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December 1861

Journal of Mr Walker from the day he left Macintosh's Station, on the Nogoa,
to that of his arrival at the Albert River, Gulf of Carpentaria.

London, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Volume 33, 1863.

Sunday, 1 December 1861. [Camp 55, Leichhardt River]
To-day has been an annoying day. I first went WbyN to some sandstone cliffs, descended from them WSW. to a saltwater creek, which we had to run up ESE for nearly 4 miles, and the last corner took us east to complete the 4 miles, so that we have come back parallel to our course. We now found some small holes of fresh water; having crossed this, we went WbyN and WNW, when we at last got to the Leichhardt River--the water as salt as brine. We ran it up SSE by compass for 8 miles, passed by a black fishing at what looked like a ford, just above the junction with a creek, which I take to be that of Gregory's camp, 3rd September. The black never saw us. There was now a good crossing place, but as Jingle signalized there was fresh water in a creek at the back of a plain close at hand, I went to it and camped. My men shot two ducks in the river, and a couple of blacks were watching them a little lower down the river. After dinner, or a make-shift for one, my men went over towards the river in hopes of getting some ducks; but as they were crossing the plain they saw two mobs of blacks approaching. As their appearance looked hostile, they returned to camp. Presently it was reported that they were stretching out in a half moon, in three parties. This move, which my men term "stockyarding," is peculiar to blacks throwing spears with a woomera, the object being to concentrate a shower of spears. It was one long familiar to me, and I charged their left wing. The result was that the circular line doubled up, the blacks turned and fled. Their right wing, which was the strongest, got over the river and were off; but the centre and left wing suffered a heavy loss. Distance uncertain.

Monday, 2 December 1861. [Camp 56, Millar Creek?]
Rodney found in a black's camp a sailor's jumper and an empty cognac bottle. The men (black) have all gone to the river to shoot ducks, for I cannot cross over until low water, which will be about 2 p.m. After crossing I made for Gregory's Creek, of 3rd September, and there camped, reaching it in four hours. Distance not given.

Tuesday, 3 December 1861 [Camp 57, Albert River]
Went WNW to the Albert River; found plenty of grass and the water fresh, but with a suspicion of salt; more decided when the tide rose. We had crossed an alternate succession of plains and flooded, box-flats with small watercourses. Gun heard down the river at 8.7 p.m. Distance 22 miles.

[It now appeared that Camp 57 was 8 miles only from Victoria Depot, but having started to reconnoitre with a single attendant, Mr Walker fell in with hostile natives, from whom he narrowly escaped, and had to camp out. The second in command had meanwhile been ordered to camp higher up, as it was not known the night before that the Depot was so near. Next morning, 5th December, they arrived safe at camp.--Ed.]

Thursday, 5 December 1861. [Camp 58, Albert River]
Mr Macalister had found Gregory's marked tree, and also a bottle under ground, near a tree, marked by Captain Norman, with directions to dig. The bottle contained a note, stating the Depot of the Victoria was about 12 miles lower down on the left bank. We now having saddled up, went up the creek until we could cross it, just above where I had slept last night. We then went NWbyW. to Beame's Brook. Some delay took place, owing to the creek being boggy, and I was glad to camp as soon as we had crossed, for I was unwell from yesterday's anxiety and fatigue; and as Captain Norman's note is dated 29th November, there is now good hope of our meeting to-morrow. [Distance uncertain.]

Friday, 6 December 1861. [Camp 59, Albert River]
Proceeded ENE, but had to camp, in order to make all safe for a storm. Night dismal, but the sound of a cannon within 2 or 3 miles was a comfort, and produced loud cheers. Distance, 16 miles.

Saturday, 7 December 1861. [Albert River Depot]
In 2 miles, through a pelting hurricane of rain, reached the Depot, and I had the pleasure of shaking hands with Captain Norman.

19 JUNE 1862: 2.

[Sunday 8 December 1861 - Friday 20 December 1861: Albert River depot.]

Sunday, December 1861.
The night after my arrival, it was blowing very hard from NE, and a great quantity of rain fell.

Monday, 9 December 1861.
The wind abated the next day, and the rain cleared off through the day. I now accompanied Captain Norman in his boat to the Victoria, and that vessel upon our arrival moved over to the anchorage at Sweer's Island. Here, as it was smooth water, I was enabled to make a tracing of my map, which Captain Norman takes charge of, together with my journal, which he had copied by his clerk, and both will be given to the Royal Society of Victoria. Having completed all the supplies that Captain Norman could muster, in order to fit me out for my search on the traces of Burke, we returned to the depot.

