Journal extracts from the South Australian Burke Relief Expedition.
South Australian Advertiser: Adelaide.
Original item: Hodgkinson's Journal, 1861, Item 47, Unit 4, GRG35 583, Miscellaneous records previously accessioned by the South Australian Archives from government and non-government sources
Tuesday, 1 October 1861
Thursday, 3 October - Monday, 7 October 1861 - Lake Hope
The following Words afford some examples of the language spoken by the natives: ―
A natural historical fact of rather a singular nature recurred during our stay at the lake: a pelican being found dead upon the beach with a huge cod perch firmly stuck in his throat. The greedy fisherman had miscalculated his power of dilatation and, while attempting to swallow his refractory prey, [had] been suffocated. The sharp spines of the perch were firmly fixed in the upper mandible of the bird, whose body, though but recently dead, was when found considerably mangled by crows and hawks. The natives numbered about 100 and were remarkably healthy looking and free from that scourge of the aboriginals ophthalmia. The rite of circumcision and knocking out the teeth both of men and lubras prevails, the former custom being carried to an exaggerated degree. The scarifications [sic] upon the body are not numerous. Their (Karco) paints consist of ochre and red clay and some of the patterns they displayed were far from being destitute of grace. The temp[erture] of the lake water was 69½º; of air in shade at 6.15 p.m. 76º; water boiled at 208º and the lake showed flood marks 19 ft above its present level.
Tuesday, 14 [sic 8] October 1861 - Lake Camel or Appodir
Wednesday, 9 October 1861 - Pando Creek
Thursday, 10 October 1861
Friday, 11 October 1861
Saturday, 12 October 1861 - Poole's Pond
Sunday, 13 October 1861 - Poole's Pond
Monday, 14 October 1861 - Perigundi
On testing the water of Perigundi I found it to average 2 to 3 feet and to be excessively brackish; the natives sinking holes all round to procure better drinking water. The lake abounds with fish but the shores are so boggy that it is difficult to find a spot for watering horses. Little feed exists but plenty of samphire lends a deceptive appearance to the margin. The timber, dead or dying bastard-box, is wretched in the extreme, lending an air of desolation to the spot; nevertheless upwards of 200 natives were leading an apparently well-pleased existence by aid of its fish and countless fowl. Their whirles [sic], formed by arched sticks coated with clay, met the gaze in all directions; and the number of ebony infants sporting about proved the Malthusian philosophy was set at nought.
Tuesday, 15 October 1861
At 12.10 having travelled from 8 to 11 miles on 223° reached the summit of a ridge overlooking a lake called Pulpanee or Chrishna 2 miles in length and at this Southern extremity a sheet of glistening mud. Its breadth was from ¾ to a mile, and upon approaching it, it was apparent from the divers and waders which could be seen through the glass seeking food in its very centre that the water had nearly evaporated. Indeed on testing it, it was found to be most nauseous in taste and nowhere more than 2 or 3 inches deep. A rich belt of clover encircling the Lake made us lament the badness of the water.
Bastard Box abounded.
Upon our return on a slightly varying course we crossed at 2 miles SSW Kiradinte a fine Creek with good feed and abundance of fine water, ¾ of a mile from thence another Creek or branch with open well graased flats and thick clumps of poligonum. At 5.20 reached Perigundi Camp.
Wednesday, 16 October 1861 - Perigundi
Motoleini who had doubtless acted with such honesty from gratitude for a gift made to his invalid child the day previous
was regarded with a tomahawk in addition to his beads, care being taken to let him know why he was thus distinguished.
At 10.20 broke camp and moved to the Careri Creek.
Several of our Perigundi friends accompanied us amongst them Kientala and Margara two lubras portrayed in the sketches sent herewith.
On our arrival at Careri we had quite an exhibition for the amusement of the blacks, with some grotesque figures brought from Adelaide by Mr McKinlay.
