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Chapter 10: Crossing the ranges...

On Monday 14th January, at Camp 94 (near today's Phosphate Hill Mine) King wrote of the favourable view :

...we wound our way through some ranges, which opened out upon a picturesque and pastoral country. Extensive amphitheatres were richly carpeted with succulent grasses, while the hills which enclosed them were lightly timbered with the mallee scrub, as likewise with the native orange tree.

However, the party found themselves getting deeper and deeper into the rugged hills and the realised the mountain ranges south of Cloncurry were to be the first major tests they faced since leaving the Cooper. King wrote :

Messrs Burke and Wills ascended one of the neighbouring mountains, but could see nothing but a succession of ranges stretching from east to west.

On the 15th January 1861 Kings' journal records :

Next day found us still threading our way among the ranges, creeping round their spurs wherever practicable.

And again a day later :

Mr Wills ascended one of the mountains in the hope of discovering a gap to the northward, but the attempt was ineffectual.

They climbed the Selwyn Range at a place they called O'Hara's Gap (north of today's town of Duchess) and Burke made one of his infrequent entries in his journal :

18th January [1861]

Still on the ranges. The camels sweating profusely from fear.

Burke's next journal entry gives some idea of the difficulty faced by the camels :

20th January [1861] -

I determined today to go straight at the ranges and so far the experiment has succeeded well. The poor camels sweating and groaning but we gave them a hot bath in Turner's Creek, which seemed to relieve them very much. At last through - the camels bleeding, sweating and groaning.

They crossed the range and descended 400 feet down a scrubby and precipitous hill into a creek, which Burke named the Cloncurry after his friend, Edward Lawless, 3rd Baron of Cloncurry.

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© 2020, Dave Phoenix