Surveyor's Field Notes
|Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2082/6a and 2082/6b, Item 1.
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, Botanical, meteorological and astronomical observations of the VEE. |
William Wills surveyor's field notes, 17 to 23 September 1860 and 23 to 27 September 1860.
Field notes from Balranald to Bilbarka
The Secretary of the
17th September 1860, Monday.
Started again at 3h 25m pm passed through a narrow strip of casuarina forest and at 3h 40m came on an extensive plain covered with stunted salt bush and having the soil incrusted with salts (in) which had the taste of common salt greatly preponderated. in the midst of the plain, near the road, is a bank of soft, spongy, white substance, apparently an infusiorial calcareous deposit; in this substance not the slightest trace of a saline flavour could be detected; nor did the particles feel gritty in the mouth, Specimen No 1 on Dr Beckler's collection was obtained from near the top of the rise.
We camped at 4h 20m pm on a flat about one mile from Lake Paika. There was rainwater in a crabhole, plenty of feed for the horses and camels. the night was rather cold and windy with a few showers of rain.
18th September 1860, Tuesday.
We rested from 11h 14m am to 2h 3m pm to allow the camels to feed and the waggons to up to us. I then took the opportunity of making some circum-meridian altitudes of 34º 26' S, this spot being about 4½ miles NWbyW (303.75º -DGP) from the Lake. At 3h 15m being about 8 miles NW of Paika, we came to a belt of dense Box Forest with an underwood op Salsolaceous plants, the soil was here very sandy and of a grey appearance looking very much like the detritus of Granite rocks that I looked about for some further indication of their proximity, but without success. I must say that form the general appearance of the country, the presence would have much surprised me in spite of the look of the sand above mentioned. This belt of timber was five or six chains wide (100-120m –DGP), and there was a slight inclination in the sandy ground from the plain we had been traversing towards that one to which we were approaching.
After passing through the above mentioned belt we came to a vary large plain, which appeared to be 6 or 10 feet below the one we had just crossed, this plain contrasted remarkably with the features of the surrounding country. The soil is rather hard and white with a great many holes ands crevices through which the water apparently drained away, it would seem to be a perfect quick sand in wet weather, in some places, judging from the marks of cattle hoofs visible here and there. It probably contained a large per centage of Gypsum and I noticed several places where the “Blacks” appear to have been digging for crystals of selenite which they use for making their white paint. On the NW side of the Plain we found the ground to rise again about 8 feet the whole plain had much the appearance of a large dry lake. The vegetation on this plain was not leß remarkable than its other characteristics, of Salsolaceous plants there were very few but Marsh Mallows were plentiful, also wild Geraniums mixed with a few heaths and grasses. Scarcely a tree could be seen on the plain, but there were few dead sticks standing here and there. Beyond this we found fine plains of Salt-Bush lightly timbered with Box. At 4h 54m we camped near somne water holes called by the “Blacks – Tinn” – where there is an out station of Mr Ross'.
Wednesday, 19th September 1860.
Left Tinn with the Camels at 9h40m AM the waggons having been sent on ahead shortly after 8h00m AM as we find they cannot keep up with the camels.
The water holes at Tinn appear to be supplied by the drainage from some slight rises, which are scarcely [?] to the appellation of sand hills, as there appears to be such an admixture of clay in them to allow them being almost impervious to the rain water and at the same time not enough to make them crack under the influence of the sun. Our [?] course from Tinn was NNW towards a sand hill distant about 6 miles, having passed on the right hand side of which, we continued in nearly the same direction towards the east end of a belt of timber which we found to be about 5½ miles further.
