Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

November 1861

The Age [Melbourne]
Thursday 10 April 1862: 7. 'The Exploration Despatches'


Friday, 1 November 1861. [Camp 31, Stawell River]
The horses that had water over night returned with many of the others, and had peached up the ground all about the two holes we had made. All hands set to work and soon had made two good waterholes, at which the horses have been enjoying themselves throughout the day. Mr Haughton, Paddy, and Jemmy Cargara collected, all the horses. The grass is very good here, and as we have now abundance of water we spell here to-day; to-morrow we must make another try for the main range. Yesterday evening I hit the Stawell below the junction of this, which my men called the Weelgar river. The Stawell now runs SW, and is evidently a large contributor to the Barkly. There must, I think, be water somewhere near this, for we saw three ducks pass in the night, and the cockatoos are so numerous. Coreen Jemmy made to-day two such very good shovels that I have determined on carrying them with me for the future. The bed of the Weelgar River I measured 111 yards from the foot of one bank to the other.

Saturday, 2 November 1861. [Camp 31]
The horses are not mustered until 9.30, and as it was threatening rain I determined to give the horses another day on this good grass. A discovery very annoying to me was made this evening, for I counted the horses and one was missing. Cool night.

Sunday, 3 November 1861. [Camp 31]
At 6 p.m. thermometer 97°. Men all day looking for lost mare. Paddy and Jingle went back to 30 camp and fetched my lost candles. Spring found down the river, latitude 20°16', not one mile difference from my dead reckoning. Cool night.

Monday, 4 November 1861. [Camp 31]
Men all day in vain searching for tracks of lost mare; I am now satisfied she never came from Camp 30, if she ever reached that. Paddy and Coreen Jemmy saw large pools of permanent water in the Stawell.

Tuesday, 5 November 1861. [Camp 31]
Horses these last mornings have been much scattered, coming in small parties to the water, and there camping until evening. This morning, as I expected, great delay. I started Mr Haughton, Paddy, Coreen Jemmy, and Rodney, with all the horses that were packed, at 9 a.m. The remaining six, and Jingle's horse, detained the remainder of the party until 3.15 p.m. It was dusk when we reached a tributary of the Stawell, at the end of 18 miles N.N.W; Mr Haughton had not, however, stopped here, and as we could no more see the tracks, we searched for a spot to dig for water, as he had all the water bags with him. The place we tried gave every symptom, but nothing beyond mud. There was no help for it, so, having tied up the horses, we tried to sleep, having first each swallowed a tin of apple jell¡y, which was a great relief, for we had eaten nothing since 6 a.m.; Jack stated be would, however, be dead before morning. At 10.30, after a short sleep. I lit a match, and to my great joy found there was water in our hole, sufficient to give each a half-pint. At one, after another snooze, I found we could dip the pint pot, and I woke Mr Macalister, Jack, Jingle, and Jemmy Cargara, when every one drank as much as he required. The night was quite cold.

Wednesday, 6 November 1861 [Camp 32, Patience Creek].
At 5.45 we had packed up and were off on the tracks again, and within eight miles WNW pulled up the camp. Mr Haughton had got water in another tributary by digging. Some blacks had been encountered near the camp, who had attacked Paddy and Rodney, who were looking for water; one was killed by a shot from Paddy. All hands had now to go to work to enlarge the water hole, as the horses could not get sufficient; this was done and a fence erected on both sides, to prevent the horses treading down the sand banks. Mr Haughton stopped the greater part of the day by the hole, only letting in two horses at a time, until every one was amply satisfied. Thermometer 104° in the shade at 3 p.m., but a cool breeze from S.W. (Camp No. 32). Coreen Jemmy's shovels are a great comfort.

