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October 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.
Monday, 7 October 1861. [Camp 11]
There was much difficulty in catching the horses this morning, owing to their having improved so much during the last few days' spell. Passed by Leichhardt's second L tree; thence over a succession of downs and plains, intersected by narrow and open scrub of the acacia the blacks call 'gurrt.' Rain at night. Distance, 17 miles.

Tuesday, 8 October 1861. [Camp 12]
Course still NNW. Crossed a sandy creek with large bed, but no water; it was here running through sand-hills, but lower down I could see it opened on the downs and plains we had been traversing all morning. One mile beyond this we killed an emeu. Passed another creek, with a pool of water, luckily for the horses. We now ascended a high downs ridge, surmounted by a belt of scrub. Still NNW. We had reached the division of waters betwixt the Alice and Victoria. The first creek crossed to-day was no doubt that crossed by Sir Thomas Mitchell, arid which he marks on his map as a deep rocky channel. Last 5½ miles was through sandy box country, clothed with a grass like knitting-needles. Camped without water at dusk. Distance 20½ miles.

Wednesday, 9 October 1861. [Camp 13]
Shortly after starting we found a pool of muddy or rather milky-looking water; the horses indulged in a good drink, and we filled two of our excellent water-bags--last night we found the benefit of them. I now turned to my course again NNW., which we followed till I discerned symptoms of a watercourse trending N by E 10°. A very short distance showed I was right, and I followed it through a scrub to where it joined a larger creek, which flowed WNW. This creek I followed to camp (No. 13), at a place sufficiently open and well grassed for my purpose. This creek had, after we came on it, received two tributaries from the north-east, and had now abundance of water, possibly, but not certainly, permanent. Except the last 6 miles, the ground was the same sandy box country, with the same grass, as yesterday evening. Distance 16 miles.

Thursday, 10 October 1861. [Camp 14]
To-day travelled over a tableland of sandy ground, with the same needle-like grass as yesterday. Then descended into a broad sandy creek, with reeds, and which bad not long ceased running; I called this the Patrick, after one of my old comrades (aboriginal). The Patrick now ran NNW30°, and then NNW25°; I therefore followed it till it turned NW45°; but I still followed it, for the heavy sandy ground and an oppressively hot day I saw was distressing to the horses; at the end of another 2 miles it turned NNW. 25°, when a half-mile's ride brought us to a long reach of water, at which I camped, as the day's work was too much broken into. Camp No. 14 is about 9 miles from the Alice. When I left the Victoria, I laid down in pencil, on Mitchell's map, what I supposed to be the probable course of the Alice, also a tributary which exactly answers to the creek we were on last night, and which I have now called the Macalister. The Patrick I fell in with 3 miles sooner than I anticipated, but its northerly course makes up for that. I hope to fall in on the other side of the Alice with a tributary coming from the NNW, possibly from the north. The advance party to-day saw very old tracks of horses, and apparently mules, going down the Patrick. I much regret not having seen them, as they must have been Leichhardt's. Distance, 11 miles.

Friday, 11 October 1861. [Camp 15]
Started Mr Macalister, with instructions to travel NNW by compass. I pulled him up at a beautiful camp, on a small creek, with excellent grass. The country, after the first 4 miles, was all plains and downs, intersected by small belts of the gurrt (acacia) scrub. The last 5 miles were over very fine downs, clothed with that excellent grass I call rye (because it always grows near barley-grass). From these downs I saw the range, about 25 miles to the east. Distance, 9 miles (presumed).

Saturday, 12 October 1861. [Camp 16]
To-day we rode NNW by compass, over fine very high downs; crossed two small creeks flowing from them N. by W., and camped at the head of a third. The range now lay about 20 miles east, and betwixt us and it there was a fine downy valley, evidently well watered. Day cool and pleasant, and horses doing well on the excellent feed. Latitude by observation of Camp 16, 23° 17' S. Night cool; thermometer at daylight, 50°. Distance, 15 miles.

