejoins the Party.
- They are reduced to subsist on the Nardoo.
- Become gradually more exhausted.
---- For an explanation of the Reaumur temperature scale Wills used which is mentioned in this chapter, GO HERE ----
Thrown entirely on their own resources, the explorers had now no other course left than to consider what would probably be the best route to the nearest settlement After some discussion, they determined on moving south-west towards Mount Hopeless, not far from Mount Searle, one of the South Australian police stations. In taking this step, they were no doubt influenced by the suggestion thrown out in the second paragraph of the Committee's written instructions to Mr Burke; who, from information previously received, was under the impression that sufficient water might be obtained the whole way, and that the entire distance was little more than 150 miles, or less than half the distance to Menindie. Nothing, therefore, could apparently be more suitable to the condition of the explorers than the proposed route: but a strange fatality seems to have attended all that related to them from the day of their return to the Creek. Mr Burke's measures, however, seem to have been dictated throughout by a careful consideration of actual circumstances, which reflects the highest honour on his character as a leader during the whole of this gloriously successful, although fatal, expedition.
Their minds once made up, the party, with habitual energy, lost no time in preparing to commence their journey. But before doing so, Mr Burke wrote and deposited in the cache the following letter:
Depot No. 2, Cooper's Creek, Camp 65.
The return party from Carpentaria, consisting of myself, Wills, and King (Gray dead), arrived here last night, and found that the depot party had only started on the same day. We proceed on to-morrow slowly down the creek towards Adelaide by Mount Hopeless, and shall endeavour to follow Gregory's track; but we are very weak. The two camels are done up, and we shall not be able to travel faster than four or five miles a day. Gray died on the road, from exhaustion and fatigue. We have all suffered much from hunger. The provisions left here will, I think, restore our strength. We have discovered a practicable route to Carpentaria, the chief portion of which lies on the 140° of E. long. There is some good county between this and the Stony Desert. From there to the tropics the country is dry and stony. Between the tropics and Carpentaria a considerable portion is rangy, but is well watered and richly grassed. We reached the shores of Carpentaria on the 11th of February, 1861. Greatly disappointed at finding the party here gone.
(Signed) Robert O'Hara Burke, Leader. April 22, 1861.
They then covered up the cache, so as to leave it as nearly as possible in the condition in which they found it, believing that the word 'DIG', already cut on the tree, would answer their purpose as well as it had answered Brahe's; for they had no reason to think it possible that Brahe himself would return to the depot so soon, as afterwards turned out to be the case. Their supply of provisions was, considering everything, tolerably good, and might be fairly calculated to last at least a month, so that, with the assistance of the two camels, they had every reason to believe they might easily reach Mount Hopeless in sufficient time to preserve their lives, and reap the reward of their successful exertions.
The party started at a quarter past nine o'clock on the morning of Thursday, the 23rd of April, 1861, the second day after their return to Cooper's Creek. The following diary gives full particulars of their wanderings, and of the heroism, patience, and mutual fidelity with which the suffering party performed their duty to the last The melancholy story, as related by Mr Wills, will (with one trifling exception, (*Footnote; The number of days during which they rested at Cooper's Creek), caused by the disturbed state of mind of the narrator) be found to agree with the narrative furnished by the sole survivor, John King. This narrative will be found entire in the appendix, but full extracts from it will also be inserted whenever it becomes necessary to supply missing links in the chain of the story.
Journal of Trip From Cooper's Creek Towards Adelaide, April 1861.
(Transcribed by Mr Archer.)
The advance party of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, consisting of Burke, Wills, and King (Gray being dead), having returned from Carpentaria on the 21st April in an exhausted and weak state, and finding that the depot party left at Cooper's Creek had started for the Darling, with their horses and camels fresh and in good condition, deemed it useless to attempt to overtake them, having only two camels, both done up, and being so weak themselves as to be unable to walk more than four or five miles a day ; finding also that the provisions left at the depot for them would scarcely take them to Menindie, started down Cooper's Creek for Adelaide vid Mount Hopeless, on the morning of the 23rd April, intending to follow as nearly as possible the route taken by Gregory; by so doing they hope to be able to recruit themselves and the camels, whilst sauntering slowly down the creek, and to have sufficient provisions left to take them comfortably, or at least without risk, to some station in South Australia. Their equipment consists of the following articles :- Flour, 50 lbs; sugar, 60 lbs; rice, 20 lbs; oatmeal, 60 lbs; jerked meat, 25 lbs; ginger, 2 lbs; salt, 1 lb.
Tuesday, April 23.
