Burke & Wills Web
www.burkeandwills.net.au
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2017

February 1862

Tracks of McKinlay and party across Australia
London: Sampson, Low & Son & Co.
(Ferguson 9005).
1863.

Saturday, 1 February 1862.
Had a long walk with Ned this morning, and brought in the camels to get another cooling. Yes; orders are issued, the mandate has gone forth - a well is to be sunk today. Sunk it about five or six feet deep; awfully hard the ground. The fellows still sick after their meals; Ned very bad, also Maitland, but I have escaped the infliction. Betting going on today on all kinds of events; weather continues awfully hot, but the bathing is delicious; it cools us in the evening, and sets us up for the next day.

A circumstance occurred today that highly amused us all; our second in command had often said that the natives had real respect for him, and I believe he thought so; he was, however, doomed to be undeceived; he was ordered to tell some of the hangers on to decamp. They certainly went, but jabbering something and applying the polinar face of the dexter hand sharply over the region of the ghitus. I wonder what they said to him a high compliment, I dare say. This may be a custom of the country and a mark of respect; I don't think he will put any more trust in the blacks, or spin yarns about their great respect for him. He must have felt very small when the roar of laughter from the camp reached his ears.

Sunday, 2 February 1862.
Camp Hayward's Creek.
Wylde ill today. The sickness still sticking to some of them. Camels washed again today. Hodgkinson and Middleton shot 27 pigeons today. They were in flocks of 100, feeding on the seeds of the grass, and rose the moment you got, close to them; consequently the slaughter was greater than if they had been frightened. They made a nice change for our dinner. and supper; some done on the ashes, some stewed, and some put into a pie. They were exceedingly nice, and very fat. The water in the creek decreasing fast, bathed as usual Of course did not work at the well, being Sunday.

Monday, 3 February 1862.
When bringing in the camels today saw a flock of geese; had two shots at them with ball, but they were very shy, and we could not get near enough to them. At the well today. Hard and hot work. Came to water; although only a few yards from the creek, which was fine nice water, that in the well was as salt as brine; so much so that you could not touch it, so all our labour is thrown away. McKinlay thinks that if all the water be baled out in the morning it may come fresh afterwards. I don't expect any such result, but seeing is believing; perhaps he may be right. The only motive for digging a well was that a change of water was desirable, as McKinlay fancied it was the water in the creek that had something to do with the sickness; but we must still stick to the creek, and make the best of it. I rather think a change of diet would do some good; constantly eating the same thing day after day is bad, I know. No vegetables. The greater part of our food is flesh, with a small modicum of bread. No wonder we get indisposed.

Tuesday, 4 February 1862.
We baled out the water this morning. This well is now some fifteen feet deep, layers of sand chiefly, so it is continually caving in. The water flows in fast, but as salt as ever, though, strange to say, it lathers well with soap. Men mending their shirts; some of us have variegated ones, already with the different coloured patches; no one was ill today after meals. McKinlay went off on a ramble today to look up the niggers and see where they had gone. As they all seem to have left our vicinity, he fancies that it may be a ruse to lull us into a feeling of security, and so put us off our guard, and some night come down and give us a dressing. Poor deluded gentlemen of colour! if such be your notions, believe me, you have the wrong man to deal with if you think to catch our leader napping. Just after McKinlay started some five or six came down to fish in the creek.

Wednesday, 5 February 1862.
I drew a bucket of water from the well this morning, and it was as salt, if not more so, than before. Mending clothes and cribbage the order of the day. The weather warm towards six; hot indeed.

Thursday, 6 February 1862.
Wind warm today, with thunder and lightning. It appears to be raining in various places, though it does not appear likely we shall get any. We have been so often deceived that it is no use going by appearances any longer up here. The wind chopped round to the south and it became very hot and oppressive. Middleton and Hodgkinson are to start A to morrow morning for Lake McKinlay, to ascertain for certain if that lake still continues to hold abundance of water, and also if it be good; and also on their way, en Vassant, to see if Lake Moolion boorrana will suit for a stage to camp at on the way to Lake McKinlay, should we go there, as it did not contain much water when we were there last, and he has his (McKinlay's) doubts on the subject. McKinlay is quite certain that the water here is afflicting us, and he wishes to go to the lake for a change, and remain there till it rains, so as to be able to cross the desert. Natives that come into camp today report that lots of rain has fallen to the east and, northeast beyond Lake Sir Richard and Lake Blanche.