Before reaching the timber we overtook the waggons and at some crab holes filled with water, where we rested for 1½ hours to let the Camels feed. We started again at 2h 51m and found the timber to which we had been steering to be composed chiefly of Pines and scrubby shrubs growing on low sandy rises, on the tops and sides of which could frequently be seen small pieces of Limestone cropping out. there would appear to be a considerable extent of this undulating country. the tops of the rises are mostly covered with Pines, Acacias, small Eucalypt and and [sic] sometimes with Melaleucas + Casuarina
the intermediate spaces are lightly timbered and clothed with abundance of Salsolaceous plants. The soil on the plains is a light grey grain, containing as may be imagined very little vegetable matter; that about the rises is reddish and sandy and contains a large quantity of lime.
We arrived at another out station of Mr Ross' at 4h21m and camped at 4h32m on a water course which drains into a dry Lake to the westward. The name of this place is “Tcherickinghom”; there is permanent water either here or at “Tinn” and the stations can seldom be occupied for more than three months in each year.
A dam is however being now built of brick which it is anticipated will retain sufficient when once filled, for the greater portion of the year, but when it will be filled is a matter of considerable uncertainty. All settlers that we have seen say that they have not seen such heavy rains in several years and judging from the small quantity of water now to be seen around here, I should think it will very likely be two or three years before the dam will be filled. The Blacks that are found here belong to the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan, to which Rivers they retire as soon as the water dries up in the on the Plains.
September 20th, Thursday.
At first we had to go almost SSW for some distance in order to avoid a dense pine scrub; we then changed our course to WSW and at a distance of three miles crossed the bottom end of a dry lake, into which the creek on which we camped last night drains. The depression of the bed of the lake, below the level of the surrounding land, is very considerable for this part of the country, being about 30 feet. Beyond the Lake the sand rises, I cannot call them hills, shewed pieces of Limestone of a more compact nature. The soil was of a light dusty nature – brick coloured and in some places crab holy. The vegetation is chiefly scrubby, Mallee, Quandong, Acacias and Salsolaceous plants. We camped at half-past 6 at a place called by the natives Bookoo, where sufficient water was obtained for supper, but none for breakfast next morning.
September 21st, Friday.
The first portion of the rad was similar to that which we passed yesterday, viz; brick coloured dusty soil mixed with a considerable quantity of limestone. At about 7 miles from Bookoo we came to a low range of Sandstone Hills devoid of timber and scrub excepting a few small trees on one of the peaks. These hills had a remarkable appearance from their baldness and from their running on the narrow line nearly N-S. Below the hills the ground is low and flat, having the appearance of the bed of a dry lake, on the western side of this flat is a water hole called by the natives “Eungin”. I believe it contains a spring but I could not certainly ascertain further as to that point or as to its permanence, for there seems to be great difference of opinion on these points.
We arrived with the Camels at “Eungin” at quarter to 10 AM, but six of the waggons did not come up to us until near 5 o'clock in the evening.
Owing to difficulties experienced in bringing the waggons through the sandy ground, Mr Burke has determined proceeding with the Camels & Horses and a few weeks rations leaving the waggons to follow at their own rate.
Saturday, September 22nd 1860.
We continued on our journey in the same direction at 7h 49m on Sunday morning. We had as a guide form Eungin “Simon” a blackfellow who took us along an out station track till about 11 miles from Goowall, when we left it on our left. The country from Eungin to about 9 miles beyond Goowall is much the same as that between Eungin and Tcherickinghom, the only difference being that in the former the undulations are greater – varying between 20 and 40 feet in altitude.
at 9 miles from Goowall the features of the country undergo a considerable changes for the better. Coarse grasses take the place of numberless horse daisies and everlastings, the salt bushes look fresher and more substantial and the country looks altogether more open and fertile.
At a quarter past 3 we reached a water hole containing a small quantity of green putrid liquid [Pintsch Waterhole –DGP] of which the horses drank. As there was plenty of feed for the cattle we rested a short time for refreshment and then proceeded in a N direction for Scotts Plains Station.
At a quarter past 5 we arrived at a water hole called Linklinkwho, where we camped. Professor Neumayer did not come up to us last night and as he had my sextant with him, I was unable to observe the position of the camp; but from the dead reckoning it must be about 21 miles NNW from Goowall.
