by Edwin James Welch
Edwin James Welch, The Tragedy of Cooper's Creek
Attempts to reach Mount Hopeless
Leaving for the present, these three victims of adverse fortune at the deserted Depot, to derive such comfort as was possible from the temporary relief afforded by the contents of the plant made by Brahe, and to decide their future movements, we must now follow that gentleman on his way to effect a junction with Wright. This was successfully accomplished on the seventh day after leaving the Depot, when he found that Wright was also arranging to beat a retreat as soon as the health of his men would permit movement. Sickness had been very prevalent amongst them and two had died, one of these being Becker, the naturalist and in addition to these troubles they had on more than one occasion come into serious conflict with the blacks.
Brahe at once placed himself and his small party under the command of Wright, and the retreat commenced. But upon reaching their first camp it was decided, in the interests of the sick, to give them yet another spell of rest, and in the meantime that Wright should accompany Brahe back to the Depot in the hope that they might learn something about the missing men. On or about the 3rd May they started, and found everything, as Brahe declared, exactly as he had left it. No sign of any one having been near the place and the cache undisturbed.
At that precise moment, Burke, Wills, and King were enjoying the hospitality of a black's camp some miles down the creek, and the cache had been opened three times, on the first occasion to remove the much needed rations, and subsequently to receive books and papers planted there by Wills on the eve of their departure of the ill-conceived attempt to reach Mount Hopeless. But they had no tool of any description with which to mark the tree again, they had no reason to expect the return of anyone to look for them, and the precaution of hiding all traces of a plant at the spot from the keen eyes of roaming natives was thought wise and advisable. So, once more these doomed men were left to their own devices.
Wright and Brahe returned to their camp perfectly satisfied that there was nothing else to be done but to hurry their broken down party back to Menindie. This was accordingly put in practice, with the loss of two more lives of sick men on the way and on reaching the Darling, Brahe was sent on to Melbourne with despatches to the Committee containing full particulars of the position, showing all that had been done with a view of improving it, but avoiding all reference to the disobedience of instructions and negligence of duty which had contributed so largely to its creation.