Thursday, 7 November 1861. [Camp 33, Grateful Creek]
Had great delay in collecting the horses; we managed, however, to go 11 miles NNW by compass, over a table land of red sandstone, after having crossed some downs near Patience Creek. I observed that rain had fallen not long ago, and the grass was green; but it made me feel very grateful when I found a small creek with abundance of water, and fine feed for the horses. The creek I have called Grateful Creek; nevertheless we were obliged to abandon a horse to-day. My black men found some long reaches of water higher up the creek, which will last two or three months, and the knocked-up horse was left within one mile of the creek. (Camp No. 33.) Barometer 29'11.

Friday, 8 November 1861. [Camp 34]
A good start, and notwithstanding the great heat, we managed to do sixteen miles NNW and three WbyN down a creek here; however, we have no water. At first we, tried to dig where we camped, but as the water came too slow, Mr Macalister, Jack, Jingle, and Rodney went with me half a mile further down, and round a spring, which they, by turns working two shovels, dug out, making a capital waterhole, which Jemmy Cargara and I in the meanwhile fenced in. We stopped till 8.30, watering the horses one by one, and then Mr Haughton with Paddy and Coreen Jemmy relieved us, and every horse was satisfied, and with abundance to return to during the night; luckily there was very good burnt grass here. (Camp No. 34, but I am too tired to mark it) Is not this a tributary of the Flinders? Ground very heavy all day. Aneroid 29'25.

Saturday, 9 November 1861. [Camp 35]
The horses were soon collected, and we started early; nevertheless, so great was the heat and so heavy the ground, that the horses were much distressed, and it was a great comfort to find some bulrushes, good springs of water, and grass, at the end of ten miles. Our course has been, on an average, 32° N of W, and we had crossed over to a large creek still running WNW. This camp will be an important one to us on our return, and will probably be the place where I shall stop to spell the horses, especially as this morning (Sunday), Coreen Jemmy has discovered a better spring and first-rate grass. (Camp 35.)

Sunday, 10 November 1861. [Camp 36, Norman River]
Great delay in collecting the horses, and we did not start until 10; the consequence was that the heat and heavy ground, the latter worse, than ever, nearly brought us to a standstill with the horses. My course for the first six miles and a half was NW by compass. I then turned 32 deg N of W for four miles, when I pulled up a large river, with a fine pool of water six feet in depth. This must be the Flinders River. Of coarse, short as the day's stage was, we were obliged to camp. (No. 36.)

Monday, 11 November 1861. [Camp 37, Norman River]
We got an eight o'clock start, and did our 12 miles down the river to another fine pool 14 feet deep, before the heat of the day. The ground is also harder. An anabranch turned me NW by compass, one mile and a half, then 10° N of W seven miles and a half, where we hit the river again one mile and a half WNW, and one mile and a half NW to Camp No. 37. One horse stopped about 1 mile above the camp. I intend leaving him and 7 more at the 40 Camp, and push on with the remainder. If the ground opens, instead of being the brushy sandy country we have encountered hitherto in these waters, I intend taking advantage of the moonlight nights. There is no doubt now of this being the Flinders, Lost my opera glass out of the case to-day.

Tuesday, 12 November 1861. [Camp 38, Norman River]
Many of the horses were astray this morning, but I started Mr Haughton with 28 packs at 8.30. It was near 1 before the others were found, in ones and twos; and two horses were completely knocked up searching for them. I waited until half past three, to get over the heat of the day, but the two knocked up horses I was obliged to leave with two more I had previously determined upon leaving here until my return. The ground was dreadfully heavy, and before we reached the camp, about 15 miles WbyS from Camp No. 37, five more horses and two packs had to be left. We passed also a mare of Mr Haughton's party knocked up. We got to Camp 38 at 8.15. This day, I find from Mr Haughton's report, as well as my own experience, has knocked our horses out of time altogether, so I must spell here a couple of days, and then push on the best way we can. I fear much that the steamer will have left; however, I have enough to carry us home with care.

