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February 1862

McKinlay's Journal of Exploration into the interior of Australia (Burke Relief Expedition)
Melbourne: F F Bailliere.
(Ferguson 12057).

Saturday, 1 February 1862 - Hayward's Creek.
Wind east; party still ailing.

Sunday, 2 February 1862 - Camp, Hayward's Creek.
Some of party better and some worse. Wind easterly.

Monday, 3 February 1862 - Camp, Hayward's Creek.
Wind easterly; digging a well, in case the origin of our sickness be caused by the water in the creek.

Tuesday, 4 February 1862 - Camp, Hayward's Creek.
Wind north and gusty with hot puffs. Got the well down about fifteen feet; the lower part, for about seven or eight feet, chiefly through sand; abundance of water but salt to the taste and I think unfit for use. Had it emptied out when it soon filled; the water continues salt and lathers well with soap and can wash well; it cannot be used by us although the natives don't despise it.

Wednesday, 5 February 1862 - Camp, Hayward's Creek.
Wind from east and west of north during the morning with hot gusts, very oppressive.

Thursday, 6 February 1862 - Camp, at Hayward's Creek.
Wind north till late in the afternoon with some thunder and lightning and a good many clouds; appears in the distance to be raining in patches, but I have so often been deceived that I now take less notice of appearances of that kind; late in the afternoon the wind chopped round to south. Has been very hot and sultry all day. Intend in the morning to send Mr Hodgkinson and Middleton to Lake Goonaidringinnie to ascertain for certain if that lake still contains abundance of water, and good, as I think it does--and on the way to pass and examine Lake Moolionboorana to see if it will suit as a stage to camp at on our journey to Goonaidringinne, as it was not very deep when I was there last and I have my doubts about it. The natives report a considerable quantity of rain to have fallen to the east and towards north-east in the country north of Lakes Blanche and MacDonnell or Appacalradillie. If so I wish it had fallen when I was there that I might have been able to have examined the country there thoroughly.

Friday, 7 February 1862.
Started Mr Hodgkinson and Middleton to Lake Goonaidringinnie. Wind from all points of compass with many clouds; weather disagreeable and sultry during the day; rained steadily once or twice during the night with a good deal of thunder and lightning in the distance; much rain must have fallen to east and north of east as well as to the south.

Saturday, 8 February 1862.
Splendid rain and steady. Thundering all round with every appearance of a considerable quantity of rain which will, I trust, come in such abundance as to enable me to push to the north-west across the desert, as up to this time I have been completely shut up, as it were, here for want of a decent shower to enable me to do anything of service anywhere; and the provisions gradually getting less although the ration is now as low as I can well make it. I have reduced it first from 8 pounds of flour per man per week to 7 pounds, then to 6 pounds, then to 4 1/2 pounds; sugar reduced from 2 pounds per man per week to 1 1/2 pounds; and tea from 4 ounces to 3 ounces per man per week, with plenty of good mutton; but we find the supply of flour very scanty at the 4 1/2 pounds. There has been a good deal of loss in weight in the bags of flour, as much as 9 pounds per 100 pounds; and a great portion of it had a most disagreeable taste and flavour from some naphtha, or some such liquid, having been carelessly allowed to be spilt over it on its way, I understand, from Port Augusta to Blanchewater; and I attribute the whole of the illness of the party to the use of the flour saturated as it is by this rascally stuff. In the afternoon Mr Hodgkinson and Middleton returned; they report having seen a considerable quantity of rainwater about thirteen miles this side of Lake Goonaidringinnie, and plenty of water in that lake and good; also plenty of natives on its banks. Lake Moolionboorana very much reduced and unfit for my purpose. Heavy rain all through the night with heavy thunder and lightnings. I have now abandoned the idea of going to Goonaidringinnie and will start towards Eyre's Creek, passing or following, at some seventy miles from this, a large creek named by the natives here Panbacra.