Friday, 7 February 1862.
Mr Hodgkinson and native started at 7.30 this morning for Lake McKinlay, to see, as before mentioned, the supply of water there. Weather on the change, I think; it blew very strong from the south east last night. Very cloudy, but no rain to speak of all day; it has been cloudy and cool, and there is really now some chance, I think, of our getting some rain. Plenty of thunder and lightning today.

Saturday, 8 February 1862.
Raining splendidly; steady down pour last night, with strong wind from south east; some thunder. Everything looks refreshed; the little birds are chirping merrily, and the old crows pleading their own cause vociferously. The flies, however, are worse, being driven into the tents and whirlies by the rain. The walking this morning was anything but pleasant, the mud being up and over our ankles, and it stuck so to our boots that it was with difficulty we could get ahead at all; and having to go three miles to bring up the camels, it became a very tiring job. The camels themselves could hardly make a walk of it at all, and were more like cats in walnut shells on ice than anything I recollect having seen. I expect we shall be able to start for the Desert to morrow or the next day, as there must be abundance of water now in the claypans and holes, more than sufficient for our purpose. McKinlay has ordered all horses that require it to be shod, so I suppose the Stony Desert is the trip before us, and then on to Finnis' Springs to get our rations. Some of the flour we have been eating lately has had a very peculiar taste; indeed, some of it had got a touch of the naphtha or paraffine that was put on top of it, in its transit from Port. Augusta to Blanchewater, and perhaps that has been the cause of the illness, and not the water. Middleton, Hodgkinson, and native returned. They report lots of rain water this side of Lake McKinlay, and plenty in the lake itself, and good, with lots of natives on the banks; but as the rain has fallen so well and abundantly, we shall not go there, but proceed at once to the Desert.

Sunday, 9 February 1862.
It is still raining, and the ground as soft as possible in fact, too soft to travel over, so we shall not go today. The blacks are all away over the sand hills to catch lizards and other things to eat. The rain has proved a godsend to them, as well as to us. No holiday today, for we have had to work like coolies to get all ready for tomorrow, as we shall certainly start in the morning if it does not rain. McKinlay thinks there will be abundance of water to take us across this time. I hope he will not be disappointed. We shall all miss our nice bathing, which I am sure has been the means of keeping us all much better than if we had been without it. All ready for a start by tea time, so there will be nothing to delay us in the morning that we know of at present. Hurrah for the road once again!

Monday, 10 February 1862.
The cart and sheep started at 7am; the horses and camels some time after, as usual. Our course lies somewhere about north west. We passed over sand hills to the other side of the lake, and then over alternate sand hills and flats for nine or ten miles, and passing on our way a salt lake. Warma go la dhailie is its name, and a very pretty one too. The ground is very soft, and, consequently, very heavy travelling. Before leaving, we set fire to our little dwellings, and very soon the whirlies were among the things of the past. We shall go a long stage today, and hope to find our expectations realized anent the water in the claypans and holes. Some of the water that is caught in the stony hollows is as clear as crystal, while that in the claypans is thick and muddy to a degree; the former is delicious. We camped under a bush, as there is not a tree to be seen. We did not do so till late, having passed the cart and sheep miles back. I do not expect they will be up tonight. There is nothing for the horses to eat, and only a few bushes for the camels. The latter part of the journey over sand ranges, spinifex, and stony flooded flats, then over sand hill and part of Stony Desert, where we camp on the stones. Hard sleeping to night. The last part of the way has not so much water as the first. We must do the best we can to night, and we shall have a nice time of it, watching the animals to prevent them from straying; for, should they do so, it would be almost impossible to track them over the stones, which are quite brown, and look as if they had been packed, and very much water or weather worn. It is a curious sight, such an extent of bronzed surface, without anything but perhaps a small bush to break the view. The cart not up, so we shall make a few scons of some seconds flour, boil a pot of tea each, and then to bed. I have the first watch, and a nice time it will be, rounding up all the horses, and keeping them together. I am mounted, however, so that I can get after the brutes quicker and better. It is rather dark here, too, which makes it worse. The camels were brought in and tied up, to prevent their being non inventi in the morning. A few natives are seen looking for snakes and lizards, etc. in fact, anything that has been driven to the hills by the wet. How would you, reader, like to sit down to a snake and lizard supper, served up with that best of all sauces hunger?