Wednesday, 13 November 1861. [Camp 38, Norman River]
Spell, but sent back for the packs and missing horses. The thermometer at 109° at 5 p.m. in the shade. I repaired the case of the aneroid, which is as high as 29'51.

Thursday, 14 November 1861. [Camp 38, Norman River]
Spell. Upon looking at the horses no one would suppose they were so completely done up, for none are in bad condition, but the dreadfully heavy ground, with the heat, brings them to a standstill at the end of eight miles. This is a melancholy good-for-nothing country. Aneroid 29.59. What does this mean, for the sky is very clear, and there is a cool breeze? The nights are still delightfully cool. Thermometer at 3 p.m. 103° in the shade. Aneroid fell again to 29'51. There are flocks of bronze-winged pigeons at this hole, and thus we have a supply of fresh meat, some being shot, others being knocked down by the men with sticks. They came at sundown every evening. Thermometer at sundown 91°. Friday morning at daybreak 61°.

Friday, 15 November 1861. [Camp 39, Norman River]
Did not collect all the horses until near sundown, as I waited until they by twos and threes came to water, instead of knocking up more horses looking after them. We started at 5.30, and had a pleasant ride for seven miles; the first four over hard ground WbyS 10° and the other three WNW; this brought me to a pool of water, and I camped, for although we have a splendid moon the bush is too thick to travel by night. All the horses appear to be recovered, but I left one at the last Camp. Hot wind all night from the east, but towards morning it got quite cool.

Saturday, 16 November 1861. [Camp 40, Norman River]
As we had hobbled nearly all the horses we got a 7.30 start ; the first two miles I went W., then three miles WbyN, when we pulled up the real river, the last two camps having been, as I suspected, on an ana-branch. The river turned us 32° N of W by compass, for two miles, when another mile WSW brought us to a pool, where it was deemed prudent to Camp, as the heavy ground was showing its damaging effects on the horses. This is very tantalising, but I must have patience. Aneroid 29'64; thermometer at 2 p.m. 105° in shade. Marked a tree on one side FW, 40 under, and on the other RSV., 16 Nov 1861. I hoped this tree would be on Gregory's track, where he crossed the Flinders, but in this I have been disappointed.

Sunday, 17 November 1861. [Camp 41, Norman River]
To-day has been more encouraging, we got an 8 o'clock start, and went nine miles WbyN by compass, over ground which was rapidly improving and getting more sound. I now turned WbyS for two miles, and was delighted to see some box trees. The ground now is quite hard along what I take to be an anabranch; this turned us WNW for 1 mile, and the 6° S of W for 4 miles, when the watercourse was no longer visible; still keeping the same course for one mile, we crossed over to another branch. This is still too small for the main river, but my men are inclined to think it is so notwithstanding. If so, this is not the Flinders, but merely a tributary; it now turned WNW for 1½ miles, and then NNW for 1½ miles, which brought us to a small pool of temporary water, at which we camped. We had to change four of the riding horses, otherwise the horses have stood twenty mile stage well; as we had a gentle breeze blowing from the gulf, the day was not unpleasantly hot At this camp, marked FW, 41 under, is a remarkable oval ring, planted all round with tall thin saplings, placed about a foot apart; none of my men understand the meaning of it. It is a great relief to feel that the machine is moving again.

Monday, 18 November 1861. [Camp 42, Norman River]
Having started at 7 30, we managed to make twelve miles before the heat of the day, when we found a pool of water, and as Jingle could find none within two or three miles lower down, camped. The morning was made pleasant by the cool breeze from NW. The river to-day has averaged a course 48° W of N by compass; it has a better defined channel, and we passed one lagoon only just dried up; after all it is a mere apology for a river. The ground still continues hard, and is nearly as closed with spinifex; Jingle saw large. plains when looking for water lower down; thermometer at 3 p.m. 104°; aneroid, 29'82. The pigeons, both at the last camp and at this, have been in large flocks; I was unwilling to expend powder, of which I have only three canisters left, but as I thought a change of diet beneficial, I allowed the men to shoot at this camp, and the result was we had twenty seven pigeons.

