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Torowoto to Cooper, Field Notes No. 2, 3-9 November 1860.

State Library of Victoria, MS13071.
Subseries 8 : Botanical, Meteorological & Astronomical observations of the Victorian Exploration Expedition.
William John Wills Field Books
Torowoto to Cooper Creek, Field notes No. 2, 3-9 November 1860, ex2008-014, Box 2082/6f.

Torowoto to Cooper Creek
Field Notes No. 2
3rd to 9th November 1860


Saturday 3 November 1860.
We started from Tongowoko swamp at 7 minutes past 6 am and after travelling in a NW direction over monotonous salt bush plains for nearly twenty miles we at last reached what at first had a refreshingly bright green appearance but what when we came to it we found to be an extensive mud plain with patches of elevated sandy knolls covered with the [?] herbage. The salt bush plains we found to be very good grazing land; in some places well graßed as well as carrying abundance of salt bush. It was very heavy travelling over the mud plain and when we had gone about a mile it was so soft that the Camels did not like to face it, we got them through however to the other side after some difficulty all of which would I believe have been avoided had our guides only taken us straight through instead of bearing away so far to the westward. This mud flat is a portion of the bed of the Carryapundy Swamp an extensive tract of low swampy ground into which I have no doubt the Torrens Creek of Sturt empties itself. We camped close to the swamp on the SE side in Lat 29° 6’ 55” by observation having travelled about 24 miles making by account 11’ 20” of latitude and by observation 12’ 35”. The water in the swamp is very shallow and I should imagine is not permanent but might easily be made so it is very milky in colour and taste and not at all disagreeable but I doubt whether it is altogether harmleß to one unaccustomed to its use for it seems to have a very binding effect on the bowels and not to be very effective in quenching thirst. I believe the colouring matter to be gypsum but have no means of testing it. the feed in the neighbourhood of this swamp is unexceptionable there is every variety that a beast could desire from the driest salt bush to the richest and most luxuriant graßes. Snakes are numerous Dos [sic] Mahomet killed after we arrived one a yellowish snake about five feet long having its tail very distinct from it’s body was not bad eating the other was a large brown snake which the blacks indicate was very venomous, and very careful in handling although it had been killed some time when they saw it. it measured about seven feet and had tremendous fangs. The night turned out very fine and clear which was the more agreeable to us as we had expected again rain form the heavy clouds which were coming up from the NE. They however moved off towards SE and by midnight the sky was quite clear; this enabled one to take some good circummeridian altitudes as well as longde observations the former gave the Latitude 29º 6’ 55” S shewing an error in my dead reckoning for the day of 1’ 6” in Latde There are great numbers of water fowl about the swamp. Ducks, water hens, snipe and a small white long-legged bird of the crane tribe.

Sunday 4 November 1860.
We started from the Swamp at 6h 10m am Sunday November 4th and proceeded by a very zigzag course sometimes going NE and at others N + NNW and winding up with a course of ENE 7 miles. having travelled altogether a distance of 34 or 35 miles which placed us 19’ North and 11’ east of our last camp. Our guides appear to have taken this course for purpose of finding some other blacks to take us on towards Coopers Creek. for a distance of six miles from Carryapundy the country presented very peculiar features, one continuation of clay pans, varying in distance from a chain (20m DGP) to five or six chains (100-120m DGP) separated from one another by belts of sandy soil which latter were generally covered with the most rank and luxuriant vegetation, most of the clay pans were dry but some of the larger ones contained water of the same milky nature as that in the swamp. beyond this we paßed some very sandy ground about two miles and then came on the clay pans again in some places. I thought I could perceive the shallow irregular channel of a creek but not finding any traces of drift timber I could not be certain, At about 18 miles from Carryapundy we came to three fine claypans adjoining one another like water holes in a creek and looking as if they formed part of the bed of some water course but although I searched every where I could find nothing to guide me as to the way the water flowed if it flowed at all, except the form of the holes which seemed to indicate a transit from N to S but I have not sufficient evidence to warrant me in stating it as a fact. I was disappointed in finding the depth of the water to be only 1½ to 2 feet in the deepest places, and as the water is now within three feet of the level of the bank it cannot be permanent At 24 miles we paßed what I might almost call a lake nearly quadrangular about 10 chains (200m DGP) by 8 chains (60m DGP) but I fear not much deeper than the others. We found beyond this place that the rain which we had expected at Carryapundy had filled the small clay pans all of which seemed to retain water very efficiently On a plain about a mile from the lake I found small lumps of imperfectly formed crystals of selenite some of the lumps were as large as ones hand and split up with great difficulty We camped at some surface water at 7h pm having travelled about 34 miles since sunrise.

Monday 5 November 1860.
not having found the blacks they were looking for our guides started for a camp on the Bulloo or Wrights Cree. ten minutes walk in a SE direction took us to the south end of the creek on reaching which the theory of the formation of the water holes and clay pans became pretty evident. we have found a fine creek its banks lightly timbered with box and clothed with marsh mallows and wild spinach, ending in a series of little water courses which in turn were lost on a level plain the water here flows in a South & SWly direction and I have no doubt but what in the end it reaches Carryapundy. The blacks took us ENE for about five miles and then turned to NNE which brought us to the creek again in about two miles it had greatly altered its appearance at this point and after going another mile one could scarcely trace its course on the plain, but the drift timber indicated that large quantities of water sometimes inundate the plain moving in the direction of the creek. From this point we could see on the plain a head of us a small clump of timber and on arriving there we found a mob of blacks numbering about 60 in all, the number of men being very disproportionate to that of the women, the may have arisen from the majority of the natives being mainly on a hunting excursion and not having their gins with them but I do not know they were mostly fine well formed men, one was painted over with a light colored clay which gave him somewhat the appearance of an European at a distance others were partially colored on the body with red clay, some were circumcised and others had lost the two front teeth of the upper jaw and some had only some cuts on the breasts and shoulders. We camped here, although it was only a short stage as two of the natives agreed to go on with us the next day. We were much pleased and surprised to find two large waterholes here containing fish and on examining the land in the neighbourhood found that these waterholes are distinctly a portion of the same creek that we paßed in the morning. the blacks brought us about a dozen small fish and a crayfish the latter was very good it had [thin] shell without prickles and a larger proportion of good flesh than any kind I have before met with. the two waterholes are together more than half a mile long and the water is I believe permanent. the pasturage in the vicinity is generally good. the plains and sand hills are both well graßed the latter carrying ain addition a few shrubs, Mesambryanthmums and sometimes salt bushes and the plains salt bushes, Chrysanthemums and other herbs all of which the Camels seemed to relish. the creek is scrubby with Box timber and Acacias with an underwood of polygonum and small shrubs.

Tuesday 6 November 1860. Camp LI
We started from the portion of the Bulloo Creek at 20 minutes to 7 am having obtained two new guides and being accompanied by about a dozen other blacks who amused themselves as we went on by catching rats mice snakes & guanos and by digging for roots. Our course was NNE acroß country similar to that described above until we came within a mile and a half of a creek which we croßed at about 15 miles from our last camp at the point where we croßed the channel is very deep but narrow and the banks steep for a few hundred yards on either side the box timber is pretty thick and the vegetation rank. in the creek however I saw very little water and what there was appeared to have been derived from surface drainage there were no large holes for containing water but the channel is well adapted for the construction of dams as it is in some places 25 feet deep. The land to the north or rather to the West of the creek is not nearly as well graßed as what we paßed in the morning for about half a mile back there is a level flat subject to inundation the drift rubbish may be seen on the sides of the sandy rises for at least a foot above the level of the flat. All the herbage on the flat is last years growth and therefore very dry. I imagine that the floods come down in summer probably very late either from the overflow of the Warrygo or the Victoria, or else that they are the result of heavy thunderstorms. After the ground has been thoroughly saturated with moisture the vegetation probably becomes very luxuriant but such slight showers as fall here in winter seem to have no effect on the growth of plants in the clay whilst on the sand hills every thing is as lush as one could desire. We came on the creek again at five miles further and at another mile it was lost in a polygonum flat of very crab hole ground over which were strewn large numbers of [knives] and a shell resembling that of a common winkle and about the same size very much decayed like those found on the banks of the Darling by Mr Burke. from this point we could see on our right a line of box timber about a mile distant running about parallel with our course and to the left another line perhaps a mile distant. after proceeding about a mile we came to the former line of timber where it took a bend to the westward and found a splendid waterhole about 150 links broad (30m DGP) and at least 4000 links long (800m DGP). Just above this hole the creek is almost lost for a short distance then there is another waterhole more than a mile long but only about 50 links (10m DGP) wide the depth in the shallowest place being three feet. We have met a lot of blacks about 50 and at their earnest request camped for the night.

