Wednesday, 5 February 1862.
Last night, 2nd Lieutenant Gascoigne arrived from the Victoria, with news of poor Mr Frost's death, and that everything was ready for a start home. He also brought a letter from Captain Norman advising Mr Landsborough, on account of the shortness of provisions, to return with his party by the Victoria. Mr Landsborough has gone to see him on the subject. Of the provisions belonging to our party, there remain 980 lbs of flour, 600 lbs of beef, part of which has been soaked in bilge water, and the rest so hard and salt as to be hardly eatable. Besides this, there is some tobacco and a small quantity of rice, but in very short supply to take six men a four months' journey.
Thursday, 6 February. Mr Landsborough gone to see Captain Norman; the case of to go, or not to go, will now be determined.
Friday, 7 February 1862.
As usual, ‘taking the sun, &c.,' in which I have now acquired some little proficiency. Determined the width of the river by trigonometry. Our leader has returned, and we are to tack - to ‘go in' for fame and crossing the continent, eking out our short supplies with snakes, rats, grubs, and other native delicacies as may prove to be obtainable.
Saturday, 8 February 1862.
Breaking up the depot. No one seems to regret the termination of our sojourn here. Our material is being crossed to the east bank of the Albert in a boat, the horses having been previously towed over at the stern of the boat, some of them swimming over manfully, and others lying on their sides having to be dragged across. As might be imagined, it is a scene of great confusion in a little way. All letters, commissions, &c. have now to be written and given. Of course, we could have done none of these things in our past weeks of utter leisure! By dark, everything was across, and, as might be conceived, in an admirable state of confusion. This over, the boats have started for the steamer. They might have waited until we had started, were it only to see that nothing of importance had been overlooked and left on the west bank of the river. We felt it to be an indecent haste.
Sunday, 9 February 1862.
Packing, arranging, and assorting all day.
Monday, 10 February 1862.
At daylight continued packing up, being very anxious to start; finished by 3 pm. Two black boys are now sent for the horses that are grazing within a mile. They seldom go further, as grass is plentiful and they are hobbled. When they are driven up to the camp they are surrounded by all hands, each having halters in his hand to catch his allotted number. As soon as one is caught, his hobbles being removed, he is fastened immediately to a strap which is always round the neck. This prevents their being lost, or mixed - a very inconvenient and frequent nuisance, Each person catches the whole of the horses allotted to his care, tying them up to trees before proceeding to pack. There is always much delay in the first start. The horses are fresh and more difficult to catch, while some show a decided objection to carry anything at all, by throwing their packs as soon as they are let loose. One of our horses, Stumpy by name, is constantly trying to divest himself of his load, and succeeds at times in kicking the bags to pieces; others amuse themselves by leaning on the halters until they break, when they are again free for a short time. At 4 pm., everything being ready, we started; during the catching and packing, Leeson, who is a sailor, is in great trouble at his not being able to tell one horse from another. He remedies this by tying a piece of rag to each of his horse's manes. Mr Landsborough, Leeson, and myself pack four horses each, Fisherman packs two, in all fourteen. One is very lame; the other six are ridden by the party, consisting of Mr Landsborough, leader; myself, second in command Leeson, assistant; Jemmy, trooper, native of Deniliquin, New South Wales, his mother and father having been shot by whites, he was taken to Brisbane and placed in the police, to which force he still belongs; Fisherman, native of Brisbane; and Jackey, a native of Wide Bay. To-day, while packing up, some natives made their appearance, but seemed afraid to approach the camp. They received a few presents and went away. We started with the prospect of more fasting than feasting, for the quantity of rations will not allow us quite 3 lbs, of meat per week each, and a bare pint of flour (about three quarters of a pound) per day; no tea nor sugar. On Sundays we are to have a pint of pea soup, some rice, and a small jar of jam among us all. What others' feelings are I cannot say; for myself, I feel that we have an arduous journey before us - that we shall have a great struggle to get across the Continent; but we are always buoyed up by the hope that we should find, perhaps, some tracks of the party of whom we are in search, viz., Burke's. At starting, as usual, some of the horses commenced buck-jumping, getting their packs on one side and kicking them asunder; Stumpy seeming determined not to carry his pack. After considerable delay fixing these packs, we start again; but, owing to delays and late start, only made five miles and half, and camped at a brackish lagoon some time after dark. Some delay now takes place in looking for a spot to camp, a good back log and a sufficient supply of broken wood being necessary to our comfort. Arrived at camp each selects a spot as near another as possible, for mutual protection, to unload his horses, which being done, they are hobbled, a bell attached to one or two, and let go for the night. This done, it is now Jackey's duty to collect wood enough for the night, while Fisherman brings water in the canvas buckets or the leather water-bags. Jemmy, the trooper, puts up the tent, while Leeson is preparing our evening meal; after disposing of which the watching commences by two of the boys watching until half-past ten, the remainder of the night being divided between Mr Landsborough, Leeson, and myself. After a smoke, we lay ourselves down on a little grass which the boys have pulled, covered with a double blanket, and the weather being warm, I am soon us fast, perhaps faster asleep than if it were a feather bed. No tents rigged to-night, owing to its being so late when we camped.
