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September 1861

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2085/6a, Item 1.
A W Howitt’s diary [of Victorian Contingent Expedition], 1 September 1861, Camp 20, Poria Creek to 9 October 1861, Poria Creek.
Received by the EC on Monday, 4 November 1861, and published in the Melbourne press. 16p. ms.

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.
Spelled here 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.
28° 33', 142° 31'
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.
The 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 cwt.

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.
28°. 142° 2'
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.
It rained 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 Victorian Expedition)
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.
27° 49', 141° 38'
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 tree.

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 depôt 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 troublesome.

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 depôt 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 depôt 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 depôt 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 S.E.

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 depôt 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 depôt 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 sure.

Sunday, 15 September 1861 - Camp 32.
27° 44', 140° 40'
On leaving 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.
King 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.
Left camp 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
XLV Yds
WNW
A.H.

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 ideas.

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
21/9/61
A.H.

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.
This 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 fast.

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.


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