Having collected together all the odds and ends that seemed likely to be of use to us, in addition to the provisions left in the plant, we started at a quarter past nine AM, keeping down the southern bank of the creek. We only went about five miles, and camped at half-past eleven on a bilibong, where the feed was pretty good. We find the change of diet already making a great improvement in our spirits and strength. The weather is delightful, days agreeably warm, but the nights very chilly. The latter is more noticeable from our deficiency in clothing, the depot party having taken all the reserve things back with them to the Darling. To Camp 1.
Wednesday April 24.
From Camp 1.
As me were about to start this morning, some blacks came by, from whom we were fortunate enough to get about twelve pounds of fish for a few pieces of straps and some matches, &c. This is a great treat for us, as well as a valuable addition to our rations. We started at a quarter past eight PM., on our way down to the creek, the blacks going in the opposite direction, little thinking that in a few miles they would be able to get lots of pieces for nothing, better than those they had obtained from us. To Camp 2.
Thursday, April 25.
From Camp 2.
Awoke at five o'clock, after a most refreshing night's rest. The sky was beautifully clear and the air rather chilly. The terrestrial radiation seems to have been considerable, and a slight dew had fallen. We had scarcely finished breakfast when our friends the blacks, from whom we obtained the fish, made their appearance with a few more, and seemed inclined to go with us and keep up the supply. We gave them some sugar, with which they were greatly pleased. They are by far the most well-behaved blacks we have seen on Cooper's Creek. We did not get away from the camp until half-past nine AM, continuing our course down the most southern branch of the creek, which keeps a general SW course. We passed across the stony point which abuts on one of the largest water-holes in the creek, and camped at half-past twelve about a mile below the most dangerous part of the rocky path. At this latter place we had an accident that might have resulted badly for us. One of the camels fell while crossing the worst part, but we fortunately got him out with only a few cuts and bruises. The water-hole at this camp is a very fine one, being (to Camp 3) several miles long, and on an average about (*Footnote; Sic) chains broad. The waterfowl are numerous, but rather shy-not nearly so much so, however, as those on the creeks between here and Carpentaria, and I am convinced that the shyness of the latter, which was also remarked by Sturt on his trip to Eyre's Creek, arises entirely from the scarcity of animals, both human and otherwise, and not from any peculiar mode of catching them that the blacks may have.
Friday, April 26.
From Camp 3.
Last night was beautifully calm, and comparatively warm, although the sky was very clear. Reloaded the camels by moonlight this morning, and started at a quarter to six. Striking off to the south of the creek, we won got on a native path, which leaves the creek just below the stony ground, and takes a course nearly west across a piece of open country, bounded on the south by sand-ridges, and on the north by the scrubby ground which flanks the bank of the creek at this part of its course. Leaving the path on the right at a distance of three miles, we turned up a small creek which passes down between some sand-hills; and finding a nice patch of feed for the camels at a water-hole, we halted at fifteen minutes past seven for breakfast. We started again at fifty minutes past nine AM. Continuing our westerly course along the path, we crossed to the south of the watercourse above the water, and proceeded over the moat splendid salt-bush country that one could wish to see, bounded on the left by sand-hills, whilst to the right the peculiar looking flat-topped sandstone ranges form an extensive amphitheatre, through the far side of the arena of which may be traced the dark line of creek timber. At twelve o'clock we camped in the bed of the creek, at Camp (*Footnote; Sic) our last camp on the road down from the Gulf, having taken four days to do what we then did in one. This comparative rest, and the change in diet, have also worked wonders, however; the leg-tied feeling is now entirely gone, and I believe that in less than a week we shall be fit to undergo any fatigue whatever. The camels are improving, and seem capable of doing all that we are likely to require of them. To Camp 4.
Saturday, April 27.
First part of the night clear, with a light breeze from the S. Temperature at midnight 10° (Reaumur); towards morning there were a few cir. cum. clouds passing over NE to SW, but these disappeared before daylight; at five AM the temperature was 7.5º (Reaumur). We started at six o'clock, and, following the native path, which at about a mile from our camp takes a southerly direction, we soon came to the high sandy alluvial deposit, which separates the creek at this point from the stony rises. Here we struck off from the path, keeping well to the south of the creek, in order that we might mess in a branch of it that took a southerly direction. At twenty minutes past nine we came in on the creek again where it runs due south, and halted for breakfast at a fine waterhole, with fine fresh feed for the camels. Here we remained until noon, when we moved on again, and camped at one o'clock on a general course, having been throughout the morning SW eight miles. The weather is most agreeable and pleasant; nothing could be more favourable to us up to the present time. The temperature in the shade at half-past ten A.M. was 17.5 (Reaumur), with a light breeze from south, and a few small cir. cum. clouds towards the north. I greatly feel the want of more instruments, the only things I have left being my watch, prism, compass, pocket compass, and one thermometer (Reaumur). To Camp 5.