Tuesday, 11 February 1862 - Camp 1.
Leeson, who has the morning watch, prepares breakfast, and awakens us before daylight. We dispose of our quart of cold water, and piece of damper and meat very soon; while doing so, the two black boys are away looking for the horses; this over, all hands are packing their respective bags. Left Camp 1, and made five miles and a half, when rain coming on we encamped. A few hours rain makes travelling on these loose black plains, on which we now are, very heavy, the mud adhering to the horses' feet, which fatigues them very soon. We steered south, on Walker's track, and camped at the head of a salt water inlet or creek.
Wednesday, 12 February 1862 - Camp 2.
Started from Camp at 7.30, steered south two hours, crossed a small watercourse, and bore away east. The boys, one of whom is constantly riding a-head, find great difficulty in keeping the tracks, owing to heavy rain having recently fallen. Struck Walker's track at a small creek where a horse had been bogged. Made fifteen miles to-day and camped.
Thursday, 13 February 1862 - Camp 3.
Our start from Camp is always as follows: One of the black boys rides a-head, being first told in which direction to go; another behind him looking for tracks. Mr Landsborough rides immediately behind him; the pack horses follow, all loose; myself, and Leeson, and the other black boy bringing up the rear. The pace is the ordinary walk of the horses, and never faster. We left Camp at 8 am., and arrived at the Leichardt at 3 pm.; tried to cross over what appeared a fordable place, but found it too deep and rapid, and the banks on the opposite side too steep. The river here is salt and about 150 yards wide, from one edge of water to the other. While trying to cross we had a heavy shower of rain. We now turned up the river and camped within half-a-mile of it. We find it too tediouis to follow up Walker's tracks further. Heavy thunder-storms daily. Game very scarce. The horses distressed with the heavy packs, and hot sultry weather.
Friday, 14 February 1862 - Camp 4.
Steered up the Leichhardt and crossed over just above a fall in the riser of at least forty feet. An extensive basin is formed below the fall, which must receive an immense body of water during floods. Ali the country between here and the Albert bears marks of being subject to heavy rains and very high floods. Nor did I observe any sufficiently elevated ground to escape them until we neared the Leichardt, where the ground begins to rise gradually. It is open plain country, with belts of timber and well grassed; the soil is a brown loam, thinly strewn with ironstone and quartz pebbles. Last night, the black boys fancied they heard the horses galloping, and thought they must have been frightened by natives, but, upon going to look, it proved a false alarm. We camped early to-day to shoe a lame horse, which we do with screws and baton-nails, having no others. Very hot day. We fortunately got some herb which Mr Landsborough calls marjoram, as a substitute for tea, the want of which we feel very much. Steered to-day E by S. Mr Landsborough and I intended bathing in the basin of the fall, but upon approaching it we heard a very heavy suspicious splash, and preferred adjourning to a smaller hole, in which there would be more chance of seeing an alligator, were there one present. This afternoon we had a heavy shower.
Saturday, 15 February 1862 - Camp 5.
Made an early start, Crossed a large rocky-bedded creek running into the Leichardt soon after starting. Made eighteen miles and a-half over country consisting of well-grassed flats, surrounded by poor ridges of spinifex. Ironstone, flint, and quartz stones cover these ridges. It was somewhat doubtful whether we should get water to-day, but we fortunately came upon a small watercourse in the centre of a large flat which is flooded at times. These flats are covered with native water and rock melons. They are very small, not quite so large as a hen's egg, and only one of their varieties is edible, the others being very bitter. Several of us got a shot at an emu to-day, but, unfortunately, we all missed him. This is provoking, as we are very much in want of a fresh mess.
Sunday, 16 February 1862.
Our Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but the bipeds of the party at least are generally employed in repairing bags, shoeing horses, or some other necessary work. To-day we are shoeing a horse, and a tedious job it is with our poor tools. But we have pea-soup, and rice, and jam to-day - a great treat to us, and makes some of us wish Sunday would come twice a week. Leeson says the peas are like flint stones, and positively will not boil soft. They must be some of a cask picked up by the Victoria, on Sir Charles Hardy's Island, having been exposed to the sun for a long time; we are very glad to have them nevertheless.
Monday, 17 February 1862 - Camp 6.
Passed a beautiful spot this morning for a station; green hills surrounded by extensive well-grassed plain. The country, afterwards, not so good, in fact, very inferior, being ridges of spinifex and belts of thin scrub. Made sixteen miles, and camped in thick timber. Course E by S.
Tuesday, 18 February 1862 - Camp 7.
Started at 8.30, and travelled sixteen miles over poor country, consisting of ridges of spinifex, stunted box, gum, and belts of raspberry jam trees named by Leichardt from its similarity of perfume to raspberry jam. Camped in a rocky gully leading into what appears to be the head of a creek running into the Flinders. In this gully are immense boulders of soft clay, apparently forming into rock. Game very scarce. Course to-clay, E. by S.