Tuesday, 19 November 1861. [Camp 43, Norman River]
Started at 6.45; at the end of 8 miles pulled up a good pool of water, at which the horses all drank; we passed another 2 miles further down, and probably another at the end of 14 miles, for we saw and heard many cockatoos in a bend on our right; 5 and a half miles further down we came to an excellent pool with fish in it, and with good burnt feed around it; horses looking quite fresh, for we did this distance before the heat of the day, and the breeze was cool from NW. Near this camp we found some gins; their men were hunting, so they said, and Jemmy Cargara could understand one of them pretty well; they had heard of no white men lower down; I thought they might have heard of the Queensland party; they told us one piece of good news, which was that henceforth there was plenty of water. Our course to-day has been by compass 30° N of W five miles, NWbyN 3 miles, NWbyW 5 miles. 20° N of W 1 mile, 5° N of W 2 miles, W 3 miles, and half a mile NW to Camp No 43. The country to-day is much more open, but there were no plains; Jingle has had so much brush of late, that he is inclined to term open forest plains. Aneroid 29'83; thermometer at 3 p.m., 103° in shade. The river is more respectable; it was joined by a creek from SE 4 miles below Camp 42.

Wednesday, 20 November 1861. [Camp 44, Norman River]
Started at 7.15, and for the first 6 miles travelled 30° W and N by compass; then NNW for 2 miles, when we crossed the river, having to-day been on the right bank. It now for 1 mile kept the same course, NNW, and a plain extended along the south bank; but now it turned NbyE for 3 miles, and then NNE for 1 mile, when we came to a deep permanent waterhole, and five blacks with gins and children at it. A friendly intercourse was established, and I gave them some tomahawks. They were subsequently joined by ten or twelve more men. We camped here; the blacks on one side of the water, we on the other. As this NE turn of the river was perplexing, an endeavor was made to ascertain which way it now went. The blacks made us understand clearly enough that this river now ran NWbyN by compass; we understood, bat not so clearly, that it joined another running more to the westward. They told us to follow this water-course and we should at short intervals find plenty of holes like this one. Large plains lay to the NW and strange to say, they used for this the word "coonieal," the same as Weerageree and Coreen Jemmy's language. They said we mast avoid going to the west, as the country was no good, like what we had seen if we came down this river. They had heard of no white fellows being to the NW or WNW. I have all along stated to my party that what Mr Gregory called the eastern end of the Gilbert, I believed to be tributary of this river. I now suspect it is the real Flinders; and this I believe to be the tributary (rivers noureron). The country is now good, but a large proportion is subject to inundation. It is a great relief to be done with the heavy sandy country-with spinifex and brush of melaleuca, and other rubbish. Aneroid, 29'85; thermometer at 2.30, 108° in the shade. The NW breeze was cool this morning, but after twelve it now and then brought a hot blast from off the plains, which are visible from the back of this camp (No. 44).

Thursday Morning.
The blacks appear to have acted upon the mutual confidence principle, for they slept as quietly at their camp all night as if they had not been under the muzzle of our guns. We, however, on our side, kept a strict watch all night. There was no probability of an attack, considering the brilliancy of the moonlight; and, moreover, ten times the number of blacks ought to hare been defeated in an attempt on a camp so well situated as ours was, protected by overhanging trees, with an open slope to a plain at our back.

Thursday, 21 November 1861. [Camp 45, Norman River]
Four of the horses, although not far from camp, were not found until 9.20; they were camping under a large tree. The day's work was in consequence spoiled. The first three and half miles I went the course directed by the blacks, NWbyN, but as this brought me, after passing the flooded plains, to heavy sand, I turned N for 2 miles, then NNW 1 mile, when I had again to go N for 2 miles. The day was oppressively hot, so I now turned NbyE for 1 mile, to a chain of good waterholes in the river, with good grass, and there camped. My men got a few fish here, about a pound weight each. Thermometer in shade 108° at 3 p.m.; aneroid 29'84.

