The return from Carpentaria to Cooper's Creek
1 March to 31 March 1861
Friday, 1 March 1861 - Camp of the Three Crows, 13R.
Saturday, 2 March 1861 - Salt-bush Camp, 14 R.
Found Golah. He looks thin and miserable; seems to have
fretted a great deal, probably at finding himself left behind,
and he has been walking up and down our tracks till he has made a
regular pathway; could find no sign of his having been far off,
although there is a splendid feed to which he could have gone. He
began to eat as soon as he saw the other camels.
Sunday, 3 March 1861 - Eureka Camp, 15 R.
crossing a creek by moonlight, Charley rode over a large snake;
he did not touch him, and we thought that it was a log until he
struck it with the stirrup iron; we then saw that it was an
immense snake, larger than any I have ever before seen in a wild
state. It measured eight feet four inches in length and seven
inches in girth round the belly; it was nearly the same thickness
from the head to within twenty inches of the tail; it then
tapered rapidly. The weight was 11 [and a half] lbs. From the tip
of the nose to five inches back, the neck was black, both above
and below; throughout the rest of the body, the under part was
yellow, and the sides and back had irregular brown transverse
bars on a yellowish brown ground. I could detect no poisonous
fangs, but there were two distinct rows of teeth in each jaw, and
two small claws of nails, about three-eighths of an inch long,
one on each side of the vent.
Monday, 4 March 1861 - Feasting Camp, 16
Shortly after arriving at Camp 16 we could
frequently hear distant thunder towards the east, from which
quarter the wind was blowing. During the afternoon there were
frequent heavy showers, and towards evening it set in to rain
steadily but lightly; this lasted till about eight P.M., when the
rain ceased and the wind got round to west; the sky, however,
remained overcast until late in the night, and then cleared for a
short time; the clouds were soon succeeded by a dense fog or
mist, which continued until morning. The vapour having then
risen, occupied the upper air in the form of light cir.-stratus
and cumuli clouds.
Tuesday, 5 March 1861 - Camp 17 R.
two A.M. on a S.S.W. course, but had soon to turn in on the
creek, as Mr Burke felt very unwell, having been attacked by
dysentery since eating the snake; he now felt giddy and unable to
keep his seat. At six A.M., Mr Burke feeling better, we started
again, following along the creek, in which there was considerably
more water than when we passed down. We camped, at 2.15 P.M., at
a part of the creek where the date trees were very numerous, and
found the fruit nearly ripe and very much improved on what it was
when we were here before.
Wednesday, 6 March 1861 - Camp 18 R.
our former camp, and found the feed richer than ever, and the
ants just as troublesome. Mr Burke is a little better, and
Charley looks comparatively well. The dryness of the atmosphere
seems to have a beneficial effect on all. We found yesterday,
that it was a hopeless matter about Golah, and we were obliged to
leave him behind, as he seemed to be completely done up and could
not come on, even when the pack and saddle were taken off.
Thursday, 7 March 1861 - Fig-tree Camp, 19
Palm-tree Camp, No. 104 Latitude, by observation,
coming down, 20° 21' 40".
There is less water here than there was when we passed down,
although there is evidence of the creek having been visited by
considerable floods during the interval. Feed is abundant, and
the vegetation more fresh than before. Mr Burke almost
recovered, but Charley is again very unwell and unfit to do
anything; he caught cold last night through carelessness in
Friday, 8 March 1861 - Camp 20 R.
creek more closely coming up than going down. Found more water in
Saturday, 9 March 1861 - Camp 21 R.
former camp at 1.30 P.M. Found the herbage much dried up, but
still plenty of feed for the camels.
Sunday, 10 March 1861 - Camp 22 R.
the junction of a small creek from the westward, a short distance
below our former camp, there being plenty of good water here,
whereas the supply at Specimen Camp is very doubtful.
Monday, 11 March 1861 - Camp 23 R.
Halted for breakfast at the Specimen Camp at 7.15 A.M., found
more water and feed there than before; then proceeded up the
creek and got safely over the most dangerous part of our journey.
Camped near the head of the Gap in a flat, about two miles below
our former camp at the Gap.
Tuesday, 12 March 1861 - Camp 24 R.
Wednesday, 13 March 1861 - Camp 25 R.
day, so heavily that I was obliged to put my watch and field book
in the pack to keep them dry. In the afternoon the rain
increased, and all the creeks became flooded. We took shelter
under some fallen rocks, near which was some feed for the camels;
but the latter was of no value, for we had soon to remove them up
amongst the rocks, out of the way of the flood, which fortunately
did not rise high enough to drive us out of the cave; but we were
obliged to shift our packs to the upper part. In the evening the
water fell as rapidly as it had risen, leaving everything in a
very boggy state. There were frequent light showers during the
Thursday, 14 March 1861 - Camp 26 R, Sandstone cave.
The water in the creek having fallen sufficiently low,
we crossed over from the cave and proceeded down the creek. Our
progress was slow, as it was necessary to keep on the stony ridge
instead of following the flats, the latter being very boggy after
the rain. Thinking that this creek must join Scratchley's, near
our old camp, we followed it a long way, until finding it trend
altogether too much eastward, we tried to shape across for the
other creek, but were unable to do so, from the boggy nature of
the intervening plain.
Friday, 15 March 1861 - Camp 27 R.
Saturday, 16 March 1861 - Camp 28 R, Scratchley's Creek.
Sunday, 17 March 1861 - Camp 29 R.
Monday, 18 March 1861 - Camp 30 R.
Tuesday, 19 March 1861 - Camp 31 R.