Sunday, April 28. From Camp 5.
Morning fine and calm, but rather chilly. Started at a quarter to five AM, following down the bed of a creek in a westerly direction, by moonlight. Our stage was, however, very short, for about a mile one of the camels (Linda) got bogged by the side of a water-hole, and although we tried every means in our power, we found it impossible to get him out. All the ground beneath the surface was a bottomless quicksand, through which the beast sank too rapidly for us to get bushes or timber fairly beneath him, and being of a very sluggish, stupid nature, he could never be got to make sufficiently strenuous efforts towards extricating himself. In the evening, as a last chance, we let the water in from the creek, so as to buoy him up and at the same time soften the ground about his legs, but it was of no avail. The brute lay quietly in it as if he quite enjoyed his position. To Camp 6.
Monday, April 29. From Camp 6.
Finding Linda still in the hole, we made a few attempts to extricate him, and then shot him, and after breakfast commenced cutting off what flesh we could get at for jerking.
Tuesday, April 30. Camp 6.
Remained here to-day for the purpose of drying the meat, for which process the weather is not very favourable.
Wednesday, May 1. From Camp 6.
Started at twenty minutes to nine, having loaded our only camel, Rajah, with the most necessary and useful articles, and packed up a small swag each of bedding and clothing for our own shoulders. We kept on the right bank of the creek for about a mile, and then crossed over at a native camp to the left, where we got on a path running due W, the creek having turned to the N. Following the path, me crossed an open plain, and then sand-ridges, whence we saw the creek straight ahead of us, running nearly S again. The path took us to the southernmost point of the bend, in a distance of about two and a half miles from where we had crossed the creek, thereby saving us from three to four miles, as it cannot be less than six miles round by the creek. To Camp 7.
Thursday, May 2. Camp 7.
Breakfasted by moonlight, and started at half-past six. Following down the left bank of the creek in a westerly direction, we came, at a distance of six miles, on a lot of natives, who were camped on the bed of a creek. They seemed to have just breakfasted, and were most liberal in their presentations of fish and cake. We could only return the compliment by some fish-hooks and sugar. About a mile further on me came to a separation of the creek, where what looked like the main branch looked towards the south. This channel we followed, not, however, without some misgivings as to its character, which were soon increased by the small and unfavourable appearance that the creek assumed. On our continuing along it a little farther it began to improve, and widened out with fine water-holes of considerable depth. The banks were very steep, and a belt of scrub lined it on either side. This made it very inconvenient for travelling, especially as the bed of the creek was full of water for a considerable distance. At eleven AM we halted until half-past one PM, and then moved on again, taking a SSW course for about two miles, when, at the end of a very long water-hole, it breaks into billibongs, which continue splitting into sandy channels until they are all lost in the earthy soil of a box forest. Seeing little chance of water a-head, we turned back to the end of the long waterhole, and camped for the night. On our way back Rajah showed signs of being done up. He had been trembling greatly all the morning. (*Footnote; The poor brute, no doubt, fretted for his dead companion Linda. It will be remembered that one of the camels (Golah), previously lost on the trip to Carpentaria, was found on the 2nd March, looking thin and miserable, with evident tokens of not having fed for a considerable time ; but when he saw the other camels he began to eat). On this account his load was further lightened to the amount of a few pounds, by doing away with the sugar, ginger, tea, cocoa, and two or three tin plates. To Camp No. 8.
Friday, May 3. Camp 8.
Started at seven AM, striking off in a northerly direction for the main creek. At a mile and a half came to a branch which (left unfinished.) To Camp No. 9.
Saturday, May 4. Junction from Camp 9.
Night and morning very cold. Sky clear, almost calm; occasionally a light breath of air from south. Rajah appears to feel the cold very much. He was so stiff this morning as to be scarcely able to get up with his load. Started to return down the creek at 6.45, and halted for breakfast at nine AM, at the same spot as we breakfasted at yesterday. Proceeding from there down the creek, we soon found a repetition of the features that were exhibited by the creek examined on Thursday. At a mile and a half we came to the last water-hole, and below that the channel became more sandy and shallow, and continued to send off billibongs to the south and west, slightly changing its course each time until it disappeared altogether in a north-westerly direction. Leaving King with the camel, we went on a mile or two to see if we could find water, and being unsuccessful, we were obliged to return to where we had breakfasted, as being the best place for feed and water.
Sunday, May 5.- To Camp 10.
