|Sunday, 1 September 1861 - Camp 20, Poria Creek.
Lat 28° 41' Longitude 142° 42'
The country, after
leaving camp 19 (Koorlejur) was generally sandy ridges running variously NE
round to NW. Between these sandy tracks we passed a good deal of clayey flat
ground, - in places hard and smooth, in others spongy and rotten, and cracked
deeply by the heat, polygonum and cane-grass growing in great quantities. The
feed everywhere poor and scanty and very dry. I believe that very little rain
has fallen here this season.
After about ten miles the sand ridges became more marked, and
of a red colour and the flats wide and draining to N.E. Scattered box-trees
began to appear, and birds were more numerous. At five miles more, struck Poria
Creek, a deep channel coming from a northerly direction and containing an
abundance of water: it's general width appears to be about 60 feet and the banks
are lined with small box-trees: water plants and a species of water moss grow in
the bed, and, from fish and crayfish being found in it, I have no doubt that it
is permanent. In fact, of all these, the only water that I can consider such of
all these we have seen on this side of the Daubeny Ranges.
At a distance of above half-a-mile the course of the creek is
followed by high red sand ridges, running, parallel to its course. There is a no
timber anywhere but on the creek and only small bushes and one or two kinds of
pittosporum and mulga on the sand ridges. The country is very inferior, in every
respect but water, as we proceed. Signal fires in two places as we were
travelling; both very large, and no doubt intended to announce our arrival. On
some of the flats I observed quantities of the plant growing from the seeds of
which the natives make their bread. It appears to chose a loose blistered clayey
soil, subject to be flooded, such as is generally found in polygonum ground. The
leaves resemble clover, but with a silvery down, which is also found on the seed
when fresh: these grow on short stems springing from the root, and are flat and
rather oval; in places where the plant his died down, these seeds quite cover
the ground; they are gathered by the native women, and, after being cleaned from
the sand. Are pounded between two stones and baked as cakes.
Monday, 2 September 1861 - Camp 20.
today, before starting, across for Cooper's Creek. Mending pack bags, dressing
camels, baking four days' bread &c. Day warm wind from S.E. which seems to
be the prevalent quarter. Flies begin to be troublesome.
Tuesday, 3 September 1861 - Camp 21.
Started at eight o' clock and left the expedition track at
Poria Creek. Struck a course for Cooper's Creek NW by compass. For seven miles
travelled over sand ridges running NE and SW, with wide clayey valley between,
in which were occasional small pools of muddy water. The feed everywhere very
dry, but tolerably plentiful on the sandhills. Bushes and small mulga trees were
growing in places. We here crossed a dry box swamp where crows, wood-swallows
kites and small birds, were numerous; and observed l here several trees with a
rough bark, resembling cork, and with bunches of long, pointed, dark green
leaves growing at the ends of the small branches. The sandhills here became low
and flat, and the valley wider. Shortly afterwards, crossed the track of a large
camel going NE, apparently about eight months ago. The country undulating and
well grassed and, as far as I could make out, the watershed both to the NE and
SW. At twelve o' clock, after crossing a dry swamp full of watercourses and
passing a low sand hill, came upon a creek running S.W. thickly timbered with
large box trees, the bed wide and banks steep, and in several places, large
pools of clear water. Marshmallows and other vegetation now perfectly dried up
were on the banks. Native camps were numerous; but none that I saw were very
recent. Mussel-shells and the claws of crayfish were lying near them. I have
every reason to believe that some of these ponds are permanent. Crossing this we
passed several branch creeks running through a clayey plain and all lined with
trees; large pools of water in several. I named this creek after the Hon. David
Wilkie, MD MLC.
On leaving the clayey flats at the creek we again crossed
sandhills and undulating country for several miles, mostly well grassed, but
much burned up. Saltbush and cottonbush plentiful in the hollows, and scattered
timber beginning to appear. At half-past two came on a watercourse running N,
and containing large but shallow pools of water. The feed round about excellent
and enough timber to he called a thin gum forest. The gums here are new species
not before seen by us, several feet of the butt having a rough semi-persistent
bark, above which it is smooth and greenish, with a red tint; leaves thick and
glossy, very much resembling one growing at 0meo. Duck here very tame. Camped,
having made eighteen miles and the country not looking so well ahead.
general fall seems to he to the westward. Samla, the largest of our camels lay
down just before reaching the camp; he is the only one of the lot that has not
improved in condition, and he keeps himself poor by constantly watching the
other camels, and driving them away from the females. He only carries two
Wednesday, 4 September - Camp 22, Stokes Ranges.
