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November 1861

Journal of Mr Walker from the day he left Macintosh's Station, on the Nogoa,
to that of his arrival at the Albert River, Gulf of Carpentaria.

London, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Volume 33, 1863.

Friday, 1 November 1861. [Camp 31, Stawell River]
Spelled at Camp 31. 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 have called the Woolgar River. The Stawell now runs south-west, 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 numerous. The bed of the Woolgar River I measured, 111 yards from the foot of one bank to the other.

Saturday, 2 November 1861 (Camp 31)

Sunday, 3 November 1861 (Camp 31).
At 3 P.M. thermometer 97°. Spring found down the river, latitude 20° 16'. Cool night.

Monday, 4 November 1861 (Camp 31).
Still at Camp 31. Men all day in vain searching for tracks of lost mare. Saw large pools of permanent water in the Stawell.

Tuesday, 5 November 1861.
Started an advance party N.N.W., and did not get away in pursuit of it till afternoon, and so missed it. It was dusk when we reached a tributary of the Stawell; 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. The night was quite cold. Distance (out camp), 18 miles.

Wednesday, 6 November 1861 [Camp 32, Patience Creek].
Reached Camp 32, and stopped remainder of day. 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. Thermometer 104° in the shade at 3 P.M., but a cool breeze from south-west. Distance (from Camp 31) 26 miles.

Thursday, 7 November 1861. [Camp 33, Grateful Creek]
Went NNW by compass, over a tableland 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 good water, and fine feed for the horses. Barometer 29.11. Distance 11 miles.

Friday, 8 November 1861. [Camp 34]
Notwithstanding the great heat, we managed to do 16 miles NNW and 3 WbyN down a creek, but no water. At first we tried to dig where we camped, but as the water came too slow, went ½ a mile further down, and there found a spring, which, being dug out, made a capital water-hole. Very good burnt grass here. Is this not a tributary of the Flinders? Ground very heavy all day. Aneroid 29'25. Distance 19 miles.

Saturday, 9 November 1861. [Camp 35]
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 10 miles. Our course has been, on an average, 32° N. of W., and we had crossed over to a large creek still running WNW.

Sunday, 10 November 1861. [Camp 36, Norman River]
Great delay in collecting the horses, and 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. My course for first 2½ hours was NW by compass. I then turned 32° N. of W., when I reached a large river, with a fine pool of water 6 feet in depth. Short as the day's stage was, we were obliged to camp. (No. 36.) Distance, 10½ miles.

Monday, 11 November 1861. [Camp 37, Norman River]
Started early down the river, and reached another fine pool 14 feet deep, before the heat of the day. The ground is also harder. An anabranch turned me NW by compass, and hit the river again about 9 miles beyond. If the ground opens, instead of being the brushy sandy country we have encountered hitherto on these waters, I intend taking advantage of the moonlight nights. Distance, 24 miles.

Tuesday, 12 November 1861. [Camp 38, Norman River]
Ground dreadfully heavy all day. 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. Distance 15 miles.

Wednesday, 13 November 1861. [Camp 38, Norman River]
Spelled. The thermometer at 109° at 5 pm in the shade; aneroid as high as 29'51.

Thursday, 14 November 1861. [Camp 38, Norman River]
Spelled. 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 stand-still at the end of 8 miles. This is a melancholy, good-for-nothing country. Aneroid, 29'50. What does this mean; for the sky is very clear, and there is a cool breeze? The nights are still delightfully cool. There are flocks of bronze-winged pigeons at this hole. Thermometer at 3 pm, 103° in shade; at sundown, 91°; Friday morning at daybreak, 61°.

Friday, 15 November 1861. [Camp 39, Norman River]
We started at 5.30 P.M., and had a pleasant ride at first over hard ground W by S10°, and then WNW; this brought me to a pool of water, and I camped, for although we have a splendid moon the brush is too thick to travel by night. Distance, 7 miles.

Saturday, 16 November 1861. [Camp 40, Norman River]
To-day reached what I supposed to be the real river, the last two camps having been, as I suspected, on an anabranch. The river turned us 32° N. of W. by compass; then a course of WSW brought us to a pool where it was deemed prudent to camp. Aneroid, 29'64; thermometer at 2 pm, 105° in shade. Distance 8 miles.

Sunday, 17 November 1861. [Camp 41, Norman River]
To-day has been more encouraging; we got an early start, and passed WbyN over ground which was rapidly improving and getting more sound. I now turned WbyS, 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 first, and then 6° S. of W., till the watercourse was no longer visible; still keeping the same course 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 and then NNW, which brought us to a small pool of temporary water, at which we camped. As we had a gentle breeze blowing from the gulf, the day was not unpleasantly hot. At this camp (41) 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. Distance 20 miles.

Monday, 18 November 1861. [Camp 42, Norman River]
Managed to make camp 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, we camped. The morning was made pleasant by the cool breeze from north-west. The river to-day has averaged a course of 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 all closed with spinifex; Jingle saw large plains when looking for water lower clown; 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. Distance 12 miles.

