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March 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.

 

Friday, 1st March. Rat Point.
The party, as before-mentioned, were divided between Torowoto and Rat Point. A drizzling rain fell through the night at Torowoto. The natives became rather troublesome, pilfering little articles.

Saturday, 2nd March Rat Point.
Dr Beckler returned to Torowoto with rations. The party were stationed as before. Mr Hodgkinson killed a snake some three feet in length, very thick in proportion to its length, of a dirty deep brown color, with large livid irregularly marked blotches. The natives represented it as highly poisonous, but did not scruple to devour it with great relish.

Sunday, 3rd March. Rat Point.
No change in the disposition of the party.

Monday, 4th March. Rat Point.
Still no change.

Tuesday, 5th March. Rat Point.
No change. Prepared to return to Rat Point on the following day.

Wednesday, 6th March. Rat Point.
Mr Hodgkinson took a supply of water to Mr. Becker and Purcell, from Torowoto.

Thursday, 7th March. Rat Point.
The party stationed at Rat Point and Torowoto, as before.

Friday, 8th March. Rat Point.
Mr Hodgkinson returned to Torowoto with rations, having previously submitted to Mr Becker a plan for following my track, as they were apprehensive, from my lengthened absence, that some accident had occurred to me. The horses strayed from Torowoto, but were recovered some ten miles distant.

Saturday, 9th March. Rat Point.
No change in the disposition of the party.

Sunday, 10th March. Rat Point.
Dr Beckler and Messrs. Hodgkinson and Stone, having filled six pair of water-bags, started for Rat Point with the intention of pushing out in search of me with four of the camels and two men ; but on their arrival at the waterhole, sixteen miles from Rat Point, found Smith and Belooch, whom, on my arrival this morning I had sent there with the camels, and instructions that Stone should return accompanied by Smith to Torowoto, that Dr Beckler should at once push on to Rat Point with water, and that he should be followed on the following day by Mr Hodgkinson and Belooch with the camels. The events occurring during my absence northward are as follow :-On February 24th, the day I started, I went about twelve miles nearly due north, searching for water in every likely spot, and camping upon a dry sandy creek. From thence I proceeded twenty miles farther on the same course, crossing large dry gum creeks running from all directions, and finally camped on one of them. The third day, while still seeking water, I saw Mr Burke's track for the first time since leaving Rat Point, and camped that evening upon some sandhills to east of Karriapundi Swamp, whence I could not obtain water, in consequence of the boggy nature of the ground, and the presence of a large body of natives. The next morning I struck for the N.E., over a sandy undulating country, and at 2 p.m. reached a large watercourse coming from the eastward but containing no water. Upon the fifth morning, at dawn, I noticed a fire from a native camp, about half a mile from my own, and passed the day in searching for water, not once seeing Mr. Burke's track, which I then conjectured must be upon the north-western side of the swamp. On the sixth morning I found the camels greatly exhausted from fatigue and want of water, they having had but twelve quarts each since leaving Rat Point. I returned, therefore, to where I had seen the water in the swamp, and camped, still unable to get a supply. The following (seventh day) I skirted the swamp, and at noon succeeded in reaching a place where the water was accessible. On tasting it, it was found to be excessively brackish, or rather like lime water, since when thrown on the heated claypans it caused a hissing sound. The camels drank greedily without any ill effects, but the men and myself suffered from it very considerably. On the eighth morning I returned to the place where I had last seen Mr Burke's track, and found that he had diverged from his course of N. by W. to N.E. Our rations were this day all finished, with the exception of three pounds of oatmeal and a little tea, I was determined, however, to push on to the next permanent water, in order to be enabled to bring on the party. I gave orders that each man should have three spoonfuls of oatmeal per diem. Camped thirty-four miles from the lime water in Karriapundi Swamp, on a, sandhill. On the ninth day I made a waterhole about five miles N E. of my last camp, and saw two bullocks there. Passed on, and twenty-seven miles further, still crossing undulating sandy country, reached a fine creek (Poria), and camped six miles on its north side. On the tenth morning I made a camp of Mr. Burke's, marked 52, and situated upon a dry arm of Bulloo Creek. Crossed during the day, twenty-five miles from Poria Creek, another fine creek (Koorliatto), apparently dry. Saw no water or natives throughout the day, though signal-fires rose in every direction, at brief intervals. On the eleventh day I reached Bulloo, and, after remaining a few minutes, returned to Rat Point, arriving there on the fifteenth day. We were fortunate enough to kill a turkey and three pigeons during our return, the former of which enabled us to get along tolerably well, but the pigeons were stolen by the rats in the night.

Monday, 11th March. Rat Point.
The horses and camels strayed during the night from the water-hole dug upon the plains to Torowoto, and it was twelve o'clock before the latter reached Rat Point, as they were not overtaken till they had regained the swamp. The horses were left in charge of Stone and Smith at Torowoto, with orders to start thence on Wednesday. The health of the men gave me much anxiety. Smith, Belooch, and myself suffered from diarrhoea. Mr. Becker and Stone manifested scorbutic symptoms, and Purcell had swollen legs and numerous sores. Trusting that a change from the inaction of Rat Point would benefit them, I gave orders to start on the following morning.

Tuesday, 12th March.
Upon uncovering our stores, which we had buried, in order to preserve them as much as possible from the rats, I was gratified to find that less damage had been caused than I had had reason to expect. I thought proper to despatch Dr Beckler, Mr Becker, Mr. Hodgkinson, Purcell, and Belooch, with the camels in advance, so that the water they carried might enable the horses to reach the water-hole I had discovered between Karriapundi and Poria Creek, a distance of 102 miles from Torowoto. After travelling twelve miles, the camels had to stop, from the bottom of one of the pack bags falling out. Mr Becker and myself remained at Rat Point.