Friday, 22 November 1861. [Camp 46, Norman River]
To-day I followed the course of this river, merely cutting off the bends. Great doubts are entertained as to what river this is, for if it is the Flinders, I am 20 miles out of my longitude, and the way the blacks point, it ought take me by my map to the camp of 11th of September, of Gregory; but how this can be is a puzzle, considering the width of the inundation and the abundance of permanent water. How does this correspond with Gregory's dry irregular channels? Our course was by compass 5° W of N 2 miles, NWbyN 2 miles, NNW 1 mile, NW 5 and a half miles. NWbyN 1 and a half mile, NNW 3 miles, WNW 1 mile, and another mile NWbyW brought us to camp at one of the finest sheets of water I have seen for many a day. Our latitude, both by observation and dead reckoning, is 18°18', and this corresponds with Gregory's 11th September camp, and so does my longitude.

Saturday, 23 November 1861. [Camp 47, Norman River]
We went at first 3 miles NW, and then 1 mile 15° N of W brought us round the end of a magnificent reach of water. Here some blacks, alarmed at our approach, swam across the river to avoid us. It took us another mile WbyN to get quite round the bend, and then it extended N one and a half miles, and NbyW two and a half miles ; here it ended, and we went WNW to some small pools to camp. In the afternoon Jingle, Coreen Jemmy, and I rode out to reconnoitre. I saw the river was now going a little E of N, and was again in long reaches. I struck out to the W., and came on some box flats, and on my return to camp passed a lagoon, which I had no doubt was that which Gregory passed on his way from 10th September camp to that of 11th September. My map is right after all, and this I suppose is the river marked on the maps as Bynoe - what the devil is Bynoe?

Sunday, 24 November 1861 [Camp 48]
I just went out 5 miles, a little to the N of WbyN, and camped on the creek on which Gregory camped 10th September.

Monday, 25 November 1861 [Camp 49, Flinders River]
An eventful day. Sixteen miles WbyS 5° by compass, brought us to the Flinders River. We found it a beautiful large river, with high banks, and a delicious cool breeze blowing up it. We got a good many ducks, which were very acceptable, for our meat was finished yesterday. At this camp, lat. 18°7', were found by Jingle the well-defined trail of either three or four camels and one horse. They had come down the Flinders. This evening we supposed Burke had gone down on Leichhardt's track, intending, probably, to follow Gregory's up the Gilbert. This night we had a tremendous thunderstorm - the first heavy rain we have had since starting from Bauhinian Downs (Mr Dutton's station).

Tuesday, 26 November 1861. [Camp 50, Flinders River]
I had to go up the river eight miles before I could get a crossing-place, and last night's rain had made the ground so heavy that the horses were much distressed. I therefore camped as soon as we had crossed. I here marked one tree FW.50 and another RSV.20 Nov 1861. This morning Jemmy Cargara, in collecting the horses, found Burke's trail returning across the plain, and going SSE. He has, therefore, I conclude, made back, after having seen the Gulf of Carpentaria, towards the south again. It is to be hoped Mr Howitt has pushed far enough to meet him with supplies. I hope to get rations from Captain Norman to enable me to run his trail now I have found it. I shall be dreadfully disappointed if the steamer has left, for I have barely enough to carry me back, and it would be madness to follow Burke south without an ample supply. Grateful Creek, and the three large creeks crossed upon leaving it, are evidently the heads of the Flinders, but the southerly trend which the main one took caused me to cross it. The tableland is therefore the dividing range. I suppose that Burke followed up the Barkly and the Stawell, and then cut across to the Flinders, not more than twenty or thirty miles to the west of my course.