A mouse however reserved as the grand coup utterly disappointed expectation refusing when wound up to exhibit any signs of vitality.
The Careri camp of which I send a sketch was pitched in a most picturesque spot, to the left bounded by a creek fringed with box and poligonum scrub, to the right by sandhills fringed at their base by box saplings and a graceful shrub termed Willauru. In part an open plain bounded by poligonum afforded first rate feed for the horses, bullocks and sheep.
Here for the first time we opened our preserved sausages only to find them emit a most disgusting odour, a bladder of lard packed in each tin having considerably contributed to create the putrefaction. This event caused us to congratulate the precaution which had induced Mr McKinlay to bring our sheep, which gave little trouble and furnished an acceptable repast of fresh meat.
Thursday, 17 October 1861 - Careri
Friday, 18 October 1861 - Gunane
Lake Buchanan besides being a handsome sheet of water had sufficient feed and open ground to render it a far more desirable camping place than Careri and Mr McKinlay being anxious to remove the party thither sent Bulingani and myself in search of some blacks who had followed us a part of the road but suddenly disappeared.
Unable to find them I returned to the Lake only to see three of them seated near our small party who had turned out the beasts to spell and were discussing luncheon some ¾ of a mile from Anlaby Hill on the E border of the Lake. Having written a note to Mr Bell in charge of the main camp, Mr McKinlay entrusted it to one of the natives explaining that he wished it to be conveyed to the "wheelbarrow." This commission was duly executed on the following day and in pursuance of the instructions contained in the note the Main Camp shifted to Lake Buchanan on the 20th.
At 1.25 restarted skirting the N E shore of the Lake on 345° for 5½ miles at 15m to 3 reached the sandhills bordering Lake thence on 32° at 4.20 or 6 miles reaching Gunane a fine deep creek running from W of N to E of S. The country passed over was sandhills and flats of saltbush. Immediately we touched the Creek several natives surprised at their occupation of fishing ran up w th strings of fish in their hands. Three sorts could be seen, a species of bream, the golden perch and the Murray cat fish. The natives offered us some fish but though seemingly so friendly they nearly contrived to secrete a tomahawk with their feet while unsuspiciously attracting your gaze to their face. As soon as the saddles were removed we commenced clearing the scrub round our camping plaoe and in order to give the natives a due respect fired a blue light. Two of the horses were tethered the third quietly fed near them, the camels however were inclined to wander and had to be vigilantly watched and ultimately tied up at the four corners of the camp.
The night was of course duly divided into three watches.
Saturday, 20 October 1861 - Mulindhuroona
Soon after sunrise a train of natives came pouring into camp, 76 men, women and children being counted. They were on the march or pretended to be bearing seed and water vessels, spears, boomerangs, waddies & an ugly looking weapon some 8 feet in length crescent shaped and apparently employed as a two handed sword.
They were very anxious to get us to the S and SSW promising abundance of (paroo) fish and seeking to entice us with some fearful looking hags to whom St Benedict had remorselessly consigned them. Emboldened by our small number - they at length became impudent one under pretence of a salutation roughly pulling Mr McKinlay's beard another trying to take my veil before my face. During this it was amusing though tinged with anxiety to notice their irresolution. At one moment after a loud angry consultation they would order their women away, in the next noticing our readiness to meet any hostility they would laugh and joke with simulated frankness.
During this little scene Mr McKinlay whose "personnel" seemed greatly to restrain them kept them at a proper distance, Mr Middleton packed the camels and I prepared a rough chart of the previous day. At 20m to 9 we left keeping a careful look out while crossing the scrubby creek and travelling on a course of 34° for 4½ miles at 10m to 10 crossed a large flat covered with grass and subject to inundation. At 6 miles struck Toorabinganee a fine large Creek well timbered with box acacia &c. and running from W of N to E of S. The country intervening between Lake Buchanan flats covered with salsolaceous vegetation and sandhills hard, bare and sloping in the SE but on the NW loose and precipitous in descent. Gunane bearing 214°.