Sunday, 13 October 1861. [Camp 17]
Our course NNW by compass, took us down the creek we had camped on, until it joined another water in several places. We crossed this creek, and at the end of 7½ miles from our camp we crossed a creek full of water, with an anabranch flowing to the south-west. This I take to be the Alice. Hitherto we have been on fine downs all day; within half a mile farther we crossed a tributary coming from the north, and then another tributary. By keeping our course NNW we again crossed the first creek, and camped on a fine reach of water. In the first tributary we saw the finest reach of water I have seen this side of the range, and at it was more than one black's camp. About 1 mile lower down than where we crossed the Alice, was a range on the right bank, which I named Mount Rodney, after one of my Murray men. As all three creeks meet there, I expect there must be a large quantity of water at the foot of it. The two tributaries both flow through acacia (gurrt) scrub for the last 5 miles; but where we have camped the country is more open, with promise of improvement. It will be observed that we have seen very little permanent water; but by following down the watercourses into the valley which lay to our right the last two days, I would expect to find abundance. Distance (direct) 11 miles.

Monday, 14 October 1861. [Camp 18]
The country at first was more thickly covered with acacia than suited me; and as we now had hit the creek again, I crossed it, and travelled parallel to it for a short distance 60° W of N by compass. The country now opened, and I resumed my NNW compass course, which in about an hour and a quarter brought us to the summit of the downs ridge which separates the watershed of the Alice from that of the Thomson. Some low ranges were seen to the east, about 5 or 6 miles off, and a small one on the downs to the west, about 3 miles, is probably where the two creeks we have left take their rise. We now made 10 miles more over the downs, and as we descended stony plains came to a beautiful river, running W by N. This, which is no doubt a tributary of the Thomson, I have called the Coreenda. Mr Gregory, when he left the Thomson, says that river is formed by the small watercourses emanating from the sandstone ridges; had I thought that, I would not have ventured where I am now. This is splendid sheep country. I have no doubt that many of the holes in the Coreenda are permanent; but it is not possible to tell which, as that river has not long since ceased running. It floods occasionally about a quarter of a mile on each side, except where the downs approach the bank. The gum-trees look as if drought were a complete stranger to them, so fresh and healthy-looking are they. Distance, 14 miles.

Tuesday, 15 October 1861 - At Camp 18.
This day was one of disappointment, for the boy Jemmy Cargara returned in the afternoon without three of the horses, which he had been seeking since daylight. This is the first time he has failed. I now sent out three men on horseback, and they returned with the horses at three. Shortly after I had unsaddled the remainder, Coreen Jemmy and Patrick reported having seen the tracks of a considerable number of horses. I sent a party to examine them; they returned and reported there was no doubt of the tracks; that they were very old, and had been there near a fine lagoon, about 2 miles above my camp, and in wet weather. Aneroid, 29.5.

Wednesday, 16 October 1861. [Camp 19]
The early part of to-day's journey was over plains covered with gurrt, at times rather too close; thence past a watercourse and two lagoons, to sandstone ridges, with needle-grass--very uncomfortable travelling. Four miles from the lagoons we crossed the well-marked tracks of a very large party going a little N. of W. These tracks were very old, and had been made in wet weather. They will be visible probably for years to come, whereas mine, made in dry weather, will be obliterated the first rainy season. We then came on to the opposite declivity of the sandstone ridges, and from thence saw a high peak which I have called Mount Macalister, being 5° N. of W. by compass; and another bluff mount, which I have called Mount Horsefeldt. I now perceived why Leichhardt's tracks had been going west. He probably camped on the Coreenda, above where my men saw the horse-tracks; thence travelled parallel to my course, and, being higher up the ridges, saw the peak sooner than I did, and turned off towards it. I now saw I was getting too intimate with the dividing range, and altered my course to north-west by compass. One mile brought me to a small watercourse, with many small pools of temporary water, arid, as there was a sufficiency of good grass, I camped. How is it that the blacks here have iron tomahawks? One has evidently a broad axe. The blacks on the Nive, who are much nearer the settlements, have only stone tomahawks, some very fine ones. Distance, 25 miles.