Started by myself to reconnoitre the country in a southerly direction, leaving Mr Burke and King with the camel at Camp No. 10. Travelled SW by S for two hours, following the course of the most southerly billibongs. Found the earthy soil becoming more loose and cracked up, and the box-track gradually disappearing. Changed course to west for a high sand-ridge, which I reached in one hour and a half, and continuing in the same direction to one still higher, obtained from it a good view of the surrounding country. To the north were the extensive box forests bounding the creek on either side. To the east earthy plains intersected by water-courses and lines of timber, and bounded in the distance by sand-ridges. To the south the projection of the sand-ridge partially intercepted the view; the rest was composed of earthy plains, apparently clothed with chrysanthemums. To the westward, another but smaller plain was bounded also by high sand-ridges, running parallel with the one on which I was standing. This dreary prospect offering no encouragement for one to proceed, I returned to Camp 10, by a more direct and better route than I had come, passing over some good salt-bush land which borders on the billibongs to the westward.
Monday, May 6.- From Camp 10 back to Camp 9.
Moved up the creek again to Camp 9 at the junction, to breakfast, and remained the day there. The present state of things is not calculated to raise our spirits much. The rations are rapidly diminishing; our clothing, especially the boots, are all going to pieces, and we have not the materials for repairing them properly; the camel is completely done up, and can scarcely get along, although he has the best of feed, and is resting half his time. I suppose this will end in our having to live like the blacks for a few months.
Tuesday, May 7.- Camp 9.
Breakfasted at daylight, but when about to start, found that the camel would not rise, even without any load on his back. After making every attempt to get him up, we were obliged to leave him to himself. Mr Burke and I started down the creek to reconnoitre. At about eleven miles we came to some blacks fishing. They gave us some half a dozen fish each for luncheon, and intimated that if we would go to their camp we should have some more, and some bread. I tore in two a piece of macintosh stuff that I had, and Mr Burke gave one piece, and I the other. We then went on to their camp, about three miles farther. They had caught a considerable quantity of fish, but most of them were small. I noticed three different kinds -a small one that they call cupi, five to six inches long, and not broader than an eel; the common one, with large coarse scales, termed peru ; and a delicious fish, some of which run from a pound to two pounds weight. The natives call them cawilchi. On our arrival at the camp, they led us to a spot to camp on, and soon afterwards brought a lot of fish and bread, which they call nardoo. The lighting a fire with matches delights them, but they do not care about having them. In the evening various members of the tribe came down with lumps of nardoo and handfuls of fish, until we were positively unable to eat any more. They also gave us some stuff they call bedgery, or pedgery. It has a highly intoxicating effect when chewed even in small quantities. It appears to be the dried stems and leaves of some shrub.
Wednesday, May 8.
Left the blacks' camp at half-past seven, Mr Burke returning to the junction, whilst I proceeded to trace down the creek. This I found a shorter task than I had expected, for it soon showed signs of running out, and at the same time kept considerably to the north of west. There were several fine water-holes within about four miles of the camp I had left, but not a drop all the way beyond that, a distance of seven miles. Finding that the creek turned greatly towards the north, I returned to the blacks' encampment; and, as I was about to pass, they invited me to stay. So I did so, and was even more hospitably entertained than before, being on this occasion offered a share of a gunyah, and supplied with plenty of fish and nardoo, as well as a couple of nice fat rate. The latter found most delicious. They were baked in the skins. Last night was clear and calm, but unusually warm. We slept by a fire just in front of the blacks' camp. They were very attentive in bringing us firewood, and keeping fire up during the night.
Thursday, May 9.
Parted from my friends the blacks at half-past seven, and started for Camp 9.
Friday, May 10.- Camp 9.
Mr Burke and King employed in jerking the camel's flesh,(*Footnote; Their last camel (Rajah) was shot this day, as the poor brute was evidently on the point of dying. Vide King's Narrative), whilst I went out to look for the nardoo seed for making bread. In this I was unsuccessful, not being able to find a single tree of it in the neighbourhood of the camp. I however tried boiling the large kind of bean which the blacks call padlu; they boil easily, and when shelled are very sweet, much resembling in taste the French chestnut. They are to be found in large quantities nearly everywhere.
Saturday, May 11.- Camp 9.
To-day Mr Burke and King started down .the creek for the blacks' camp, determined to ascertain all particulars about the nardoo seed. I have now my turn at the meat jerking, and must devise some means for trapping the birds and rats, which is a pleasant prospect after our dashing trip to Carpentaria, having to hang about Cooper's Creek living like the blacks.
Sunday, May 12.
Mr Burke and King returned this morning, having been unsuccessful in their search for the blacks, who, it seems, have moved over to the other branch of the creek. Decided on moving out on the main creek to-morrow, and then trying to find the natives of the creek.
Monday, May 13.
Shifted some of the things and brought them back again, Mr Burke thinking it better for one to remain here with them for a few days, so as to eat the remains of the fresh meat, whilst the others went in search of the blacks and nardoo.
Tuesday, May 14.
