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Original items held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2082/4, Item c.
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, Dispatches sent by members of the VEE to the EC.
Ludwig Becker's first report, Swan Hill, 8 September 1860.
Manuscript, handwritten in ink on blue foolscap paper, 14 pages.

Sunday, 19 August to Thursday, 6 September 1860
Royal Park, Melbourne - Swan Hill

Read by Dr John Macadam, Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of Victoria's Exploration Committee at the ordinary meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria, held on Monday, 17 September 1860 in the society's house, Victoria-street, at 7 o'clock. In the absence of His Excellency the Governor, the chair was taken by the mayor of Melbourne, Dr Richard Eades.

Macadam also laid on the table three snakes presented by Dr Gummow, Swan Hill, transmitted by Dr Becker, and four sketches:

  © La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria - www.slv.vic.gov.au 1. The first was one of the party crossing an ancient crater, near Dr Bainton's.
  © La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria - www.slv.vic.gov.au 2. The second was a sketch of the party crossing to Terrick Terrick from the 29th August.
  © La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria - www.slv.vic.gov.au 3. The third sketch was peculiarly interesting, representing, as it did, the effect of a mirage, by which Mount Hope, distant 25 miles, appeared to be in mid-air far above the horizon.
  © La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria - www.slv.vic.gov.au 4. [Becker actually sent five sketches, the fourth being from the top of Mount Hope].
  © La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria - www.slv.vic.gov.au 5. The 'fourth' represented the station-hut at Mount Hope, September 2.

 

Camp at Swan Hill
Sep. 8. 1860.

To the Hon. Secretary
Royal Society
Dr J. Macadam M.L.A.

Sir,

Sunday, 19 August 1860.
I left Melbourne to take charge of the Camp in the Royal Park. Up all night up watching.

Monday, 20 August 1860.
All day engaged with packing and loading. Mounted a Camel at 4 p.m. and marched with the greater part of the Exploring Party past Moonee Ponds and camped near Essendon. One of our waggons broke down before reaching the halting-place; at sunset a horse of ours broke loose and ran away.

Tuesday, 21 August 1860.
Horse caught again this morning; the remainder of the waggons arrived; unloading and reloading the same. Started at 2¼ p.m. All the horses, the camels and six waggons went on together. A valuable little watch-dog belonging, to Mr Landells, was lost. We arrived at 6 oCl p.m. at a paddock near the Inverness hotel, Bulla.

Wednesday, 22 August 1860.
One of the Indians, Samla, begged of Mr Landells to discharge him; his religion (being a Hindu) would not allow him to eat meat, except mutton, and this only if the sheep was killed by himself The poor fellow looked very poorly indeed having had nothing for the last three days but bread and plenty of work. He saw it was impossible for him to remain with us without breaking his faith. After receiving the wages due to him he touched with his fingers mother Earth and then his forehead, and blessing Mr Landells and the men near him, this good man went his way towards Melbourne his eyes full of tears. We started at 10 a.m.; the appearance of the sky was not at all of a cheering character, before we reached Bolinda, near Captain Gardners place at 5 p.m. it commenced raining, and ere night had set in it came down in torrents. No tea, no fire; we slept in the wet.

Thursday, 23 August 1860.
Fine morning, but damp and cold. Marched at 10¼ a.m. Captain Gardner received us hospitably, refusing payment for hay and other things given to the party. The black soil, the result of decomposed basalt or lava-was in consequence of the heavy fall of rain, last night turned into a sort of mud, resembling black soft-soap, dangerous and difficult for a camels foot and a great hindrance to our waggons. It is a very tedious and tiring work to lead on foot a camel through such ground and at the same time taking good care that no branch over head or on the ground interfere with walking or rather skating. Notwithstanding this we arrived at Lancefield at 6 o' clock p.m. 17 miles distant from our last nights camping place.

Friday, 24 August 1860.
Again a wet night and blowing hard from the N.W. Struck our tents at ¼ to 9 a.m. and went on over a hilly ground, leaving the rich basaltic soil behind us. About a mile after quitting Lancefield a sandstone formation, N.W. of the township, offered a fair road for our poor beasts; soon after the sandstone we met with Granit, which again was exchanged for sandstone. After crossing the 'Big Hill' the ascent and descent of which caused some delay, we were most heartily received by a poor family living in a hut at the 'Accommodation Paddock' in front of which we awaited the arrival of our waggons. The housewife offering us tea and milk, which was gladly accepted, refused at the same time to take payment for it, however, her rosy cheeked children at the door of the hut differed from their mothers view and shaking hands with us strangers accepted a few shillings, which they were told by the good women to keep it as a 'memento cameli' which I think is the proper translation for a 'camel token' as she called it. On we went and by 4 o'C p.m., we pitched our tents in a paddock belonging to Dr Baynton, Darlington, 12 miles from Lancefield. At the Doctors place unfortunately there was no hay nor any other feed for the Animals, so we cut wattels down which were not refused by them. Scarcely had we arrived on the ground when we were saluted and hailed by a cloud, discharging a deluge followed by a shower of hail.

