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February 1861.

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2083/1a.
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, Journals and diaries of members of the VEE.
William John Wills, Transcription of Journey from Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria and return to Cooper's Creek. Transcribed by James Smith in November 1861.

The return from Carpentaria to Cooper's Creek

19 February to 28 February 1861

Tuesday, 19 February 1861 - Boocha's Camp.

Wednesday, 20 February 1861 - Pleasant Camp, 5 R.

Thursday, 21 February 1861 - Recovery Camp, 6 R.
Between four and five o'clock a heavy thunderstorm broke over us, having given very little warning of its approach. There had been lightning and thunder towards S.E. and S. ever since noon yesterday. The rain was incessant and very heavy for an hour and a half, which made the ground so boggy that the animals could scarcely walk over it; we nevertheless started at ten minutes to seven A.M., and after floundering along for half an hour halted for breakfast. We then moved on again, but soon found that the travelling was too heavy for the camels, so camped for the remainder of the day. In the afternoon the sky cleared a little, and the sun soon dried the ground, considering. Shot a pheasant, and much disappointed at finding him all feathers and claws. This bird nearly resembles a cock pheasant in plumage, but in other respects it bears more the character of the magpie or crow; the feathers are remarkably wiry and coarse.

Friday, 22 February 1861 - Camp 7 R.
A fearful thunderstorm in the evening, about eight P.M., from E.S.E., moving gradually round to south. The flashes of lightning were so vivid and incessant as to keep up a continual light for short intervals, overpowering the moonlight. Heavy rain and strong squalls continued for more than an hour, when the storm moved off W.N.W. The sky remained more or less overcast for the rest of the night, and the following morning was both sultry and oppressive, with the ground so boggy as to be almost impassable.

Saturday, 23 February 1861 - Camp 8 R.
In spite of the difficulties thrown in our way by last night's storm, we crossed the creek, but were shortly afterwards compelled to halt for the day on a small patch of comparatively dry ground, near the river. The day turned out very fine, so that the soil dried rapidly, and we started in the evening to try, a trip by moonlight. We were very fortunate in finding sound ground along a billibong, which permitted of our travelling for about five miles up the creek, when we camped for the night. The evening was most oppressively hot and sultry, so much so that the slightest exertion made one feel as if he were in a state of suffocation. The dampness of the atmosphere prevented any evaporation, and gave one a helpless feeling of lassitude that I have never before experienced to such an extent. All the party complained of the same symptoms, and the horses showed distinctly the effect of the evening trip, short as it was. We had scarcely turned in half an hour when it began to rain, some heavy clouds having come up from the eastward in place of the layer of small cirro-cumuli that before ornamented the greater portion of the sky. These clouds soon moved on, and we were relieved from the dread of additional mud. After the sky cleared, the atmosphere became rather cooler and less sultry, so that, with the assistance of a little smoke to keep the mosquitoes off, we managed to pass a tolerable night.

Sunday, 24 February 1861 - Camp 9 R.
Comparatively little rain has fallen above the branch creek with the running water. The vegetation, although tolerably fresh, is not so rank as that we have left; the water in the creek is muddy, but good, and has been derived merely from the surface drainage of the adjoining plains. The melaleneus continues on this branch creek, which creeps along at the foot of the ranges.

Monday, 25 February 1861 - Camp 10 R.
There has been very little rain on this portion of the creek since we passed down; there was, however, no water at all then at the pans. At the Tea-tree spring, a short distance up the creek, we found plenty of water in the sand, but it had a is agreeable taste, from the decomposition of leaves and the presence of mineral matter, probably iron. There seems to have been a fair share of rain along here, everything is so very fresh and green, and there is water in many of the channels we have crossed.

Tuesday, 26 February 1861 - Apple-tree Camp, 11 R.

Thursday, 28 February 1861 - Reedy Gully Camp, 12 R.
Came into the Reedy Gully Camp about midnight on Tuesday, the 26th; remained there throughout the day on Wednesday; starting at two A.M. on Thursday.

 
     

Provenance: A note from Burke & Wills Web.
Wills buried these notes in the wooden camel-box cache at the Dig Tree on 30 May 1861. They were dug up and recovered by Alfred Howitt of the Victorian Contingent Party on 28 September 1861 and returned to Melbourne on 3 November 1861 by William Brahe and Weston Phillips. A transcript was made by James Smith of the Royal Society of Victoria's Exploration Committee on the 5 November 1861.

The original notes were subsequently lost and their whereabouts are unknown. Part of the transcript was also lost and so the only remaining record is that which was published in the press, which is reproduced above. Smith failed to indicate the format Wills used to keep these notes, so it is not clear whether these notes were part of a field-book, which was Wills preferred method of recording his journey, or entered in a notebook or on the expedition's loose leaf blue writing paper. However, a closer examinataion of the records at the La Trobe collection at the State Library of Victoria indicates these notes may have been recorded in a surveor's field notebook which had been cut in half. The other half of this notebook still exists and is in the National Library of Australia.

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