Wednesday, 20 March 1861 - Camp 32 R, Feasting
Last evening the sky was clouded about nine
P.M., and a shower came down from the north. At ten o'clock it
became so dark that we camped on the bank of the creek, in which
was a nice current of clear water. Today we halted, intending to
try a night journey. The packs we overhauled and left nearly 60
lb. weight of things behind. They were all suspended in a pack
from the branches of a shrub close to the creek. We started at a
quarter to six, but were continually pulled up by billibongs and
branch creeks, and soon had to camp for the night. At the
junction of the two creeks just above are the three cones, which
are three remarkably small hills to the eastward.
Thursday, 21 March 1861 - Humid Camp, 33 R.
Unable to proceed on account of the slippery and boggy
state of the ground. The rain has fallen very heavily here
to-day, and every little depression in the ground is either full
of water or covered with slimy mud. Another heavy storm passed
over during the night, almost extinguishing the miserable fire we
were able to get up with our very limited quantity of waterlogged
and green wood. Having been so unfortunate last night, we took an
early breakfast this morning at Camp 33, which I had named the
Humid Camp, from the state of dampness in which we found
everything there; and crossing to the east bank of the main
creek, proceeded in a southerly direction nearly parallel with
the creek. Some of the flats near the creek contain the richest
alluvial soil, and are clothed with luxuriant vegetation. There
is an immense extent of plain, back, of the finest character for
pastoral purposes, and the country bears every appearance of
being permanently well watered. We halted on a large billibong at
noon, and were favoured during dinner by a thunderstorm, the
heavier portion of which missed us, some passing north and some
south, which was fortunate, as it would otherwise have spoiled
our baking process, a matter of some importance just now. We
started again at seven o'clock, but the effects of the heavy rain
prevented our making a good journey.
Friday, 22 March 1861 - Muddy Camp, 34 R.
early breakfast this morning, and started before sunrise. Found
that the wet swampy ground that checked our progress last night
was only a narrow strip, and that had we gone a little further we
might have made a fine journey. The country consisted of open,
well-grassed, pebbly plains, intersected by numerous small
channels, all containing water. Abundance of fine rich portulac
was just bursting into flower along all these channels, as well
as on the greater portion of the plain. The creek that we camped
on last night ran nearly parallel with us throughout this stage.
We should have crossed it, to avoid the stony plains, but were
prevented by the flood from so doing.
Saturday, 23 March 1861 - Mosquito Camp, 35 R.
Started at a
quarter to six and followed down the creek, which has much of the
characteristic appearance of the River Burke, where we crossed it
on our up journey. The land in the vicinity greatly improves as
one goes down, becoming less stony and better grassed. At eleven
o'clock we crossed a small tributary from the eastward, and there
was a distant range of considerable extent visible in that
direction. Halted for the afternoon in a bend where there was
tolerable feed, but the banks are everywhere more or less
Sunday, 24 March 1861 - Three-hour
Monday, 25 March 1861 - Native-Dog Camp, 37
Started at half-past five, looking for a good
place to halt for the day. This we found at a short distance down
the creek, and immediately discovered that it was close to Camp
89 of our up journey. Had not expected that we were so much to
the westward. After breakfast, took some time altitudes, and was
about to go back to last camp for some things that had been left,
when I found Gray behind a tree eating skilligolee. He explained
that he was suffering from dysentery, and had taken the flour
without leave. Sent him to report himself to Mr Burke, and went
on. He, having got King to tell Mr Burke for him, was called up,
and received a good thrashing. There is no knowing to what extent
he has been robbing us. Many things have been found to run
unaccountably short. (Smith's transcription ends here: the rest
of this text is derived from the published versions of the
journal) Started at seven o'clock, the camels in first-rate
spirits. We followed our old course back (S.). The first portion
of the plains had much the same appearance as when we came up,
but that near Camp 88, which then looked so fresh and green, is
now very much dried up; and we saw no signs of water anywhere. In
fact, there seems to have been little or no rain about here since
we passed. Soon after three o'clock we struck the first of
several small creeks or billibongs, which must be portions of the
creek with the deep channel that we crossed on going up, we being
now rather to the westward of our former course. From here, after
traversing about two miles of the barest clay plain, devoid of
all vegetation, we reached a small watercourse, most of the holes
in which contained some water of a milky or creamy description.
Fine salt bush and portulac being abundant in the vicinity, we
camped here at 4.30 A.M. When we started in the evening, a strong
breeze had already sprung up in the south, which conveyed much of
the characteristic feeling of a hot wind. It increased gradually
to a force of five and six, but by eleven o'clock had become
decidedly cool, and was so chilly towards morning that we found
it necessary to throw on our ponchos. A few cir. cum. clouds were
coming up from the east when we started, but we left them behind,
and nothing was visible during the night but a thin hazy veil.
The gale continued throughout the 26th, becoming warmer as the
day advanced. In the afternoon it blew furiously, raising a good
deal of dust. The temperature of air at four P.M. was 84° in
the shade. Wind trees (?) all day.
Friday, March 29 1861.
Camels' last feast; fine green
feed at this camp: plenty of vines and young polygonums on the
Saturday, March 30 1861 - Boocha's
Poor Boocha was killed; employed all day in
cutting up and jerking him: the day turned out as favourable for
us as we could have wished, and a considerable portion of the
meat was completely jerked before sunset.
Sunday, March 31 1861 - Mia Mia Camp.
Plenty of good dry
feed; various shrubs; salt bushes, including cotton bush and some
coarse kangaroo grass; water in the hollows on the stony
pavement. The neighbouring country chiefly composed of stony
rises and sand ridges.