Tuesday, 11 February 1862.
At daylight this morning, Mr McKinlay, by the aid of his binocular, discovered the cart and sheep about two miles of, wending their weary way to camp. They arrived shortly after. The bullocks were taken out and watered, etc, while we got our breakfast. The meal was soon concluded, and away we went to bring up the horses, etc, and prepare for a start. We shall go a short stage today, as one of the bullocks got knocked up, and caused the delay on the road yesterday. We start, and continue our journey over the same uninteresting flat of brown stone, with little or no herbage; some high sand hills to our right and left some way off. We then crossed over the one to the left, and camped on the other side where there was some water. No feed here to speak of. We had to kill a sheep, the meat on the cart being unfit for food. We left the old bullock to go by himself today, and he was driven into camp some time after we arrived by the man left in charge of him. I fear he won't go much further, as he is so fat, and feels the heat so much. We with the camels picked up the water keg, which had fallen off the dray, and a sack containing rations. We soon whipped them up on the camels. The bullock driver was unconscious of his loss. I never travelled through a more uninteresting country in all my life. As soon as we got to camp, down came the rain, and we had to get such shelter as we could, as it was too windy to put up the tents; the ground being light sand, the pegs would not stand a minute; so we had to grin and bear it. We got tolerably well soaked, as it came down with a will. I had a long and wet walk this evening with the camels to a creek some three miles off, as there was nothing for them to eat but a few bushes and they wandered in search of something more palatable; and when they do begin that game they will go for miles, even in hobbles. I brought them back, and they were tied up, so I shall not have far them. In the morning, on crossing the large plain, we found large stones, much larger than any we 'had seen before, placed side by side, marking out squares, circles, and different kinds of figures as far as the eye could reach; what these were for we could not make out. I suppose the blacks hold merrymakings here, or something of the sort; tomorrow perhaps we shall know all about it, till then it must remain a problem to be solved. Distance today nine or ten miles; several sand hills, some distance from them where we are camped, this is called (the large hill where we are camped) Canna cannan thainya. The natives who accompany us are very useful in this way, and point out to the governor the different hills and creeks, and tell him their names. We had a steady rain last night for about three hours, but this morning it is fine and cool. There is plenty of water all along the route, we can see it from the high sand hill.

Wednesday, 12 February 1862.
The dray started as usual before us. We crossed a large sand range called Mallapoorpo nannie. The country generally is very uninteresting. The greater part of the day's journey we crossed several small creeks, most of them running. The female camel gave us a great deal of trouble today, she did not like facing the running water; she detained us most seriously to look for. The cart not up to night as usual. Mr McKinlay talks of abandoning it and packing the bullocks; it has been a great drawback to us and no mistake, still it has been exceedingly useful. There is very bad feed for the horses here, but capital for the camels. No niggers to be seen, or any signs of them, so we shall have no watch to keep to night, the first time for some months. Thank goodness we are camped on a fine creek with plenty of water. We had to get our supper of scons baked on the coals, and a pot of tea: we shall not get fat at this rate however.

Thursday, 13 February 1862.
The cart on its way this morning got upset into a creek close by, no damage done. Bell having been sent to look after it, returned with the above intelligence; it shortly after arrived. Mr McKinlay and Hodgkinson go out to look for a good crossing place for it and the animals, as we are to cross this creek, which is very steep, some fifty or sixty feet down almost perpendicular banks. Middleton also goes out to see if he can find a ford close by for the horses, as there is splendid feed here for the camels though bad for horses. The food the camels are so fond of is a tall thin shrub, bearing a very pretty flower, there being three or four varieties, alike in growth and leaf, but differing in the colour of the bloom, some yellow, others white and purple.
Our breakfast was the ditto of last night's supper a scon and a pot of tea; the cart not coming up, and containing as usual all our commissariat in use. Had a fine bathe in the creek this morning, which quite refreshed all us. We shall stay here today and rest the bullocks, as they will not be in early, and also that they may get something to eat; the plant in the creek they also are very fond of, and as there is abundance, they will have a good feed today, and they want it, for the poor brutes have hardly had anything for two or three days to speak of. We have had no meat to eat since Tuesday morning at 6 O'clock am till today at 1pm, when we were regaled with a small piece of bacon hard times I hope they won't get harder, that's all. We had a jolly good supper, however, of roast mutton and damper to make up for the late short commons; had a good bathe after dinner, and that, reader, is half the battle in these times, although we may not have a change of raiment to put on afterwards. Mr McKinlay reports the road, from what he saw, as far as he could judge, as better for our next day's journey than it has been for the last few days, so he hopes we shall go ahead better. The creek we are on is one hundred yards wide, with any number of small creeks flowing into it, draining the flats around. Wind today rather hot from south west. There is another creek not quite so large as the one we are on, that goes away to west and south. There is plenty of limestone seen, and it is heavily timbered; there is nothing green to be seen but the leaves on the trees, and in the creeks the ground is quite black, and looks as if it had been prepared for seed. Two natives came into camp this afternoon and remained with us; they did not appear to be afraid.

