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January 1862

Diary of [Walker's] return journey, 16 December 1861-25 January 1862.
Box 2088A/3c (Item 3), MS 13071, State Library of Victoria. 15 pages.

Wednesday, 1 January 1862.
A very dark cloud extended nearly over the sky this morning and I feared we could not move. However it went off more north of us and we proceeded on down the river passing by a bend of the river on the opposite bank of which were the blacks. We called to them, but could get no answer comprehensible, but when we pointed down the river they did so too. The river, whose general course has been NbyE now tended more to the E and at the end of 6 miles from our camp an old black called out to us. Paddy went to meet him, but could make nothing out of his signs. In another mile leaving the bank of what I then thought was the river to my left, we came upon a fresh water creek. The thunder cloud had burst here and the ground was very boggy, the water running strong off the plains into the creek. We had to go two miles SSE before we could cross it and now, in attempting to make NW again we had awful work, the ground being all under water and we having to cross what were now large running creeks. At the end of 4 miles, which took two hours to travel, we stopped to rest the horses for a couple of hours under another sandstone ridge. When we went on we found the sandstone more boggy than the plains and we had to our lead our horses to the edge of a salt water inlet, now however fresh, where the sand gave the horses good footing. Our old black was here again, two or three gins, some children and a cripple who had lost the use of his legs and travelled on his hands and feet. They took to the water, being afraid of the horses. We now ran up on good hard sandstone and from the summit saw the salt water inlet, with numerous branches running under the foot of the range and the river a great way from us to the west. I now was very ill and vomiting, so I determined to return. At the end of 4 miles wading we reached a dry ridge upon the top of which we camped. The mosquitoes were intolerable at night and the poor horses kept under the smoke which we kept up all night.

Thursday, 2 January 1862.
Started at 6 and after passing over the ground deluged yesterday we got on very well. We saw a small party of blacks on one plain, but did not stop to have a parley, which after all was not comprehensible. Passed by the lagoon and the range. This range is another instance of what I have mentioned, the plain which divided the watershed of the Norman from that of the Flinders without any perceptible elevation, here rises to the height of 300 feet and forms a [deep] point, round which the river runs. When we got to the place where the camel tracks were first seen, Jemmy Cargara tried to ran the course further SSE. He overtook me before I reached the camp and told me he had to give it up as one camel was going to the right, another to the left, and no distinct track was made. This was alarming, for it was at once surmised that there was no one with the camels, moreover, the horse track was not seen. Mr Macalister had according to my instructions removed the camp to the east bank, but I regretted to hear, that although the tracks had been seen, the man we had left had not been found.

Friday, 3 January 1862.
Moved the whole party 13 miles down the river. Jingle found a camp fire of Burke's, but no marked trees. In the evening Jingle and Coreen Jemmy set out to examine tracks. They returned and reported that the camels had gone right in to the point at the range down to the water edge and they thought had crossed over. This is very perplexing. The camels had, I saw, frequently turned up large clods of mud.

Saturday, 4 January 1862.
I started Mr Houghton, Coreen Jemmy, Jingle and Rodney first thing with instructions to search for Captain Norman's marked tree inside of the salt water inlet. With the remainder of the party I moved down to what on the first tour I had taken for the river but now turned out to be a magnificent reach of fresh water, 100 yards if not more wide, and two miles in length. At the north end I camped, according to the preconcerted arrangement, and I saw that Mr Houghton's tracks had passed this way. Shortly after camping, I saw them riding over the plains betwixt us and the river and they soon came into camp. Mr Houghton reported that there were no signs of Captain Norman. He had seen the tracks of a horse !!

Marginal note: Jemmy Cargara and I today saw under the range the tracks of three camels, but no horse, going ESE, but each at a short distance from the other.

Sunday, 5 January 1862.
By observation last night, taking the moon from Aldebaran and Capella, we are in lat. 17°48' [C119 was at 17°53'] and the place I had appointed to meet Captain Norman is 17°47'. Mr Macalister, Mr Moore, Paddy and Jemmy Cargara today made another attempt over the sandstone range from which I turned back on the 1st, but the salt water arms were so intricate that it was impossible to approach the river.

Monday, 6 January 1862.
Today Coreen Jemmy is looking for the horses, found again the track of the horse and with it the tracks of four men on foot, two of whom only had boots. As these tracks were close to our camp, we all went to examine them and nothing was now more evident than that Burke had unaccountably abandoned the camels and the party was making its way on foot. At first the tracks were going NW, for what reason I cannot make out, but the salt water arm having pulled them up, they turned E-by-N, their proper course if they wished to hit the Gilbert. Jingle and Jemmy followed the tracks on foot to where they saw the horse had bogged in a creek and they had been compelled to drag him out. Mr Macalister and Reding went with us to the river and on the bank I marked a tree visible right down the reach.