Wednesday, 13th March.
I had given orders to Dr Beckler not to tie up the camels at night, in order that they might have every opportunity to feed Unfortunately the majority of them took advantage of this liberty to stray back to Torowoto, and Dr Beckler and Belooch Had to return there, a distance of fifty-two miles, for their recovery. Mr Hodgkinson and Purcell remained with the saddles, stores, and water, amounting to twenty buckets. Dr Beckler, in returning to Torowoto, took three pairs of water-bags with him, and previously to his starting a couple of buckets were given to the camel he rode. Stone and Smith came into Rat Point with the horses, as instructed, and camped there with Mr Becker and myself. The weather was so fearfully hot that the horses appeared knocked up by their journey from Torowoto here.

Thursday, 14th March. Mud Plains.
I started early in the morning with the horses, and on reaching the camel camp, at twelve miles' distance, gave each horse a bucket of water, and took four buckets for use. Leaving instructions for the camels to push on as soon as they should arrive from Torowoto, I hastened onwards with Mr Becker, Stone, Smith, and the horses, reaching the water -hole north of the Karriapundi Swamp on the 16th inst., after experiencing great difficulty, both men and horses being knocked up ; our supply of four buckets of water from the camel camp having almost all leaked away.

Friday, 15th March. Mud Plains.
Mr Hodgkinson and Purcell remained at the camel camp with the stores. Dr Beckler and Belooch were engaged in getting the camels back from Torowoto.

Saturday, 16th March. Mud. Plains.
Dr Beckler and Belooch returned from Torowoto with the camels, and rejoined Mr Hodgkinson and Purcell at the camp.

Sunday, 17th March.
The camel camp started after me and reached a spot seventeen miles in advance of their last camp. Fortunately for them a shower fell, which filled the claypans near their camp, and enabled the camels to drink to their content. Purcell was reported to me as suffering greatly from pains in his legs, and rode upon one of the camels throughout the day. Two of the camels, Gobin and Rangee, had very bad hump sores, from the ill fitting saddles supplied them. The horses reached Poria Creek with the party accompanying me, and one horse died from want of water and fatigue, though every caution was used in supplying the weaker ones with a drink.

Monday, 18th March. Karriapundi Plains
The camels, skirting the N.W. bank of Karriapundi Swamp. camped about eight miles to the north of it. Gobin, one of the camels, became very footsore, and his load was distributed among the other camels. Coppin, or Janglee, one of the Cremorne camels, was also slightly affected in the same manner; and the whole of the camels were considerably fatigued by the heavy work they had lately performed. Shadow, the smallest of the camels, was by far the best in condition and carried her heavy load with apparent ease. Another horse died at Poria today from the effects of his push across the waterless plain south of it.

Tuesday, 19th March. Mud Plains, at 3 p.m.
Still among the same uninteresting salt bush plains. The camels reached the waterhole where the horses had camped on the 16th inst. Mr Hodgkinson and Belooch contrived to preserve sufficient water by digging a hole and filtering the mud through the large marsh-mallow seeds growing near the spot. Smith, whom I sent this morning from Poria Creek with a supply of water, joined the camel party in the afternoon, but found them tolerably well supplied from the rain that had fallen south of Karriapundi.

Wednesday, 20th March. Poria Creek.
The camel party reached Poria Creek this day, and I found Purcell much worse than when I last saw him at Rat Point. Poria is a fine creek, abounding in fish, and when very full throwing its surplus waters towards Karriapundi. Our camp was situated at its south termination, its course being nearly north and south. The banks were fringed with stunted bastard box, and we derived much benefit during our stay there from the waterfowl shot.

Thursday, 21st March, until Thursday, 26th March. Poria Creek.
During the period included between the above dates I spelled the party at the creek, hoping that the men would in some degree regain their health. I regret to state, however, that I had little reason to congratulate myself upon the results. Mr Becker and Purcell became much worse, and utterly unable to walk about, and Smith and Stone did not at all improve, though energetically discharging their respective duties. As I Had found no water in the crossing at the next creek (Koorliatto), I sent Dr Beckler, Smith, and Belooch thither with a supply, directing them to conceal it as well as possible from the natives.

Friday, 29th March. Poria Creek.
The rats committed great ravages during our stay at this creek, and were far bolder than the majority of domesticated animals in their attacks. Owing to the necessity of examining every bag it was half-past twelve before the camels started with Dr Beckler, Mr Becker, and Purcell, who had to be carried upon camels. Mr Hodgkinson and Belooch, Smith, Stone, and myself remained at the creek with the horses. The camel party camped at 4 p.m. on the site of Mr. Burke's 51st camp. A heavy fall of rain took place during the night.

Saturday, 30th March. Koorliatto Creek.
At 9 a.m. the camels started, the rain still falling, but ceasing in an hour's time. At 3 p.m. they reached Koorliatto Creek, and at 8 p.m. the horses, which travelled from Poria, joined them. Stone, who had received a wetting on the night of the 29th, became much worse, and I had a tent put up for Mr Becker and Purcell, who were unable to proceed farther. We found the creek running, though dry a few days before. Its course trended from E. to N.W. for seven or eight miles, skirting the S.W. base of the Bulloo Range, and then turning sharp to the W. direct for Poria Creek, of which I conjecture it to be a main feeder. There was much more timber on this creek than on Poria, and splendid feed for the cattle on the sandhills adjacent.

Sunday, 31st March. Koorliatto Creek.
Morning broke piercingly cold, with a cloudy sky and drizzling rain. About 10 a.m. the rain cleared off, but I did not think it prudent to move with so many sick.

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