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January 1862

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

Wednesday, 1 January 1862.
Started at 6.45 round the first lake, Blanche (Lady MacDonnell) to where the creek passes through a low sandhill and connects it with the other lake, Sir Richard (His Excellency the Governor). The first-named of these lakes is, where it was tried, between five and six feet deep and seven and three-quarter miles in circumference, nearly circular, bare of timber, and tens of thousands of pelicans on it, one solitary swan, with innumerable other birds, gulls and ducks of various kinds (one new and one dark brown large-winged), cormorants, avocats, white spoonbills, crows, kites, pigeons and magpies of various kinds, and plenty of fish. The other lake immediately adjoins and its south-east end is more to the eastward than Lake Blanche, it is nearly circular and is six and three-quarter miles in circumference, but when casually tried was not quite five feet deep; pelicans, birds of kinds, fish, etc., as the other. Between forty and fifty men (natives) came to meet us as we were passing round the lakes at the creek, which they had all to swim and, from the appearance of the camp some short distance off, there could not have been less than about 150, all apparently friendly. Started from north-west end of Lake Sir Richard and went along the course of the creek that fills these lakes on a bearing of 305° for ---- miles; then south-south-west half a mile to a fine basin of water in the valley of the creek, three-quarters of a mile wide and more than that in length, and opening again and contracting alternately up to Lake Blanche which, in honour of the veteran explorer, I have named Sturt's Ponds; abundance of fish and fowls. From this point course 308° up the creek for four miles; at two miles a creek went off to the right through a flooded flat, thence on a course varying from 224 to 239°, principally through what was recently a large lake--now a splendidly-grassed plain of vast extent, and at the latter part a few small sandhills. Distance today thirty-six miles.

Thursday, 2 January 1862.
At camp and keeping the New Year instead of yesterday. It is quite a treat to sit on the banks of this fine sheet of water and look at the innumerable waterfowl on its surface chasing their prey.

Friday, 3 January 1862.
Heavy dew. Started out this morning with two camels and five horses to examine some lakes and creeks to west and south of this position; I take with me Mr Hodgkinson, Middleton, Wylde, and native. On my return intend moving camp to north and east to where I saw the creek bearing off to the> right or north-east from about two miles north-west of Sturt's Ponds; which creek I am led to believe runs off into the interior by north on the round by west and south, passing my old Depot, Lake Buchanan. On second thoughts I have moved camp to a better place on this lake, north, on the opposite side, where there is better shade, and the glare of the sun less injurious to the eyes of the party than here. Marked tree :

from 28-12-61, to 3-1-62

and started to examine the lakes reported to be south and west. At six miles arrived on opposite side of where we camped for the last few days, and estimate its circumference at fifteen to sixteen miles, its greatest breadth two miles, its least about 600 yards--at a promontory that runs into it from the south-east side. A large creek fills it from south-east, about two and a half to three miles west-south-west from our New Year camp which I have named Hayward, after Frederick Hayward, Esquire, of Aroona, South Australia--a deep swimmable creek, well timbered, plenty of fish and fowls--then went southward to Lake Wattygaroony, a fine deep lake which is named Lake Strangways after the Honourable the Commissioner of Crown Lands. The creek that fills it from the south and east I have called the Alfred. The lake is quite nine miles in circumference; scant of timber; from the creek round south-west end and side; abundance of feed, etc., from north side of lake and one mile north-westerly of clearing it; our new camp on Lake Hodgkinson bears 71°. About eight miles; returned to camp same day.

Saturday, 4 January 1862.
Camp, Lake Hodgkinson. Shoeing horses, repairing pack-bags, etc.

Sunday, 5 January 1862.
I, with Poole and a black, went out north to see what the country was like. On bearing 360° over sandhills arrived at and found lake dry; four and a half miles of stones around it, same as in stony desert; went through the middle of it, it sweeps round from north-east to south-west; passed through it where it was two miles broad, it is fed from Lake Goonalcarae (now dry); the lake passed through has not had a supply of water for years apparently; lots of dead mussels and crayfish in its bed. At two and a half miles further (nine miles in all) over sandhills, changed course to 16° for a large sandhill in the distance, the country to the north being rather low. At two and a half miles on this course came upon a succession of flooded basins, some of great extent, Gnatowullie, and slightly lined with stunted box, some as high up the sides of the sandhills as forty-five to fifty feet, entirely supplied by the rains but have not had a supply for some time, as there was neither water nor vegetation; which flooded basins continued till I went nine miles on this last course and from the top of the hill could distinctly see the beds of innumerable others of the same kind. From west round to north-east and east some dark-peaked sandhills, north-east of last course, as far as I could discern with the aid of a glass; turned back on course of 200° to where I saw some shady box trees about two and a half miles, and turned out horses to rest and went to camp direct. On bearing of 187° at five and a half miles came to the watercourse that supplies the dry lake Marroboothana from Goonalcarae, which I have named the Ellar, and the creek that fills it, in which there is at present water, Ellar's Creek.