Thursday, 17 October 1861. [Camp 20]
Started early on a north-west course, when, having crossed a high ridge, we came on a river running to the S. of W. This I believe to be the principal head of the Thomson. Here were seen the old tracks of horses (Leichhardt's camp was probably lower down on this river). We proceeded on the same course, passing betwixt two basalt ridges. I now for a short distance diverged to WNW, to get on a plain, when I resumed the north-west course, over two basalt ridges. The basalt was injuring our horses' feet, and I turned again WNW to get on the plains. We next crossed a creek followed by a ridge. I was now able to resume the north-west course, and we hit a nice lagoon, and another head of the Thomson running south-west betwixt these two, and going NNW were again the well-defined tracks of Leichhardt's party (he must have had a considerable quantity of wet weather). He had, no doubt, from Macalister's Peak perceived he was on the verge of the desert, and turned again to his old NNW course. I now turned 25° N of W to go to a peak rising off the downs. From this peak I saw displayed before me an awful waste of endless plains. My man Patrick, who ascended the peak with me, and who is accustomed to the immense plains of the Edward and Murrumbidgee, was struck with consternation, and he remarked to me, "There is no father side this country." Upon leaving this solitary peak, which I have called the Sentinel, I had to turn 10° W of N by compass. We passed betwixt two terminations of spurs, over one ridge, to a gum-creek, running by N. We searched in vain for water, and had to push on over the next ridge, reaching another creek with sufficient water for a day or two. Distance, 25½ miles.

Friday, 18 October 1861 - Camp 20.
Spelled at Camp 20. I took a ride for 3 miles down the creek, which runs WNW through the plains. I found another long pool of water, but fast drying up. We went to the top of the next ridge to get a good view of the range. Found I must still keep 10° W of N by compass. I observed a high mountain in that direction, with a remarkable gap in it. I expect to cross Leichhardt's track again to-morrow: of course whether we see it will depend upon whether he was still travelling in a rain season or not. The ground dries up here very quick. The thermometer, from 12 to 2 P.M. was 96° in the shade; the aneroid is 29.4. By observations taken from two different stars this morning, our latitude is 21° 50', 20 miles more north than my dead reckoning, which previously never differed from the observations more than 3 miles. We have travelled over some very good downs since leaving the sandstone. Near the ranges the grass is sufficiently thick, but as they slope down to the plain it gets thinner and thinner.

Saturday, 19 October 1861. [Camp 21]
Good travelling all day. We crossed some fine downs. At the end of the first 4 miles we crossed a creek running WSW, and shortly afterwards another running south-west; then came to a third which ran SSW; 3 miles beyond, pulled up the last of the waters of the Thomson watershed. This one was running south. We were now rising fast, and we travelled 2 miles upon a plateau of downs. Seeing the gap I have spoken of a little on my right, I altered my course from 10° W of N by compass to north, and on the same plateau reached it. I now turned down the opposite fall 10° W of N by compass, and struck a large creek running in three and sometimes more channels. This creek runs WNW, and is evidently the beginning of a large river. Some very high mountains are now close to us to the north. The aneroid is now 29.2, or 23.19. The gap we have crossed could have been very little under the height of the main range: where we crossed it, the aneroid stood at 28.9. Distance, 21½ miles.

Sunday, 20 October 1861. [Camp 22]
Thermometer at daylight, 66°. I steered NNW by compass, over fine very high basaltic downs, but thinly grassed in some places; we passed a tributary of the creek or river we camped on last night, and camped on a much larger head of the same river, which I have called the Haughton. We unfortunately disturbed three blacks, and thus failed in having an interview. They left very much worn iron tomahawks in this camp, and I have added three new ones to it. The hole here, though of great size and depth, is nearly dry. There do not appear to have been any of the heavy rains here which fell on the Victoria, as well as on the coast, in July and August. There is no appearance of spring; the carrots, instead of being green, like what they were on the Alice waters, have for the last few days been quite brown and brittle. A very high mountain, ENE from the camp (No. 22), I have named Mount Gillbee, after Dr Gillbee, who moved the resolution that I should lead this party.

Monday, 21 October 1861. [Camp 23]
Started 30° W of N, till we crossed a tributary of the Haughton; thence to the top of a scrubby spur of the range, on which Patrick shot a turkey. I had now to turn north by compass to get out on to a plain, then NbyW by compass, and crossed another tributary of the Haughton. Here three of the men in vain looked for water, and we had to push on over a ridge for 2½ miles. I ran down a creek WNW for 4 miles, and then WbyN for 4 miles more, being enticed on from point to point by the appearance of the gum-trees, and the hope of finding water to bring my mare on to it. I saw it was of no use, and turned to the top of a gap in a mountain I have called Pollux; another to the east I called Castor. I had now a fine view of the country to the north, and with my glass saw gum-trees across a plain about 5 miles off. We went down the slope of the downs, and reached some splendid reaches of water, evidently the back-water of a large river. We had, however, to leave four more horses on the downs, and it was dark before we got our saddles off. The horses, parched with thirst, having had no water during a fearfully hot day, rushed into the water, packs and all; luckily no damage was done. Distance, 24½ miles.

Tuesday, 22 October 1861 [Camp 23].
A day's spell, as a matter of course, at Camp 23, Jingle, in collecting the horses to-day, saw the river, which he says is as big as the Dawson: we shall cross it to-morrow, and likewise another, which I think comes round a peak I saw from Mount Pollux, bearing by compass 12° E of N. The downs here are well grassed, and if the climate is not too hot, this is as good sheep country as any in Australia. I have no doubt that permanent water is to be found near this, but that at our camp would not stand more than 7 or 8 months.

Wednesday, 23 October 1861. [Camp 24, Flinders River near today's Hughenden]
Went NNW by compass, crossing the river, which is a sandy dry channel, 90 yards wide: this is an immense width, considering how high we are, the aneroid standing at 29'15. In about an hour, on the same course, we crossed a large tributary, two-thirds of the width of the main river, which I have named the Barkly, after the Governor of Victoria. A short distance from this brought us to the tip of a basalt ridge; and as a range was now in our way, I turned 32° W of N to the top of another ridge, having crossed a small channel. I now turned 55° W of N, and then due west to a small creek with two temporary water-holes and good grass. As I must cross the range, which I take to be a spur of the main range, I camped, not wishing to attempt more to-day. I hoped to cross Leichhardt's track, but we have seen no signs of it. As the Barkly is running north-west, I think it probable he followed it as long as it kept that course. I suppose this river, which I expect receives large tributaries from the north, is a principal feeder of Stuart's great lake, and that Eyre's Creek flows into it; if so, Burke must have struck it. The thermometer this morning at daylight was 64°; this evening at sundown 86°. The aneroid 29.15. Night squally, and aneroid rose to 29.25. Distance, 11½ miles.

Thursday, 24 October 1861. [Camp 25, Flinders River]
When I got to the top of the range this morning, I found I was on an extensive basaltic tableland. The aneroid stood at 28'9. The range, with a peak which I saw from Mount Pollux, stood in the midst of this tableland. Two Very high mountains were seen about 18 miles off; one 10° E of N, and the other 20° E of N. The basalt was distressing to the horses, and we could not average 2 miles an hour. We were pulled up by a deep ravine with a large creek at the bottom, and lined with cliffs of basalt columns; and it was with some difficulty we found a slope of debris not too steep for our descent; and then great care had to be taken. On reaching the foot of the cliffs we ran down the creek W by N to a fine pool, where we camped, having been five hours doing. Distance 6½ miles.