Wednesday, 27 November 1861. [Camp 51]
We went 18 miles W by compass, crossing Gregory's 8th September creek in nine miles. We have had plains all day, but I can see low sandstone ranges not far on our left. At a black man's camp, from which he had just fled, we found two blank leaves out of a book. A mare got bogged last night, and she was so weak when we pulled her out this morning, that I was obliged to leave her. The ground is drying up fast indeed. I think but little rain fell at this creek ; nevertheless two horses had to be left betwixt the two creeks, knocked up. (No. 51.) Night oppressive. Aneroid rose to 29'96 from 29'84.

Thursday, 28 November 1861. [Camp 52, Morning Inlet]
Started at 7.45, and steered WbyN by compass. The first miles we passed over plains so full of holes as to be distressing to the horses, who were constantly stumbling. We now crossed a creek with deep holes, but now dry. Higher up where I saw many calares and a clump of trees, I think there is water. We now began to rise, and crossed over a spur of red sandstone ranges. At the end of four miles we began to descend. Crossed two dry channels, then ridge of good downs, and at the end of fifteen miles from Camp 51 reached one head of Morning Inlet, and camped on some lagoons. This is very good pastoral country, but I fear too hot for sheep. There is much thunder hanging about, and some storms appear to have again fallen on tho Flinders, but none have reached us. A cool N.N.W. breeze rendered the afternoon very pleasant, but the forenoon was very oppressive. The immense plains which stretch away to the N and NW, I suppose are the same mentioned by Captain Stokes (Camp No. 52.) Sent a rocket up at night.

Friday, 29 November 1861. [Camp 53]
Heavy clouds, and the great rise in the barometer caused us at daylight to make all snug for a storm, but it passed over with a smart squall; there was, however, evidently rain not far from us. We now saddled up, and by eleven had reached the main head of Morning Inlet, on nine miles WbyN by compass. After rising from the creek at No 52, we rode over red sandstone all day until we descended on to the box flats, within one mile of the main creek; the first part box trees, broad-leaved and good grass; and the latter portion malaleuca, nearly no grass, and with innumerable cones, some six feet high, made by the ants. On the banks of Morning Inlet was again, where the sandstone abutted on the creek, the hateful spinifex grass. The plains are visible north of our Camp No. 53. Cool breeze from NW. Night very oppressive and sultry. Mosquitoes triumphant. Thermometer 86° at sundown.

Saturday, 30 November 1861. [Camp 54]
I started Mr Macalister with all the horses which were ready, at 7.45. I was delayed until 9, waiting for two missing ones, which were, after all, within gunshot of the camp. A thunderstorm threatened as I was saddling the last two, and a few drops of rain fell. The day has been delightful with a cool breeze from NW. I crossed three creeks, or branches of a creek, within three miles WbyN of the camp. We now cleared the sandstone, and rode across a fine plain for three miles more. We crossed a small creek in the centre of the plain, and on the west side found a large creek, with two anabranches and a fine lagoon. Is this the creek of Gregory's camp of the 5th of September, or is it the first one ? In one of his maps there is a second creek, which would correspond with the latter. We now crossed a sandstone ridge, with good grass and box trees, and reached a plain in three and a half miles. Six and a half miles more over downs and stony plains, of an excellent description for pasture purposes, brought me to a hole in a good downs creek. I was very glad to water the horses. Another mile brought me to where Mr. Macalister had judiciously decided on camping, as he had come WbyN 17 miles, quite enough for our horses. This creek is evidently flowing into the Leichhardt, which cannot he much more than two miles a-head of us; indeed I think I can see the trees of it. We are now fast approaching the climax, and the anxiety of my party is intense lest the Victoria should have left. Is it not strange we see no traces of the Queensland party? I have sent up rockets the last two nights, in hopes of attracting their attention. To-night a rocket might be seen from the Albert which at one place is only 26 miles from here, and that is probably as far as the boat would come up. The camp of Gregory is 31 miles.


www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix