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December 1861

Bourne's Journal of Landsborough's expedition from Carpentaria, in search of Burke & Wills
Melbourne: H T Dwight.
(Ferguson 7303).
1862.

Monday, 2 December 1861.
Last Monday went up to the head of the Albert with Captain Norman in the barge to look out for Walker's party. After following the river up twenty five miles, it branches into two arms, both fresh, though occasionally affected by the salt water. Palms, Pandanas, &c., grow on the banks, but on leaving the water the prevailing box and gum appear again. We saw nothing of Mr Walker's party. Visited Mr Gregory's marked trees, dug according to directions at the foot of one of them, in the fork of the junction, and found a note enclosed in a powder canister, addressed to Mr Baines by Mr Flood, of Gregory's Party, It had been there five years, and although written with a lead pencil was perfectly legible. In going up the right hand arm, we saw a marked tree line and some tracks about a fortnight old, which we followed for some distance up the river, the line died out about four miles from the junction, and the whaler's crew having been up here about a fortnight ago, we concluded, it was their work. Since returning we find it was not marked by them, as an iron tomahawk and broad axe has been used in -marking these trees, we conclude it must be Walker's party or some other overlanders.

Monday, 16 December 1861.
Marking trees to direct Mr Walker's party to our whereabouts.

Tuesday, 17 December 1861.
Rain fell heavily. At 10 am. Walker and party have in sight and were heartily welcomed. He had seems our marked trees a day or two ago, but had not discovered our exact position, and had been nearly cut off, together with one of his black boys, by the aborigines, whilst in search of us, returning with difficulty to his party in the dark. Previous to this they had been attacked on the Flinders river by them, when they received a severe lesson. His map shows that he has kept nearly parallel with Gregory but further inland touching occasionally on the desert. They arrived without being short of any rations but meat, which had given out a month before. They had camped on Burke's camel tracks, but afraid lest the Victoria should leave, they left them unexamined, hastening on to the rendezvous. Mr Walker's opinion is that Burke has retraced his steps to Melbourne. He intends returning to the tracks, and following them wherever they go to. His party is in good health, and the horses, of which however he has left twenty behind, in fair condition. He has accomplished the journey from Rockhampton, in two days less than it occupied Mr Gregory. His party besides himself consists of Mr Haughton, Mr McAllister, the man Jack, and five blackfellows. He describes the country through which he passed as well watered on the whole, and good.

Wednesday, 18 December 1861.
Captain Norman stopped our man Bill's grog, for saying he had been robbed by the crew of the barge. He and Mr Walker went to the Victoria.

Friday, 20 December 1861.
Since the arrival of Mr Walker's party, his men have been busily employed mending saddles, packing rations, &c., preparatory to an early start, as he does not intend to wait Mr Landsborough's return from the centre, which is not expected for six weeks to come. Yesterday, his horses having been previously crossed over the river, Mr Walker and Party once more started with three cheers, our best wishes, and a fresh supply of rations, to pick up the camel tracks on the Flinders, where Captain Norman is to meet him, to learn his opinion of the way Burke's tracks have gone. Captain Norman started last night for the Victoria, fairly turned out by the mosquitoes one day before had had intended to leave. There are men here who have been in every part of the world where they are thought to abound, but they all say that they never found them so bad as here. They get through our curtain at night; bite through two suits of clothes. People, unable to rest, are walking up and down all night. When the sun rises, and the mosquitoes retire to the shade, their watch is relieved by clouds of flies, which are, perhaps, even it greater torment than their forerunners, It will not be wondered at, that we lead a life of suffering, without rest or respite, from these two plagues. Whilst I write, I feel that no one who has not endured these things will ever realise them.

Saturday, 21 December 1861.
No blacks have shown out since Mr Walker's arrival. He came across Burke's tracks on the Flinders, but cannot tell whether be reached the coast or not. The tracks of his four camels and one horse appear to be about two months old. It is Mr Walker's intention to return and follow them. In all probability they are now in safety at Rockhampton or Port Denison.

The range of the Thermometer has been from:

October 27 Noon 88 degrees
  28 Noon 88 degrees
29 4 am 79 degrees
29 2 pm 90 degrees
30 Noon 90 degrees
31 Noon 92 degrees

November 1 2 pm 91 degrees
  2 2 pm 91 degrees
3 2 pm 91 degrees
4 2 pm 90 degrees
4 2 pm 99 degrees
5 Noon 92 degrees
6 Noon 90 degrees
7 Noon 90 degrees
8 Noon 90 degrees
9 Noon 94 degrees
10 Noon 90 degrees
11 Noon 90 degrees
19 Noon 91 degrees
20 Noon 94 degrees
21 Noon 100 degrees
22 Noon 96 degrees
23 Noon 92 degrees
24 Noon 95 degrees
25 Noon 100 degrees
26 Noon 91 degrees
27 Noon 86 degrees
28 Noon 93 degrees
29 Noon 90 degrees
30 Noon 81 degrees

December 1 Noon 92 degrees
  2 Noon 93 degrees
3 Noon 91 degrees
4 Noon 94 degrees
5 Noon 93 degrees
9 Noon 89 degrees
10 Noon 90 degrees
11 Noon 90 degrees
12 Noon 91 degrees

To-day we had a visit from the natives. They appear to quite aware of Mr Walker's departure. Their Marys are with them, and they are unarmed. We cannot discover where they camp, nor do they seem inclined to let us know.

Wednesday, 25 December 1861.
Christmas day, and a very dull one. With the help of our guns we manage to raise a decent dinner of wild-fowl, else we should have been on short allowance. I managed at last to baffle the mosquitoes by sleeping in a sailors hammock and getting the night watch to keep up a continual smoke, so that, for once in two months, I have enjoyed an unbroken night's rest. All hands dull and stagnant, waiting Mr Landsborough's return. We are now short of shot, which is a misfortune to our table. Yesterday we had a heavy fall of rain, accompanied by much thunder and lightning; all grass, &c., springs up rapidly. Night, cool; thermometer at 80 degrees.

Tuesday, 31 December 1861.
Our life dull and monotonous. Rain and thunder almost daily. When we came here in October, though water lay on the ground, the grass was dry and parched. The grass is now very green and long. It is, no doubt, a fine country about here and well suited to horses, sheep, and cattle. There are facilities for fencing; water-carriage is at hand; and the Indian market contiguous. A few thousand sheep brought here would yield a fortune in a few years, provided they are not carried away by a flood.

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© 2017, Dave Phoenix