Monday, 16 December 1861.
On Monday, December 16, we crossed over the horses to the right bank of the river, having had the assistance of two of Captain Norman's boats. Several of his men now worked at making me some new saddle bags, my former ones being most of them useless.

Wednesday, 18 December 1861.
On Wednesday the 18th, Mr Houghton, with three men, succeeded in getting the horse abandoned by Jingle on the 4th, but the saddle they could not find. I marked one tree FW over 60 and on another limb RSV over 7 Dec. over 1861.



Friday, 20 December 1861.
On the 20th, everything being packed, the saddles, rations, tents, and all were moved to the other side of the river, and the tents being pitched, my party all camped there the night.

As Jack Horsfeldt has been compelled to return to Rockhampton by the Victoria, on the report from Dr. Campbell that he was quite unfit for a land expedition, I was much pleased when Captain Norman obtained for me the services of Mr Moore in his stead. Mr Moore's duties especially are to have the sole charge of all the stores. On this subject I may as well mention that Captain Norman was much pleased to find that my experience corroborated the opinion he had given Mr. Landsborough upon the necessity of a land party having one person answerable for the stores. It is impossible to avoid waste where every person is at liberty to help himself.

As we left the Albert River the next day, I may now mention how gratified my men were, especially the natives, at his approbation of their good conduct, and the zeal they expressed in their determination to follow Burke's tracks; and too much cannot be said by me to express my thanks for the kindness shown me by Captain Norman, and of his endeavours to fit me out as completely as possible. I now start with 130 days' rations of flour, tea, and sugar, and 50 lbs. rice, 50 lbs. peas, to assist. Unfortunately, we have but 30 days' meat. This would be of little consequence, as we have lots of powder and shot, but, unluckily, very few caps for the fowling-pieces, I trust, however, that when I meet Captain Norman upon the Flinders, he will be able to supply this awkward deficiency.

It has been a source of great satisfaction to me that Captain Norman has coincided in opinion with me as to my future movements.

I was also glad to find that, from his observations of the soundings in the gulf, he had come to the same conclusion as I had from what I obtained on land. Mr Gregory says that the plains which he makes to stretch across the whole width of the bottom of the gulf were formed by the retiring of the sea. Now, in the first place, the sandstone ridges which Mr Gregory crossed continue much further to the north, making the division of the different watersheds. These ridges in many places are very fine downs, and on the Flinders there are traces of basalt and trap. The country, therefore, is a succession of plains, hills, and downs; and as Captain Stokes places on his chart three hummocks on the very verge of the water of the Gulf of Carpentaria, I have no doubt these are the terminations of three of the low ranges crossed by me. The plains are formed by the crumbling down of these ranges, and this process is still going on. The land is gaining on the sea, not the sea retiring from it; and this, as I have stated above, was the opinion already arrived at by Captain Norman.

I have been led in my journal to fall into an error, through Mr Gregory having called the running rivulet of the Albert 'Beame's Brook.' Mr Woods, first lieutenant of the Victoria, showed me, by Leichhardt's map, that 'Beame's Brook' was not anywhere near it.

The Plains of Promise,' as marked by Mr Gregory on his map, I found to be a succession of small plains, intersected by flooded box; and Captain Norman showed me Captain Stoke's map. and his track up tho Salt-water Inlet, where he went on foot over the very ground crossed both by me and Mr Gregory. He there places no 'Plains of Promise,' but does mention the flooded box. The Plains of Promise were not seen by Mr Gregory at all, for he crossed to the north of them.


Saturday, 21 December 1861.
Started on the 21st December. Captain Norman came over the river to take leave of us. Just went 1 mile southeast to get off the bend, but a salt water creek made me turn east by south ½ a mile. I now recognised the ground Jingle and I had been over on the 4th December. Now turned south-½-west for 5 miles to clear the salt water arm. Crossed a salt water creek which I mistook for the arm and in 1½ miles southeast by east went to camp near a pool of water on some high land. The reason why I camped so early was that I was doubtful whether I had crossed the salt water arm or not. Mosquitoes terrible.