Tuesday, 19 November 1861. [Camp 43, Norman River]
Fell in to-day with some gins, who could give no information of white men, but gave us the pleasing intelligence that henceforth there was plenty of water. The country to-day is much more open, but there were no plains. Aneroid, 29'83; thermometer at 3 pm, 103° in shade. The river is more respectable; it was joined by a creek from SE 4 miles below Camp 42, where is an excellent pool with fish, and good burnt feed. Distance 19½ miles.

Wednesday, 20 November 1861. [Camp 44, Norman River]
For the first 6 miles travelled 30° W of 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 north by east for 3 miles, and then NNE for 1 mile, when we came to a deep permanent water-hole, 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 north-east turn of the river was perplexing, an endeavour was made to ascertain which way it now went. The blacks made us understand clearly enough that this river now ran NW by N. by compass; we understood, but not so clearly, that it joined another running more to the westward. They told us to follow this watercourse, and we should at short intervals find plenty of holes like this one. Large plains lay to the north-west, and, strange to say, they used for this the word "coonical," the same as Weerageree and Coreen Jemmy's language. They said we must avoid going 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 now suspect that what Mr Gregory called the eastern end of the Gilbert, is the real Flinders; and this I believe to be the tributary. The country is now good, but a large proportion is subject to inundation. It is a great relief to have 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 north-west breeze was cool this morning, but after 12 it now and then brought a hot blast from off the plains, which are visible from the back of this camp (No. 44). Distance 13 miles.

Thursday, 21 November 1861. [Camp 45, Norman River]
I went the course directed by the blacks, NWbyN, but as this brought me, after passing the flooded plains, to heavy sand, I turned off north, and found a chain of good water-holes in the river, with good grass, and there camped. My men got a few fish here, about half a pound weight each. Thermometer in shade, 108° at 3 P.M.; aneroid, 29'84. Distance, 9½ miles.

Friday, 22 November 1861. [Camp 46, Norman River]
To-day I followed the course of the 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 in my longitude, and the way the blacks point, it ought to 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 inundations and the abundance of permanent water. How does this correspond with Gregory's dry irregular channels? Camped 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. Distance 17 miles.

Saturday, 23 November 1861. [Camp 47, Norman River]
We went the first hour NW, and then N of W brought us round the end of a magnificent reach of water to some small pools to camp. In the afternoon I rode out to reconnoitre. I saw the river was now going a little east of north, and was again in long reaches. I struck out to the west, 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. Distance uncertain.

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

Monday, 25 November 1861 [Camp 49, Flinders River]
This eventful day, on a course W by S 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, latitude 18° 7', were found the well-defined trail of either three or four camels, and one horse: they had come down the Flinders. This night we had a tremendous thunder-storm; the first heavy rain we have had since starting from Bauhinian Downs. Distance, 16 miles.

Tuesday, 26 November 1861. [Camp 50, Flinders River]
I had to go up the river 8 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. This morning Jemmy Cargara, in collecting the horses, found Burke's trail returning across the plain, and going SSE. Grateful Creek, at Camp 33, 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. Distance 8½ miles.

Wednesday, 27 November 1861. [Camp 51]
We went west by compass, crossing Gregory's 8th September creek half-way. We have had plains all day, but I can see low sandstone ranges not far on our left. Night oppressive. Aneroid fell to 29.96 from 29.84. Distance 18 miles.

Thursday, 28 November 1861. [Camp 52, Morning Inlet]
Started WbyN. At first 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. Crossed two dry channels, then a ridge of good downs, and finally 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 the Flinders, but none have reached us. A cool NNW breeze rendered the afternoon very pleasant, but the forenoon was very oppressive. The immense plains which stretch away to the north and north-west, I suppose are the same mentioned by Captain Stokes. Sent a rocket up at night. Distance 15 miles.

Friday, 29 November 1861. [Camp 53]
Expected a storm, but it passed over. Reached the main head of Morning Inlet, on a course west by north. After rising from the creek at last camp, we rode over red sandstone all day until we descended to box-flats, near the main creek: the first part box-trees, broad-leaved and good grass; and the latter portion melaleuca, nearly no grass, and with innumerable cones, some 6 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 this camp (53). Cool breeze from north-west. Night very oppressive and sultry. Mosquitoes triumphant. Distance 9 miles.

Saturday, 30 November 1861. [Camp 54]
After having crossed, not far from camp, three creeks, or branches of a creek, we cleared the sandstone, and rode across a fine plain, with a small creek in the centre, and found on the west side a large creek, with two anabranches, and a fine lagoon. We now crossed a sandstone ridge, with good grass and box-trees, and reached a plain, on leaving which we had to pass over downs and stony plains, of an excellent description for pastoral purposes, 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 on a creek evidently flowing into the Leichhardt, which cannot be much more than 2 miles ahead of us; indeed, I think I can see the trees of it. Distance 17 miles.

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