Sunday, 9 February 1862.
Still raining a little and the ground too soft to travel over but, if much more does not fall, will start in the morning. The rain that has fallen is quite a godsend, both to this party and to the natives who have started off to the sandhills in all directions to obtain the lizards and other animals that escape to the sandhills for protection from the floods.

Monday, 10 February 1862.
Started the cart at 7.50 a.m., and horses and camels to start afterwards for Wattiegoroonita. Passed over sandhills to top of a sandhill that rounds the lake, and over alternate sandhills and bare flats for nine and a half miles, passing at about six miles on the last course a small salt lake; travelled on the north-east side of it as it was boggy. The lake is called Warmagoladhailie. The ground very soft and heavy travelling. Travelled along the sand ranges and over spinifex and stony flooded flats, then over one small sandhill and stony desert. Camped at a few bushes to boil the teakettle, there being not a blade of grass; but a few saltbushes are near which the animals must do the best with for one night. Astonishing the small quantity of water passed for the last eight or nine miles. Distance travelled today twenty-four miles. The natives are out here looking for the snakes and other small reptiles and animals that live in the sandhills everywhere in this quarter whether hot or cold, regardless of the want of water. This is a most dismal-looking camp; there are a few isolated sandhills north and west of this. Cart and sheep not up tonight.

Tuesday, 11 February 1862.
The cart did not arrive last night as above-mentioned for the reason that one of the bullocks was taken with the staggers. They camped about two and a half miles back and arrived here this morning at 5.45 a.m.; turned the bullocks out for a time to get a drink and pick a few bushes, and started again at 7.48. Travelled for nine miles over desert stony plains and got to top of large sandhill. This hill is called Cannacannanthainya. Some distance off another sandhill called Mallapoorponannie; and another not quite so far called Cookorda. Another long leading sand range in the distance called Goontyaerie, at the northern termination of which is at present a dry creek known by the above name. There is a native well there and another a little further west. To give the ailing bullock, as he is a good one, a chance of recruiting, I have dipped down the sandhill and camped at 11.35 a.m., and for another reason, it looks like rain. During the afternoon several nice showers.

Wednesday, 12 February 1862.
Steady rain for about four hours last night and this morning breaks fine and clear with a wind north. Plenty of water lying all over the desert. Dray started at 7.40 a.m. and at six and three-quarter miles distant got to Mallapoorponannie sand range, the southern end of which is called Cookorda; about two miles off its northern end dwindles down to nothing in the desert. To the northern end of Coontarie sand range a creek and well by the same name; about twelve miles off a detached sand range in the desert, at the north-west end of which are two waters named respectively Dhooramoorco and Moongaara; also on north-east side of sand range another water in creek called Caddryyerra, also a sand range about four to five miles distant. There was a number of small detached sandhills going round to the westward, then a perfect blank round to Coontarie well. At about three to four miles struck the flooded flat from the main creek I am now going to. At eleven and a half miles further came to and crossed a deep creek crossing my course at rightangles. At two miles further came to water in Daeragolie Creek, same creek that I crossed before two miles from this; within this last two miles the whole flat is cut up into innumerable channels most difficult to travel over, I must therefore see and get a better road for the cart. Here there is not a green blade of grass to be seen; there are some green shrubs in the bed of the creek that the camels are fond of. I arrived at this camp at 2.5 p.m.; distance travelled today twenty-three and a half miles. This is an immense creek, timbered on its bank with box, bean, and other trees, the water is in detached holes but good and apparently plenty of fish and ducks. No natives seen yet although their tracks are fresh; the natives that are with me say a number of them have taken advantage of the rain lately fallen and gone out to the sandhills on both sides of this creek. By native report the creek flows just here south and east, but within two miles from this it turns quite round by south-west and west, passing Coontarie. Neither cart nor sheep arrived in camp tonight.