Sunday, 22 December 1861.
Jimmy Cargara having seen the arm this morning when collecting the horses. I started SW-byS and at the end of two miles over fine plains crossed the salt water arm. I now turned ESE as I wished by hitting the Leichhardt lower down to ascertain whether it was not the river Captain Norman had come up in his boat, supposing it to be a branch of the Albert and the same as Landborough's Creek, a salt water arm issuing from that river. In two miles over high plains, crossed one creek: another two miles was flooded box and another mile brought us to a salt water creek which I could not cross, but which I think from the high banks must be flowing into the Leichhardt. By turning south by west for ½ mile we cleared the salt water and crossing the creek went east south east three miles to another creek which at first I thought was our creek of December 2nd. Ran this creek up south by east for four miles and then crossed it on our old tracks. In four miles we pulled up the 2nd December creek, but Corem (loreni?) Jimmy who was leading, would persist in going east instead of east by south and this brought us nearly two miles below our old camp. Mosquitoes very troublesome.

Monday, 23 December 1861.
Men looking for horses all day. Found five out of the six, but the black horse could not be seen. The two saddles left at the camp were recovered all right. The blacks had walked round and round the tree upon which they ware left but had not molested them. probably taking them for some infernal machine.

Tuesday, 24 December 1861.
Again in vain searching for black horse.

Wednesday, 25 December 1861.
Went 30° north of east to Leichhardt. Crossed it in three miles, the ford seen by Jingle and Corem Jimmy yesterday was a little too deep. However all was got over without accident. We now went east by south in order to clear the head of the salt water inlet, but a sharp thunderstorm compelled us to camp in about 2½ miles. I had delayed already so much looking for the black horse that I would not stop to look for that which was left near here.

Thursday, 26 December 1861.
Went on a course parallel to our former one. Crossed one branch of salt water inlet, of course here fresh and ran up the other mistaking it for the creek we had camped on the night of 30th November for they are so exactly similar. We now crossed over the downs and sandstone ridges and descended to camp In the most westerly of the branches of the creek stated on 30th November to run in three channels. The country here is very good downs, the hills mostly ironstone, lightly timbered on summit. Some of the stones appeared like pure iron. The horses by going at night to the top of one of the high ridges got at last a night pretty clear of mosquitoes. As for us an atmosphere of smoke is our only chance.

Friday, 27 December 1861.
Still parallel to our old course. We went and camped at the creek two miles to the west of what I previously called the second branch of Morning Inlet. A fine permanent lagoon and many ducks was too tempting to pass. The reason I called this the second branch of Morning Inlet is that Mr Gregory supposed the two to join, but this I now doubt, for I observe that all these creeks have a tendency to keep an independent course, or as Jingle says, to go 'myself, myself,' and moreover I believe that the high sandstone ridge dividing these two has its terminus in one of the hummocks laid down by Stokes on the verge of the Gulf.

Saturday, 28 December 1861.
Still same parallel course. Crossed the creek of Camp 53 about ½ mile above that Camp. An annoying occurrence now destroyed our day's work, for after having passed through the sandstone and milalmen ground and come out on the first plain, Jingle who was leading the pack horses, instead of following my tracks unaccountably struck considerably to south of east. I waited under a tree for half an hour and then thinking they might have passed me I went on to the first creek flowing into that of Camp 52. Here I waited a considerable time. I then at first determined to north east to our Camp of 52, no great distance on our left, thinking they must have struck for it, but on consideration determined to follow my own tracks back. On the top of the ridge I set fire to the grass as a signal well known to my men. When I got back half way across the plain, I met Jimmy Cargara looking for my tracks and soon after saw Jingle. Having now after some delay found the main party, we went to camp at the creek where I had waited so long.

Sunday, 29 December 1861.
By leaving our Camp of Number 52 to our left, I had an opportunity of seeing how much the Downs extended In the direction I was now on. They are very fine and I observed some acacias. Captain Stokes says he saw some on the Albert. I had no doubt been too anxious to look after them but at all events I told Captain Norman I had none. On all these waters there to an abundance of small sized trees with small leaves out of which a milky fluid exudes when the wood is cut, which if not “gutta percha” is uncommonly like it. After having crossed over the high sandstone ridge, we descended on to a plain and I now turned more to the north to a clump of trees under which my horse had rested until the party came up on our outward route. Five miles across the plain on our old course brought us to the Camp of number 51, at which we had lost three saddles, one of which having tumbled off its branch had been torn to pieces by native dogs. In crossing this last plain may be seen to the north the hills rising again, although in the intervening space thay have crumbled away, leaving merely the plain.