On nearing Toorabinganee a signal fire was seen but no natives. At 15m to 11 left Toorabinganee on same course at 3¾ miles reaching the S arm of a large Lake. At another mile topped a sandhill forming portion of a projection into Lake Canna Cantagandide and from thence took following bearings:
At 20m to 4 left Lake McKinlay as I had by Mr McKinlay's permission named it reaching the S.E. arm at 17m past four or 2¼ miles.
At 3 miles passed a dry salt Lake named Warninyangulle a little E of track. At four miles took bearing, of course which from this point became a perfect maze, Bulingani being very unwilling to go further. When asked for water he would wring his hands and cry "panee" dry but if well frightened by a stern look from our Leader would quickly point out Pando's and Careri's in all directions. Changed to 27° entering at 1¼ miles a large dry Salt Lake running S and W.
Thence crossing a large tract of samphire and claypan country in which we disturbed thousands of roosting pigeons at 5m to 7 or 7 miles struck another Lake called Mulin-dhu-roona and camped there with excellent feed. We were however unable to boil our tea water without great difficulty the only available fuel being the roots of samphire plants. During the night the blacks were in a great inquietude respecting our arrival making and extinguishing signal fires.
Sunday, 20 October 1861 - Kadhi Bieri
During this trip our allowance of sleep was rather limited each having 19 hours duty out of the 24. At one or two spots perhaps watching might without any bad result have been dispensed with but the undecided behaviour of the natives showed that fear alone prevented their attacking us.
Shortly after daylight the shores of Mulindhuroona were alive with dusky forms thronging to our camp and at length more than a hundred were eying the process of packing. They did not bring any weapons with them and behaved remarkably well. Bulingani (a Lake Hope native who had been induced to join us) contrary to custom did not show any great delight in meeting them, and sedulously remained close to the packs. Previous to starting Bulingani stated that the whites had removed to Undra but the truth is he is exceedingly unwilling to go an, further.
At 7.17 left on a course of 100° passing over barren steep sandhills upon which for the first time was noticed the bean tree and another with which I am unacquainted from 18 to 30ft high with long narrow dark glistening leaves and a black rough bark. At 5 miles reached a large Creek running for 7 or 8 miles from 360° to 140°. Called it Middleton Creek. At 140° a dense mass of timber from which smoke ascended marked either a Lake or Creek. No water in the creek we crossed.
Course from 7.17 to 22m to 10 or 9 miles 100°
At the latter hour observed at ¼ of a mile E a large dry Salt Lake bearing 341°, NW arm 330°, N arm 355°, distance to limit of N bank 9 miles.
At 15m to 10 altered course to 64° crossing at 11.15 or 2 miles a small lake rapidly drying up and very boggy in its bed.
In another mile at 11.30 altered course to 100°.
From 25m to 12 till 10m to 1 spelled on a sandhill, the camels being fatigued by the steep ascents, descents and loose sand.
At 1.9 or 1 mile altered course to 116° but finding the country to become still more dreary and arid in appearance at 1.15 took a bearing of 161° which led us to a range of sand-hills overlooking an extensive dry Lake bed to the S.
This Bulingani at once recognised and at 7m to 2 having travelled 2m on 161° altered to 47° reaching at 2.20 or 1½ miles Kadhi Bieri a small lake shallow but with good water encircled by a ring of thick box and poligonum scrub and open at its N.W. end whence its feeder coursed through a thickly grassed and wide flat.
Mr Middleton being some distance in the rear with the camels and no natives being visible though still-burning trees marked their recent presence Mr McKinlay, Bulingani [an Aboriginal guide from Lake Hope] and myself at once rode to the spot where we hoped to rescue our unfortunate creatures. I have however forgotten that during the day Bulingani had taken an opportunity when we were riding apart to tell both McKinlay and myself that there was but one white fellow and one horse, that the latter had been killed by the former for food and that lastly the white man had been slain by the natives with one of the wooden swords I have described. This tale was repeated with an appearance of profound grief ending with a request that we would go back to Mulindhuroona and shoot the perpetrators of the massacre.