Friday, 14 February 1862.
We went about fifteen miles on the same creek and camped. About three miles from here we came on the bones of a horse and an old Saddle. Middleton and self stopped here and examined all the trees to see if we could find any marks, but nothing was to be seen. There was camels' dung found though, plainly showing that this was the spot where poor Burke killed and jerked his horse Billy. We stopped some time to see if we could find anything buried, but failed to do so; the saddle was all that was left, no stirrup leather or girth merely the saddle. We each took away a hoof of the horse as a Memento mori. Yes, here we are for certain at a camp of Burke's. I imagine they came down this creek on their way home; and if so, we shall fall in with many more, dare say. I wish they had marked the trees on their way, but perhaps they had no means of doing so; but they must have had a knife surely, and that would have been sufficient to mark the bark, even if not very deep. We got to camp some time after the rest consequent on our stay in Burke's camp; cart not up, and won't be for a long time, so there will be nothing to eat; all of us very hungry till it did come, about 9pm. I took the bullock driver's watch as well as my own; I thought it would never end; six hours is a long spell; and I also had to keep a sharp eye on a native friend who had come with us a short way to prevent his bolting, as our long tried companion, Mr Nilmilly, vanished immediately on our arrival here, and has not been seen since; he got the flanks on the march I fancy, as he was getting out of his latitude, and feared we should find no water ahead; he takes with him tomahawk, pannikin, clothes, and our good wishes for his safe journey to his people, for he has really been very useful indeed to the party, and I dare say we may hear something of him from parties who may be on the look out for Burke coming from the north. Ned had to leave one of his best bullocks behind; he was quite baked, and his mate was obliged to be left also to keep him company, as he would not leave him. The mate came into camp about 11pm., but the other, I fear, will be dead before morning. There is a large red sand hill close by, from which an extensive view of the country can be obtained not a very cheering one, it must be owned; but there is a well defined creek in the distance, well timbered. Close to this camp also we found camel dung, showing that Burke had been here also, so that he could not have been making much progress.

Saturday, 15 February 1862.
I did not have much sleep last night, having to keep such a long watch; consequently, feel rather done up this morning. Cut Mr McKinlay's initials on a tree; party started first thing for the missing bullock; found him in the creek, and brought him into camp; he is better, but not quite right; he will be a great loss, for he is a splendid working beast. This delayed our starting till 12 o'clock, and we got into camp at 1.30, going only five or six miles; our journey is up a branch creek; there seems to be no good waterhole to bathe in at or near this camp, for which I am sorry, as I fear we shall stop here some days to make pack saddles and packs for the bullocks, for at last the cart is to be abandoned, and quite time too, for this country is not fit for the passage of any wheeled arrangement, at any rate the roads we have travelled; it may be better on the plains, and very likely it is so, but it is so intersected by deep and steep watercourses and creeks, that it is almost impossible for a cart to travel at all, and had we not been fortunate enough to have a first rate and experienced bullock driver, we should never have brought it so far. Ned Palmer certainly deserves great credit for the way he has managed his team through this intricate and dangerous country. I wonder the cart has not been smashed long ere this. Wind today disagreeable, blowing from north. The heat fearful in the extreme. Mr McKinlay taken violently ill with dysentery. Our last native quite forlorn at being left all alone by himself, so Mr McKinlay has taken pity on him and let him slip his cable and go; he seems delighted, and is off like a shot down the creek. It is a pity too, for they are very useful in pointing out the waters, and it does not seem likely that we shall see any more of them for some time, as we have not seen any lately; they must have gone up into the sand hills after their game, and left the creeks, as there are plenty of water holes clown the creek, and from the number of them they must be pretty numerous at all times. Many fish to be seen in the water holes, and plenty of mussels, judging from the number of empty shells round the fire places at the native whirlies. The country on this side of the creek is better wooded than the other' but not a blade of grass, excepting in the bed of the creek and watercourses, and not much to boast of in them on the sandy side of the creek. We found a small plant with a thick velvet leaf. We pulled a lot, and had it boiled; had we but salt and a little butter it might have been taken for asparagus, though not much like it in taste, only resembling it slightly; it is also very nice eaten raw, it has a slight acid flavour, and I should say first rate for us, who have not had any greens for so long a time. It will improve the blood, a thing which we all require, as it is as pale and as thin as possible. The plant is best picked early in the morning, as, if the sun has been on it any time, it is tougher and not so acid. 1 hope we shall continue to find it, as it does us a world of good; besides being a great treat to us all, it helps out our small allowance of bread, as we can save half our bread at a meal having this stuff to eat with our meat. Mr McKinlay very ill this afternoon; he must have a very serious attack, as his face is very much pinched since this morning, and he walks really very ill indeed.