28° 20', 142° 19'
Left camp at half-past seven.
Travelled for three miles through open gum forest growing on clayey land. Water
channels frequent, with occasional small pools of water. Saltbush and grass but
very dry. Then crossed an open plain with claypans, the drainage of which,
running westward, forms numerous small box creeks, which form and spread out
again on the plain. No water here, only liquid mud. At about 5 miles passed a
small box creek with pools of water, and came on an open sandy plain destitute
of vegetation, excepting the remains of salsolaceous plants grown last season.
At 10 o' clock crossed a large dry gum creek, full of gravel and boulders coming
in an easterly direction from the range. As it lay in our course we followed it
up some distance but found no water, although crows, rose cockatoos and crested
pigeons were on it. The country here became stony, but with more dry grass, and
gradually rose to the range; from the point the travelling was very severe upon
the horses, and consequently very slow, as the ground is everywhere covered with
fragments of sharp flinty stones. The ranges are of no great height and slope
gently upwards, but are cut by numerous deep gorges, filled with blocks of stone
and scrub, and mostly containing a dry gum creek. These lying across our track
made it difficult to get on. The mulga scrub was very thick in places, a great
deal of it dead, and numbers of shrubs new to me. Camped at half past three at
the edge of a deep scrubby gorge, with plenty of dry grass, but no water. Went
down the gorge after camping to look for water, but found none, nor could I see
any chance from the loose gravelly bed and large boulders. Scrub very thick; and
among other, the native orange, of large size, and covered with unripe fruit.
Distance twenty miles.
Thursday, 5 September 1861- Camp 23, north side of Stokes' Ranges.
28° 10', 142° 8'
Had some difficult, in
crossing the gully this me; the sides being steep and covered with large blocks
of stone, thick mulga scrub up both sides. From here, travelled over similar
stony ridges to those described yesterday for several hours, crossing two wide
deep gorges, each with a dry creek and large gums, and flanked by precipitous
stony ranges. On reaching the summit of the range, found it to be a stony
tableland, almost devoid of vegetation. Some remarkable flat topped peaks to the
north about twelve miles. At noon, suddenly came to the edge of a bluff'
overlooking the Cooper's Creek country; apparently a boundless extent of plains,
with dark lines of scrub or timber on the horizon. To descend from this bluff to
a wide basin of open country below, probably seven or eight hundred feet,
occupied an hour, and I could only consider it a happy chance that some of the
pack horses or camels met with no accident among the large blocks of loose
stone. I could not have believed that camels could have carried their loads up
or down such places as we have crossed today. On reaching the basin, found it
stony to a degree difficult to describe. The ground was literally paved with
angular and rounded fragments of sandstone and flint, coated with a shining
oxide of iron. Vegetation very scanty and water nowhere visible although I saw
birds which I have seldom seen far from springs. Travelling for several miles
over this country, surrounded by a chain of abrupt square hills, we slowly
picked our road as best we could. Several of the horses were very footsore, and
most of them fagged with the severe day's work and want of water. The day, too,
was unusually warm. At 3.30, found it necessary to camp, the camels and horses
being very tired. No water, scarcely any feed. After Camp went to a square steep
hill, with Mr Brahe, to reconnoitre the country. From it had an extensive view
towards Cooper's Creek, and was pleased to see that the stony country does not
probably extend more than four miles from us. Beyond that open plains, and on
the horizon what seem to he sandhills and timber. A large body of smoke to the
west. I found the summit of the hill to be covered with large masses of a white
crystalline stone, grouped in irregular columns, and ringing with a metallic
sound when struck. It is the same stone as that universally strewn over the
country, and of which, and a coarse sandstone and conglomerate the ranges are
mostly formed. Managed to give the horses two quarts of water each, in the hope
that they would feed. They were so thirsty that two tried to take the quart pots
off the fire.
Friday, 6 September 1861 - Camp 24.