Thursday, 13 February 1862.
The cart on its way here this morning had an upset in one of the creeks close by but fortunately little damage done. The road it appears to me from this on our course is much better than we have come over, if so we shall make good speed. I spell the remainder of today refreshing the animals. This creek is about eighty to ninety yards wide, very precipitous banks, and from fifty to sixty feet deep, with innumerable small creeks. About 400 yards from this, above us, a large creek leaves this one, heavily timbered and well-defined. Limestone crops out in many places. It is from fifty to seventy yards wide and from fifteen to thirty feet deep. It sweeps away to the west and south, close under some sand-ridges that are close by. Wind from south and west, very sultry. There has been a good deal of rain here lately (and from the appearance of the country there has been none for some time previously). Nothing green except in the bed of the creek and the trees. The whole country looks as if it had been carefully ploughed, harrowed, and finally rolled, the farmer having omitted the seed. Two natives came into our camp at dark, apparently without any fear, and stayed with us for the night.

Friday, 14 February 1862.
Started at 8 a.m. On the west side of the creek Panbaera a large creek leaves it at about 400 yards from camp, and the ground heavy, with intense heat. I camped after a journey of fifteen and a half miles on same side of creek, close to a deep waterhole in the creek. Name of creek Toomathooganie. Immediately above the camp on opposite side of creek a large red sandhill comes right on to creek called Manganhoonie, from the top of which one gets an extensive view of such country as there is, the creek in the distance, north, it filling the valley with its timber bearing 340°. On our way here today, about three miles from camp, passed the remains of Burke's horse and saddle; they were recognised as his by camel dung being about the camp. No marks on any of the trees visible. Camel dung also close to our camp. Another of our best bullocks was obliged to be left, having been struck down with the sun as the other was a few days ago. Cart late in arrival at camp in consequence. One of our natives took French leave immediately after getting to camp; the other tried hard also but was too closely watched.

Saturday, 15 February 1862.
Started some hands back to see if the bullock was still alive, if so and unable to travel, to kill him and have him jerked, and if dead to have him skinned. They brought back word that he was still alive and might get over it. Late getting ready to start owing to the uncertainty whether the bullock was to be jerked or not. Bullocks started at 10.35 a.m., and if I get feed must make a short day of it. If the road keeps as heavy as it has done since coming to this creek I shall have to abandon the cart, which for many reasons I shall regret. Wind north and disagreeable. Got to camp at five miles bearing 337°. The heat so oppressive travelling completely out of the question. Will leave the cart and many sundries here. Seized with a violent attack of dysentery. Our remaining native quite broken-hearted at losing the other, shall be obliged to let him go this afternoon; it is a pity as he would have been of much service in giving me the names of the different waters and places which to someone in future might be of much use. However I may get another if I soon meet with other natives; but unfortunately at present, from the rain that has lately fallen, they have principally left the creek and gone to the sandhills. Their habitations are very numerous on the creek so they must be pretty strong in number here. Lots of fish still in the holes; appear to be multa multa principally. We got some from the two natives at our first camp on the creek, and lots of mussel shells about their old fires.

Sunday, 16 February 1862.
In camp, very ill.

Monday, 17 February 1862.
In camp, very ill; still getting the gear ready for tomorrow, if I am able to start--pain slightly gone. Had the curiosity to weigh and found I had lost fourteen pounds in three days from the violence of the attack; when I left town I weighed fifteen stone eleven pounds, now I weigh exactly twelve stone. Clear but excessively hot with occasionally a little thunder and some showers this morning, and it looked as if we were going to have it heavy but it passed off.

