The return from Carpentaria to Cooper's Creek
5 April to 21 April 1861
Friday, 5 April 5 1861 - Oil Camp.
and clayey plains, generally sound and tolerably grassed, but in
other places bare salt bush, and withered.
Saturday 7 & Sunday 8 April 1861.
Earthy flats, cut into
innumerable water courses, succeeded by fine open plains,
generally very bare, but having in some places patches of fine
salt bush. The dead stalks of portulac and mallows show that
those plants are very plentiful in some seasons. Towards noon
came upon earthy plains and numerous billibongs. The next day the
water and feed much dried up, and nearly all the water has a
slightly brackish taste of a peculiar kind, somewhat resembling
in flavour potassio-tartrate of soda (cream of tartar).
Monday, 8 April 1861 - Camp 50
Camped a short distance above Camp 75. The creek
here contains more water, and there is a considerable quantity of
green grass in its bed, but it is much dried up since we passed
before. Halted fifteen minutes to send back for Gray, who
pretended that he could not walk. Some good showers must have
fallen lately, as we have passed surface water on the plains
every day. In the latter portion of to-day's journey, the young
grass and portulac are springing freshly in the flats, and on the
sides of the sand ridges.
Tuesday, 9 April 1861 - Camp 51 R.
Camped on the bank of the creek,
where there is a regular field of salt bush, as well as some
grass in its bed, very acceptable to the horse, who has not had a
proper feed for the last week until last night, and is,
consequently, nearly knocked up.
Wednesday, 10 April 1861 - Camp 52
Remained at Camp 52 R all day, to cut up and jerk
the meat of the horse Billy, who was so reduced and knocked up
for want of food that there appeared little chance of his
reaching the other side of the desert; and as we were running
short of food of every description ourselves; we thought it best
to secure his flesh at once. We found it healthy and tender, but
without the slightest trace of fat in any portion of the body.
Thursday, 11 April 1861.
Plenty of water in
creek down to this point.
Friday, 12 April 1861.
Extensive earthy plains,
intersected by numerous watercourses.
Saturday, 13 April 1861.
lined with lakes. Plenty of saltbush and chrysanthemums on either
side. Camped on Stony Desert.
Sunday, 14 April 1861.
Monday, 15 April 1861.
It commenced to rain
lightly at five a.m. this morning, and continued raining pretty
steadily throughout the day. Owing to the wet and the exertion of
crossing the numerous sand ridges, Linda became knocked up about
four o'clock, and we had to halt at a claypan amongst the sand
Tuesday, 16 April 1861.
Wednesday, 17 April 1861.
This morning, about
sunrise, Gray died. He had not spoken a word distinctly since his
first attack, which was just as we were about to start.
Thursday, 18 April 1861.
Another creek and
native camp were passed.
Friday. 19 April 1861.
Camped again without
water, on the sandy bed of the creek, having been followed by a
lot of natives who were desirous of our company, but as we
preferred camping alone, we were compelled to move on until
rather late, in order to get away from them. The night was very
cold. A strong breeze was blowing from the S., which made the
fire so irregular that, as on the two previous nights, it was
impossible to keep up a fair temperature. Our general course
throughout the day had been SSE.
Saturday, 20 April 1861.
Sunday, 21 April 1861.
Arrived at the depot
this evening, just in time to find it deserted. A note left in
the plant by Brahe communicates the pleasing information that
they have started today for the Darling; their camels and horses
all well and in good condition. We and our camels being just done
up, and scarcely able to reach the depot, have very little
chance of overtaking them. Brahe has fortunately left us ample
provisions to take us to the bounds of civilization, namely:
Flour, 50 lb.; rice, 20 lb.; oatmeal, 60 lb.; sugar, 60 lb.; and
dried meat, 15 lb. These provisions, together with a few
horse-shoes and nails and some odds and ends, constitute all the
articles left, and place us in a very awkward position in respect
to clothing. Our disappointment at finding the depot
deserted may easily be imagined; returning in an exhausted state,
after four months of the severest travelling and privation, our
legs almost paralyzed, so that each of us found it a most trying
task only to walk a few yards. Such a leg-bound feeling I never
before experienced, and hope I never shall again. The exertion
required to get up a slight piece of rising ground, even without
any load, induces an indescribable sensation of pain and
helplessness and the general lassitude makes one unfit for
anything. Poor Gray must have suffered very much many times when
we thought him shamming. It is most fortunate for us that these
symptoms, which so early affected him, did not come on us until
we were reduced to an exclusively animal diet of such an inferior
description as that offered by the flesh of a worn out and
exhausted horse. We were not long in getting out the grub that
Brahe had left, and we made a good supper off some oatmeal
porridge and sugar. This, together with the excitement of finding
ourselves in such a peculiar and almost unexpected position, had
a wonderful effect in removing the stiffness from our legs.
Whether it is possible that the vegetables can have so affected
us, I know not: but both Mr Burke and I remarked a most decided
relief and a strength in the legs greater than we had had for
several days. I am inclined to think that but for the abundance
of portulac that we obtained on the journey, we should scarcely
have returned to Cooper's Creek at all.