Darling River, 2 June 1862.
Journal of Landsborough's Expedition from Carpentaria, in search of Burke & Wills
Bunnawaunah, Darling River,
I have the honour to inform you that the exploring party under my command arrived here yesterday in safety and in good health. From the Gulf of Carpentaria we came, in search of Burke's party, without difficulty, to Gregory's route from Queensland to South Australia, to a point within 280 miles of the point marked first Depot on Burke's route on the map which shows the routes of different explorers.
Our route from the Gulf of Carpentaria, Mr Gregory's route to South Australia, and the routes of other explorers demonstrate the fact that sheep, cattle, and horses can be taken at a small cost and in the finest condition from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and the inland districts of Queensland to stock the country near the Gulf of Carpentaria, or for exportation to India or elsewhere.
The road we came was so easy, from the richness of the pasturage and the abundance of water, that a foal, named Flinders from his having been foaled on the Flinders River, followed his mother most bravely from the time he was a few hours old until he reached here. When we were on Gregory's route to South Australia, and for some time previously, we took many opportunities of asking the blacks respecting the explorers they had seen. This we were enabled to do as Jemmy the native police trooper could speak their language. We learned from them that they had seen during the last ten moons explorers to the eastward, but that they had seen none with larger animals than horses.
I am sorry to have to inform you that our familiarity at last led to our having a hostile collision with them on the Barcoo River, near where the blacks treacherously tried to take Mr Gregory's party by surprise during the night. They tried to take us at night by surprise. If they had succeeded they would no doubt have overpowered us; but it was during Jemmy's watch and, as he always kept his watch well, he awoke us when they were within a few yards of our fire, and we fortunately succeeded in driving them away. Next morning (very early) two of them came near our camp. At my request Jemmy warned them to leave us, for we had now a most hostile feeling towards them. Instead of their showing the least symptom of leaving us they got their companions (who were in ambush, heavily armed with clubs and throwing-sticks) to join them. Under these circumstances we fired on them. In doing so, and in following them up to where the horses were feeding, one was shot and another slightly wounded in the leg.
I had very little assistance from Walker's previous discoveries as he had left instructions that while his chart and journal were in Captain Norman's charge no one should be allowed to take notes from them. I tried to follow Mr Walker's tracks to the Flinders River where he reported he had left the tracks of Burke's party. After tracing Mr Walker's tracks for four days with considerable difficulty we reached plains near the Leichhardt River where so much rain had fallen on the rich soft soil that it was impossible to trace them further.
From the Leichhardt River we travelled over well-watered country to the Flinders River; then travelled up that river, through fine rich pastoral country, to about latitude 20 degrees 40 minutes; from there we reached Bowen Downs in a few miles. The creeks and the river that water that country I knew previously to a certain point down the river, but beyond this point I did not know where the river flowed. On this expedition I followed it down to near its junction with the Barcoo River (formerly known as the Victoria and as the Cooper) and discovered that it was the Thomson River. After leaving the well-watered country of Bowen Downs, with the assistance of one of the blacks of that locality, we came through a fine rich country to the Barcoo River; then without following the river further, or searching ahead for water, we went across to the Warrego River without the horses being at any time longer than a day and part of a night without water. The country is therefore, I have no doubt, on the whole well watered.
From the Warrego River we tried to go to the south-eastward, but, from not knowing the country, we had to return, owing to the want of water. On this occasion, although the weather was cold, the horses suffered very much. We travelled almost incessantly, day and night. In going from and returning to water the horses were without it for seventy-two hours. In returning we found water in a creek in which we had found no water at the place we crossed it in our outward route. If I had had plenty of rations I probably would have searched with one of the aborigines for water before taking the whole of the horses on a journey of that kind. Afterwards we followed the river down to near Kennedy's Number 19 Camp to the station of Messrs Williams, where we met with a most hospitable reception and learned for the first time the melancholy fate of Messrs Burke and Wills. Sold some expedition supplies which we thought we would not require any more, and bought rations to take us here.