Sunday, 16 February 1862.
Remained in camp. Mr McKinlay in his tent all day, and looks worse than ever; he is taking some medicine; I think it is chlorodine it quite warms you through after a dose of sixty or seventy drops. I hope it will soon restore our worthy leader to us in his usual health and spirits. We are all rather down in the mouth at this sudden illness of the governor, for he is certainly much worse today. Ned and I had a nice walk up the creek after the camels some two miles; it was very hot up the creek, as we were obliged to follow their tracks. However, we managed a spell and a smoke or two; we found no beauties to flirt with, but spun yarns of the old country. We got the camels into camp all right, and found on our way some old horse and camel dung, so that Burke must have been here also. When we returned to camp we set to work to jerk mutton; the cart is to be left here, so we shall have a lot of traps to put on the camels cooking utensils, rations, and God knows what else. There is no lack of mosquitoes here, but they don't seem to trouble me as much as they do the others, and a very good job too; what between the swarms of flies by day and the mosquitoes at night, we have a very lively time of it indeed. We retired to our blankets early, but, alas 1 not to sleep; at least several fellows were seen perambulating up and down, keeping the sentry company, for they could not sleep on account of these torments of the dark hours.

Monday, 17 February 1862.
Mr McKinlay still very ill. Most of us hard at work, getting the baggage from the cart to separate the things that are to be taken with us from those that are to be left behind. Another long trudge up the creek after the camels and, horribile dictu, I forgot my pipe, and now I have only one left a short clay. We have had no salt for some days past, and our meat, etc., is very insipid, but hunger is a good sauce, and we generally have it at meal times. Very scanty food indeed for the horses, so they break up into different mobs and stray away. We take leave of the old cart today, as tonight it is going to the top of a sand hill, to be there left to its fate; the goods are to be buried on the sand hill, also, in consequence of all this country being under water at some periods, from the flood marks left on the trees. We bury no end of lucifers and candles, and, as the Yankees say, notions too numerous to mention. Some of us weighed today, Mr McKinlay one of the number. He weighed when he left Adelaide, in August, 15st 11lb; today exactly 12st.! A slight shower with thunder this morning, and promises for some more. Mr McKinlay a little better this evening. Camels will miss the cart, as they now have a stiff load; the old woman, as we call her, has over 433 lb on her, which is a good weight for this difficult country. We did not get away till after 3 o'clock, and arrived in camp on a muddy waterhole about dark, long after all the others. Distance, sixteen miles. I fear Mr McKinlay will feel the journey, as he is still very weak, though he says he is better.