Mr Burke and King gone up the creek to look for blacks, with four days' provisions. Self employed in preparing for a final start on their return. This evening Mr Burke and King returned, having been some considerable distance up the creek, and found no blacks. It is now settled that we plant the things, and all start together the day after to-morrow. (*Footnote; They had now decided to make a second attempt to reach Mount Hopeless. At this time the poor sufferers had become dreadfully wearied, and their daily ration had become much reduced). The weather continues very fine; the nights calm, clear, and cold, and the days clear, with a breeze generally from S., but to-day from E., for a change. This makes the first part of the day rather cold. When clouds appear, they invariably move from W. to E.
Wednesday, May 15. - Camp 9.
Planting the things, and preparing to leave the creek for Mount Hopeless.
Thursday, May 16.
Having completed our planting, &c., started up the creek to the second blacks' camp, a distance of about eight miles. Finding our loads rather too heavy, we made a small plant here of such articles as could best be spared.
Friday, May 17.- Nardoo.
Started this morning on a blacks' path, leaving the creek on our left, our intention being to keep o south-easterly direction until me should cut some likely-looking creek, and then to follow it down. On approaching the foot of the first sand-hill, King caught sight in the flat of some nardoo seeds, and we soon found that the flat was covered with them. This discovery caused somewhat of a revolution in our feelings, for me considered that with the knowledge of this plant we were in a position to support ourselves, even if we were destined to remain on the creek and wait for assistance from town. Crossing some sand-ridges running N and S, we struck into a creek which runs out of Cooper's Creek, and followed it down. At about five miles we came to a large water-hole, beyond which the water-course runs out on extensive flats and earthy plains. Calm night; sky cleared towards morning, and it became very cold. A slight easterly breeze sprang up at sunrise, but soon died away again. The sky again became overcast, and remained so throughout the day. There was occasionally a light breeze from the south, but during the greater portion of the day it was quite calm. Fine halo around the sun in the afternoon.
Saturday, May 18.- Camp 16.
(No entry except the following meteorological entry on an opposite page, which may probably refer to this date.) Calm night, sky sometimes clear and sometimes partially overcast with veil clouds.
Sunday, May 19.
( No entry beyond this citation of date.)
Monday, May 20.
(No entry beyond this.)
Tuesday, May 21.-Creek.
(No entry beyond this.)
Wednesday, May 22. - Cooper's Creek.
(No entry beyond this.)
Thursday, May 23.
(No entry beyond this.)
Friday, May 24.
Started with King to celebrate the Queen's birthday, by fetching from Nardoo Creek what is now to us the staff of life. Returned at a little after two PM, with a fair supply, but find the collecting of the seed a slower and more troublesome process than could be desired. Whilst picking the seed, about eleven o'clock A.M., both of us heard distinctly the noise of an explosion, as of a gun, at some considerable distance. We supposed it to have been a shot fired by Mr Burke; but on returning to the camp, found that he had not fired nor heard the noise. The sky was partially overcast with high cumm. str. clouds, and a light breeze blew from the east, but nothing to indicate a thunderstorm in any direction.
The following extract from King's narrative refers to the period:
Mr Wills and I went out to gather nardoo, of which we obtained a supply sufficient for three days; and finding a pounding-stone at the gunyahs, Mr Burke and I pounded the seed, which was such slow work that we were compelled to use half flour and half nardoo. Mr Burke and Mr Wills then went down the creek for the remainder of the dried meat which we had planted, and we had now all our things with us, gathering nardoo, and living the best way we could. Mr Burke requested Mr Wills to go up the creek as far as the depot, and to place a note in the plant there, stating that we were then living on the creek, the former note having stated that we were on our road to South Australia. (*Footnote; As far as Mr Burke was concerned, he does not seem to have omitted a single thing necessary for the safety of his party). He also was to bury there the field-books of the journey to the Gulf. Before starting he got 3 lbs of flour and 4 lbs of pounded nardoo, and about a pound of meat, as he expected to be absent about eight days. During his absence, I gathered nardoo and pounded it, as Mr Burke wished to lay in a supply in case of rain.
Diary continued :
Monday, May 27.
Started up the creek this morning for the depot, in order to deposit journals and a record of the state of affairs here. On reaching the sand-hills below where Linda was bogged, I passed some blacks on a flat collecting nardoo seed. Never saw such an abundance of the seed before. The ground in some parts was quite black with it. There were only two or three gins and children, and they directed me on, as if to their camp, in the direction I was before going; but I had not gone far over the first sand-hill when I was overtaken by about twenty blacks, bent on taking me back to their camp, and promising any quantity of nardoo and fish. On my going with them, one carried the shovel, and another insisted on taking my swag, in such a friendly manner that I could not refuse them. They were greatly amused with the various little things I had with me. In the evening they supplied me with abundance of nardoo and fish; and one of the old man, Poko Tinnamira, shared his gunyah with me. . . . The night was very cold, but, by the help of several fires- (The entry suddenly stops, but in the margin of the opposite page are written the names of several natives and certain native words, with their meanings in English.)