Wednesday 7 November 1860. Camp LII.
Started at a quarter past six am and continuing in a NNE direction soon lost the creek on the plains a branch of it was however visible by the line of timber on its banks about 2 miles to the Eastward. For a distance of nearly seven miles we found no trace of the main creek except where here and there the action of the water had furrowed long narrow lines in the softer portions of the soil and washed small heaps of rubbish against the banks + tufts of long coarse graß. We then croßed some small water courses, along which the water had paßed from the main creek, before spreading out on the plains and then turning to ENE we came to such a sheet of water ! 300 links broad (60m DGP) and between four + five miles long, with nice clean shelving banks ornamented with large gums, box Acacias polygonum and Marsh mallows ten + twelve feet high the wild fowl were in thousands both on the creek and on the plain all the way we came. At a distance of 15 miles from our last Camp this large waterhole terminated but the creek was not lost this time in open plains but assumed the form of a series of deep cut channels with considerable breadth of [?] land covered with coarse [?] graß + box timber. at the head of the water hole the creek runs close to a bed of sandstone rock out of which I am inclined to think the decayed shells above mentioned have been washed. just opposite Camp LII a low [spur] of the Balloo ranges ends, In Balloo the most prominent peak in the range a reddish topped conical hill bears NbyW the centre of a range further on bearing N½W. We traced the creek up about four miles above the large hole and finding no signs of improvement and that it was trending too much to the Eastward for us we camped. for about two miles above the Camp it continues a NE course and then it turns still more towards the East. the are lines low ranges extending all along towards the N + NNE so that it is not very probable that Wrights Creek is connected with the Victoria but everything seems to warrant the the [sic] supposition that it is a continuation of the Warrygo R.

Thursday 8 November 1860.
Started at a quarter past 6 am with the intention of croßing the ranges towards Cooper’s Creek under the guidance of a black with whom we had some trouble as he did not exactly understand to what place we wanted to go. he however took us to some water in the ranges on a creek named by Mr Burke McDonagh’s Creek. We found the land here well graßed and in some places another densely timbered with Box Gums + Acacias the country intersected by numerous creeks so much so that I found it of no use to keep account if them there are evidences of severe floods everywhere, even on d high land not below the general level of this I [?] saw sticks and mud between [?] and four feet from the ground. We met with very little water and I am inclined to think that from the character of the rocks and from the fall NW the creeks that very little water will be found except immediately after rain and form the inconsiderable altitude of the hills that springs are neither numerous besides which the blacks object to going into them, a pretty sure sign that there is not much water.

Friday 9 November 1860.
Left McDonaghs Creek at a quarter past seven am the black after trying to humbug us and bring us back to Bulloo departed leaving us to our own fate. After some difficulty on account of the rugged stony nature of the ranges we succeeded in getting through in a NW direction by about half past twelve, two or three lines of Box Gum timber indicated the presence of creeks on the plains, but they were quite dry. the ranges extended on the one side to the NNE and on the other to W at 1 pm we changed our course to WNW but had to shift back to NW for the purpose of avoiding a spur of high ranges on our left. nearly all the ground was undulating…

 
     

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