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November 1861

Report of Commander Norman, of H.M.C.S.S. Victoria, together with copy of his journal of the late expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria
Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.
Victorian Parliamentary Papers No. 109. 1862.

Friday, 1 November 1861.
A S.E. wind to 2 p.m., very light with cloudy weather, and calm at sunset. Crew employed at general duties and one party on shore on fatigue duty, digging the trench round stores and quarters of guard, which was increased by one man, making a total of five, who are provisioned for one month from this day ; brought off five turtle, and prepared for starting for the month of the Albert to-morrow morning.

Saturday, 2 November 1861.
At 3 a.m. a heavy clap of thunder and a few large drops of rain ; but not enough to wet the deck, the clouds passing over to the N.W. from S.E., with the wind a little fresh. At 8 a m. unmoored and left for the Albert River ; at 0.45 p.m. anchored in sixteen feet, about five miles from the shore, with high trees of Flinders bearing S. 68° W. Clump of trees off Gore Point S. 49° E. Inlet S. 43° W., all magnetic. At 3 p.m. despatched the whaler to dépôt for news, and sent Dr Patterson up to do anything in his way that might be required.

Sunday, 3 November 1861.
At daylight a S.E. breeze, which continued all day, dying away at sunset to nearly calm. At 7 a.m. finding we were only in twelve feet six inches water, shifted one mile further out to fifteen feet six inches. No work this day being Sunday; performed Divine service at 10.30 a.m. Thermometer 98° to 84°.

Monday, 4 November 1861.
At 3 a.m. the barge with Lieutenant Woods, Dr Patterson, and Mr Landsborough arrived from the dépôt, bringing no intelligence of Burke or Walker. The object of Landsborough's visit being to confer with me on the inadvisability of his starting on the south-western exploration, for traces of the missing explorers ; after well considering the matter and instructions of the Committee, and as Walker was on his way from the S.E., I could see no good reason for altering the movements of his party, but ordered his departure towards Central Mount Stuart so soon as possible.

Tuesday, 5 November 1861.
A moderate sea breeze to sunset. Preparing stores for Landsborough's party to proceed on their route towards Central Mount Stuart; also stores for the use of the dépôt, all of which will go up to-morrow with me.

Wednesday, 6 November 1861.
A moderate north-east breeze. At 2.30 p.m. left the ship in the barge, taking Landsborough with me, also the cutter in charge of Lieutenant Gascoyne, both boats being loaded deep with stores for the expedition and dépôt, Having a favorable tide, arrived alongside the dépôt at 11.30 p.m. The cutter by some neglect or mismanagement did not get up for twenty-one hours after,

Thursday, 7 November 1861.
At daylight, on boarding the hulk, found she had 3½ feet water in her hold; set them to work to pump her out. Found only seven horses shod; set the carpenter and two seamen to work to do the rest as fast as possible; gave orders they were not to be taken off this job until it was done, as none belonging to the land party are willing to do the work, stating they did not come to do it. I am quite at a loss to make out what they did come for, excepting to get a knowledge of the country at the expense of the Government. At 9 a.m. I left the hulk in charge of Mr Handfield, with orders to let her remain where she was while I proceeded up the river for the purpose of ascertaining if a better position could be chosen for her as a dépôt, and to make an exploration of its banks at different places for any traces of Burke or Walker. When passing Gascoyne's group some natives made their appearance, about ten in number; they tried all their means to induce us to land, but, having a fine breeze, I did not wish to lose time by doing so, being very anxious to reach the junction of the Barkly to examine the trees marked by Gregory, and Chimmo, of the Torch. Landed twice on the east bank, and marked trees with a broad arrow and Victoria [over] Nov.7.1861 also leaving a memorandum tied to the tree to indicate where the dépôt would be found. We also blazed many trees all round for the distance of 1½ miles, and anchored in the upper part of Hope Reach, at 7.30 p.m., for the night.