Saturday, 25 August 1860.
The morning was foggy and this prevented me at first to observe that our camp was near the edge of an ancient crater of about one half or three-quarters of a mile diameter, near the centre of which a cone rose, covered with blocks of basalt; the whole of the rim and the plaines beyond it belong to the same formation. The outlet of this crater is towards the North, through which at present a current of water runs with a marshy, rich soil on both sides. From this outlet I sketched the Sketch No 1.

It was with extreme difficulty to bring the Waggons and the Camels down and up again those steep sides of this crater, which we however accomplished without serious accident in about one hours and a half time. How far my view in regard to this being an ancient crater, be correct or not, Mr Taylor the Assistant Geological Surveyor will tell. I forgot to mention that we lost more than three-quarters of an hour after starting, through a butcher who run after us with a bill for £3.16 for some beef and chaff and as the bill was written with pencil on a minute piece of dirty paper without Dr Baynton's signature, we were obliged to wait till every thing was properly done; I could not help comparing the poor woman's conduct of yesterday with this day's, of course, right business like act. -The road was good after leaving the crater, passing at noon through a country with strong indications of being auriferous, intersected with basaltic formations which later formed the main feature of the Spring Plains over which we, in the afternoon, travelled with the utmost difficulty on account of the slippery ground and great number of crab-holes. Here some of our waggons were forced to remain all night having been bogged. These desolate plains end near the Mia-Mia public house. Before reaching that place a steep hill, composed of quartz, has to be descended, on the foot of which the basalt predominates again. Arrived at the Mia Mia at 5¼ p.m. Rain in the evening. A Camel bit one of the Indians through the finger. I forgot to mention that the three Indians remaining with the camels are Mohametans and not so particular about their food. They are willing, steady and good working fellows.

Sunday, 26 August 1860.
Hoar frost in the morning; fine weather. A day of rest. Finished Sketch No 1. Copied accounts, bills etc. for Mr Burke. A great many visitors are coming in from McIvor and other places to look at the caravan; the Landlord of the Inn had a good day and behaved well towards the Exploring party, his charges were very moderate.

Monday, 27 August 1860.
Marched at 9¼, via Wild Duck Creek to Matheson's. With some difficulty we got the Camels through the Creek, they never before went through water worth mentioning. The road being good and level, we once more mounted the Camels and arrived at Matheson's hotel at 4 o'C p.m. Distant 14 miles from the Mia Mia.

Tuesday, 28 August 1860.
Damp night, Mr Burke send to Bendigo for several things wanted. We left Matheson's at 8¾ a.m. and arrived at 1 p.m. at the Campaspe, which we crossed with a punt at Kennedy's. We camped near that place in a fine, well graced paddock, where already a number of friends from Bendigo and others, the curious loving, people were found awaiting the Caravan. Notwithstanding some Gentlemen of the Exploring party endeavoured to satisfy several of the inquisitive visitors and to answer their time robbing questions as correct as possible, it seems after all that the writer of an article in the Bendigo Advertiser very much misrepresented some of the facts as well as some of the men connected with the Exploring Expedition.

Wednesday, 29 August 1860.
Clear, cold night. We received a few newspaper, where I read that my discovery of native Zink found a further confirmation. Our departure from the camp at 9¼. a.m. was witnessed by a number of gentlemen, cheering when we entered the bush, through which we steered towards Patersons, said to he 12 miles, but we found it to be 24. There is no certainty about the distances in the bush and plains, the travelers being almost all on horseback underate generally the distances when asked: how far is it from here to there? - After a few miles ride we found ourselves in the Terrick plains. The effect on one who sees extensive plaines for the first time is somewhat very peculiar: the plain looks like a calm ocean with green water; the horizon appears to he much higher than the point the spectator stands on, the whole plain looks concave. On you go, miles and miles, a single tree, a belt of timber appeared at the horizon, affected by the mirage; you reach that belt of small trees, a Wallaby, a Kangarooh-rat disturbs for a moment the monotony, and a few steps further on you are again on the green calm ocean. The sun was setting and our party, steering northwards, received the full effect of the golden rays of the sun; the contrast with the green plains was very striking. I could not help sketching the Scene which is very poorly represented in Sketch No 2. We arrived at Patersons station at 6 p.m. Even here, away from Bendigo, several vehicles from Sandhurst loaded with men and children arrived late in the evening to have a look at the Camels.