Tuesday, May 28.
Left the blacks' camp, and proceeded up the creek. Obtained some mussels near where Linda died, and halted for breakfast. Still feel very unwell from the effects of the constipation of the bowels. After breakfast travelled on to our third camp coming down.
Wednesday, May 29.
Started at seven o'clock, and went on to the duck-holes, where we breakfasted coming down. Halted there at thirty minutes past nine for a feed, and then moved on. At the stones saw a lot of crows quarrelling about something near the water. Found it to be a large fish, of which they had eaten a considerable portion. Finding it quite fresh and good, I decided the quarrel by taking it with me. It proved a most valuable addition to my otherwise scanty supper of nardoo porridge. This evening I camped very comfortably in a Mia Mia, about eleven miles from the depot. The night was very cold, although not entirely cloudless. A brisk easterly breeze sprang up in the morning, and blew fiercely all day. In the evening the sky clouded in, and there were one or two slight showers, but nothing to wet the ground.
Thursday, May 30.
Reached the depot this morning, at eleven o'clock. No traces of any one except blacks having been here since we left. Deposited some journals, and a notice of our present condition. Started back in the afternoon, and camped at the first water-hole. Last night being cloudy, was unusually warm and pleasant.
Mr Wills's last letter:
Depot Camp, May 30
We have been unable to leave the creek. Both camels are dead, and our provisions are done. Mr Burke and King are down the lower part of the creek. I am about to return to them, when we shall probably come up this way. We are trying to live the best way we can like the blacks, but find it hard work. Our clothes are going to pieces first. Send provisions and clothes as soon as possible.
W. J. Wills
Friday, May 31.
Decamped at thirty minutes past seven, having first breakfasted. Passed between the sandhills at nine, and reached the blanket Mia Mias at twenty minutes to eleven; from there proceeded on to the rocks, where I arrived at half-past one, having delayed about half an hour on the road in gathering some portulac. It had been a fine morning, but the sky now became overcast, and threatened to set in for a steady rain; and as I felt very weak and tired I only moved on about a mile further, and camped in a sheltered gully, under some bushes. Night clear and very cold. No wind. Towards morning sky became slightly overcast with cirro str. clouds.
Saturday, June 1.
Started at a quarter to eight AM. Passed the duck-holes at ten AM., and my second camp up at two PM, having rested in the meantime about forty-five minutes. Thought to have reached the blacks' camp, or at least where Linda was bogged, but found myself altogether too weak and exhausted; in fact, had extreme difficulty in getting across the numerous little gullies, and was at last obliged to camp, from sheer fatigue. Night ultimately clear and cloudy, with occasional showers.
Sunday, June 2.
Started at half-past six, thinking to breakfast at the blacks' camp, below Landa's grave; found myself very much fagged, and did not arrive at their camp until ten A.M., and then found myself disappointed as to a good breakfast, the camp being deserted. Having rested awhile, and eaten a few fish-bones, I moved down the creek, hoping by a late march to be able to reach our own camp, but I soon found, from my extreme weakness, that that would be out of the question. A certain amount of good luck, however, still stuck to we, for, on going along by a large water-hole, I was so fortunate as to find a large fish, about a pound and a-half in weight, which was just being choked by another which it had tried to swallow, but which had stuck in its throat. I soon had a fire lit, and both of the fish cooked and eaten. The large one was in good condition. Moving on again after my late breakfast, I passed Camp 67 of the journey to Carpentaria, and camped for the night under some polygonum bushes.
Monday, June 3.
Started at seven o'clock, and, keeping on the south bank of the creek, was rather encouraged, at about three miles, by the sound of numerous crows a-head; presently fancied I could see smoke, and was shortly afterwards set at my ease by hearing a cooey from Pitchery, who stood on the opposite bank, and directed me around the lower end of the water-hole, continually repeating his assurance of abundance of fish and bread. Having with some considerable difficulty managed to ascend the sandy path that led to the camp, I was conducted by the chief to a fire, where a large pile of fish were just being cooked in the most approved style. These I imagined to be for the general consumption of the half a dozen natives gathered around, but it turned out that they had already had their breakfast. I was expected to dispose of this lot -a task which, to my own astonishment, I soon accomplished, keeping two or three blacks pretty steadily at work extracting bones for me. The fish being disposed of, next came a supply of nardoo cake and water, until I was so full as to be unable to eat any more; when Pitchery, allowing me a short time to recover myself, fetched a large bowl of the raw nardoo flour, mixed to a thin paste, a most insinuating article, and one that they appear to esteem a great delicacy. I was then invited to stop the night there, but this I declined, and proceeded on my way home.
Tuesday, June 4.
Started for the blacks' camp, intending to test the practicability of living with them, and to see what I could learn as to their ways and manners.
Wednesday, June 5.
Remained with the blacks. Light rain during the greater part of the night, and more or less throughout the day, in showers. Wind blowing in squalls from S.
(*Footnote; A few days after Mr Wills left, some natives came down the creek to fish at some water-holes near our camp. They were very civil to us at first, and offered us some fish; on the second day they came again to fish, and Mr Burke took down two bags, which they filled for him ; on the third day they gave us one bag of fish, and afterwards all came to oar camp. We used to keep our ammunition and other articles in one gunyah, and all three of us live together in another. One of the natives took an oilcloth out of this gunyah, and Mr Burke seeing him run away with it, followed him with his revolver, and fired over his head; and upon this the native dropped the oilcloth. While he was away the other blacks invited me away to a water-hole, to eat fish; but I declined to do so, as Mr Burke was away, and a number of natives were about who would have taken all our things. When I refused, one took his boomerang and laid it over my shoulder, and then told me by signs that if I called out for Mr Burke, as I was doing, he would strike me. Upon this I got them all in front of the gunyah, and fired a revolver over their heads; but they did not seem at all afraid, until I got out the gun, when they all ran away. Mr Burke, hearing the report, came back, and we saw no more of them until late that night, when they came with some cooked fish, and called out "white fellow." Mr Burke then went out with his revolver, and found a whole tribe coming down, all painted, and with fish in small nets, carried by two men. Mr Burke went to meet them, and they wished to surround him; but he knocked as many of the nets of fish out of their hands as he could, and shouted out to me to fire. I did so, and they ran OK We collected five small nets of cooked fish. The reason he would not accept the fish from them was, that he was afraid of being too friendly, lest they should be always at our camp. We then lived on fish until Mr Wills returned.- King's Narrative
Thursday, June 6.
Returned to our own camp; found that Mr Burke and King had been well supplied with fish by the blacks. Made preparation for shifting our camp nearer to them on the morrow.
Friday, June 7.
Started in the afternoon for the black's camp, with such things as we could take; found ourselves all very weak, in spite of the abundant supply of fish that we have lately had. I myself could scarcely get along, although carrying the lightest swag, only about 30 lbs. Found that the blacks had decamped, so determined on proceeding to-morrow up to the next camp, near the nardoo field.
Saturday, June 8.-
With the greatest fatigue and difficulty we reached the nardoo camp. No blacks, greatly to our disappointment. Took possession of the beat Mia Mia, and rested for the remainder of the day.
Sunday, June 9,
King and I proceeded to collect nardoo, leaving Mr Burke at home.
Monday, June 10.
Mr Burke and King collecting nardoo ; self at home, too weak to go out. Was fortunate enough to shoot a crow.
Tuesday, June 11.
King out for nardoo. Mr Burke up the creek, to look for the blacks.
Wednesday, June 12.
King out collecting nardoo. Mr Burke and I at home, pounding and cleaning. I still feel myself, if anything, weaker in the legs, although the nardoo appears to be more thoroughly (?) digested.
Thursday, June 13.
Last night the sky was pretty clear, and the air rather cold, but nearly calm; a few cir.-st. hung about the NE horizon during the first part of the night. Mr Burke and King out for nardoo. Self weaker than ever; scarcely able to go to the water-hole for water. Towards afternoon cir.-cum. and cir.-st. began to appear, moving northward, scarcely any wind all day.
Friday, June 14.
Night alternately clear and cloudy; cir-cum. And cir-st. moving northwards; no wind; beautifully mild for the time of year; in the morning, some heavy clouds on the horizon. King out for nardoo; brought in a good supply. Mr Burke and I at home, pounding and cleaning seed. I feel weaker than ever, and both Mr B. and King are beginning to feel very unsteady in the legs.
Saturday, June 15.
Night clear, calm, and cold; morning very fine, with a light breath of air from N.E. King out for nardoo; brought in a fine supply. Mr Burke and I pounding and cleaning. He finds himself getting very weak, and I am not a bit stronger. I have determined on beginning to chew tobacco and eat less nardoo, in hopes that it may induce some change in the system. I have never yet recovered from constipation, the effect of which is exceedingly painful.
Sunday, June 16.