So many and so varied however were the reports we had heard that nothing could be depended upon and travelling up the flat I have stated as running from the NW end of the Lake in 1½ mile we reached a spot where Bulingani pointed out a grave and a heap of ashes as the scene of the white man's death and burial. This grave was far more rudely constructed than those used for the interment of the natives a few boughs being thrown over it as protection from the wild dogs. It was situated on the W side of the flat, close to a box sapling, 30 yards from the camping fire and 300 from some occupied native wurlies. A quantity of fish bones were strewn in the vicinity of the fire place but no marks could be seen upon the ground or trees about.
The afternoon being far advanced and Mr McKinlay being anxious to ascertain if Middleton had arrived further search was deferred and we returned to the Lake. Finding the camels had not come I took a walk towards some wurlies on the Lake and entering them discovered a bent pannikin without a handle, no mark was on it by which it could be identified. At 5 p.m. the camels arrived and we camped beneath a tree on the margin of the Lake maintaining a strict watch all night. Once or twice a fire sprang up at the southern end of the Lake.
Monday, 21 October 1861 -
The face lay downward, the body on its back, the head being dislocated. A flannel undershirt with short sleeves was on the body. The skull still retained a tuft of straight dark hair much decomposed and short. The scull [sic] was also marked with apparent sabre cuts two in number, one over the left eyebrow, another on the right temple inclining towards the ear. Decayed teeth existed in both sides of the lower and right upper jaw. The other teeth were entire and sound. In the lower jaw (one on each side of the four front ones) were two teeth similar to those vulgarly termed buck teeth. Dimensions having been taken of several bones and a piece of the flannel shirt secured, the remains were carefully reinterred and the sapling near marked MK. Oct 21.61. No traces of note book or anything by which the body could be identified were found. The corpse was in a most decomposed state the whole of the flesh being consumed. A soft substance in the socket of the eyes and the cavity of the chest was all that remained save the skeleton.
Who was this? That he was a European is beyond doubt from the conformation of the head, the presence of the two front teeth in the upper jaw, the shirt and the little pains displayed in his interment.
Tuesday, 22 October 1861 - Kadhi Bieri.
Wednesday, 23 October 1861 - Durane.
At 4, or a little after, a dark mass, feebly shown by fire-sticks, was within half a mile of the camp, and quickly a large group of blacks, led by Keri Keri, advanced towards us. When Bulingani, speaking to them, told them to keep back or they would be killed, they burst into frightful yells of 'whitetellow, whitefellow,' and boldly ran at us; at the same moment the lubras sprung up and hastened towards them, and in a brief interval we should have been surrounded had not Mr McKinlay given orders to fire, upon which our two rifles and double-barrelled gun came into play. They stood fire with unexampled bold ness. Keri Keri standing his ground and encouraging them on. At length they turned and sought the refuge of the water: and having breakfasted und packed up, at 10.30 we left Kadhi Bieri on a course of 197°; at 11.15, or two miles, reaching a flooded flat, dry and covered with luxuriant clover. Thence on 202° for five miles,stopping twenty minutes in consequence of Crishna objecting to surmount the heavy sandhills crossed. At 12-30 crossed NW end of another dry grassy lake, and at 1.20 made a large creek, with the first gums on it that we had seen for a long time. Following its bed to N. and W. at two miles we reached a waterhole termed Weride marara.
At 2.15 left, and at 12 miles, or 6 pm, on a course of 215° 30' over a flat bordering the creek, reached a chain of waterholes, containing abundance of shallow and not very good water. The creek here was 50 or 60 yards broad, with steep banks excessively scrubby. Durane is the native name, and Day's Creek its European appellation.
Thursday, 24 October 1861 - Cudgeecudgena.
