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January 1861

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2083/3b .
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, Part IX: Journals and diaries of members of the VEE.
William Wright's diary of the Depot Camp, Darling River. 26 January-21 June 1861.
Manuscript, 92 pages, numbered 1-90 with final page unnumbered.

 

Saturday, 26th January. Pamamoroo, Darling River, New South Wales
Packing stores until 11 am., when the camels were sent on under charge of Dr Beckler, with instructions to camp on the west side of Pamamoroo Lake. Owing to the unruly dispositions of the horses recently purchased, it was one o'clock before Smith accompanied by the native boy Dick (who had been persuaded to venture again in the interior), started with four of the horses, followed at 2 p.m., by Mr Hodgkinson and Stone with five, and 3 p.m., by Mr Becker and myself with the remaining four horses. The afternoon was occupied in packing and unpacking, nearly every horse throwing off his load, and the party becoming separated by the trouble thus caused. Smith was unable to find Dr Beckler's halting place, and camped about a mile and a-half to the east of it. Two horses broke loose, and went away with their packs into the thick polygonum of the lake where they remained till next day. Distance, five miles ; weather very hot, with occasional light breezes. Country occupied by Mr McGregor.

Sunday, 27th January. Pamamoroo Lake.
Started at dawn to look for the two missing horses. Took Dick with me, and found one some eight miles away at a place called Tandower Swamp. Returned with it to camp, sending Dick after the other horse, which he recovered in the afternoon, and brought into camp. In accordance with my instructions Dr Beckler had moved the camp two miles further on the western border of the swamp. During the day Smith came up and reported his horses all safe. Resolved upon issuing the following weekly scale of rations per man:- Flour 7lb, meat 7lb, salt or dried; sugar, half lb.; tea, 3oz.; with preserved vegetables, rice, &c., at discretion. Thermometer at two p.m., 104 degrees.

Monday, 28th January. Pamamoroo Lake.
In consequence of the intense heat and the certainty of a small allowance of water for three or four days, I decided upon travelling at night, and instructed the party to prepare for a move a little before sundown. After breakfast Dick, the native, who had shown on several occasions a disposition to slip away borrowed a clean shirt and then bolted. His unwillingness to accompany the party arose from his fear of the natives, and was to be regretted, as his absence deprived us of our only interpreter. At 10 a.m. the thermometer stood at 104 degrees in the shade, and at 2 p.m. had risen to 112 degrees. At a quarter to six o'clock commenced packing, and started at 9 p.m., with the rise of the full moon. The horses went first and were followed by the camels, both keeping Mr Burke's track, which was well marked from the recent trip of Dr Beckler to Duroodo. Continued travelling all night, the men walking and greatly fatigued.

Tuesday, 29th January. Coorkerega.
At 7 a.m., the horses arrived at the base of a rocky range, twenty-five miles N.W. of the Darling, and camped in a glen close to the main track. A large cave, adorned with native drawings, and covered with the marks of various visitors, furnished an acceptable shelter from the scorching heat ; and at 9 a.m. the whole party were recruited by the arrival of Dr Beckler with the camels. Water being very scarce, owing to the evaporation from our leather water-bags, Hodgkinson and Smith set to work cleaning out a well about 100 yards from the mouth of the cave. In a short time water commenced to percolate through the sand, and ultimately several buckets of a rather nauseous though desirable fluid were obtained. I then had another well sank higher up the glen and fortunately succeeded in procuring a bucket of water for nine of our horses, together with a sufficient supply for personal use. About 6 p.m. a cool breeze sprang up, but the horses suffered greatly from want of water, huddling round the well, and refusing to feed until near sunset, when they scrambled up the rocks and travelled along the crest of the range. Though there is no permanent water at Coorkerega, and in fact none nearer than the Darling, except at rare intervals, the worn out cavities of the rocks furnish shelter to numerous marsupial animals, more particularly to a species of rock wallaby, termed wanguroo by the natives, and to the best of my belief not found southward of the Darling. I should however, be infringing on the province of the naturalist were I to furnish a detailed description of this interesting animal ; but I may state that I called Mr Becker's attention to several which were shot by Mr Hodgkinson during the progress of his party.

Wednesday, 30th January.
On searching for the horses at dawn, it was found they had strayed considerably. Stone and Hodgkinson started in quest of them. Dr Beckler, Belooch, and the cook packed the camels and had just completed their task when Hodgkinson returned with one horse, and stated that he had followed the tracks of four until he caught one; the others which were not in sight heading straight for the Darling. Giving instructions to Dr Beckler to move on with the camels to Bilpa, the next stage, I saddled the horse thus opportunely brought in and started after the others. It was dark ere they were recovered; but. I decided upon moving, and started as soon as possible, camping within three miles of Bilpa, at which spot two water-bags had been deposited previous to our leaving the Darling. Dr. Beckler camped at Bilpa, and reported to me that a thunderstorm, accompanied by rain, had broken to the north of his course at 1 p.m., and a few drops had fallen at Bilpa. Distance from Coorkerega to Bilpa, twelve miles.

Thursday, 31st January. Bilpa.
Started at dawn and reached Bilpa with the horses at 6 a.m. Found the camels packed and just about to start. Kept Hodgkinson to assist in watering the horses; and told Dr. Beckler to move on to Badurga, eighteen miles in front. The water remaining in the two pair of water-bags sent here from the Darling, filled about fifteen buckets of seven quarts each, but was nauseous to the taste, being tainted by the smell from the camel tarpaulings with which it was covered. We were only too glad however to drink it, and to have the opportunity of giving each horse about two gallons. As there were two other pairs of bags at Badurga, I decided upon losing no time in going there, and immediately the horses were watered started for that spot, keeping Mr Burke's track, and travelling over eighteen miles of uninteresting and arid sandhills. At 5 p.m. I rejoined Dr. Beckler, and heard with regret that two of the four bags cached near the camp were quite empty on his arrival, and that the other two only contained five buckets. The horses were suffering much from want of water, being accustomed to a well-watered country, and it was evident that unless speedily relieved they would perish at the outset of the journey. Under these circumstances I resolved upon sending to Motanie Ranges for water, Mr Burke's track leading to them, and the distance to the first water not exceeding twenty miles. Mr Hodgkinson and Belooch accordingly started in the morning with the ten camels and five pairs of water-bags. At 1 a.m. they reached the Motanie Range, tied up the camels, and worked all night at filling the bags from a small rocky basin situated in a gloomy ravine. During their absence Mr. Becker discovered a plant of Mr Haverfield's containing a jar of water, but I did not make use of it, as the quantity was too small to be of much service, and I thought it likely Mr. Haverfield might suffer inconvenience and disappointment, as he was still out in the back country.

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