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Blanche Water, 18 March 1862.

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2085/5a, Item 25.
Dispatches sent by members of the Victorian Relief Expedition to the Exploration Committee.
Alfred Howitt's dispatch, [Blanche Water], 18 March 1862.


Despatches arrived in Melbourne on the SS Havilah on Saturday, 14 April 1862 and were received by the Exploration Committee that day.
This despatch also included:

  • Letter from Edwin Welch, Menindie 24 March 1862. 5p.
  • Two pages listing amounts drawn on the Hon Treasurer of the Exploration Committee, 2085/5a Item 26.
  • Dr Murray's Medical Report, 3 March 1862. 1p. Box 2085/5b, Item 3.
  • Receipt for £7, dated 10 October 1861. 1 p. Box 2085/5a, Item 32.

The South Australian Advertiser
Friday, 4 April 1862, page 2.

We have been favored by the Commissioner of Crown Lands with the following copy of a letter just received from Corporal Wauhope, who is in the Far North, and which pretty well sets at rest any apprehensions which may have been felt respecting the rumour of Mr McKinlay's party having been murdered by the blacks.

It also speaks of Mr Howitt having reached Blanchewater with a portion of his party. He intends to go back to Cooper's Creek and fetch Mr Burke's remains by way of Blanchewater, as being the nearest and best route:

Police Station, Mount Serle,
March 25, 1862.

I have the honor to report for your information that I have just returned from Blanchetown and Tooncatchin, out stations of Mr Baker's, accompanied by Police trooper Poynter, and made every enquiry respecting the reported murder of Mr McKinlay and party, and cannot hear anything to substantiate the report of Owandina, Billy, and Pompey, who now contradict their former statements by saving that they were only 'monkey yabber' (meaning that it is untrue). I have seen several other natives, and from enquiries made of them they say that the natives are too much frightened of Mr McKinlay to come in contact with him again. The settlers living about there also disbelieve the report.

I further beg leave to state that, while vesting our horses at Blancketown, on the 16th inst, Mr Howitt, the leader of the Victorian expedition, arrived with three of his party, four horses, and six camels, all looking well, from Cooper's Creek, having left there on the 5th inst., and arrived at Mount Hopeless on the 14th. The remainder of his party, seven men, 40 horses, and three camels, he left at Cooper's Creek. Mr Howitt states that the natives on the Creek are on friendly terms with himself and party, and has no reason to suppose that anything has happened to Mr McKinlay and party, and it is his intention to make enquiries on his return. By Mr McKinlay's camp-mark he left the Creek on 9th December, 1861.

Corporal Wauhop remained at Blanchewater to the 19th to give Mr Howitt an opportunity to make out his despatches, which he forwarded to Melbourne by the mail, at which date Mr Howitt and party returned for Cooper's Creek, and I believe it is his intention to bring the remains of the late Mr Burke by Blanche water about the end of May, having found this the shortest and best route from Cooper's Creek.

I have, &c
Jas Wauhop,
Corporal of Police.

To Geo. Hamilton, Esq.,
Chief Inspector of Police.

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Mr Howitt to the Secretary.
Baker's Station, Blanchewater,
Far North, South Australia,

March 18/62.

I have the honour to report my arrival here with a light party on March 16th, having reached Jacob's out-station at Prospect hill, near Mount Hopeless, two day’s previously.

On reaching the proposed depot at Cooper’s Creek, after a journey from tho Darling remarkable for the amount of water seen on the road in places, I immediately took stops to carry out that part of my instructions referring to Gregory's track to the South Australian settlements. The particulars of the journey will be found in my diary, which is enclosed. The opinion I have formed of that route is, that it must at all times, excepting immediately after rains, be a most uncertain one, and in a dry season quite impracticable. On the lower part of Strelezki’s Creek are some water holes, but they are too shallow to be relied on, and the capabilities of the native wells to supply a large party with water is very questionable. On the upper part of the creek the country is too porous to retain water, excepting when saturated by flood's from Cooper's Creek, and from the very arid appearance of the country, and the fact that most of the timber and bushes are dead, I am inclined to believe that the rains are of even more rare occurrence there than elsewhere in that district.

The route via Strelezki's Creek will not be open for more than six weeks from this time without rain, and even at present there are sixty miles before reaching Cooper's Creek without water. The total distance is 150 miles. On reaching Mr Jacobs's out-station at Prospect Hill I gained information which has induced me to determine on returning by McKinlay’s route, to Lake Hope, and I have obtained the services of a native boy who was out with him at the time he visited the graves of Burke and Wills at Cooper's Creek.