Tuesday, 18 February 1862.
The country passed over today quite destitute of vegetation, the low, black flats looking as though they had been prepared for crops. Passed a creek to east; no water. Crossing the plain one of our bullocks (the one that had been ill) was struck dead by the heat of the sun, though carrying nothing, only walking along by himself. Nothing could be done with him, as all the party save those with the camels were a long way in advance; so he was left to the tender mercies of the wild dogs. There was not a drop of water to be seen, and I feared for some time we should have been obliged to camp without any. We passed several magnificent creeks, and saw through the breaks in the sand hills others with timber. Passed over more flooded flats, on to a creek without water; then went on the same kind of country well wooded till we came to a rain water hole, where we camped. Mr McKinlay went further on in the hopes of finding water, but to no purpose, so came back to this water, and we found him and the horses camped when we arrived. There was sufficient water in this hole for all our purposes, first taking out enough in our water bags and canteens to supply us tonight and tomorrow in case we see no more. This must be a splendid country after the floods, for, though destitute of anything like grass, it is really very pretty, some parts of it undulating and well wooded; but it is desolate enough now. We find more similar traces of Burke and his unfortunate companions. Mr McKinlay says he is very ill this evening and hardly able to sit in the saddle, and he really looks so.

Wednesday, 19 February 1862.
Hodgkinson and Middleton are sent out up the creek to look out for water for next stage. Middleton returns about 11, having found plenty of water about eight miles up. Hodgkinson proceeded farther, and is to return to the aforesaid water, where we shall camp to night. So we all saddled up, and started for this water late in the afternoon, as the distance was so very short. Mr McKinlay suffered a great deal, and we rigged up a kind of shade for him under the only tree near the camp with our blankets, for he did not wish the tents pitched, as they would keep us back at Starting. Mr McKinlay and party found the water hole from the direction given by Middleton, who was taken so ill by the way that we were unable to get him to camp that night, so he camped on a plain, under a large tree, without water or anything to eat. Poor fellow I he was awfully bad, and unfit to go further. He craved for water so much, and there was not a drop to give him, although I drained my canteen and bag for him. I lighted a large fire, and unpacked the camels, making him a bed under the tree. I thought he would have died. I fancied he had the cholera; he was doubled up, and rolling about so fearfully. I knew we could not be far from our camping place by what he told me, and I sent up a blue light and a Roman candle. I was very hungry and thirsty, and went to sleep after seeing Middleton a little better; strange to say; when I woke I was neither hungry nor thirsty.

Thursday, 20 February 1862 - Camp IV.
Poor Middleton was hardly able to rise this morning, so I saddled up the camels and horses, and started. We shortly got to camp, Middleton very ill indeed. I was glad to get a drink of water and a scon. This creek where we are camped is some two hundred yards wide, and about eighty or ninety feet deep, with rather steep banks. We are on the east side; it is well wooded, which affords good shelter for the sick. The men in camp saw nothing of our blue light, though they had been looking out and keeping up roaring fires all night. Mr McKinlay could not imagine what had become of us. We have, ever since we abandoned the cart, to carry the stock for the larder on the camels, so that the men at head quarters had not much of a supper; we, as I said before, did not touch them either. Middle. ton was so bad on arriving at camp, that he had to be helped up the side of the creek to the place where we are to camp, just on the top of the bank, under some nice shady trees. The tent was soon up, and Middleton quickly between the blankets; I thought at one time I should never have brought him into camp. After break fast took the camels to water and feed; I took a bath, and very much refreshed I was after; the water, nice and cool, but the bottom muddy. About 6pm, I went on horseback after the camels, the horsemen reporting that they were not to be seen on the creek for three miles. I overtook them about four miles down the creek on the tramp; God knows where they would have been in the morning had I not gone after them. There was plenty of feed on the creek, and they had a good drink on arriving, so that 1 cannot account for their getting on the spree; tied them up at camp to night; Mr McKinlay much better today, and looks quite a different man; Ned very bad; the day was hot in the extreme.

Friday, 21 February 1862.
This is not a very first rate camp, but Middleton is too ill to move. Repairing camel saddle today, and doing odd jobs, others washing.

Saturday, 22 February 1862.
Up early; Hodgkinson and Bell start off with two days' rations to examine the stony ranges in the distance, and to ascertain if this creek receives any waters from the west or north west, and to return by this creek and see how the water is in it. Parallel ruler not to be found; it must have been left behind or else dropped off the camel's back; unpacked everything, but non est. McKinlay quite well today, and Middleton improving, thank God! There is only eight weeks flour from today, but we still get a lot of that green stuff and relish it; it goes down well with a little sugar, when we can spare it from our tea. We must get to Finnis' Springs shortly, or we shall be in a pretty fix; we can't well starve, though, while we have plenty of sheep and horses to eat, to say nothing of a camel or so.