Tuesday, 18 February 1862.
With one thing and the other, and one of the bullocks absent, was late at starting. Pain gone today but excessively weak. Started at 11.30, course 340°; flooded box-cracked land for one mile. At seven and a half miles further passing over bare mud plain destitute of any vegetation, with a couple of sandhills and the main creek beyond them to the east. On this distance half a mile off is the bed of a large creek flowing to the south and west, no water at present in it. Close to this point one of our best bullocks was struck dead with the heat of the sun walking leisurely along carrying nothing; the rest of the party were much in advance and, as it was such a fearfully hot day and not a drop of water near, nothing could be done with the flesh of him unfortunately. At five miles further came to a large deep creek flowing westward, no water in it. Up to this point was to be seen in the distance westward apparent breaks in the sandhills with box timber in each; and I have no doubt many of those places form into large creeks by the terrific overflow of this main creek. At one mile further on (340°) crossing this creek on to top of sandhill, changed course to 38°, the creek from the sandhill bearing considerably eastward. At two and a quarter miles over flooded flats and at some rainwater where I afterwards camped; at two miles further struck the creek but not a drop of water; searched up and down for some distance but none to be found, so returned to the rainwater two miles back from the creek, where fortunately there was sufficient for all the animals. The flood here, when it does occur, fills the whole valley between the sandhills on either side of the creek, and after such occasions must appear a splendid country; but at present no country could possibly look more desolate. This cannot possibly be Eyre's Creek as it is much larger in the first place, and seems to bear away too much to the east ever to be a continuation of Sturt's Eyre's Creek. Traces of Burke's camels and horses are still to be seen on the creek; I fancy on his return from the Gulf. I feel very ill this evening, hardly able to sit in the saddle.

Wednesday, 19 February 1862.
Sent Mr Hodgkinson and Middleton off up the creek to search for water, and Middleton to return after travelling about eight miles if successful in finding a supply to enable us to proceed further up the creek; Hodgkinson to go further on and examine the creek and return in the afternoon to where it was arranged we should camp. Middleton returned about noon with the intelligence that about seven miles up there was abundance of water in the creek for our immediate wants; so we started late in the afternoon as the distance was short and the day fearfully hot, bearing of 350° for four and a half miles, the creek appearing to bear too much east, change course to 360° for two and a quarter miles further, and it getting late changed course straight on for the creek, bearing of 37 1/2° for three-quarters of a mile, where I struck the creek with a little salt water in its bed; down the creek from this about half a mile is the water, and where we afterwards camped but without knowing (in the absence of Middleton, who was seized with a violent illness on the way here and did not get to the camp at all during the night). I went up the creek for two and a half miles, found it dry, and returned to water and camped.

Thursday, 20 February 1862.
Camp on east side of creek where the latter is upwards of 180 yards wide and about 80 feet deep, western banks very inaccessible, the east bank where we have camped less so with immense polygonum bushes. Very unwell still; we were not aware of the cause of Middleton's detention with the camels, on which was the food, till he and Davis made their appearance after the morning had somewhat advanced, when they arrived and explained the cause; Middleton was very ill indeed of dysentery and could scarcely crawl.

Friday, 21 February 1862.
In camp; I feel a little better, Middleton still very unwell; miserable camp but can't help it.

Saturday, 22 February 1862.
Started Mr Hodgkinson and Bell out on the west side of the creek to examine ranges that appear stony in the distance, and ascertain if this creek receives any tributary from the westward of north-north-west likely to be Eyre's Creek, as there is no doubt this is not it, and return by this creek to ascertain how the water lies in it. I am much better today and Middleton appears to be on the change for the better; wind south with a few clouds.