Thursday, 30 August 1860.
Cold, clear night. One of the visitors from Bendigo broke this morning his arm, he sought for help in our camp, when Dr Beckler set the bones and left the man more comfortable than the sufferer himself expected. Marched at 9 a.m. our course NbyW - When about 12 miles from the Terrick-Terrick Hills the effect of the Mirage brought the hills considerably above the horizon, both ends of the chain of hills floating in the air; the same was the case with Mount Hope, distant 25 miles, whose base was unconnected with the horizon; nearly all the objects near it floated in the air, they became however contracted and partly disappeared when approaching them. Sketch No 3 gives a correct outline of this scene. We arrived 4 p.m. at Dr Rowe's station on the foot of the Terricks.

Friday, 31 August 1860.
A day of rest and fine weather allowed me to finish Sketches 2 and 3 and to make some general observations. The Bendigo Creek, on whose banks the station is built, is here named Picanini Creek, and further to the North it is called Mount Hope Cr. The water is still a yellow coloured, floating mud, the effect of the washings at Bendigo. Dr Rowe dammed the water and by this process is enabled to support a greater number of sheep during the hot seasons, than it was possible before this damming system of the different waters in these plains was introduced. In the afternoon 4 natives, among them a lubra, went their Stepps slowly towards the camp. With eyes and mouths wide open, speechless they stared at the Bunjibs, our camels, but refused to go nearer than a spears-throw. Although no strangers at Dr Rowe's station, and notwithstanding our assurance that the camels were only harmless 'big sheep', they turned their back towards them and squatted soon round a far off camp fire of their own, conversing in their native tongue; probably about the character of these illustrious strangers. If this first interview between natives and camels might be used as a criterion when coming in contact with the blacks in the course of our future journeys, then, surely, we might spare the gunpowder as long as the mesmeric power of our Bunjlbs remain with them. The Terrick Hills are composed of a fine granit, not very hard, and a more compact, coarse one; both kinds are used by Dr Rowe for building purposes. The brick-walls of the houses are lined with them. The Terrick plains are free from any stone, and consist of a ferruginous loam and sometimes of clay intermixed with small bits of calcareous or limestone (?) concrete. During the dry season these plaines are bare of grass and hard like bricks, after a fall of rain they become muddy and soon after are covered with a fine verdure. We passed several skeletons of bullocks, said to have been killed by lightning, a common occurrence in these plains.

 
     

 

 

Saturday, 1 September 1860.
Dr Rowe's kind and extremely hospitable reception made us feel almost unwilling to leave that fine camping place; however, at 8 ¾ a.m. we once more steered the 'ships of the dessert' through the green ocean towards Mt Hope, which point we reached at half past two p.m. After attending to the Camels, Mr Wills, Dr Beckler and myself started at once for the top of Mt Hope. The whole mountain chain is Granit of a very coarse character, brittle, and fast decomposing. Immense blocks stretch their backs alongside the hills, where they look like petrified Wales and Elephants of pre-adamitic dimensions. It was surprising to see the great number of butterflies, moths and other insects swarming about the rich, blooming vegetation growing out from between the crevices of the gigantic boulders. Here I made a sketch of the Pyramid Hill, which is about 7 miles distant from Mt. Hope. (See Sketch No 4.)

Sunday, 2 September 1860.
From 3 to 5 a.m. I had the watch in the Camp and some trouble was experienced in keeping the unfettered camels in order, one chasing the other, running with great speed through the camp and over the open ground near to it. It looked very queer when these huge animals noiselessly with outstretched neck and gambolling motions played 'Katch me, if you can'. The grazing horses, when met with by the humpbacks snorted and hobbled away, ringing the monotonous bells through the serene and silent night. Near the station hut, which I represented in Sketch No 5, a well was sunk. The strata cut through consisted of different colored layers of loam and clay and at 100 feet Granit was met with. We left Mt Hope and the obliging Mr Chomlay at 8 a.m. after having been shown a subterranean chamber formed by overhanging rocks. This sort of cave some years ago used to conceal a Whisky distillery, at present however serves as a cool spot to receive the results of more lawful proceedings. Scarcely had the camels left, when it was found that during the night some of our horses had broken through the paddock and were out of sight altogether. Mr Burke with the assistance of several men at once set out in different directions but without result. At last some stock rider coming from the Murray for the purpose of seeing the camels, came across the stray horses, which were led by a mare, bred near the Murray about 6 miles from Mt Hope. I was to come after the Camels on horseback, but before the horses were found the waggons had to go on. The drivers, not knowing the direction where to go to I was obliged to serve as pilot and found the camels after a couple of hours halting near the edge of a belt of timber. The weather, fine in the morning, changed now and a well-developed Scotch mist followed by a heavy rain from the North soon made our progress slow and very uncomfortable. We reached after great privation the homestead of Mrss Boot and Holloway at 6½ p.m. The owners of the place expected us for several days and preparations for our reception were already made so that each man of our party was at once at home. The comfort our inner and outer man experienced was very great, the hospitable roof protected each of us against the all night lasting torrents, welcomed however by all the settlers in these plains. We travelled this day 21 miles.