Sunday, 23 February 1862.
Up early today, to get mutton jerked. Wylde starts of to No. III Camp, after parallel ruler, a stage of some fifty miles or more there and back, where we buried the things, and left the cart. I hope he may find it, as it is very useful to the leader. I did think we left it behind, but fear we must have dropped it. Middleton decidedly on the mend. McKinlay goes out on horseback, feeling all right, to the east, to examine the country; he went over flooded flats. Here is his account of the journey :

McKinlay – Sunday, 23 February 1862.
Over flooded flats, and a couple of sand hills. From top of the highest sand hill, changed course to 113° for two and a quarter miles to top of another larger sand bill, passing one other in my course then on bearing of 15° for six: and three-quarter miles, over flooded flats, with a few smaller sand hills, but soon terminate on both sides of my course; the current over this tract of flat being to the south of east, then three-quarters of a mile on bearing of 15° over one sand hill to top of rocky hill, from which the flooded flat I have just passed gathers together in the distance to a creek, and goes off on course of 155°, and no doubt is the feeder of the waters now in the creek to south and east of our present camp. viz., Barrawarkanya, Marroboolyooroo, Cadrityrrie, Meincounyannie, and Gnappa Muntra; then two and a quarter miles on bearing of it to top of sandy and stony hill, with four or five mallee trees and a few other shrubs; marked one of the mallee trees. From this hill the creek passed end of table topped stone range, on bearing from six. to nine miles distant north west and round northward to east. Peaks and hills of stone with intervening flats, some of earth, others of stone, are visible as far as eye can reach; from this hill our present camp bears about 227½° and distant about eleven and a half miles.

This evening Bell and Hodgkinson returned; having examined the hilly country, but could find no tributary joining the creek, they saw a little water further up, and also a native and his lubra, but could not get any conversation with them, they were so shy.

Monday, 24 February 1862.
Today a great event occurred; Hodgkinson tendered his resignation as Second in command, so he will now join the ranks as horseman. He wished to return to the settled districts, but that Mr McKinlay would not hear of. The bullocks all astray this morning, and could not be found in time to start. Poole got a slight sunstroke going after the horses; he was brought in, and from the cold applications continually made, he soon rallied. Middleton all right again.

Tuesday, 25 February 1862 - Camp V.
After a cool journey of eighteen miles, we camped on a small creek, with plenty of water. The country was flooded flats; passed a large creek, and numerous native whirlies; we crossed it, and then went over some high sand hills, the summits of which were almost perpendicular walls of drift sand, from two to five feet high, and very difficult for the animals to get over; the female camel gave us much trouble to get her to cross them; then over more flooded flats, then over small and stony hills, the stones of the same description as those of the Desert. We reached a creek we descried in the distance, and found plenty of water and abundance of good feed for the animals, which luxury they have not had for some time. Weather cloudy. We saw in the flats fields of very beautifully coloured lilies; the vegetation all this days journey better than it had been some days previous. Mr McKinlay has called the creek we left this morning Burke's Creek.

Wednesday, 26 February 1862.
The weather cloudy, and threatening for rain. Maitland arrived this morning with the intelligence that the bullock that was ill before had dropped down, and would go no further; so they killed him, in order that the flesh might be made use of. He was too fat to travel. Another hurt itself today; although generally one of the quietest, it took to bucking, endeavouring to get rid of its saddle, when it fell, and must have hurt itself severely, for there it remains where it fell; the rest are all right, and off to feed. I expect we shall kill it also, but we must have more sun if we are to jerk them. Mr McKinlay has gone up to the creek, and Maitland has written instructions for three men to bring on the meat and hide of the dead bullock. WyIde, Hodgkinson, and Poole went with three pack horses to bring in the meat; the remainder of the bullocks arrived at 3.30. They brought in the meat shortly afterwards, but it was so awfully tough that we could hardly get our teeth into it. Camels not found tonight; it came on so dark, I could not see their tracks; it would be a devil of a go if they were lost. I hope to find them in the morning, as they camp at night, and are, I dare say, now chewing the cud comfortably. The night is as black as Erebus, and if we don't get some rain it is a caution. It is spitting now, and if this continues we shall not be able to jerk the other bullock, so he will have to take his chance in the desert. There is plenty of grass and water here to last him for months; there was splendid green feed on the slopes of the stony hills and water courses. There is an island in this creek formed by an arm of it; I should say it is 800 or 900 yards wide. Rained very heavily the whole night, and as black as pitch; those who have the middle watch will have a nice time of it to keep the sheep together, for there is no yard for them, for if they do get scared, it would be perfect madness to follow them; thank goodness it is my morning watch, when it will be light.