Left camp shortly after six. The horses had not fed during the
night, partly from thirst, partly being afraid of the stones. Followed down
gully leading into very stony plains, which we crossed for several hours, being
obliged to lead the horses very slowly. No timber and scarcely any vegetation;
the most desolate stony wilderness imaginable. About ten o' clock came near the
sandhills, and the country improved as regarded travelling, but not for feed or
water. On a dry watercourse came on a party of natives, of whom ran away-, the
others, consisting of an old grey-haired man, an old hag of a woman, a younger
man and two or three lubras and children, waited until I rode up. They were in a
very excited state, waving branches and jabbering incessantly. The younger man
shook all over with fright. Sandy could not understand them and I could only
catch 'Gow' (go on). At last by the offer of a knife I prevailed on the old man
to come with us to show us the nearest water, but after half a mile his courage
gave way, and he climbed up a box-tree to be out or reach. Mr Brahe rode up to
him, when he climbed into the top branches, jabbering without stopping for a
moment. Finding that he would not come down, and kept pointing to the N W (our
course), we left him. All the natives were naked, and the old man was the only
one who had any covering for his head -a net. We here entered undulating sandy
country, slightly scrubby and well grassed, and at the same time on came on
Brahe's down track. Our horses at once struck into a better pace, going at three
miles and a half an hour. The camels also pushed on well. The loose horses kept
wide of the track, looking out for water in the polygonum ground, and at ten
minutes past twelve one old stager found an ample supply in a channel on the
right hand. The horses at once made a rush, and it was almost impossible to
prevent their drinking as much as they wished. Three had for the last hour shown
unmistakable signs of giving in and all were very much pinched with thirst.
Camped by the water in first rate feed. Rain came on steadily from N.E. shortly
after, and has continued. The horses have just been a third time to water.
Saturday, 7 September 1861 - Camp 24.
very heavily during the night, with strong gusts of wind from N.E. and this
morning the flats and the claypans are swimming with water, and the ground very
soft. Resting today as the horses require it. Drying things, shoeing horses and
digging tank to try and hold water later in the season.
Sunday, 8 September 1861 - Camp 25, Cooper's Creek.
27° 51', 141° 45'
(Half a mile above Camp 60 of
Travelled north 60° W, through a succession of
sandhills, with flats of rotten polygonum ground between. The vegetation very
green and in full flower, and box-tree growing on most of the flats. Towards
noon, after crossing some high red sandhills, came into the earthy plains
through which the various channels of Cooper's Creek run to the westward. The
ground very rotten, and cracked by numerous deep fissures; dry channels in every
direction. About six miles brought us to a patch of sandhills, where the bare
loose summits were crested with a pink flowering mesembryanthemum; the pink
flowers with the orange-coloured sand and the bright green vegetation, produced
a very singular effect. We here suddenly came upon a native camp of four
wurleys. Only one black fellow was at home, and the three leading men of our
procession came suddenly upon him as he was sitting on the ground playing with
his dog. He gave a succession of yells and then ran off as if electrified. Here
we crossed the first branch of Cooper's Creek, a wide shallow bed, full of green
weeds and lined with box. From this we crossed about three miles of low earthy
plains, devoid of vegetation and came on the N. side of a large branch near a
shallow sheet of water. No feed on the plains, but grass and green weeds in the
channel. Large box trees on the bank. Distance travelled twenty-four miles.
Monday, 9 September 1861 - Camp 26.
While loading up this morning, five blackfellows made their
appearance on the opposite side of the creek, and as usual, commenced shouting
and waving their arms. We cooed in return, and one waded across, but waited on
the bank until I broke a branch and beckoned him to come up. The others then
followed him. They were all well built young men, with open intelligent faces,
and very different from the natives usually met with. They wore nets wrapped
round their waist and one, apparently the headman, had his front teeth knocked
out. Sandy said he could only understand 'narrangy word' they said; but I
believe it that he could not understand them at all, as he was quite unable make
them comprehend that I wished to know if they had seen any stray camels about
the creek. Before we had finished loading, they returned to the opposite bank,
and sat down watching us. On our starting they waded across to our camp
-probably to pick up anything left behind, which would be very little. To day we
travelled over earthy plains for thirteen miles; they were cracked in every
direction, and covered with a network of channels. - In times of flood, the
whole of them must be under water and I can scarcely imagine anything more
luxuriant than the appearance of these plains after a wet season. At present
every thing is dry and withered, but everywhere the stalks of marshmallows and
other flowering plants are as high as a horses back and very close together.