Wednesday, 19 February 1862 - Camp 8.
Left Camp at 7.30 am., and at 10.30 am. crossed three steep banked watercourses running NE. about twenty yards wide in the bed, with shallow muddy water. The most easterly of these channels was running not quite up to the horses' girths, but is evident there has been a recent ‘fresh' from the extreme muddiness of the water. This must be the Flinders, and it is not very far below this that Mr Walker saw Burke's tracks, and had an encounter with the blacks. Made twenty miles, and camped on the east bank of the Flinders. Country pretty good, soft stone in boulders prevalent. To the southward there is a long low range, and on the plains, in front, several isolated hills rising abruptly. We were compelled to turn off our course and make for the water we had left. This has been a hard day and hot. Camped at 3 pm.
Thursday, 20 February 1862 - Camp 9.
Travelled up right bank of Flinders River, the bed of which is very sandy, flat, and level, without holes, and I very much doubt if water be permanent in this part. I also feel certain that the Flinders only runs at certain periods. The country, on either bank, consists of level, open, well-grassed plains. Course SE., fifteen miles.
Friday, 21 February 1862 - Camp 10.
Made up Flinders fifteen miles; the country passed over to-day good, but thinly grassed. In one spot, from recent rain I believe, the plain was covered with a cereal very like young Sorghum, or Indian corn. It is very sweet, and the horses do not feel inclined to leave it until they are compelled by the stockwhip.
Saturday, 22 February 1862 - Camp 11.
Steered SE. up the Flinders eighteen miles, and camped on river bank; country still very good, and the grass in places is very dry. It is strange we have seen no natives yet, nor any horse-tracks. I certainly expected to see Walker's tracks following Burke's up the river. The two black boys are constantly looking for tracks, and all of us are on the watch; but I am satisfied of the impossibility of following Burke's tracks, from our being unable to follow Mr Walker's; and it is not likely Mr Burke would leave this watercourse so long as it ran in anything like a favorable direction. We have, therefore, every chance of finding some traces of them, such as camps and marked trees, or of hearing of them from the natives.
Sunday, 23 February 1862.
Employed restoring the wear and tear of the week. On this day it becomes my duty to weigh out our week's allowance to Leeson, which is put in separate bags, end must last until the following Sunday, the allowance being 20 lbs. of meat, jerked (that is, cut in slices, salted, and dried; sugar is sometimes used with the salt which improves it much), per week, amongst the party of six, and a bare pint of flour per day each; we have a little sugar remaining from last Expedition, and occasionally make a decoction from what Mr Landsborough calls marjoram and the peppermint plant which grows in the neighbourhood of water, but both are a poor substitute for tea. The black boys fortunate enough to get five opossums.
Monday, 24 February 1862 - Camp 12.
Steered up the Flinders SE. Made sixteen miles. The country here is not so good. We sighted a hill at 2 pm. The country is very dry and bare. I have had nothing but an opossum and a little bread all day. The beef is so bitter I cannot eat it. A pot of tea would be very acceptable. Three of us, unfortunately, missed an emu to-day. Slight showers and cooler weather. Latitude not taken. I expect we shall arrive in wretched condition.
Tuesday, 25 February 1862 - Camp 13.
Left Camp at 9 am. Showers during the night; ground very boggy. Steered SE. up the Flinders. Made fourteen miles; passed a hill at half-past 11 am., about 100 feet high. At the foot of this hill there were several shallow lagoons very strongly impregnated with limestone; heavy rain to-day. Seeing an immense number of cockatoos round these lagoons, I took Jackey and remained behind the party to shoot some. We shot seventeen, which was a welcome addition to our mess. Country thinly grassed.
Wednesday, 26 February 1862 - Camp 14.
Heavy rain all day and we remained in Camp, Jackey while bringing the horses, was bitten by a brown snake on the heel. He was much alarmed, but was soon reassured by the other boy telling him it was not deadly but my opinion is that the thickness of the skin on the foot alone saved him. However, if he bit Jackey's heel he bruised his bead, and we all shared him at supper. The rain has made our camp miserably muddy. Pigweed, or portulac, is plentiful here, and as I ride along, eating a bunch of it, I think of Nebuchadnezzar We get nothing, like fruit, excepting a few paltry berries. My eyes are very bad.
Thursday, 27 February 1862 - Camp 15.
Made sixteen miles up the Flinders. Steered E till noon up to several hills surrounded by lagoons and small creeks. Country here very good. Steered S in afternoon to river, and camped. The river is getting deeper and no smaller, and promises to lead us some distance yet.
Friday, 28 February 1862 - Camp 16.
Steered up Flinders ESE., the river gradually tending eastwards. Passed same very good country to-day, the soil, timber, &c., something similar to the Murrumbidgee country, but none but Queensland saltbush. Mr Landsborough having stopped to take the sun, and not coming up until late, I made for the river and camped. Thin horizontal layers of limestone crop out of the bank of the river full of fossil shells.