Thursday, 27 February 1862.
Rained the whole of the night. Sheep bolted; it was no use trying to see them, much less to look after them; they were recovered in the morning, with the exception of fourteen, which were not to be seen anywhere. I started early in the morning after the camels; it was no use trying to find their tracks, as they had long since been obliterated, so I went on my travels, and came on the lost sheep, and brought them nearly into camp, when I met Ned in search of them, and made them over to him. I start again after the camels, up to my knees in water, but cannot see anything of them, and got a blowing up from the governor for my pains; then I brought in a horse, and Middleton started after them, for I was awfully tired, having been walking in water up to my knees for the last two or three hours.

The creek that was almost dry yesterday is running a strong stream this morning, and rising rapidly. All the horses were brought to our side of the creek, and taken to the stone hill, where there was fine feed, as the rain still continued to our down with a will. If the rain still continues in this style, we shall soon have to take to the sand hills for safety, for all this flat and where we are camped will be under water very shortly a nice state of things. As it is, the camp is a perfect muck yard, up to our ankles, and it sticks so to the boots that our progress is slow and tiresome. We are all as wet as drowned rats, and shall continue so, I suppose, till it holds up, for there is no use in changing, as we should be wet again directly. I talk of changing our clothes, we have only another suit to our back, and we all think it better to keep that dry till it holds up. Some of us I suspect will be having a touch of rheumatism -wet clothes all day, ditto blankets all night. We try and make ourselves as jolly as we can, and even Mark Tapley would allow that some credit is due to him who can make himself so here. The ground in the tent even is so soft that if we sit down we leave an impression. The flat is becoming quite a lake, and you can almost see the water rise, it flows over the ground so fast, and the trees are becoming shorter and shorter of some only the tops are visible; the creek is now quite swimable, and running like a sluice. The camels arrived safe this afternoon, after a good hunt for them.

Friday, 28 February 1862.
It has been raining the whole night as hard as it could pour down. The water last night rose nearly three feet, and is rising fast now. We are making preparations to clear out of this, and high time too, or we shall have to swim for it. Our camp itself will shortly be under water; as it is the water is all round us, our camp being the only piece of high ground about. The rain held up about 12 o'clock, thank goodness, though everything is damp or wet. We shall get out of this in the morning, ie, if we don't have to flit before. We are all most miserable. Camels can't wander, that's a blessing, for the water won't allow them. It is as well we left the cart where we did, we could not have taken it further, and in all probability it would have been swept away by this flood now rapidly coming on. McKinlay says we are now in that position, and not far from the place where Captain Sturt dreaded being overtaken by rain. It will be awful work travelling through this sea, but we must make the best of a bad bargain and face the difficulty. There is one thing, the quantity of water will enable the governor to go where he pleases, as there will be abundance for months to come. He says, I wish I had a couple of month's rations of flour, tea, and sugar, as then I could thoroughly examine the country in this quarter. It is very stormy, the creek is rising very fast still, and here we are quite isolated on about a quarter of an acre. Pleasant, isn't it? We shall have a swim for it tomorrow, and no mistake. Poor little sheep, it will be hard work for them. The weather looks very angry, and more rain coming. Mr McKinlay remarks in his journal of this date:

McKinlay – Friday, 28 February 1862.
If this creek carries me much more to the north, instead of going to the east as it now does, I think it win take a ran through to the Albert River; and if the steam sloop Victoria. Captain Norman, has not sailed from there, I think I will be able to get flour or biscuits in sufficient quantity to carry me back, and enable me to do all, or nearly so, that was required of me by the South Australian Government; if not at the Albert, I will only be obliged to live the principal part of the return journey on animal food, and what vegetables we may find from time to time. It won't be a very hard case, but much more pleasant and agreeable if it can be obtained.

------------------------
www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2017, Dave Phoenix