Tufts of grass line each side and cover the bed of the watercourses. Here and
there clumps and lines of timber mark the course of the larger creeks, and
sandhills rise like islands from the plains. To the S. of W, at about nine miles
we had a range probably stony -and following its base a strongly marked line of
timber, which I believed to be the main creek. No flood appears to have come
down for two seasons and waterholes which were tolerably well filled five months
ago are now dry, or nearly so. At thirteen miles crossed a branch where Mr
Burke's marked tree, LXI stands, and camped at a claypan under a sandhill, about
a mile to the west. Strong breeze from the N.E and N all day, and steady rain at
night. Near here, I observed for the first time a new tree, with a rough scaly
bark and thick foliage, the leaves small and oval, and set in pairs on a stem.
The tree grows to fifteen or twenty feet, and bears numbers of flat brown pods,
each containing from four to six hard light brown beans, known by us as the bean
Tuesday, 10 September 1861 - Camp 27.
27° 39', 141° 30'
The rain eased shortly before sunrise, and the travelling was
in consequence very heavy, the earthy plains being not only soft, as before, but
sticky. Shortly after leaving camp saw several natives on a sandhill making
signs I went up to them with Mr Welsh. And after a great deal of trouble,
persuaded one to come to me. He was a fine looking fellow, painted white,
skeleton fashion, and carried a very long boomerang stuck in his girdle behind.
I could make nothing of him, excepting that he gave me a small ball of what
seemed to be chewed grass, as a token of friendship, and in return I gave him a
place of cold doughhboy I had with me for lunch, which he seemed to relish very
much. We travelled till noon over a succession of earthy plains, broken by
numerous box channels, one of which contained a large reach of water, but the
feed everywhere was miserably dry and scarce. The country looks wretched. After
passing this channel, seven natives made their appearance, one of whom Mr Brahe
recognised as one of the party who tried to surprise the depot last season. They
presented him with a small quantity of some dried plant from a bundle which one
of them carried; it had a strong pungent taste and smell, and I am at a loss to
conjecture its use, unless as a kind of tobacco. Our black boy was frightened,
and told me he thought they meant to 'look out, kill him' -as I understood -by
witchcraft, or enchantment, or poison. They followed us at a distance to our
camp, where they sat down a little way off, making signs that were hungry,and
wanted tomahawks. After an hours waiting, they decamped. Killed two deaf adders
and a snake of a sulphur colour on the track. Halted near a small pool of water,
where there was a little green feed which has become a rarity. The country looks
miserable ahead. Travelling very heavy on the horses as the mud balls in great
lumps. Stony ridges to the south of the creek, at about four miles, and a good
deal of timber visible on all sides. Weather still threatening rain; flies very
Wednesday, 11 September 1861 - Camp 28.
27° 35', 141° 19'
Our horses strayed for feed during the night and made it late
before we started. Travelled through a box forest full of channels, when we came
to a dry creek coming from the N. E., with a rocky bed. From here, and for some
distance, stony ground to the right hand, and deep channels running parallel to
each other in a westerly direction. I observed flood marks considerably higher
than our heads on horseback, and the water must be much confined by the stony
rises on each side of the creek, although they are probably two miles apart.
Mint was growing on the edges of the channels and tea tree of large size. We
then came on a large reach of water, about sixty yards wide; the country
miserable, not a vestige of feed to be seen anywhere, except the withered and
blackened remains of plants on the plains and occasional patches of green couch
grass in the creek bed. After this we traversed a box forest, and came on a deep
channel from the N. E., where Mr Burke's first depot was situated. The feed was
slightly better; owing to the sandy nature of the ground. About noon, passed
large reaches of brackish water, and numerous pools of brine, in the channels of
the creek, but saw no feed anywhere. At length found one place where patches of
couch grow, with green plants and tufts of coarse grass were growing among the
stones, and halted as the clay pans before us were perfectly bare. It is long
since I have seen such a barren, miserable place as this part of Cooper's Creek.
Native camps numerous but all deserted. During the day, flights of cockatoo
parrots passed us, migrating to the eastward. Where we are camped the creek is
wide with a stony bed; the south bank is formed of limestone, and large
quantities of opalized wood was lying about. A short distance above the rocky
banks come close down to the creek.
Thursday, 12 September 1861 - Camp 29.
27° 35', 141° 6'
Travelled over clayey plains with scattered timber and a good
deal of withered herbage. A rugged range, apparently sandstone with flat-topped
hills and peaks to the N, running N.E. and S.W. at about nine miles distant. At
four miles passed a wide deep reach of water, several miles in length, between
steep banks, and probably brackish, from its colour. Numbers of pelicans,
spoonbills, cormorants, and other waterfowl. On each side bare cracked plain's
extending to the stony rises. At three miles more, the stony country on our
right hand closed in numerous deep channels, forming the creek, some of which
were rocky, some sandy. Here as elsewhere, was green grass and plants growing on
the sand. Rather thickly timbered. At noon, came to where the creek forms a
passage between rocky ridges; the channels are deep and tortuous, and in places
encumbered with large blocks of stone. I here saw red gums for the first time on
the creek. This continued for four miles with narrow ridges of hard clay,
covered with dense polygonum separating the watercourse when we came on more
open country, with detached sandhills and better feed, though very dry. Large
reaches of water; rocky banks of sandstone in places; bars of rock cross the
creek. Camped near some sandhills, at a large waterhole. After camping, tried
fishing and good success, only that I lost two hooks, which I can ill spare.
Caught five silver perch, weighing from 1½ lbs to 3lbs, and several others; were
caught by the party by firelight. The fish excellently and of a fine flavour.
Distance, seventeen miles.
Friday, 13 September 1861 - Camp 30.
27° 38', 141°
Made a short stage today for the sake of feed for the horses,
which is a thing to be considered, from the dry appearance of the country.
Reached the depot Fort Wills, in three miles, through country rather better than
we have seen for some days. More rain has fallen here lately than elsewhere, and
the grass is just springing, but too short to be of much use. I believe this to
he the first rain for many months. The water all down the creek as far as we
have come has fallen at the rate of about three feet in the last four months.
Found the depot as Mr Brahe left it, the plant untouched, and nothing removed of
the useless things lying about but a piece of leather. But from the very evident
fact that things are buried, I cannot understand why the natives have not found
them. From here followed down the creek for several miles, and camped at some
sandhills near a pool of water. Saw here the track of a large camel going up the
creek. The small crested pigeon spoken of by Sturt, numerous. Cool wind from
Saturday, 14 September 1861 - Camp 31.
27° 42', 140° 42'
We had a late start this morning, as three of the horses were
away and one ill -indeed, I doubted at first whether he would be able to travel.
Followed the course of the creek down for about nine miles, crossing several
branches which go out south, and form a reach of water before re-entering the
main creek. Here the rocky ranges on both sides close in, and the water has
forced a narrow deep channel through a perfect wall of rock, forming below the
finest stretch of water we have ever seen -about 500 yards wide, and several
miles long, and very deep. The rugged hills on the north side, and the fine gums
on the banks produce a fine effect. The rock through which the channel has been
worn is of a hard flinty nature, inclined to be columnar, out forming huge
masses of boulders. Deep round hollows have been worn in these by the floods,
and at the waters edge in one place where I measured the depth, the rock is
perpendicular below the surface. Waterfowl, fish and turtle are plentiful. The
immediate neighbourhood, and as far as one can see on each side is destitute of
vegetation and very stony. We had some trouble in getting the horses and camels
over the masses of rough stone which blocks up both sides of the creek. Leaving
this, we struck across a large bend, over sandy country with large red sand
hummocks, and better grassed than any we had seen on the creek. More rain must
have fallen here, as pools of water were visible in many places. About three o'
clock we struck the creek again, with a wide sandy bed, heavily timbered with
box and gum and scrubby. The creek, I think, had been running slightly, from the
watermarks, and a good deal of green grass was growing on the banks. Camped on a
large waterhole, about a quarter of a mile below Mr Burke's first camp, after
leaving the depot at Cooper's Creek. We could see where the camels had been tied
up, but found no marked tree. Today I noticed in two or three places old
camel-droppings and tracks, where Mr Brahe informed me he was certain their
camels had never been, as they were watched every day near the depot and tied up
at night. Mr Burke's camels were led on the way down. It looked very much as if
stray camels had been about during the last four months. The tracks seemed to me
to be going up the creek, but the ground was too strong to be able to make
Sunday, 15 September 1861 - Camp 32.
27° 44', 140° 40'
this morning I went ahead with Sandy, to try and pick up Mr Burke's track. At
the lower end of a large waterhole from which one or two horses had been feeding
for some months, the tracks ran in all directions to and from the water, and
even as recent as a week. At the same place I found the handle of a clasp-knife.
From here struck out south for a short distance from the creek and found a
distinct camel's track and droppings on a native path. The footprint was about
four months old and going E, I then sent the black boy to follow the creek, and
struck across some sandy country in a bend on the north side. No tracks here;
and coming on a native path leading my way, I followed it, as the most likely
place to see any signs. In about four miles this led me to the lower end of a
very large reach of water, and on the opposite side were numbers of native
wurleys. I crossed at a neck of sand, and at a little distance again came on the
track of a camel going up the creek; at the same time I found a native, who
began to gesticulate in a very excited manner, and to point down the creek,
bawling out, "Gow, gow" as loud as he could. When I went towards him he ran
away, and finding it impossible to get him to come to me, I turned back to
follow a camel track, and to look after my party. The track was visible in sandy
places, and was evidently the same I had seen for the last two days. I also
found horse traces in places, but very old. Crossing the creek, I cut our track
and rode after the party. In doing so I came upon three pounds of tobacco, which
had lain where I saw it for some time. This, together with a knife-handle, fresh
horse tracks, and the camel track going eastward, puzzled me extremely, and led
me into a hundred conjectures. At the lower end of the large reach of water
before mentioned met Sandy and Frank looking for me, with the intelligence that
King, the only survivor of Mr Burke's party, had been found. A little further
on I found the party halted, and immediately went across to the blacks' wurleys,
where I found King sitting in a hut which the natives had made for him. He
presented a melancholy appearance- wasted to a shadow, and hardly to be
distinguished as a civilised being but by the remnants of clothes upon him. He
seemed exceedingly weak, and I found it occasionally difficult to follow what he
said. The natives were all gathered round, seated on the ground, looking with a
most gratified and delighted expression. Camped where the party had halted on a
high bank, close to the water. I shall probably be here for ten days to recruit
King before returning.
Monday, 16 September 1861- Camp 32.
already looks vastly improved, even since yesterday and not like the same man.
Have commenced shoeing horses and preparing for our return. Wind from S.W. with
signs of rain. The natives seem to be getting ready for it.
Wednesday, 18 September 1861 - Camp 32.
this morning with Messrs. Brahe, Welsh, Wheeler, and King, to perform a
melancholy duty, which has weighed on my mind ever since we have encamped here,
and which I have only put off until King should be well enough to accompany us.
We proceeded down the creek for seven miles, crossing a branch running to the
southward, and followed a native track leading to that part of the creek where
Mr Burke, Mr Wills, and King encamped after their unsuccessful attempt to
reach Mount Hopeless and the northern settlements of South Australia, and where
poor Wills died. We found the two gunyahs situated on a sand-bank between two
waterholes and about a mile from the flat where they procured nardoo seed, on
which they managed to exist so long. Poor Wills remains we found lying in the
wurley in which he died, and where King, after his return from seeking for the
natives, had buried him with sand and rushes. We carefully collected the remains
and interred them where they lay; and, not having a prayer-book, I read chap. XV
of 1 Cor., that we might at least feel a melancholy satisfaction in having shown
the last respect to his remains. We heaped sand over the grave, and laid
branches upon it, that the natives might understand by their own tokens not to
disturb the last repose of a fellow being. I cut the following inscription on a
tree close by, to mark the spot.-
W J WILLS
The field-books, a note-book belonging to Mr Burke, various
small articles lying about, of no value in themselves but now invested with a
deep interest from the circumstances connected with them, and some of the nardoo
seed on which they had subsisted, with the small wooden trough in which it had
been cleaned, I have now in my possession. We returned home with saddened
feelings; but I must confess that I felt a sense of relief that this painful
ordeal had been gone through. King was very tired when we returned; and I must,
most unwillingly, defer my visit to the spot where Mr Burke's remains are lying
until he is better able to bear the fatigue.
Thursday, 19 September 1861.
Shoeing the horses. A
very slow and troublesome job, as many have never been shod before, and our
forge is of the most primitive description. This afternoon got the pigeons in
order of flying. Their tails being rubbed down by travelling so far in a cage, I
got the tails from several crested pigeons and inserted feathers in the stumps
of our carriers, fastening the splices with waxed threads: the plan answered far
better than I expected, and the birds can now fly about the aviary we have made
of a tent with the greatest of ease.
Friday, 20 September 1861.