N 6 FT

Here I buried a bottle with all the information I could remember and took the precaution of making a small fire over the hole to obliterate all signs of digging. I stated that on Thursday I must cut and run on Burke's tracks.

Tuesday, 7 January 1862.
Mr Macalister, Paddy, Coreen Jemmy and Jingle taking a days ration with them, started to track Burke definitively for at least 10 miles. Rodney today looking for horses saw some blacks cross the river. He made them understand we were tracking four men and one horse and that the men wore hats like him. They immediately pointed EbyS then WbySE.

Wednesday, 8 January 1862.
This evening Mr Macalister and his party returned. They had tracked the party on foot on a most circuitous route. The men (natives) frequently having to turn down the grass to find the tracks. At last the trail turned up the river again, went into one point and out of it again and into another where was found a tree marked:


and another:


Here they had evidently returned to the camels, the tracks and dung of which were all around. It is now supposed two of the party had remained in camp and that the naked footsteps were blacks following them. Moreover Mr Macalister's party had further out seen the tracks of large numbers of blacks, following their trail. They tried digging 14 feet from the tree south east by east, but the ground had evidently never been opened and would require a pickaxe to make much way into it.

Thursday, 9 January 1862. [Camp FW-12 JAN]
Whilst the men were packing, Jemmy Cargara and I proceeded to the river as low down as the salt water creeks would allow and there I marked a tree:

6 FT

and buried another bottle with the latest information also desired whoever found it to get the other bottle in the bend above. Having returned to camp and all being ready, the whole party moved up the river to within ¾ of a mile of Burke's tree. I examined it the same evening and tried digging at 14 inches and 14 yards, but with no success.

Friday, 10 January 1862. [Camp FW-12 JAN]
Patrick, Rodney and Jemmy Cargara went with me in a direction SEbyE, diverging at various points to our left in hopes of meeting with Burke's track. We crossed over the range and went about 12 miles but we travelled 17. Having seen no signs of a track we returned on the upper side of the mountain and arrived after dusk at the camp. We saw the tracks of a large number of blacks quite fresh and on our return fell in with a boy of about fourteen years of age. He was awfully frightened and of course nothing could be got out of him. I have never seen a country so thickly populated with blacks.

Saturday, 11 January 1862. [Camp FW-12 JAN]
Mr Moore and party went out today to see what they could do, but although as usual the tracks of camels feeding could be seen, no track out of this could be seen. They, according to instructions crossed the river on their return but no camels had been over. The river could not have been fordable when Burke was here for he had fresh water from the river at his camp and he had to head two fresh water creeks. Mr Houghton and Coreen Jemmy went down to my marked tree but no one had been there.

Sunday, 12 January 1862. [Camp FW-12 JAN]
Mr Macalister and one party went ESE to examine some tracks seen there, but beyond a short distance none could be seen. I went with another to examine the tracks seen by Jemmy Cargara and I under the range on the 4th. These, we found, were Burke's downward track going ESE to head the fresh water creek then turning WNW to round the range on the opposite side. Thus we can track every inch of his route from above our 50 tree to his CXIX Camp and beyond that all our efforts are in vain. A surmise is now gaining strength that Burke's party never left the camp and that the camels have strayed back singly leaving no definite trail. Why he left the camp at all on the mad foot expedition is astonishing, the two men left behind may have been killed in his absence and he have shared their fate on his return. There is still one chance which is that the tracks went through the long grass on the plains ESE from his camp and that although we have seen on these plains the tracks of single camels going in every direction yet we may have missed the trail. Unluckily the grass is green and I cannot burn it. Marked a tree:

12 JAN

Monday, 13 January 1862 [Camp 1U, near Camp 50 Tree].
Proceeded with the whole party to opposite the [Camp] 50 Tree but Mr Houghton, Patrick, Jingle and Coreen Jemmy went up on the left bank in hopes of falling in with the two [?] of the missing horses but they met no success. My plan now is to run up the Flinders to opposite where I left the horses on the Norman, send over for these and then if we have not cut the trail of Burke on the red sandstone where it would be like print, I must steer EbyN to the Gilbert. This will be very disappointing to me, but my first object is to find the trail again if I can. Marked a tree here:


Turkeys and ducks, the latter abundant. Thermometer, 7a.m., 81°; aneroid, 7a.m., 29'8.