I expect to reach the depot in fourteen days from leaving. This I learn from Mr James, of Blanchewater, that I can procure stores, at the rate of a ton of flour, in this district, and that probably within two months there will be sheep on Lake Hope. I have to thank Mr James for the kindest reception, and every aid he could give.

As regards the return party convevmg the remains of the late Mr Burke and Mr Wills to Melbourne, I had felt considerable hesitation in detaching them by the old track, partly on account of the drying up of several holes on the upper part of the creek, and also from the uncertain state in which Wilkie’s Creek may be even now. Should the track via Lake Hope prove as satisfactory as I trust it must, I shall probably come down to this place with them at the latter end of May, having first made a journey to the north, and, having left them in the settlements, shall return with such stores as will give the main party ample time to proceed down the country to the Darling, and enable me to carry out that portion of my instructions referring to the country lying east of the Bulloo waters. I would suggest that instructions should be sent without delay, to reach this place before the end of May, on the chance of my being able to come in.

From Dr Murray a report, which I enclose, it will be seen that slight symptoms of scurvy have shown themselves in the party, but with the provisions...


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at our disposal, I do not anticipate anything serious, and at the time of my leaving the depot, the whole party felt themselves as well and as able to perform any of their duties, as when they left the Darling. I feel every confidence in Dr Murray’s skill and judgement, but should the disease make head against us, I shall without hesitation bring in the party by this road, and shall bury stores, &c , as directed in my instructions.

I enclose my diary, and tracings of the route from Mount Murchison to Cooper's Creek, and also of my last journey to this place.

It is with very real pleasure that I may mention the most satisfactory manner in which the whole party have performed their duties, and I have left the depot with the feeling that everything would be done for the safety and welfare of the party during my absence.

A W Howitt
Leader of Victorian Exploring Party

P S.-I have entrusted these despatches to Corporal Wauhope, of the Adelaide Mounted Police, whom I found here in search of intelligence respecting Mr McKinlay's party.


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Dr Murray to Mr Howitt
The Depot, Camp 25, Cooper's Creek,
March 3, 1862

I beg to submit the following report of the health enjoyed by the party here since leaving the depot camp, Menindie, up to the present time.

During our journey hither many of the party suffered from a mild form of ophthalmia, which, however, yielded readily to treatment If, in addition to which we notice a few cases of phlegmon and furuncle, our short list of maladies will be almost complete.

With reference to scurvy, prior to our leaving Menindie, four of the party showed slight symptoms of this disease. They were very slight, indeed, and noticed chiefly to induce as large a consumption of vegetables as possible. They disappeared as we proceeded northward, and at Mount Murchison the general health was excellent.

The disease has now again re-appeared in its mildest form amongst five of the men. They feel, however, in good health, and are quite capable of discharging all their duties Portulac and fish abound. They are used freely by all, whilst waiting for our own vegetables to spring up. Our position is healthy, our water good, and the weather becoming every day cooler, so we may reasonably expect that all signs of the disease will speedily disappear.

James P Murray
Surgeon to Party.


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Letter from Edwin Welch.

24 March 1862.

In the amounts payed by Mr Howitt for the...


Saturday, 12 April 1862, page 4.

The following extracts are from a letter received by a gentleman in this office from Mr A W Howitt, the leader of the Victorian Exploration party, and will be of interest to many of our readers. It is dated March 18, from Baker's Station, Blanchewater, Far North, South Australia:

You will see we have had a wonderful journey for rain. I only hope it will run through to the end. I had a fine trip to this place, and start back the day after to-morrow.

The route here is all stones - no timber, only a few bushes and no grass, excepting once in ten years when it rains.

I shall be very glad to be back at the Creek, among the native oranges and fish! Only fancy a dinner with me at the depot, Imprimis- fish, fried in their own fat, 3lb. weight each ; item a stew of smoked beef, rice, biscuit dust and preserved carrots; item, a pudding of dried apples and pines; a desert of a dozen native oranges with the flavour of cayenne pepper, pine apple, and rock mellon mixed.

The weather is very pleasant here, but it has been fearfully hot. From the Darling to Cooper's Creek we were nearly melted and I really think it is only about ten days since that we ceased to be thirsty.

Aitken [his head man] is just as ever – just as stout, just as good tempered, and just as hard-working. He makes a capital officer, and I have very great confidence in him. Weston Phillips [another Gipps Land man] is just as quiet as ever, but is a very fine bushman, and has got great experience since he has been out. All the others are a good party, and I am perfectly satisfied

Mr Howitt concludes by expressing a desire that his chart will be published, as it has cost him much time, and he is not ashamed of it.

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