Monday, 30 December 1861.
Started Cosem Jimmy, Patrick and Jimmy Cargara to look for the two horses left behind betwixt this and the Flinders. The main part of packs proceeded with me accompanied by Mr Macalister and Mr Moore. Mr Houghton, Rodney and Jingle had to stop behind on account of four horses not having been found. Upon approaching the Flinders I observed Mr Houghton's party to our left and both parties reached the river at the same time. In the afternoon the other three came in with one of the horses, but could see nothing of the tracks of the other since the rain. They had seen large mobs of blacks who had chased them. They could not get off to got a drink at the creek, so close were they pushed. Knowing how reluctant I was that unnecessary slaughter of these people should take place, they had refrained from firing although the blacks all had their spears. Had they liked they might with their Terry's rifles and fresh horses have played with the enemy on these large plains. It shows that a small party runs considerable risk as the blacks here, however civil they may be to a strong one, would destroy a small party had they a chance. That chance is at night or in wet weather when the horses on this heavy ground are rendered useless. Here at our old Camp [Camp 50 on the Flinders?] we had again the cool breeze which generally blows up the Flinders and as we were on high ground we were comparatively free from mosquitoes. I cannot conceive how Mr Gregory could come to the conclusion that a river like the Flinders with a bed 100 yards in width and with flood marks 80 feet above the present level when the river is upwards of 300 yards wide, could flow only 100 or at the utmost 150 miles. Double that distance is the real course of that river: why I followed its dry irregular channels upwards of 150 miles from the rise where I first struck it, on the river which I have now called the Norman after Captain Norman, it must have come some 60 or 70 miles more. Moreover there is a contradiction in Mr Gregory's statements, for in another place he correctly judges that the Flinders and Leichhardt come from the ranges either south east or south west. Now how they could do that in 150 miles is a mystery. I say correctly as regards the Flinders, as I am by no means satisfied that the Leichhardt takes its rise south west. South east I know it does not. Its course is from south-southeast and it must take a peculiar turn if its sources are to the southwest. The tableland which is the continuation of the great Cordillireo south of the Gulf of Carpentaria is, I believe, 1,600 feet high where I crossed it and my belief is that further to the west it rises to a much greater height and that there the Leichhardt takes its rise. The slope on the south side has in many places basalt rocks and the downs are formed of decomposed basalt. There is therefore every possibility that these basalt rocks in some places still exist at a great height. The great desert of the interior has been a great bugbear. If the discoveries made by Burke are preserved, it will be reduced to a small extent and my Barkly River I believe to flow through good country, at least on its north bank. Mr Gregory is quite correct in his observations about the small slip of available country in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I told Captain Norman that I did not think it was more than 45 miles in depth and that only on the Flinders and Leichhardt Rivers. As regards the latter I may be wrong as I only go from surmise, but on the Flinders I have seen with my glass the red sandstone spinifex country approaching the river to the south of the 50 tree. I regret I do not know something of geology, for it is evident that the soil forming the plains and downs is not sandstone, but some other stone which lay on the red sandstone and has crumbled away. Were it more black I would say basalt but it is a light brown, sometimes grey.

Tuesday, 31 December 1861. [Flinders River]
Corem Jimmy, Paddy, Jimmy Cargara and I proceeded down the river. When we came to where [blank] had seen the camel tracks going SSE. We searched about for some time before it was evident Burke's party had camped thereabouts [C118?] but we could see no sign of a camp. About seven miles further we came to where the sandstone range [Reaphook Range], here about 300 feet high, abuts on the river. So far the tracks of Burke's outward route were plainly visible, but beyond that range no further tracks were visible. We went and camped at a lagoon about 21 miles from our Camp number 50. A mob of blacks were discovered to be camped on the river just below us but just before sundown the disagreeable news was announced to me that another party were watching us from the creek we had lately crossed. With my glass I observed several up the trees, there was probably another party on the river abreast of us, but them we could not see.

Marginal note: 'What we took for the river abreast of us turned out to be a branch of fresh water. Tracks of many blacks were found there by Rodney and Jingle. It will be remembered that no rain fell here on 1st January.

Our position was critical and I caused four horses to be caught and we rode at the creek mob which broke up and fled across the plains. It was necessary they should know our strength and I allowed two long shots to be fired, both of which took effect. As my object was attained, I stopped further firing and we got back to camp at dusk. As I supposed I was about seven miles from the spot where I had agreed to meet Captain Norman I sent up a rocket at 8pm.

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