6 JUNE 1862: 7.

Tuesday, 14 January 1862 [Camp 2U].
Went 25° S of E 1¼ miles, 20° E of S 2 miles, E 1 mile, 30° S of E 1 mile, SE 4 miles, 15° E of S 3 miles, 12° W of S 3 miles, 40° W of S half a mile, 15° E of S 1 mile, (the last three and a half miles down a creek), and then turned 60° W of S to the river, which was only ½ mile on our right. Mr Houghton, Mr Moore, Rodney, and Jemmy Cargara, had gone on the left bank looking for horses, still, however, in vain, They joined us after we had camped at a deep hole in the river, which is here a sandy dry river in two branches, with water at long intervals. Marked a tree:


Jingle to-day saw Burke's downward trail. The spinifex I had seen south of the [Camp] 50 tree is only a spur coming into the river. I was astonished to find the country so good, being on both sides splendid plains.

Wednesday, 15 January 1862 [Camp 3U].
Had a very bad start, and as the day was oppressively hot, I only went a short distance, 30° S of E ½ mile, S 1½ mile. Now, to my annoyance, 40° W of S 1 mile, and then 2 miles 35° E of S, brought us to a good pool of water, where we camped. We had barely got everything snug when a thunderstorm from the NW, which had been threatening all day, came down with tropical violence, making the waterhole flow over, and the river run enough to fill another large reach below us. The rain caused me to omit marking the tree. I here pointed out to Mr Moore that there were specimens of black basalt quartz and slate, besides the greystone mentioned before.

Thursday, 16 January 1862 [Camp 4U].
Coreen Jemmy luckily shot a turkey. Everything that spares our meat is valuable The river to-day has trended more E; had it not done so, I must have abandoned it. 30° S of E ½ mile, S ½ mile, SE 1 mile, 10° S of E ½ mile, 30° E of S 2 miles, E ½ mile, 30° S of E ½ mile, 43° S of E to camp. Marked a tree:


Here we had just got the tents pitched in time, when down came another thunderstorm, this one from the SSE. The country still beautiful. Water doubtful.

Friday, 17 January 1862 [Camp 5U].
This morning Coreen Jemmy, having mistaken the trees of a creek for these of the river, I was led too far to the east, and had to turn south to hit the river again. The ground from the rain has become very heavy, and the horses were greatly distressed. As it is necessary that at the start I should not impair the fine condition they are in, I made only a short journey, camping 10 miles above the 4 tree, in a direction 30° E of S by compass. The plains to-day have been flooded from the river, which in consequence has now but a small channel, and this also accounts for our seeing nothing of Burke's downward trail. Blacks' tracks quite fresh were seen at Camp No 5. A net and a bundle were found, and in the latter a small plait of fine auburn hair, certainly not that of a black. Rain at night. Mosquitoes kept every one awake all night.

Saturday, 18 January 1862 [Camp 6U].
Just after daylight the blacks were seen close to our camp. As they had some children with them, it was evident their intentions were friendly. A parley ensued. We showed them the picture of a camel, and tried without effect to discover where such animals, if they had seen them, had gone. I doubt whether they understood the meaning of the picture. The Flinders, they explained readily enough, came from ESE - they pointed direct for Grateful Creek. It is as well to mention here that this young black was trying to make us understand something relative to the four white men we inquired about, but was stopped by the sinister-looking men, much to the indignation of Jingle, Paddy, Coreen Jemmy, Rodney, and Jemmy Cargara.

Thermometer at 3 p.m., 102°; aneroid, 29'63. One of them brought to my camel-boy a seed necklace; and I gave them in return a couple of Dover knives. Mr Moore and Mr Houghton gave them also a couple of shirts. The young men were good-looking lads, and the boys also of a pleasing appearance. The men, with the exception of a good-humoured ugly old fellow, kept aloof, and some of them had very sinister looking countenances. My course to-day was 25° E of S 3½ miles, 30° E of S ½ mile, SE 1 mile, 20° S of E 1 mile, and 35° E of S 2 miles, to a fine water hole where we camped. The plains still flooded; the river on two occasions so insignificant that I doubted whether we had not left it, but immediately above were, on both occasions, pools of water, rather low now, but with evidently last year's water in them. Above our Camp No 6 are several fine pools of water; one certainly, if not more, permanent.

Sunday, 19 January 1862 [Camp 7U].
Went SE 2 miles, 25 deg E of S 2 miles, 5° E of S 2 miles; we now had to turn 35° W of S, as the river was a long way on our left, and 42° W of S, which brought us in 3 miles to a lagoon in an anabranch of great size, but now dry; 25° W of S brought us in another mile to the river, and by following it SE 1 mile we came to camp at a good waterhole, evidently permanent. The strange course to-day has been owing to Coreen Jemmy having led, as I remained behind with Mr Moore, Patrick, and Jingle, being delayed by four horses not being found. The country is still flooded plains, but now quite destitute of vegetation, as it has been burnt, leaving only the stumps of long water-grasses, and a long drought has evidently been experienced here. The river where we first hit it was an insignificant channel, but at our camp was again a broad river. The mosquitoes are to-night reasonable. Thermometer at four p.m., 91°; aneroid, 29'60.

Monday, 20 January 1862 [Camp 8U].
Went 15° E of S 2 miles and a half, and 25° E of S 1 mile and a half, when a dark cloud coming from the NW caused us to pitch our tents in all haste. I regretted having done so subsequently, for a NW squall ought not to have stopped us, and it now cleared off, leaving a fine day. Above this camp is a long reach, 3 miles in length, and of great width; at it were some gins and children. One of them spoke a language a little of which Jemmy Cargara understood. She asked if we were the party that had gone down the Norman. Having been informed that we were, she said that nearly all the blacks had gone over to meet us, as we had said we would return that way. She said Burke had gone down the plains on the left bank, and repeatedly answered he had never returned that way. Aneroid, at day-break, 29'01; at half-past six, 29'70. Thermometer, half-past six, 81°. A shirt that was in the camp, she said, had been received from the blacks down the river, her own men were up the river fishing. Mosquitoes again manageable. Ana branch seen a long way on our left.

Tuesday, 21 January 1862 [Camp 9U].
We had barely got half the horses saddled, when the rain came down from the NE. I still persisted in pushing on, for we must not be caught by a flood in a country like this, where we might find ourselves out off from the sandstone country by large ana branches. We went S½E 1 mile, then 20° S of E 1 mile. We now crossed the ana branch, and went on 40° E of S 2 miles, having had the long reach nearly all the way in view. We passed by the blacks' camp, but they had left it. 20° E of S 1 mile, then SE 4 miles, the river now running in two or three narrow channels. Here we camped, and the horses had had enough of the boggy ground. The men and boys of the gins below are camped at some large pools above this camp; they were friendly, and gave us some fish, but nothing new as to intelligence was gained from them. Heavy storm of tropical rain from SW at night.

Wednesday, 22 January 1862 [Camp 10U].
As the blacks here had confirmed the story told by the gins, of Burke having gone down the left bank, and that he had not returned by the Flinders; and as this was evidently what the blacks at Camp No. 5 had tried to make us comprehend, I saw no use in following up the river. Moreover, the continued heavy rains had made the plains very boggy, and I was apprehensive that the wet season had set in three weeks earlier than usual. I therefore determined upon striking across the country for the Norman; a course 25° N of E by compass, ought to take us in three days to a spot 6 miles below my 41st tree. We started at 2 p.m., and, after dreadful work for the horses across the plains, and passing over two ana branches, we reached the sandstone country, which the blacks here call 'Mangolas,' in six miles and a half. We camped ½ mile further, near a good-sized creek, which no doubt joins the ana-branch with the big lagoon. The night was fine until an hour before daylight, when a NW storm of rain burst over us, again deluging the country.

Thursday, 23 January 1862 [Camp 11U].
The state of the ground prevented us starting until half-past two, but we found the ground better than we expected after the first 2 miles, the country was more undulating, and the further E we went the less were the symptoms of rain having fallen; at last I began to fear we would have no water for our camp. This would have been the more awkward, for the heavy rains had caused us not to fill any of our water-bags. Luckily, at the end of 12 miles we found sufficient in a small swamp for our purpose, and we camped. At the end of the first 6½ miles, we fell in with five blacks, but there were tracks of many more. From them we got the old story about the four white men having gone down the Flinders, but, as usual, no information as to whether they had gone from there. At this camp, at half-past one p.m., another tropical storm visited us, lasting until near daylight. It came first from the SSW, went round by the NE, and returned to us with a second edition from the SSE.

Friday, 24 January 1862 [Camp 12U, Norman River].
This morning heavy rain caused us to delay starting until 1 p.m. In the interval we were visited by nine blacks, out of whom no intelligence could be got. Two of them received a shirt each, but subsequently one of them was detected stealing an American tomahawk. We have given so many away, and so many have been lost, that tomahawks are now with us precious articles. Rodney, whose tomahawk it was, called to the fellow to drop it, and snapped his gun in the air. They all now made off; but Paddy, willing to hasten their movements, fired his breech-loader over their heads. This I was very angry at, as it was done without my orders; nevertheless, it had the good effect of showing them what they, I surmise, were utterly ignorant of the immense range or Terry's carbines. I heard them scream when the conical ball struck a tree some distance ahead of them. We reached the Norman in 11 miles. We did not find the ground at all heavy; in fact, the very heavy [sand?] which caused us so much vexation on our outward route, were in the wet season very acceptable to us, as we had good travelling ground.