Monday, 6 January 1862.
Marked tree :

from 3 to 6-62
Dig arrow at 7 o'clock

and deposited a document in tin envelope for the search parties from the north coast. Started at 6.30 with the bullock-cart, the horses and camels following, for Lakes Lady Blanche and Sir Richard, for the purpose of following the creek I observed when there the other day, and which the natives inform me goes northward, then westward and southward, through the stony desert. Arrived about 3.30 by rather a circuitous route to the northward of our proper course, but was guided that way to avoid many heavy sandhills. Distance between twenty-two and twenty-three miles.

Tuesday, 7 January 1862.
At Lake Blanche; went out north with Mr Hodgkinson and native to examine the creek alluded to, but to my disappointment found that it only formed a large valley and, at some distance on a dry lake, Millie Millie, to the eastward of Lake Sir Richard, over some high sandhills; returned very much chagrined and have made up my mind to stay here a short time, although very poor shelter from the excessive heat of the sun (today even it blows as if from a furnace) and endeavour with the camels to ascertain the description of country first to the east, and probably also from here, if the camels will stand it, to the north; from the appearance of the country about here I do not expect any water at least for some distance; the land low, hills between the two lakes and running northward for some five or six miles have just the appearance of dirty drift snow heaps with heath bushes protruding; whereas those round to north-east, east, south, and south-east are a glaring red, with coarse grass and shrubs. Shortly after my return today a number of natives got the bullocks on the east side of the creek New Year Straits, about two and a half miles from camp and raced them round Lake Blanche from us in sight; on seeing which five of the party got mounted and armed and went after them; they had taken the bullocks two-thirds of the way round the lake and by some means they broke back from them; they did their best to overtake and turn them again for about two or three miles; when they observed the horsemen they immediately took to flight, and where shelter was so abundant, of course, were immediately out of reach and sight of the horsemen. What their intentions were was difficult to say but it looked rather suspicious; took the bullocks to camp late and hobbled most of them. The evening before leaving Lake Hodgkinson, about 8.30 p.m., they took both horses and bullocks and raced them round from us for about three miles but were pursued on foot by three of the party who succeeded in getting all the bullocks and horses after having broken three-fourths of their chains, and were in a very excited state, nor could the horses be quieted for more than two hours afterwards, but the wary savage was nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, 8 January 1862.
Moved camp about three-quarters of a mile to a little wood and camped. Fearfully hot, wind east-north-east.

Thursday, 9 January 1862.
Camp, Lake Blanche, between the two lakes, where one would imagine the breeze from such a body of water would render the air cool, but the heat is almost intolerable. Wind from east-north-east to east-south-east blew quite a gale in the night, levelling tents, etc., to the earth, accompanied with a good deal of thunder and lightning and slight spitting of rain for a few minutes, when it ceased. The gale kept on for two and a half hours and gradually died away.

Friday, 10 January 1862.
Camp, Lake Blanche. One would suppose that after so much thunder and lightning the air would be more pure and cool, but nothing of the kind was apparent, nothing but intense heat, prostrating all the animals. Horses and sheep taking refuge from the intense rays of the sun round and under such bushes or trees they could get till the cool of the evening. Wind light easterly. I sincerely wish we had a change of the weather, warmer it cannot get, so that the change must be for the better, and enable us to be doing something. This is far from the most agreeable position for a camp for, although we have any quantity of water, we have no shade, and the glare reflected from the low light-coloured sandhills and flats is very trying to the eyes; even the natives who are a numerous body here (150 to 200) scarcely stir out, except morning and evening for fishing, fish being their chief sustenance with addo, Burke's nardoo.

Saturday, 11 January 1862.
Sun rose red as a ball of fire. We had a magnificent sunset last night; wind chopping all round the compass; intense heat; fleecy clouds.

Sunday, 12 January 1862.
Camp, Lake Blanche. Before daylight a considerable deal of thunder and lightning. Squally but passed off without any rain. Cloudy during the day. Wind from all quarters, heat intense, and sultry towards evening, threatened much for rain; wind from east to north-east, accompanied with thunder and lightning. I sincerely trust that we may have a good fall of it, if it comes at all. Rain all blew past and wind chopping in all directions.

Monday, 13 January 1862.
Wind from all quarters but rather more cool than for the last few days. If nothing particular occurs before tomorrow morning will make a start out eastward for fifty or sixty miles to see what sort of country it is, and if there is any main creek running north up through it. It is very calm towards evening with heavy clouds all round the horizon.

Tuesday, 14 January 1862.
Eastward today over undulations, sandhills, claypans, and flats for nineteen miles till we reached a very prominent high hill which I have called Mount Wylde. A considerable range is visible to east and south of east. Went on for seven miles further over sand ridges covered with spinifex, successive box-covered flooded flats, formed by heavy rains, through which were innumerable small creeks no doubt in heavy rains forming source or tributaries to Cooper's Creek. Took the horses out this morning to make the work lighter for the camels on the march. Sent the horses back again this afternoon; gave the camels from three to four gallons of water each--they appeared as if they could have drunk all that we possessed. Distance travelled today about twenty-six miles. East in the far distance I can trace the continuance of the range.

Wednesday, 15 January 1862.
Every appearance of a hot day. Followed over hard sand undulations, well-grassed with some little spinifex intermixed, with a creek on our left, and crossed it at eight miles going south-east then apparently south--gum and box on creek and a sandy bed. We then passed over some good grassed country with stony flats and latterly a stony sandhill, the ascent difficult for the camels on account of the sharp stones for ten miles; distance making in all eighteen miles. Low hills about six or seven miles ahead running north and south; nothing very marked about them. The heat fearful; camels not doing so well as I could wish so will give them all the water that is to spare and proceed towards camp this evening in the cool--they won't feed nor stay without constant watching. Started back at 8.30 p.m. Went first to the south of west to avoid a stony hill by going round a valley then went on for about fifteen miles.

Thursday, 16 January 1862.
Started at 6 a.m., then bore for Mount Wylde. The greater portion of last night's and today's journey was over spinifex country. Passed immediately after starting a couple of creeks, drainage to the north--whether they continued that course and gradually swerved to the east and joined a larger one under the main range to east and formed one and passed on to the southward to Cooper's Creek, or formed rainwater lakes (vast numbers of them here and well timbered and often visited by natives) I cannot pretend to say. From Mount Wylde came in on the lakes on our outward track and arrived at camp at 2 p.m. Found some of the party, namely Bell, Davis, and Maitland, laid up with dysentery, the former seriously. Have made up my mind to leave this after one day's spell for the camels and go back to different water, as this must contain some medicinal properties that I am ignorant of, and affects all of us more or less; no doubt the weather has a good deal to do with it--the heat is fearful.

Friday, 17 January 1862.
Wind east by north. If nothing particular occurs will start from this in the morning as I see nothing can be done here but going north for some distance, and that I can do from where I proceed tomorrow as well as from here, and with better water for the party. Excessively hot and sultry today and very cloudy. We have more or less lightning every day or night and it appears occasionally to be raining all round us but never gives us a benefit. Blew strong from south-east all night. Marked tree :

fm. 6 to 18-1-62.

Saturday, 18 January 1862.
Wind from south-east. Bell very little improved, the rest much better. Bullocks up and yoked before sunrise. It appears to be gathering all round for rain but as usual I suppose will pass off without our being favoured with any. The natives lately have hardly ever visited the camp; I suppose their curiosity was satiated after the first few days, and when they found they could not drive off the animals without being heard or observed, and the probable consequences, they thought proper to keep aloof. Start this morning for Goonalcarae Creek, or Ellar's Creek, where there is abundance of fine feed, water, and protection from the excessive heat of the sun. Bullocks start at 7 a.m.; passed on our right the recently-dried bed of a very nice lake, and so deceptive was it from its appearance some distance off that even the natives insisted that there was still water in it, but there was not any. The lake I have called Deception--it is a nice lake and retains water for a very long time. I pushed on through the flooded and well-grassed bed of Goonalcarae, or Ellar's Swamp. First went on a westerly course then on a southerly to the creek, but did not admire the water which was neither abundant nor sweet, although there were innumerable birds and some natives there. Went on to Lake Hodgkinson and was astonished to find it so much dried up in only twelve days, that being the time since we left it, and the water now quite bitter; then went on to Hayward's Creek that fills Lake Hodgkinson, and there found abundance of everything that we required--feed, water, wood, and shelter from the broiling sun. The dray did not get this length but camped on east end of lake, and obtaining for their use water, by digging, at four feet from the surface, good and clear; the cart will come on here in the morning and I shall remain here till there is a change in the weather as it is fearfully trying; there has been a shower on our course since we passed on our way to Lakes Blanche and Sir Richard, but nothing of any consequence. The horses were more done up today than I have yet seen them from the oppressive heat.

Sunday, 19 January 1862.
Dray came in about noon; a considerable number of natives here on creek.

Monday, 20 January 1862.
Camp, Hayward's Creek; wind very strong from north-east to south-east.

Tuesday, 21 January 1862.
Camp, Hayward's Creek; wind chopping all round; heavy rain apparently to the north and north-east, but little of it came this way; gave the native who has been with us so long an old ewe to distribute amongst his friends.

Wednesday, 22 January 1862.
At daylight a Scotch mist from south; by 7 a.m. it came on a steady rain and lasted till 8.15 a.m., when it cleared off, still appearing to rain to north-east and west of this. Clear to the south with the wind from latter quarter; during remainder of the day weather cleared up in all quarters with a south wind, although a good many clouds are flying about. Went round the lake to see what quantity of water was likely to be in the claypans where it fell the heaviest yesterday; there is not so much as I expected but still I will start out north tomorrow to ascertain the nature of the country and see if there be any watercourse in that direction that may hereafter be of use to parties wishing to pass to the north coast; but from what I saw to the east, and the country between that and this, I have very little hope of anything of the kind, but believe there is a creek to the westward of this that either comes from or goes to a latitude beyond and east of Sturt's furthest.

Thursday, 23 January 1862.
Started out at 11.30 a.m.; got to the top of a sandhill on north side of Lake Hodgkinson about six miles from camp; camp bearing about 175°; passed (dry) Lake Marraboothana; then through flats and basins, a large one cutting our course. Changed course and came to a dry creek called Pantyhwurladgie; then on a bearing of 284° over stony desert for a large sandhill; a little water back about two miles from whence we shall have to send for it amongst the stones. Total distance travelled about thirty-three miles; to the north-east and south all stones, but sandhills bound the two latter quarters; beyond the termination of large sandhill there is nothing visible. To the west is a succession of sandhills running north and south, and terminating in desert and stony plains. Round to 348°; in the distance are to be seen some terminations of inconsiderable sandhills.

Friday, 24 January 1862.
The country being short of water I merely go out today to return tomorrow; leaving here all the rations I intended for the journey northward, which for the present I had abandoned with the intention at a more suitable time to try it. Natives are with me but they declare it to be all dry; but I cannot rely on their statements at all times. The water, our supply for today, is about two miles off in the desert; our journey being over a succession of very high sandhills and stony flooded flats; skirting, for the first three-quarters of an hour, the desert to this spot, with a large red-topped sandhill on our right which terminates close by; have not seen a drop of water during the day and camp without it. I return tomorrow early for the last water which will be nearly dried up by the time I reach it. Distance travelled today twenty-four miles. Tops of all the hills to north-east and east are very red, quite free from vegetation on tops and some with spinifex on their sides. To north, termination of sandhills with stony flats; north-west, unbroken horizon; from west-north-west round towards south-west a sandhill in the distance; altogether a dreary spot. A heavy-timbered creek comes in from south-west into the desert and appears in the distance to have a tributary from east-south-east; the timber ceases as it comes on to the open desert plain between four and five miles from this. Quite an unbroken horizon to the west of north-west for some distance. The sandhills that are in view are small and detached.