Wind shifted to N, clouds moving from W to E; thunder audible two or three times to the southward; sky becoming densely overcast, with an occasional shower about nine AM. We finished up the remains of the Rajah for dinner yesterday. King was fortunate enough to shoot a crow this morning. The rain kept all hands in, pounding and cleaning seed during the morning. The weather cleared up towards the middle of the day, and a brisk breeze sprang up in the south, lasting till near sunset, but rather irregular in its force. Distant thunder was audible to westward and southward frequently during the afternoon.
Monday, June 17.
Night very boisterous and stormy. Northerly wind blowing in squalls, and heavy showers of rain with thunder in the north and west. Heavy clouds moving rapidly from north to south; gradually clearing up during the morning, the wind continuing squally during the day from west and north-west. King out in the afternoon for nardoo.
Tuesday, June 18.
Exceedingly cold night. Sky clear, slight breeze, very chilly and changeable; very heavy dew. After sunrise cir.-st. clouds began to pass over from west to east, gradually becoming more dense, and assuming the form of cum.-st. The sky cleared, and it became warmer towards noon.
Wednesday, June 19.
Night calm; sky during first part overcast with cir.-cum. clouds, moat of which cleared away towards morning, leaving the air much wider, but the sky remained more or less hazy all night, and it was not nearly as cold as last night. About eight o'clock a strong southerly wind sprang up, which enabled King to blow the dust out of our nardoo seeds, but made me too weak to render him any assistance.
Thursday, June 20.
Night and morning very cold, sky clear. I am completely reduced by the effects of the cold and starvation. King gone out for nardoo. Mr Burke at home pounding seed; he finds himself getting very weak in the legs. King holds out by far the best; the food seems to agree with him pretty well. Finding the sun come out pretty warm towards noon, I took a sponging all over, but it seemed to do little good beyond the cleaning effects, for my weakness is so great that I could not do it with proper expedition. I cannot understand this nardoo at all; it certainly will not agree with me in any form. We are now reduced to it alone, and we manage to get from four to five pounds per day between us.
Friday, June 21.
Last night was cold and clear, winding up with a strong wind from NE in the morning. I feel much weaker than ever, and can scarcely crawl out of the Mia Mia. Unless relief comes in some form or other, I cannot possibly last more than a fortnight. It is a great consolation, at least, in this position of ours, to know that we have done all we could, and that our deaths will rather be the result of the mismanagement of others than of any rash acts of our own. Had we come to grief elsewhere, we could only have blamed ourselves; but here we are, returned to Cooper's Creek, where we had every reason to look for provisions and clothing; and yet we have to die of starvation, in spite of the explicit instructions given by Mr Burke, that the depot party should await our return, and the strong recommendation to the Committee that we should be followed up by a party from Menindie. At about noon a change of wind took place, and it blew almost as hard from the west as it did previously from the north-west. A few cir.-cum. continued to pass over towards east.
Saturday, June 22.
Night cloudy and warm. Every appearance of rain. Thunder once or twice during the night. Clouds moving in an easterly direction. Lower atmosphere perfectly calm. There were a few drops of rain during the night, and in the morning, about nine AM, there was every prospect of more rain until towards noon, when the sky cleared up for a time. Mr Burke and King out for nardoo. The former returned much fatigued. I am so weak to-day as to be unable to get on my feet.
Sunday, June 23.
All hands at home. I am so weak as to be incapable of crawling out of the Mia Mia. King holds out well, but Mr Burke finds himself weaker every day.
Monday, June 24.
A fearful night. At about an hour before sunset, a southerly gale sprang up and continued throughout the greater portion of the night; the cold was intense, and it seemed as if one would be shrivelled up. Towards morning it fortunately lulled a little, but a strong cold breeze continued till near sunset, after which it became perfectly calm. King went out for nardoo, in spite of the wind, and came in with a good load, but he himself terribly cut up. He says that he can no longer keep up the work, and as he and Mr Burke are both getting rapidly weaker, we have but a slight chance of anything but starvation, unless we can get hold of some blacks.
Tuesday, June 25.
Night calm, clear, and intensely cold, especially towards morning. Near daybreak, King reported seeing a moon in the east, with a haze of light stretching up from it; he declared it to be quite as large as the moon, and not dim at the edges. I am so weak that any attempt to get a sight of it was out of the question; but I think it must have been Venus in the zodiacal light that he saw, with a corona around her. Mr Burke and King remain at home cleaning and pounding seed. They are both getting weaker every day. The cold plays the deuce with us, from the small amount of clothing we have. My wardrobe consists of a wideawake, a merino shirt, a regatta shirt without sleeves, the remains of a pair of flannel trousers, two pairs of socks in rags, and a waistcoat of which I have managed to keep the pockets together. The others are no better off. Besides these, we have between us, for bedding, two small camel pads, some horsehair, two or three little bits of rag, and pieces of oilcloth saved from the fire. The day turned out nice and warm.