Friday, 8 November 1861.
At daylight landed on the east bank, and discovered Gregory's tree, well marked, but could not find anything by digging where he directed, "north, four feet;" and, after marking other trees near with a broad arrow over "Victoria," with date, and where dépôt was to be found, crossed over to the point of the fork which separates the Albert and Barkly and found the Torch tree, but no sign of any one having visited it since marked. Marked a large tree near as before, to indicate our visit, and where dépôt would be found; also blazing a number of trees, to lead any one to that information, for three-quarters of a mile inland. We then proceeded up the Barkly, which is about us broad as the Yarra Yarra at its falls ; and, after going up it for three miles, landed, in consequence of the snags, being dangerous for the boat to go further. Proceeded with the gunner and Landsborough up its banks, on foot, keeping from one hundred to three hundred fathoms from it, marking trees on both sides with tomahawks for about three miles, passing many dry creeks, and beds of water-worn ironstone pebbles, with a mixture of quartz and red sand. Landsborough then proceeded to the river bank, to mark a tree there, broad arrow over V, as before, while walked about 1½ mile inland, to the largest tree I could find, on the Plains of Promise, and did the same on it; also placed a flag on its highest branch to attract attention, keeping up the plan of blazing trees at about every fifty to one hundred yards apart, in any direction we took; so that no explorer can pass in this neighborhood without crossing some of them, which will lead him to the information cut on the large tree on the Plains of Promise, or on the bank of the river. We then walked from the plain direct for the boat.; blazing trees on going to as well as from her, in the same manner, getting on board about 1.30 p.m., after a very trying and fearful hot morning, under a vertical sun nearly. After dinner we proceeded downwards, with a firm belief that the Plains of Promise well deserve the name given to them, and that ere many years they will be occupied by some enterprising settlers. During the exploration we did not see any marks or indications of any one having been in this part before on the east bank of the Barkly. On reaching the junction landed on the west bank, just below the fork, to mark a tree near a good waterhole, about three hundred yards from the river bank; which being done so that Walker, or any one striking the Albert on either side, must see the information to guide them to the depot, I left at 6 p.m. and pulled down until 11.30, and anchored for the night within two miles of depot

Saturday, 9 November 1861.
At 5.30 a.m. started for, and reached dépôt at 6.20. Found Mr Handfield had shifted her a little higher up, past a small island and sand-bank, on which she was aground.

Sunday, 10 November 1861.
A day of rest. Divine service performed. Wind from N.W., with a fresh breeze until sunset, then calm, with lightning in the S.E. Thermometer 87° to 92°.

Monday, 11 November 1861.
At daylight, the hulk being afloat, tried to get her into the berth I have determined on, so as to secure her there for good; but she grounded again in a few minutes, and remained fast. Got all expedition stores on shore, so that the party may get on preparing for their journey. Ordered the barge to be prepared to go down to the ship. At 3 p.m. had a heavy squall from S.S.W., with much thunder, lightning, and rain, for one hour; after which a calm and lovely night. Thermometer 98° to 85°.

Tuesday, 12 November 1861.
At 3 a.m. barge started to the ship for one month's rations. My presence being required on Walker's arrival, to save time I remain here to despatch him at once, or little good can be done if I am out of the way when he does arrive. It has been a very hot and unsettled day; a heavy thunder-storm broke over the dépôt at 3 p.m., with rain for about an hour and a half, after which it cleared up and was fine. Started at 3.40 p.m., on horseback with Landsborough, passing over some tolerable grassed land, also some very barren mud flats, which show every indication of being flooded with sea-water at times. Thermometer 88° to 94°.

Wednesday,13 November 1861.
Landsborough's party sorting, weighing, and packing their stores; part of crew sewing up and marking them; also finishing shoeing the horses. This day has been very sultry, with a dry parching atmosphere, all books and papers curling into a horny shape; but every one keeps well as yet. The barge returned at 11.30 p.m., bringing up one month's stores, and the paymaster to get his receipts from Landsborough for the stores he supplied him. Thermometer 98° at noon, 104° at 2 p.m.