Monday, 3 September 1860.
Rain continuing Mr Burke thought best to remain here till to-morrow. I finished in the mean time two of the sketches and gathered some information worth noting. For the last four years such a rainfall was not witnessed at these plains, and I was told that this rain of 24 hours duration would produce sufficient grass for cattle and sheep at least for the next six months. A well was sunk near the homestead, going through 20 feet of clay and loam, then coming on a porous, hardened, ferruginous clay, water was met with, but very salt and bitter. After sinking deeper through sandy loam and clay for 50 feet the same bitter saltwater came out in a great mass which rose up to within 30 feet from the surface, when further digging was abandoned. To give an idea of the fall of rain last night I will mention a curious fact. Mr Landells put his boots and hat into the chimney near the fire to let them dry during the night. When morning came they were full of water, and the way Mr Landells tried to dry them now, was new to me: he put burning charcoals into the boots, as long as there was a drop of water to evaporate. The weather cleared up at noon, but at 4 p.m. a heavy thunderstorm sweeped over the already soaked country.

Tuesday, 4 September 1860.
Rain again during the night. Our cook killed last night a carpet-snake above 5 feet long. The reptile lay concealed in a log of wood which was on the fire. I took occasion to explain to the people by a demonstration that the true carpet-snake is not a venomous animal, and ought to he spared on account of its destroying noxious and really dangerous creatures. Before we left that good people who harbored us for two days in true Christian style, I asked them the name of the place which, I was told, is Tregowell, a native word. Mrs Holloway however wished to know whether I could propose a more appropriate one? So I thought the hearty welcome with which we were received and the still more welcomed rain which were in our company, that this good spot might be called Point Welcome. We left that place at 9¼ a.m. and after 3 miles ride over the slippery, muddy plain, the Loddon at Kerang was crossed. The road on the west of the Loddon was not so bad on account of the clay and loam being mixed and covered with plenty of sand. Lake Bael-Bael, or Reedy Lake was reached at 2 p.m., distant 8 miles from Kerang. Our party camped near the lake on Mr Fenton's station where grass and good water abounds; also salt-bush was not wanting, a delicacy for the camels. A tree for firewood was cut down; on one of the branches clung a 'jew-Lizard'," still holding his place although the timber fell high and heavy to the ground. The spiny specimen was a very fine one, about 15 inches long, and I was sorry not to be provided with the means of keeping it. Mr Fenton was not prepared to see us, still he did every thing to make us as comfortable as circumstances permitted.

Wednesday, 5 September 1860.
At 9 a.m., we left that nice spot and arrived at a belt of timber between Lake Tatchiwap (dry) and Lake Boga, there we camped. This day we received our Instructions from the Hon. Secretary of the Royal Society of Victoria. The Distance travelled today was 18 miles. We met many visitors on the road, coming from far off stations to have a look at the camels who did not only astonish the ladies and children, but still more so the horses who brought them hither.

Thursday, 6 September 1860.
My camp-watch was again from 3 to 5 in the morning during which time the horizon all round, in intervals of a few seconds, was illuminated by sheet lightning of a circular form, each occupying only a few degrees of space. The display finished with a thundercloud passing over our heads, when day broke. We marched at 8¼ a.m. The day was very bright and soon saw us at Lake Boga. This is a fine sheet of water and reminds one on Hobsons Bay looking from St. Kilda towards Williamstown and Sandridge, but without the mountain ranges in the distance. I dismounted and went along the sandy shore of the lake collecting some shells. Unio and Lymnea are seen in great numbers. I also found a few small Cyrena. It somewhat astonished me to find a number of pieces of quartz not very large, a little water-worn, lying on the sand of the beach, although not a fragment of it was to be seen on the banks of the lake, the soil of which is of the same loamy character as everywhere on the plains. We made Swan Hill at 3. p.m. after marching 14 miles from our last camping place, and pitched our tents close to the bank of the Murray leaving the township ½ mile to the north-west of us. Here I received some letters and papers and wrote this first report I now have the honor to transmit to you.

 
     

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