Sunday, 23 February 1862.
Middleton improving; I feel much better, so much so that, as there is a cool breeze from the south, I am induced to ride out to the eastward to examine the country between this and the stony hills visible from here on the east side of the creek; went four and a half miles course 135°, over flooded flats and a couple of sandhills, from top of the highest sandhill changed course to 113° for two and a quarter miles to top of another larger sandhill, passing one other in my course, then on bearing of 15° for six and three-quarter miles over flooded flats with a few smaller sandhills, but soon terminate on both sides of my course; the current over this tract of flat being to the south of east, then three-quarters of a mile on bearing of 15° over one sandhill to top of rocky hill, from which the flooded flat I have just passed gathers together in the distance to a creek, and goes off on course of 155°, and no doubt is the feeder of the waters now in the creek to south and east of our present camp namely Barrawarkanya, Marroboolyooroo, Cadityrrie, Meincounyannie, and Gnappa Muntra; then two and a quarter miles on bearing of 10° to top of sandy and stony hill, with four or five mallee trees and a few other shrubs; marked one of the mallee trees. From this hill the creek passed end of table-topped stone range on bearing from six to nine miles distant north-west and round northward to east, peaks and hills of stone with intervening flats, some of earth, others of stone, are visible as far as eye can reach; from this hill our present camp bears about 227 1/2° and distant about eleven and a half miles. In the evening Mr. Hodgkinson and Bell returned having examined the hilly country, but could find no tributary joining the creek; saw water up some distance that will suit our purpose so far. I will in a day or two ride over to Eyre's Creek and ascertain if either of the northern search parties have got there yet, and deposit a memorandum for them there and see if a route be practicable westward to Stuart's country now, or if I shall have to wait for more rain: although we had such nice rain coming over the desert the excessive heat has absorbed most of it, and you may travel a day without seeing a drop; intend starting up the creek in the morning. Middleton much better. Mr Hodgkinson saw one native and his lubra up the creek but had little conversation.

Monday, 24 February 1862.
Camped; the bullocks not found till too late to start. Mr Hodgkinson tendered his resignation as second in command which I accepted, and from this date he holds no longer any position as officer in the party under my guidance. Poole had a sun-stroke during the day whilst out after the horses, but by cold application to the head he soon recovered.

Tuesday, 25 February 1862.
Rather late getting the animals ready for a start, the feed being so scant; started on bearing of 40°, on same side of creek as that on which we were encamped, over flooded flats and sandy terminations: at five and three-quarter miles passed along and crossed a large deep creek in which there was a little water and a number of native wurlies. Course of creek nearly north and south, at seven and a quarter miles further over some abrupt sandhills, the summits of which had an almost perpendicular wall of pure drift sand, varying from two and a half feet to five feet in height and very difficult for the animals to get over, and flooded flats on same bearing; then changed course to 34° for four and a half miles over similar country mixed with stone hills and flats, the creek being a long way to the west but now gradually approaching our course; then changed course to 14° for one and one-sixth of a mile to creek, where luckily we found sufficient water for all purposes and in the bed of the creek a better supply of green grass for the animals than they have had for some time. Cloudy, wind north-east. The bullocks have not arrived tonight.

Wednesday, 26 February 1862.
Cloudy and threatening for rain; wind north-east. At 9.30 a.m. one of the men from the bullocks arrived and informed me that one of the pack bullocks had dropped and was killed to endeavour to make some use of his flesh. This is the same that had the sunstroke first but was apparently recovering; and another of our very best and generally quietest had that day bucked so much in endeavouring to get rid of his saddle that he disabled himself, fell down, and could not be got up; the remainder of the bullocks went off to feed but there he was where he fell in the morning beside his pack. Immediately on hearing of this disaster I forwarded some hands and packhorses out to convey to camp what was thought to be of any use. It has commenced raining and what little will be got cannot, I am afraid, be cured, as there is every appearance of a continuation of rain and there will be no chance of drying the flesh as we have no salt. If it was fair weather I would kill at once the disabled also, and have his flesh dried; but it would be no use at present and he may be able to get up after a spell and come in this length when, if the weather prove favourable, I will have him killed and jerked. The remainder of the bullocks (seven) arrived during the day and the detachment of the party with what was thought of use of the dead bullock; but I question much about its keeping as now it is raining steadily, but we will use as much of it as we can and save the sheep. None of our journeys appear to give the sheep the slightest inconvenience and they are as ready to commence their journey in the morning as the man that attends to them; in fact no party ought ever to go out exploring in the summer months without them. During the day I rode out to the tops of some of the stony ranges to get a view of the upward course of the creek; it seems to go off somewhere on a bearing of 50° but I fancy will soon turn more to the north. It is quite astonishing to see the patches of beautiful green grass on the slopes of the stone hills in the small watercourses that fall down their sides; in fact the only thing like feed I have seen for some time, and what little there is, is in the bed of the creeks. The creek here has an anabranch that leaves it about half a mile above and joins again about half a mile below; width of island half a mile.