Friday, 25 October 1861 [Camp 26, Flinders River]
Made a fair start at 7.45 am. I followed down Jingle Creek, as I wished to clear the basaltic ranges if possible: 11½ miles in a general westerly direction, now brought us to the Barkly River, leaving which we ascended to a bit of downs. I now saw that a spur of the same basaltic ranges must make the Barkly run WSW; and, as there was no help for it, I steered in that direction, crossing the river and camping at a fine pool of water, with good grass and open country - the 'beau ideal' of a camp. The large tributary which I have called the Macadam, must have joined the Barkly at the back of a spur I see from here, bearing 30° S of E. I had a view of both of them from the tableland, and then a plain separated them. We have had lots of pigeons at this camp; a lagoon about half a mile from here is reported to be permanent; I shall probably see it to-morrow. The day has been very hot, and yet not oppressively so, owing to a breeze which, although blowing from the WSW, was, strange to say, cool. We have generally had cool breezes from the east hitherto, at night especially. After sundown the thermometer was 100°; aneroid, 29'2. Distance 14½ miles.

Saturday, 26 October 1861. [Camp 27, Flinders River]
I overtook the advance party, and found them in vain endeavouring to get a parley with some gins who were crouching in the long grass on the bank of the river. I gave them some tomahawks, which gave them more confidence. One old lady who spoke a language of which Jemmy Cargara understood a little, stated that she had seen men like me many years ago down the river; pointing WSW, she said another river joined it from the south-east; this must be the Haughton. She also, in pointing WSW, repeated the words "Caree Garee" several times. I now turned NW by compass, but the basalt again made us turn SbyW 10°, to a fine reach of water and fine feed for the horses. I determined to spell here a day before attempting the basalt, which, 'coute qui coute', I must surmount if I wish to get to the north. Jingle having seen a little black boy near this, Mr Haughton went to the camp with three of my men, and where he fell in with three black men: they had with them one of the gins to whom I had given the tomahawks; this insured a friendly reception and them returned to my camp with Mr Haughton. They gave us to understand by signs, and by as much of their language as Jemmy Cargara could comprehend, that this river flowed WSW by compass into Careegaree; that it was joined by another large river from the north-east. If we went north-west by compass, after crossing that river, we would go over a range and then come to a river which ran north-west into Careegaree, by which we conclude they mean the Gulf of Carpentaria; the other must be Stuart's great lake. These blacks have superior spears, thrown by a womera. One, of grass-tree, jointed, was of immense length; another, not quite so long, had three prongs, one of which was barbed with a bit of bone fastened on with gum. Thermometer 86° at sundown; at 12 to-day it was 88°, and 100° at 2 and 3 p.m. Aneroid 29'21. Distance 13 miles.

Sunday, 27 October 1861. [Camp 27, Flinders River]
Spelled (it being Sunday) at Camp 27. The thermometer at 1 am. was at 68°; the aneroid rose to 29.25, and subsequently to 29.32, but after 12 it went down to 29.19. Yesterday evening Mr Haughton and I ascended the range, at foot of which is this camp. We found that it was still the same tableland of basalt we have been skirting: however, by rounding this point, we get, north-west, a short piece of good ground, and then must encounter the basalt again. Day very hot. Thermometer in shade 102° at 2 P.M.; 98° at 3; at sundown, 89°. The water at this camp no doubt stands a long time, but as at present it is only 5 feet deep, it cannot be deemed permanent, notwithstanding its great length. Jingle yesterday saw some large lagoons of permanent, or, as he terms it, old water, on the south side of the river; and as there is a chain of such lagoons all along on that side under the downs, no doubt many are permanent: on this or the north side there are water-holes similar to that at this camp whenever the spurs of the basalt tableland approach the river. Jemmy Cargara, in looking for the horses this morning fell in with the blacks again, and among them was now an old man who spoke some words of his language. He said he doubted whether we should find water for the horses in the first river we had to cross. There is therefore more than one yet running into the Barkly across our course. He told Jemmy, that after crossing a river we should cross a range which came from Jemmy's country, meaning, of course, the main range. Lat. 20° 46'. 1½ diff. from dead reckoning.