At 10 am. to 11, or 14 miles, reached Antiwarcoroo, flowing from 320°, and forming a chain of shallow holes.
At 1 p.m. left Antiwarcoroo on same course, crossing at 2 a large dry lake, abounding in clover and grass, and surrounded by a box forest, beneath which thousands of pigeons sought food and shelter.
At 2.15 topped the sandhills encircling Lake, Buchanan.
At 3, or nine miles, reached the lake, and shortly afterwards camped, finding the party perfectly safe. The camels were some little later in their arrival, as they could not keep pace with the horses. The country over which our return journey was made, was as different as possible from that by which we went to Kadhi Bieri. In truth, Bulingani sought to dissuade us from going, by the dreary nature of the ground to be traversed, and in coming back chose the quickest and easiest route.
Letter from John McKinlay to the Commissioner of Crown Lands (South Australia).
28th October 1861
Coodie-go-dynnie or Lake Buchannan
I forward for your perusal my journal up to this time which, without further entering into the subject here, will explain every thing that has occurred worth mentioning. Mr. Hodgkinson will forward you from Blanche Water a copy of a sketch of our route that he has laid down here and which I think is pretty nearly correct, it is much to be regretted that he is unable to fix the Latitude of the different prominent features of the country we pass over, as at some no very distant period, the bulk of this part of the country will be taken up by squatters. There is abundance and variety of fish in all the waters we meet. I have had to incur more expense than I could have wished ― but I considered it was absolutely necessary for the health & safety of the party under my charge. A copy of my expenditure I herewith enclose. The leather packet enclosed contains what I have found in connection with the unfortunate Burke party up to this date. And I will not leave a stone unturned in further search of remnants of the V.E. Expedition. It is to be regretted that hostilities were unavoidable with the natives, but I trust that they now see their error and be friendly disposed, they are very numerous which speaks well for the country. Whilst my party is away, I will move about in all directions gaining information of the surrounding country. I send by Mr. Hodgkinson for a further supply of rations, as it is just possible I may be shut up from pushing forward as I would like, for some little time till rain falls and not arrive at Finnis Springs for some time after the supply will have arrived there. In consequence of sending Mr. Hodgkinson I have commissioned him to purchase several little things we are, or will be, short of; and have given him blank orders with my signature to fill up to pay for same.
In sending supplies to the Finnis Springs I trust it will be seen-to that every thing is of the best description, as part of our flour is even now almost unfit for use, & if it was to continue would no doubt produce disease which would be much to be deplored. We are at present all in the best of health & spirits. I am sorry to be obliged to complain of the rubbishy double arms supplied to this expedition and trust that at the Finnis Springs they may be replaced with a better article & something that a person can trust his life to. We will there require a fresh supply of ammunition, Terrys, Colts, & double gun cartridges of 14 gauge, with a good supply of powder & shot Nos. BB. 1, 3, 4, & 7, for useful purposes & No.14 wads. A large supply of citric acid, (double the qty. before sent). Another prismatic compass & case of instruments, & fresh supply of metallic memo books & good supply of pencils with a supply of stationary including another sketch book and BB & HB pencils. I will forward you further particulars of our journey when opportunity offers.
I have the honor to be
A fresh supply of Indian-rubber air pillows necessary, as they are the only things except the canteens that we have to rely on for water carrying, but the taps at present in them requiring to be removed and their places substituted with larger ones treble the size. We will also require a doz. of extra strong bush qts. & pts.
Friday, 25 October - Saturday, 30 November 1861.
Nothing of the slightest importance occurred during the journey to the settled districts or the return therefrom to the main camp at Cudyee Cudyeena. By Mr McKinlay's directions I engaged a man named William Maitland to perform the duties of cook; and also two natives - both of whom, however, deserted upon our arrival on the return at Mannwulkaninni, the station of Mr Stuckey, and lying upon the southern margin of Lake Torrens.