Saturday, 25 January 1862 [Camp 13U].
As my horse and another were late coming into camp, I started Mr M'Allister on at half-past eight; for, as we had had a fine clear night, and the morning was splendid, it was necessary to take advantage of it. At nine I started after him; passed the 41 tree in 6 miles, and overtook Mr M'Allister in 5 more, at some pools of water with ducks on them, and, as we were out of meat, we camped in hopes of getting some. We found here that the bag containing the tobacco had opened, losing one half (all one side). Three men must, in consequence, return to-morrow, as this is a loss of too serious a nature for Australian bushmen.


11 NOVEMBER 1862: 7.

Sunday, 26 January 1862 [Camp 14/Camp 40, Norman River].
I had intended giving the horses a day's spell, whilst Mr Houghton and two men went back for the tobacco, but they found it within a short distance. We now received an unexpected notice to quit, as the late rains had caused the river and an anabranch to run, and we happened to be camped on the box flats, into which the latter merges. We had just time to got the packs on the saddles, and I have not yet seen it done so quickly. We now moved up to the [40?] tree, and found the Norman River nearly bank and bank. We had made a timely escape from the inundated plains on the Flinders. I have marked no trees since we left that river, but here, where a tree is marked as observed formerly, [RSV], I added:

16 Nov

on the next tree the date, 26 Jan 1862.

Monday, 27 January 1862 [Camp 15U/Camp 39, Norman River].
Moved up to 39th tree; I had intended going as far us the 38th tree, but a very late start frustrated that purpose. I hobbled many of the horses here. The ground in many places is boggy; but in general it is much firmer from the rains, than when we came down.

Tuesday, 28 January 1862 [Camp 16U/Camp 38, Norman River].
Went to 38th tree, and immediately upon our arrival there saw the fresh tracks of a horse. Two men went, after dinner, to look for him; but although the fresh tracks of to-day were seen, the horse was not seen. During the night I heard a great noise among the horses, which I believed to be caused by the advent of the missing one.

Wednesday, 29 January 1862 [Camp 17U].
The horses were much scattered this morning, and were not all found until near 11 a.m.; but among one mob was, to our joy, the horse we had left here on the 15th of November. After dinner we moved on to about 8 miles higher up the river or (anabranch?). Some soup which we made with the sausages cut up fine on Monday - and this was the only way wo could soften them at all - made many of us sick, me especially, and they were all thrown away. We had previously been obliged to throw away all the dried turtle, as it was damaged.

Thursday, 30 January 1862 [Camp 18U].
We got an excellent start, and arrived at the 37th tree at 10 a.m. Within 2 miles of it we saw the tracks of the horses left here, and Mr Houghton and Jemmy Cargara turned off to look for them, but shortly after our arrival Coreen Jemmy and Jingle, who had gone up the other side, fetched two of them into camp. Rodney, to my great joy, found my favourite compass, which had been forgotten here. After dinner Coreen Jemmy and Jingle went out again to look after the other two horses. They returned at 4 p.m., and reported they had tracked them up the river on our old track. The tracks appeared to have been made just after the rain which fell on the morning of the 24th of January. I will follow them as far as the Springs, although I wished to leave this river here, and start for Mr Gregory's 4th October camp. Should we not fall in with Burke's tracks betwixt the Springs and Gregory's 4th October camp, I must try for the Lynd. If we fail there, I do not know what more can be done.

Friday, 31 January 1862 [Camp 19U/Camp 36, Norman River].
Moved up to the 36th camp, Jingle and Coreen Jemmy, who went on in front to track the two missing horses, found that the tracks that they had seen yesterday must have been those of the two already recovored, for they now saw on their way from this camp to the Springs the tracks of the other two, of so old a date as to lead them to think they were made when we had the great storm of the 6th and 7th December on the Albert River. They noticed that the horses were travelling side by side. They are probably at the stations ere this, and may possibly pick up the mare at Grateful Creek, and likewise Nanny, on their road. I expect them to go straight on to Albinia Downs. I now, therefore, resolved to leave this for Gregory's 4th October camp. I have marked a tree here with the date upon which we arrived first - viz., 10th November 1861, and the day we leave it, 1st February 1862.

10 NOV 1861
1 FEB 1862


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