Saturday, 25 January 1862.
Started back and got to water just in time to give the horses about half as much as they could drink and a little for ourselves; rapid evaporation has taken place since we left yesterday, for then there was enough for 100 horses, now there is not half enough for our eight; so must make for one of the permanent waters south of this tomorrow; have to close-hobble our horses and tie their heads down to them to prevent them straying too far. Strong breeze from the southward.

Sunday, 26 January 1862.
Started at 7 a.m. for Coonhadie, a rainwater watering-place in desert, but found it quite dry; start for camp, Hayward's Creek, and arrived at 1 p.m.; distance about twenty-nine and a quarter miles direct from place to place, but we made it more, being obliged to go round to avoid sandhills and rounding Lake Hodgkinson. The horses stood much in need of water and seemed to enjoy it much, from quantity they drank and the time they took about it. It was fortunate for us that the weather was cool for the season of the year. Wind south and east; found all right at the camp and the men that were ailing much improved. The water in the creek is diminishing gradually, about three-quarters of an inch per day.

Monday, 27 January 1862.
Camp, Hayward's Creek.
Wind easterly. Natives very much displeased at our remaining here but until the weather suits my purpose better than it does at present they must put up with it.

Tuesday, 28 January 1862.
Camp, Hayward's Creek.
Wind east and south, very hot. Several of the party still complaining, the cause of which is difficult to say as the water in the creek appears good and there is plenty of it. The water in the creek is between five and six miles long. There is a lake or swamp rapidly drying up close by, from which there is a very disagreeable odour when the wind is from that quarter; the ailing may proceed from the malaria arising from that place; other waters in the immediate neighbourhood drying up fast. Natives in a great state of excitement today, wishing to inform me that the flood, or arimitha, was coming down and that we must get out of this or we should be drowned (I only wish it would come) stating that it had now reached as far as a place I know well, so tomorrow will make it my business to ride over that length to the south and east to Browne's Creek to ascertain the truth or otherwise of this information.

Wednesday, 29 January 1862.
Wind north and east. Started with Middleton to ascertain if the flood is really coming down or not; followed this creek round my way and was quite astonished at the number of natives I saw--they must have been considerably over three hundred--and I am satisfied that I did not see hem all as I did not go quite up to their camp; we had no conception that there were any such numbers so close to us, a distance of only some six or seven miles. There are myriads of fish of various kinds. There was a camp close by till yesterday, within less than half a mile, but I never saw more than one hundred in it at one time--averaging from forty to sixty. They pass our camp with their nets to drag the creek between this and the lake, and come back loaded with the denizens of the creek; they are not at all liberal with them. I should be sorry to trust to their hospitality or generosity as I think they possess but little of either of those qualities. Arrived at Browne's Creek, at the place named by natives for the arrival of the flood, but found their tale false--they saw me on my way there and I suppose knew my errand--some of shallowest waters in the upper holes of the creek had dried up since I saw them last but there is abundance lower down.

Thursday, 30 January 1862.
Wind east. Camp, Hayward's Creek. Natives kept much aloof today, I suppose in consequence of my finding their piece of gratuitous information false. Self and all the party affected with griping and vomiting with the exception of Middleton and Davis. Cannot make out the cause; I wish it would rain that I could start through the desert out of this and get on to the waters to north and west of this, and be doing something, as this sort of life is worse than hard work on the constitution. There is one thing, this detention here has enabled us to have the backs of the working animals attended to better than we could otherwise have done, and they are all on splendid feed, but the flies and excessive heat of the sun is very much against the healing of any kind of sores or wounds. I had occasion to bleed several of the horses and, from the mere incision caused by the fleam, the necks of several swelled up very much although every precaution was adopted.

Friday, 31January 1862.
Started out to pick an easy track for the cart towards Moolianbrooana ake; found a pretty good one on to the old cart tracks which will do; went then to ascertain how the waters were standing in Caunboogonannie, or Lake Jeannie, and found that, although there was still a very considerable quantity in the lake from the vast number of waterfowl upon it, and perhaps other causes, it had acquired a disagreeable taste, and I have no doubt that it will get quite unfit for use in a month or so if it does not receive a fresh supply during that time. From a hole dug about eighteen inches from the water's edge I had a drink and a pot of tea of excellent water; lots of natives round and in the lake, although round the margin I observed innumerable small fish (parrow) dead, washed in by the wind and ripple of the lake. Our horses did not seem to admire the water but that I am not astonished at.

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