Following the Flinders River up from the Gulf of Carpentaria took us for a long distance in a more southerly than easterly direction, then in a more easterly than southerly direction. About twenty miles below where we left the Flinders River we saw horse tracks, which were probably made by Mr Walker's party when on his route from the Nogoa River to the Depot at the Gulf of Carpentaria. Where we saw the tracks of Walker's party the channel was about 120 yards wide, with a sandy bed and a shallow stream flowing along the surface; lower down and higher up the river we saw the fresh tracks of a steer or cow, and on Bowen Downs saw similar tracks. We had so little meat that we would have tried hard to have found the beast to kill it for provisions if I had not thought, from seeing the tracks of a dray in the same locality, that we were near a station.
The point where we reached the Barcoo River, in latitude 24 degrees 37 minutes, is nearly south from where we left the Flinders River.
Several times in the course of our journey from the Gulf of Carpentaria Gleeson, Jemmy, and Fisherman were unwell. This was owing, I have no doubt, in a great measure if not altogether, to the rations I issued being insufficient. Our usual ration was a pint of flour, in bad condition, and barely half a pound of spoiled meat per day, without tea or sugar. The annexed list of rations will show that the quantity obtained on starting would not admit of my issuing a larger supply. The remainder of us, namely, Mr Bourne, Jackey, and myself, did not lose our health on this meagre fare.
After reaching the Warrego River Jemmy unfortunately lay so near the fire on a frosty night that his shirt caught fire and burned him severely; so much so that he exhibited great pluck in continuing his journey here.
Last night I learned from the newspapers that Mr Howitt had received instructions to wait for us at the Depot at Cooper's Creek. If I had known that there was to be a Depot there I would have gladly gone to it from the Thomson River. Now I intend proceeding down the river to Menindie, where I purpose if necessary to take the most advisable mode to let Mr Howitt know of our return from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
I might have sent a letter off yesterday to the neighbouring station if I had only known that the postman had been delayed from starting until this morning. There is a camel on this run which I will endeavour to get and take to Menindie.
Mr Bourne, who is an experienced bushman, has read this letter and thinks I have not given too favourable an account of the country along our route from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
When I reach town I will make a return of the money I received of Messrs Williams for the expedition stores, a copy of my journal, and a sketch showing our route.
I have the honour to be Sir,
To the Honourable Secretary Exploration Committee of Royal Society Victoria.
List of provisions received at the Depot, Gulf of Carpentaria, on the 8th February 1862
These provisions were all our party, consisting of six, had up to the 21st May, the date of our arrival at the station of Messrs. Williams on the Warrego.*
(*Footnote. I may state here that, on the expedition to the south-west when our party consisted of five, we started with ninety days' rations of flour, beef, tea, and sugar, and five gallons of rum. These and the rations, a list of which is given above, were all that were furnished for the land expedition; and it was a source of much discouragement that my requisition for tea, sugar, and rum for the journey across the continent was not complied with, more especially as the allowance supplied at Brisbane was very liberal, as the annexed list will show:
List of stores sent by the Queensland Government for Landsborough's Expedition.
(Cost in pounds/shillings/pence.)
After the wreck of a Firefly at Hardy's Island all her stores and those intended for the exploring parties were taken possession of by Captain Norman, and were only supplied by him on requisition.
The following are the names of the members of Mr Landsborough's party.
W Landsborough, commander. H N Campbell. George Bourne. W Allison. W Gleeson. Aboriginals: Charlie, Jemmy, Fisherman and Jackey.
Of these H N Campbell as assistant-commander, W Allison, Jemmy, and Fisherman accompanied Mr Landsborough on his first or south-west expedition. On his second or journey across the continent his party consisted of: George Bourne as second in command; Gleeson as cook; Fisherman, Jemmy, and Jackey. Messrs. Campbell, Allison, and Charlie returned by the Victoria, Mr Landsborough considering his equipment inadequate to the supply of so large a party.
The camel found by Mr Landsborough at the Darling was taken towards Melbourne but was lost through the carelessness of Jackey. Jackey, on two occasions on the Darling River, left for several days without leave, which led Mr Landsborough to tell him that he would not take him any farther. This did not appear to vex him much for, without asking to be taken on or promising to behave better in future, he immediately went and hired himself to a settler in the neighbourhood. The rest of the party reached Melbourne in safety. Jemmy and Fisherman, who had never been in a city before, evinced no surprise at anything they saw. After a month's residence in Melbourne they were forwarded by steamer to Brisbane. Fisherman, before leaving Melbourne, lost his intelligence and was at times quite insane; but it is to be hoped that as his bodily health was good the sight of his native place will restore him to his right mind.)