Thursday, 27 February 1862.
Rained heavily and steadily all night from the east-north-east; the ground at daylight a perfect bog. From the severity of the night some of our sheep got adrift but were recovered during the day. The creek, nine-tenths of which was yesterday dry, is now running a strong stream and momentarily increasing. Got all the animals across to this side during the forenoon as the rain appeared likely to continue; and now that it has set in will most likely inundate all the low flats and completely put a stop to further progress up the creek until the ground hardens a little. At such times the only place of safety hereabouts are the sandhills or stony hills; the latter I prefer, and will shift to one in the event of the rain continuing another night as steadily as it did last night as there, and there only, is there any feed to be had for our animals. They have fallen off considerably of late from the hot weather and the scantiness of good feed. As soon as they were taken over the creek they were taken out to one of the stone-ridges and there left in tolerable feed but not very abundant. The water is lying all over the flat in sheets and the creek rising rapidly. It must have been a very long time since this part of the country has been similarly visited with rain, as the country generally, the flats principally, had not any vegetation upon them of any useful kind. As I said before the stone hills, or rather the small creeks on their slopes, are the only places where there was any feed excepting in the bed of the creek, and now that last supply was gone, as the creek by this afternoon was swimmable.

Friday, 28 February 1862.
Raining all night but not quite so heavily; still very considerably. Our camp is like a stockyard in the southern districts much used in the wet weather--over our boots in mud and water; although on some of the highest ground just about here pounds of mud and rubbish adhere to your boots every time you lift your feet. Creek considerably more swollen; and as every place is so saturated with water and mud will not move out of this till tomorrow morning. In the meantime, in hopes that it will clear up a little and make the ground firm enough to bear the weight of the animals. It is well we left the cart or we should not have been able to move it from this, and every probability of its being carried away by the flood now rapidly approaching. We are now in that position and not far from the place where Captain Sturt dreaded being overtaken by rain. It is fearful to travel over but must make the best of it. I am very glad indeed that we have been favoured with such a copious supply; although for a short time it may prevent my travelling it will be the means of enabling me to move about afterwards as I may think fit. I wish I had a couple of months' more rations of flour, tea, and sugar, as then I could thoroughly examine the country in this quarter; as it is I will do the best I can. If this creek carries me much more to the north instead of going to the east as it now does I think it will take a run through to the Albert River; and if the steam-sloop Victoria, Captain Norman, has not sailed from there I think I will be able to get flour or biscuits in sufficient quantity to carry me back, and enable me to do all, or nearly so, that was required of me by the South Australian Government; if not at the Albert I will only be obliged to live the principal part of the return journey on animal food and what vegetables we may find from time to time--it won't be a very hard case but much more pleasant and agreeable if it can be obtained. It is very boisterous. Rain and wind from east-south-east. The creek rising steadily; by the morning it will be nearly or quite on a level with the way by which I shall have to travel in the morning for the high ground. It has a current of about three miles an hour, or similar to that of the Murray, for which reason I am led to believe that its chief source is some considerable distance away, although it receives innumerable tributaries on both sides above and below where I now am. The rain as it falls upon these stone-clad hills runs off at once into the small creeks, thence into larger ones on the flat land, then into the main creek after filling the waterholes in their respective courses. Towards evening it looks very dark and again threatens much for a quantity of rain; if so by morning we shall have the creek high.

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