Monday, 28 October 1861. [Camp 28]
Made an excellent 7 o'clock start. After rounding the spur at No. 27, we had 1½ hour's fair riding, north-west, until we reached the top of the basalt; then over this spur, the descent and a ravine in it being so broken as to cause me to fear some accident to the horses; luckily none took place, and 2½ hours' fast riding north-west, over good undulating downs, brought us to the first river, which I have called the Dutton, after my friend Mr Charles B. Dutton. The old black's doubts as to the water proved correct, and as Rodney, by digging, found some within a few inches of the surface, I determined to camp and make a pool for the horses. To supply forty-eight horses was no light undertaking, but all hands worked with a will, and before sundown the horses were all satisfied, and had plenty to return to during the night. The small black ants here are such a nuisance that no one can sleep. Distance, 16 miles.

Tuesday, 29 October 1861. [Camp 29]
Pulled up very early at two nice pools of temporary water, with good grass, as I do not deem it prudent to pass water after the warning we have received. Distance 5 miles.

Wednesday, 30 October 1861. [Camp 30]
Went 30° W. of N. to a gap on a downs ridge; from thence saw a range ahead of us, and reached the summit in 7 miles, same course, having crossed two large creeks. We now travelled over this range, which was of red sandstone (of course clothed with spinifex grass), north-west, and this brought us to a fine channel of a river, where we disturbed a black digging for water. We ran this river, which I have called the Stawell, a short distance W. by N. by compass, where Rodney found a beautiful spring water-hole, where we camped. The feed for the horses is also excellent.* Thunder at night, and a few drops of rain. Distance, 14 miles.

* We had hardly unsaddled our horses, when the voices of blacks were heard. Jingle, Paddy, and Jemmy Cargara went down the river towards them, when, to their surprise, they were addressed in Yarrinaakoo, the language spoken by the blacks on the Comet, and told in angry terms to be off and not to come there. My men resented this treatment, but fearing my disapproval should they fire on them, as they wished to do, they came back and reported to me that these blacks were 'coola.' We now heard them shouting in all directions, very evidently collecting the others who were hunting. In the meanwhile we had our dinner. Shortly after they had collected what they deemed sufficient for their purpose, and we heard one party coming up the river, and another answering their calls from over the ridge near our camp. It was time now for us to be doing, so I directed Mr Macalister, Mr Haughton, Jingle, Paddy, and Coreen Jemmy to take steady horses and face the river mob, whilst Jack and Rodney, and Jemmy Cargara stopped with me to protect the camp and meet the hill party. The mounted party met about thirty men, painted and loaded with arms, and they charged them at once. Now was shown the benefit of Terry's breech-loaders, for such a continued steady fire was kept up by this small party that the enemy never was able to throw one of their formidable spears. Twelve men were killed, and few if any escaped unwounded. The hill mob probably got alarmed at the sound of the heavy firing, and did not consider it convenient to come to the scratch. The gins and children had been left camped on the river, and, as there was no water there, our possession of the spring was no doubt the 'casus belli'. They might have shared it with us had they chosen to do so. This unavoidable skirmish ensured us a safe night, otherwise I think there would have been some casualty in my party before morning, as they can throw their spears 150 yards.

Thursday, 31 October 1861. [Camp 31]
The question now was, what water were we on, and had we crossed the main range or not? The river below our camp turned a little S of W. We went 11½ miles west by compass, over very good downs, with a skirt of scrub on our right, and the river trees visible a long way on our left. I now turned. WSW by compass, for the sake of getting water, and came upon, not the Stawell, but a river coming from the north-east. Thunder at night, and a little rain. Distance (direct) 16½ miles.

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