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May 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.

 

Wednesday, 1st May. Bulloo.
Saddling commenced at 6 a.m., and half-past 10 a.m. we left Bulloo on our return to Menindie. Dr Beckler, Mr Hodgkinson, Mr Brahe, Botan, and myself were the only healthy members of the party ; and I did not see the utility of pushing on the depot to Cooper's Creek for the purpose of remaining there the few weeks our stores would last. Our cavalcade made quite an imposing appearance with its twenty-two horses and fifteen camels, and the spirits of the whole party were animated by the prospect of regaining the settled districts. Several stoppages took place during the day, from the necessity of altering the seat of our invalids or re-adjusting loads ; and to show that our departure was not unnoticed by the natives, fires sprang up at every mile of our progress until we reached Koorliatto, at a tolerably early hour in the afternoon. Patten was greatly fatigued by his ride.

Thursday, 2nd May. Koorliatto.
Spelled at Koorliatto. Got up a tent for Patten.

Friday, 3rd May. Koorliatto.
As I was anxious to ascertain before finally leaving the country whether Mr Burke had visited the old depot at Cooper's Creek between the present date and that on which he left on his advance northward, or whether the stores cached there had been disturbed by the natives, I started with Mr Brahe and three horses for Cooper's Creek, and reached the head waters of that creek on Sunday, the 5th, in about seventy miles, steering about W.N.W. I did not -find any water throughout that distance, but crossed several fine large gum creeks, and saw an immense number of native dogs. The remainder of the party stayed at Koorliatto.

Saturday, 4th May. Koorliatto.
The party at Koorliatto got up two other tents for the accommodation of the invalids, and formed a temporary stockade of camel saddles, etc. A blackfellow visited them during the day.

Sunday, 5th May. Koorliatto.
Depot spelled at Koorliatto.

Monday, 6th May. Koorliatto.
Depot spelled at Koorliatto. McDonough and Smith became much worse, and, with Belooch, were unfit for any duty whatever.

Tuesday, 7th May. Koorliatto.
The depot spelled at Koorliatto.

Wednesday, 8th May. Koorliatto.
This morning I reached the Cooper's Creek depot and found no sign of Mr Burke having visited the creek, or the natives having disturbed the stores. I therefore retraced my steps to the depot which remained at Koorliatto.

Thursday, 9th May. Koorliatto.
The depot still spelling here. Simla, one of Mr Burke's camels, strayed during the day, and could not be found.

Friday, 10th May. Koorliatto.
The natives appeared again within sight of the depot, and one walked through the camp. Mr. Brahe and myself still en route for Koorliatto.

Saturday, 11th May. Koorliatto.
The depot still spelling at Koorliatto. Mr Brahe and myself en route for the depot.

Sunday 12th May. Koorliatto.
Mr Hodgkinson and Botan engaged in searching for Simla, and found that he had lain on the previous night at a place called the Doctor's Camp, a little higher up the creek. At 6 p.m., a violent thunderstorm broke over the camp, during which the absent camel voluntarily rejoined the mob. Rain continued throughout the night.

Monday, 13th May. Koorliatto.
I returned to the depot at 8 a.m. this morning, and found the country between it and Cooper's Creek to be in general well grassed, but destitute of any permanent water supply, though, from the presence throughout my course of numerous wild dogs, pigeons, &c., there must be water accessible. The country bordering Cooper's Creek is the most miserable I have ever seen, and I am at a loss to account for the favorable impression it has made upon the minds of previous explorers. The creek itself is bordered by stony rises entirely destitute of herbage, and mud plains so fissured as to render travelling over them when dry extremely dangerous, and so liable to inundation that it would be unsafe to camp upon them for any length of time. The natives who camped in great numbers while Mr. Brahe's depot was there, had disappeared at the period of my visit, and but four were seen by Mr Brahe and myself. Our horses had no water from Friday evening until last evening, when the same thunderstorm that visited the Koorliatto depot passed over us.

Tuesday, 14th May. Koorliatto.
The depot prepared for a start and took down the tents, &c.

Wednesday, 15th May. Koorliatto.
Packed stores, &c., the camels did not return to camp at night, as was their usual custom, the females, accompanied by Simla and Bell Sing, staying out.

Thursday, l6th May, to Sunday, 19th May. Koorliatto.
Looking for the lost camels, which were eventually recovered on Sunday, the 19th, by Mr, Brahe and Belooch, with the exception of Bell Sing, which camel they were unable to find.

Monday, 20th May. Koorliatto.
Mr Brahe and Smith engaged in looking for Bell Sing, but were unable to find him either on this or Poria. Creek, or in the country lying between. At night they returned, and all the camels were tied up ready for starting next morning.

Tuesday, 21st May. Koorliatto.
Commenced loading at 6, but did not finish till I p.m., the horses being a considerable distance from the camp, and the sick requiring great care in their removal. When about to place Patten on a camel, he stated that he should not feel safe upon the contrivance rigged for his conveyance ; I therefore gave orders to unpack, and re-camped immediately, pitching a tent for his convenience. At nightfall only eight of our fifteen camels returned to the camp.

Wednesday, 22nd May. Koorliatto.
During the night the cries of the camels were heard in the direction of Mr Burke's camp on this creek, and at daylight they were discovered to have passed the night there. Getting them up at twenty minutes past twelve we effected another start, but had not travelled above half-a-mile before we were compelled to recamp, McDonough, who rode on horseback, fainting from weakness. Finding the camels greatly encumbered by the carriage of the sick, I placed 3 cwt. of their loading upon the horses, which were but lightly burdened.

Thursday, 23rd May. Koorliatto.
Having made some change in the disposition of the carriage of the sick, I started at a quarter past eleven, and reached a sandhill twelve miles from Koorliatto, where I camped. During the day the horses were watered at a claypan filled by the recent rains. The weather, which was very cold and windy, prevented the camels from feeling any inclination to drink. A continual watch was set upon them while feeding.

Friday. 24th May. Poria Creek.
Saddled at dawn. The morning was bitterly cold and very dark. Got away at a quarter past ten, and after travelling three miles passed near a large body of natives, who slunk away on observing us. Our rate of progress with the camels was very slow. Patten frequently entreating me to stop, as the motion pained him. At 4 p.m. Poria Creek was sighted, and half a hour subsequently we camped within a mile of Mr Burke's 50th camp, keeping watch all night.

Saturday, 25th May, to 1st June. Poria Creek.
During the period thus included, the depot remained at Poria Creek, partly in the hope of recruiting the weak, and partly to prepare for the country between here and Torowoto, as I could not hope for water between these points, unless rain fell. For a few days I had some hope of a serviceable fall of rain, as heavy clouds passed to the southward, and a few drops occasionally fell near the camp. The camels all became affected with the scab, and one of them died from its effects. I made several searches after Bell Sing without avail, and on the 28th Mr Brahe and Botan started with the camels fit for service to take on water two days' journey towards Torowoto, and on the 31st they returned, Mr Brahe reporting that he had deposited the water six miles north of Karriapundi Swamp, which appeared to be quite dry. While searching for Bell Sing, I several times met a small body of natives, camped down the creek, and presented them with a tomahawk in return for some fish which they gave me. Patten appeared slightly improved by his stay at Poria, and McDonough and Belooch were decidedly better. Weather exceedingly cold.

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