Started the pigeons at
daybreak, each with a message fastened to it's legs. On throwing them up they
commenced wheeling round the camp, but separated, one being chased by one of the
large kites which are always hovering about the creek. After flying round in
various directions, with great speed they gradually drew across the creek, when
we lost sight of three: the fourth, after making a large circle, pitched in a
tree about a mile off. After breakfast he was found under a bush, with a kite
watching him: and the feathers of one of the other pigeons was found not far
off, having been killed. Of the two others, nothing has been seen, and I hope
that they got clear away, but I am much afraid that the experiment has proved a
failure: however, I should have thought more of it if the pigeons had made a
more decided start. Last night the wind changed from N.E. to S.W. and brought up
a slight shower. This morning S.W. with heavy clouds threatening rain. King
improving slowly, but very weak. Turned out the white pigeon again this
afternoon : he flew into a gum standing in the camp and has taken up his
quarters there - not a proper proceeding for a carrier-pigeon, according to my
Saturday, 21 September 1861.
Finding that it would
not be prudent for King to go out for two or three days, I could no longer defer
making a search for the spot where Mr Burke died, and with such directions as
King could give, I went up to the creek this morning with Messrs. Brahe, Welsh,
Wheeler, and Aitkin. We searched the creek upwards for eight miles, and at
length, strange to say, found the remains of Mr Burke lying among tall plants
under a clump of box-trees, within two hundred yards of our last camp, and not
thirty paces from our track.
It was still more extraordinary that three or
four of the party and the two black boys had been close to the spot without
noticing it. The bones were entire, with the exception of the hands and feet;
and the body had been removed from the spot where it first lay, and where the
natives had placed branches over it, to about five paces' distance. I found the
revolver, which Mr Burke held in his hand when he expired, partly covered with
leaves and earth, and corroded with rust. It was loaded and capped. We dug a
grave close to the spot and interred the remains wrapped in the Union Jack - the
most fitting covering in which the bones of a brave but unfortunate man could
take their last rest. On a box-tree, at the head of the grave the following
inscription is cut in a similar manner to the above,
R O'H B
Sunday, 22 September 1861.
The pigeon still keeps
it's quarters at the camp and comes down to feed now and then. I have removed
the message and shall leave it to its fate. It has been trying hard to rain for
two or three days, but does not seem able: great clouds drift over, looking
ready to burst, but only squeeze out two or three drops, then pass over. I
expect fully that it will clear up without rain: another dry season will make
Cooper's Creek look fearfully miserable. When the hot weather comes on, the
waterholes will many of them be dry, unless filled by rain or a flood. I have
written down King's narrative as much as possible in his own words. Shall annex
it to this diary. Finished shoeing the horses.
Monday, 23 September 1861.
Went down the creek
to-day in search of the natives. One of the party accompanied me and we took two
days rations in case it should be necessary to prolong our search. Two days
after we camped here the natives left and have not been seen since. I could not
think of leaving without showing them that we could appreciate and reward the
kindness they had shown to Burke's party and particularly to King. For three
miles we travelled over alluvial flats along the creek, timbered with box and
large gums and dotted with bean-trees, orange trees of large size but at present
without fruit, various kinds of acacias and other bushes. To the right hand
level flats and sand ridges, apparently tolerably grassed. We then came on a
large reach of water, where four or five natives had just been fishing, their
nets were lying on the sand to dry and the fire yet burning. Not seeing anyone
about and getting no answer to a cooey, we went on. At three miles more, we
passed the first feeder of Strzelecki's Creek, going to the southward, and at a
large reach of water below, found the natives camped. They made a great
commotion when we rode up, but seemed very friendly. I unpacked my blanket, and
took out specimens of the things I intended giving them, -a tomahawk, a knife,
beads, a looking-glass, comb, and flour and sugar. The tomahawk was the great
object of attraction, after that the knife, but I think the looking-glass
surprised them most. On seeing their faces reflected, some seemed dazzled,
others opened their eyes like saucers, and made a rattling noise with their
tongues expressive of wonder. We had quite a friendly palaver, and my watch
amused them immensely. I made them understand that they were to bring the whole
tribe up next morning to our camp to receive their presents, and we parted the
best of friends.
The names of the principal men are Tchukulow, Mungallee
(three in number), Toquarter, Pitchery (three in number, one a funny little man
with his head in a net and a kites feather in it - another, a tall man with his
beard tied in a point) Pruriekow and Borokow.
Tuesday, 24 September 1861.