Linklinkwho is situated in an extensive plain on the south side of a sand rise, 6000 links [1.2km-DGP] to the west of a point of timber and two miles and a half south of Meramboo (Scott's Plains Station) it is supplied with water only from surface drainage and is not permanent.
The country in the neighbourhood is well grassed and carries plenty of fine salt bush.
September 24th 1860, Monday.
At about 2½ miles from Linklinkwho in a northerly direction we passed “Murrambo” a Plains Station of Scott's, near which there is a permanent spring.
For about six miles from Murrumbo in nearly the same direction there is fine open salt bush country with a little scattered timber, then there is sixty or seventy chains [1200-1400m–DGP] of sandy ground covered with Mallee and Porcupine grass. Next to this come some fine sand hills covered with picturesque clumps of Pines, [word crossed out] the appearance of which is very interesting and enlivening to one who may be riding a spongy footed Camel; but by no means agreeable to the driver of an American Waggon. At rather more than a mile from the first of these sand rises we came to a gully in which was a muddy water hole called by the blacks Kornpang and as there is no more water on the road for eighteen miles, Mr Burke decided on camping here and going to the Darling tomorrow, said to be distant 30 miles. There is very good feed here for the Cattle but the water is not at all good, it both looks and tastes very like what one would suppose would be the taste of chalk and water with a little ink in it.
September 25th 1860.
The sand rises vary in altitude from 15 to 40 feet and run in direction mainly east and west. They seem to be large ripples formed by prevailing northerly winds. Two or three years meteorological observations made in the vicinity would I think prove very interesting, especially with regard to the hot winds which are probably very strong here. for five hours we had nothing but these sand hills when we again came on the salt bush plains.
About 3 o'clock a thunderstorm passed over, the heavy rain and the noise of the thunder frightened the Camels very much, they seem greatly to dislike the wert but have no sense in getting out of it by sheltering themselves behind a bush or tree, but get first in a fright and then resign themselves patiently to their fate.
The country we paßed through was principally salt bush plains until within a few miles of McPherson's Homestead, we then came to some Box Forest and Polygonum ground which was exceedingly heavy to walk on after the rain. Mr Landells remained behind looking for one of the Camels that was bought from Coppin. It had succeeded in doing what it had several times previously attempted, namely to get away and hide in the scrub. We camped in a bend of the River near McPhersons. Mr Landells came without having found the stray Camel. It was squally and rained steadily all the night and it was with some difficulty that the tents were kept up, the ground being so soft as scarcely to hold the pegs.
September 26th 1860.
Have to stay here a few days to see about bringing on the wagons they cannot possibly come the way we came but will have to go by Scotts Homestation and come in on the river twenty miles lower down.
Mr Landells succeeded in [locating?] Mister Coppin he was found three or four miles to the west of where he was lost.
There is news from Menindee that the river is rising.
Provenance: A note from Burke & Wills Web.
Wills' first field survey has never been published. It contains meteorological, botanical and astronomical observations and was written when he was third-in-command under Burke and Landells. It covers the period of 16 September 1860 to 27 September 1860 while the lead party of the Victorian Exploring Expedition was traversing the country from Camp XX on the Murrumbidgee at Balranald to Camp XXX on the Darling River at Bilbarka (Pooncarie). The report was taken to Melbourne from the Darling by Professor Neumeyer and the astronomical observations were sent on later by mail.
Edwin Welch, an employee of Georg Neumayer at the Flagstaff Observatory in Melbourne, transcribed the two field-books and reduced the astronomical observations.
This transcription is at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2084/6g.
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, William Wills meteorological observations.
Transcription of Wills' Field book of Exploring Expedition, 16 September-27 September 1860.
Transcribed by Edwin Welch at the Flagstaff Observatory, Melbourne, 38p. Box 2082/6a Wills' surveyor's field notes, 17 to 23 September 1860.