Thursday, 14 November 1861.
Another very hot-wind day. Overland party getting on with their preparations. Barge's crew pitching tents to camp on shore. Thermometer 96° to 102°.

Friday, 15 November 1861.
Another hot-wind day, and very trying. The flies are very troublesome, also the mosquitoes at night. Overland party making a trial of some of their worst horses, with pack saddles on them, at which they bucked and kicked several off, and the bags to pieces. Barge's crew rendering general assistance.

Saturday, 16 November 1861.
Overland party at it early, packing and saddling for a start, but owing to the horses being (some of them) wild on being loaded, they caused much trouble and delay, party not getting off until 1 p.m. An unpleasant discussion between Landsborough and Bourne took place, to which I was called, and it appeared to me that a breach loading gun,* belonging to Bourne, was lent by him a few days ago to Landsborough, to take with him on this expedition, and now, on his being on the point of starting, Bourne did not like to let it go without a promise of receiving its value from the Government, if it got injured or lost. Mr Campbell was appointed second in command, and started in charge of the horses, Landsborough and the remainder following shortly after.† Messrs. Bourne and Elliot accompanying them for the first stage, to do anything which might require being done. Sent the whaler up the river to meet the expedition at the Post-office Camp, and to bring down anything, and the two last named gentlemen, to-morrow. On bidding Landsborough "God speed"” I strongly urged his losing no time going out, so as to be back before the heavy rains in January. This he promised to bear in mind.

* Landsborough, after his return, stated that it was his intention to replace the gun with a new one.
† Mr W. Landsborough, leader; Mr H. N. Campbell, second in command; Captain Allison, assistant; Jemmie and Fisherman, two native police.

Sunday, 17 November 1861.
Performed Divine service in the camp, and proceeded to the west bank at 4 p.m. to mark trees and leave a memorandum under them. Blazed many for a mile south, and another mile west, and returned at 6.30 p.m.

Monday, 18 November 1861.
A strong north and north-west breeze to-day, with very dry parching weather. Employed the men digging a garden,‡ to put vegetable seeds in, such as cress, onion, radish, and sprout. Whaler returned at 5 p.m., with letters reporting expedition safe at 11 a.m., and that no memorandum could be found at Gregory's tree; they having taken pick and shovel to examine for it more carefully than I could by hand.

‡ Got nothing but a little mustard and cress out of it.

Tuesday, 19 November 1861.
Employed the men as yesterday, and burning all grasses round the camp, also cutting down the mangrove and scrub on the river bank to destroy the flies and mosquitoes, which are very troublesome and annoying to every one. I consider it better to clear all this scrub away before the rains come on. Sent the whaler to the ship at 2 a.m., with letters, instructing Lieutenant Woods to go for a supply of turtle at Bountiful Island, place them in the pond at Sweer's Island, and to return here about the 4th of December. Sent Handfield down, and placed the gunner in charge of the hulk during his absence.

Wednesday, 20 November 1861.
The men cutting down and clearing mangrove scrub from the river bank and island opposite the dépôt. Thermometer 97° to 102°. At 1 a.m., being high water, had every one out to get the hulk off the sand-bank, but did not succeed this tide.

Thursday, 21 November 1861.
A strong N.W. wind during the day, with calm at 9 p.m. At high water again tried to get the hulk afloat, and failed. Thermometer 88° to 98°.

Friday, 22 November 1861.
Strong northerly wind, with very hot dry weather. Thermometer 99° in the shade. At 9 a.m. succeeded in getting hulk afloat; tracked her to the berth, and secured her with four cables for good.

Saturday, 23 November 1861.
Calm and sultry to 10 a.m., then a flesh northerly wind. Got the hulk's boat up for her carpenter to repair, so as to enable them to fetch water with her, if these waterholes dry up, as they are doing so very fast. Walked to Wood's Lake; saw some wallaby and many ducks.

Sunday, 24 November 1861.
A moderate S.E. wind. Performed Divine service. Another week and no Mr Walker, so I shall start up the river again to-morrow, and make further explorations for traces of Burke or him; but the former, I fear, never got so far north as this.