This morning, about
ten o' clock, our black friends appeared in a long procession. Men, women, and
children, or, as they here also call them, piccaninnies; and at a mile distance
they commenced bawling at the top of their voices as usual. When collected
altogether on a little flat, just below our camp, they must have numbered
'between thirty and forty, and the uproar was deafening. With the aid of King, I
at last got them all seated before me, and distributed the presents, -tomahawks,
knives, necklaces, looking-glasses, combs -amongst them. I think no people were
ever so happy before, and it was very interesting to see how they pointed out
one, or another whom they thought might be overlooked. The piccaninnies were
brought forward by, their parents to have red ribbon tied round their dirty
little heads. An old woman, Carrawaw, who had been particularly kind to King,
was loaded with things. I then divided fifty pounds of sugar between them, each
one taking his share in a union-jack pocket-handkerchief, which they were very
proud of. The sugar soon found its way into their mouths; the flour, fifty
pounds of which I gave them, they at once called 'white-fellow nardoo,' and
explained that they understood that these things were given to them for having
fed King. Some old clothes were then put on some of the men and women, and the
affair ended in several of our party and the black fellows having an impromptu
corroboree, to the intense delight of the natives, and I must say, very much to
our amusement. They left, making signs expressive of friendship, carrying their
presents with them. The men all wore a net girdle; and of the women some wore
one of leaves, others of feathers. I feel confidant that we have left the best
impression behind us, and that the white fellows,' as they have already to call
us, will be looked on henceforth as friends and that, in case of emergency, any
one will receive the kindest treatment at their hands."
Wednesday, 25 September 1861 - Camp 31.
morning I turned my face homewards. The object of our mission being fulfilled, I
had to do so, but I return with a great regret at not being able to go on. We
take back five months rations from this date, at the scale we have been using,
and which has proved sufficient. The party are in the best of health, the horses
in fine order, and the camels none the worse for their journey and in decidedly
better health than when they left the Darling. On the edge of a country so well
worth exploring, in a tolerably good season, and with the means I now have at my
disposal, I feel much might be done. We camped today at our last camp but one
coming down the creek, making an easy stage for King. Got in by noon as the
horses were very fresh after their spell. The camels gave us a good deal of
trouble this afternoon and from a cause which may and will probably constantly
occur. One of the male camels has taken to driving the females about, and
fighting with the other male, Saml, who up until this time had been master.
Today the other camel was furious and in spite of being short hobbled, and
having his head tied down to his knee, chased the whole of the camels from the
camp, ten minutes after they were let loose, and although Brahe went after them,
and was for three hours on their tracks, he was unable to overtake them. Coming
back for a horse, he took Sandy with him, and cut across to where he had left
the tracks, running N. over some very rough stony country. It was dark before
they returned, having found the camels some miles away. From this and similar
occurrences, I find it very unwise to take male and female camels on a journey
together. One is never safe for a day from their straying, and from continual
fights between the male camels for mastery. The result is, that the camels are
continually harassed, and watch each other instead of feeding. With either all
male or all female camels there would be less, or certainly not more, trouble
than with horses; and, with this drawback, I firmly believe in the suitability
of camels for exploring.
Thursday, 26 September 1861.
Made ten miles and
camped where the creek forces a passage through the rocks.
Friday, 27 September 1861.
Obliged to stay
where we are, as one of the mares foaled during the night. Knocked the foal on
the head. Blowing hot wind.
Saturday, 28 September 1861.
Camped at the
fishpond having made only fifteen miles. King very tired; cannot ride on a
camel, as he thought, and had to give him a horse to try if it would be easier
for him. Dug up the things planted by Mr Burke and Mr Wills, and found the field
books and papers all safe. All hands fishing this evening, and a large number of
fish caught, varying from a quarter of a pound to three pounds and a quarter.
Blowing a strong hot wind from N and N.E.; will dry up the surface water very
Sunday, 29 September 1861.
The doctor does not
consider that King should travel today, so shall remain here. Could not have a
much better place on the creek -plenty of feed and abundance of fish. A dozen
caught this morning, weighed nearly twenty pounds. Two of the party caught
seventy-two pounds weight from three o' clock to sundown. They are the most
excellent eating. I do not know any fish of as fine a flavour. Strong gale from
N. and N.E., and very hot. If this goes on without rain we shall have some
pushing to do before reaching Kolialto; and, without rain has fallen, I do not
think we can depend with certainty on any water from Poria to Nunderungee
Creek-about 380 miles.
Monday, 30 September 1861.
Camped at our
28th Camp. Surface water nearly all gone and no feed. Found a small
pool at the mouth of a gully, but all the other water in the creek was as salt
as brine. Hot wind again.