Monday, 25 November 1861.
At nine, started with barge up the river, Noon, landed on east bank, seven miles below Alligator Point, branded a large tree and blazed others on a south line for about one mile; but, seeing nothing, returned to the boat, and after the men had got their dinner proceeded on further, landing again one mile below Alligator Point, marking and blazing for one mile and a half to the southward, leaving a memorandum at each of these places to direct any one to the dépôt, and proceeding on upwards at 5.30 p.m., anchoring in Hope Reach at 10 p.m. for the night. Vivid lightning to the eastward, but no rain. Thermometer 88° to 97°.

Tuesday, 26 November 1861.
At 2 a.m. a thunderstorm burst from the S.E., with plenty of wind, but no rain, leaving a strong S.E. breeze. At daylight we again proceeded upwards, and landing at Gregory's tree on east hank, with pick and shovel again tried to find his memorandum, but could not ; so I conclude it must have rotted, or been taken await by the natives. Crossed over to the point dividing the Albert and the Barkly to Torch tree (Point Inscription I shall call it), and upon careful examination found a memorandum from J Flood to Mr Baines, which had been underground five years. Leaving a memorandum of my movements, and the position of the dépôt, proceeded up the Barkly for a further and more extensive examination for traces of any one; but, it being a very hot day, we only pitched tents on shore as far up as the barge would go. Much vivid lightning all night to the westward.

Wednesday, 27 November 1861.
At 9 a.m. a squall, with rain, for about half an hour. Daylight, started with Bourne, Smith, and Charlie to the E.S.E., crossing the belt of trees and over much of the open Plains of Promise. After making nearly a circle of about seven miles, and seeing nothing of any tracks but our own marks, which we crossed twice, we returned to camp, quite knocked up with exhaustion from heat. Part of the boat's crew, who have been on the diggings in Victoria, amused themselves sinking a shaft to try the nature of the bottom. Made large bonfires every night at 8 o'clock to attract attention all round, and which I am some could be seen for ten miles.

Thursday, 28 November 1861.
At daylight I again started with the same party, and visited all the trees marked on this side of the river, also the one I put a flag on; but everything was found as I left it, so made another line of marks, leaving memoranda to direct any one to the dépôt, and got back to the camp by 9 a.m., all much distressed by the heat. At 2 p.m. started for the Albert arm of the river, and proceeded up it as far as the barge could get for snags (about four miles the fork). Sent a party on shore to examine the banks as we pulled up, who found some trees had been blazed with an axe and tomahawk only a few days old. Found the water in this river was very stagnant and bad, being covered with a putrid slime. Made a large bonfire, sent up a rocket, and burnt blue lights at 8 and 8.30 p.m. Had a very sultry night, which seemed to affect every one very much. Thermometer 98° to 110°.

Friday, 29 November 1861.
At daylight started Smith and Charlie to follow up the tracks of marked and blazed trees (as I am passing blood, which I believe is from drinking this putrid water). They returned at 8, without bringing any information, loosing the tracks and marks on the plains towards the Barkly. I believe that these marks have been made by two of the whaler's, crew (subsequently found to be done by them), one having an axe, the other a tomahawk. After marking trees on both sides of the river, and leaving a memorandum at each, pointing out the place of dépôt and my movements, we returned downwards, anchoring at the junction until 3 p.m., to rest the men from pulling in the heat of the day, when we again started, and pulling to within two miles of the Red Cliff, where we anchored at 10.30 p.m. for the night Thermometer 97° to 107°.

Saturdav, 30 November 1861.
At day dawn six of the boat's crew proceeded to Wood's Lake for the purpose of shooting some ducks; but they returned with only one amongst them, Clarke, one of the number lost himself, and gave all hands a five hours' search to find him. At 5 p.m. proceeded downwards against tide and no wind. Did not get to the dépôt until 11 p.m. Found all had gone on well. The natives had twice visited them during my absence, and had been friendly. Thermometer 92° to 100°.

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