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Field Book No. 1, Bilbarka to Torowoto, 11-19 October 1860.

State Library of Victoria, MS13071.
Subseries 8 : Botanical, Meteorological & Astronomical observations of the Victorian Exploration Expedition.
William John Wills Field Books
Bilbarka to Torowoto, Field Book No. 1, 11-19 October 1860, ex2008-011, Box 2082/6c.

Bilbarka to Torowoto
Field Book No. 1.
Field Notes, 11-19th October 1860

Thursday 11 October 1860.
The camels having at last been found we made a start from Bilbarka. Mr Burke got away with the horses shortly after nine am intending to proceed about twenty miles up the river to camp he took with him Brahe, Patton Hodgkinson and the man who first found the camels. All the rest including the officers remained with the Camels. About half past one I was fortunate enough to obtain some Barometrical Observations that I had frequently attempted but none before have been thoroughly successful in getting. A small whirlwind about ten or twelve feet in diameter came down the river it was moving very slowly, not nearly as fast as a man could walk, against the wind which was very light from the NE. On taking in my hand aneroid No. 21548 I found that it read as follows; at fifty feet from the centre of the whirl 29.932 (80.0) air 76.0 on approaching near the centre of the whirl the barometer fell rapidly to 29.890 I was unable to read it when actually in the centre on account of the dust. Having allowed it to paß the barometer rose to 29.920 on the out side of the whirl about eight feet from the centre. I again walked into the whirl and read the barometer as low as 29.880. Near the centre I fancied I could read 29.860 but the dust so blinded me that no [reliance] could be placed on this reading as soon as the whirl had paßed the barometer rose again to 29.920. We left the Camp with the Camels after having been four clear hours in saddling and loading them besides having been all the morning before that packing and arranging the things which is very [?] work considering that everything has been sent up the river in the steamer. We started with the camels at twenty minutes paßed two and travelled very slowly at first acroß low mud flats bearing only box, polygonum and very small quantities of salt bush. occasionally the country was varied by a sand ridge crowned with pines and various shrubs. at eight miles we paßed a Sheepstation Hut of McPhersons, close to the river and from this point of the Darling the track touches the points of the bends very frequently here and there are patches of fine saltbush country but the greatest portion of the ground over which we paßed is a low polygonum flat. At about 9 pm we reached Mourara, a station of McLeods we then found a man whom Mr Burke had sent to show us the way down to where he was Camped with the horses. About an hour before reaching this Station we had stopped to muster and found that Meßrs Landells and Becker were not with us. We reached Mr Burke’s camp about ten o’clock but they did not come up until after midnight having been delayed by the camels that Mr B was leading throwing their packs off. Mr Burke’s camels were followed nearly to Mourara by the unfortunate Camel (one of Coppin’s lot) that Mr Landells has reported as having dislocated his shoulder when coming up from Kormpang to McPherson’s the first day they were laden.

Friday 12 October 1860, Camp 31.
Mr Burke started at 7h 35m taking with him Mr Becker and myself and leaving the Dr. with Mr Landells and the Camels. We had to go about two miles in a NNE direction over mud flats before striking the road. We then proceeded on a NNW course about twelve miles and camped on the river bank to let the horses graze. In the afternoon our general course was considerably east of north nearly NNE in which direction we proceeded about eleven miles and camped at a bend of the river shortly after five o’ clock. All the ground over which we paßed this day has, in a pastoral point of view, the most barren and miserable appearance of any country of similar extent that I have ever seen by far the greatest portion of it may be claßed under the head of mud flats being either open polygunum ground or box forest As for graß there is scarcely trace of any kind of it, and when there is any saltbush it is so stunted and poor that it almost looks worse than nothing at all. At about eighteen miles above Mourara the size of sand hills which we had seen throughout the morning sometimes only half a mile from the river lay directly in our course and are cut through by the river forming cliffs of 50 and 60 feet high, and of a very picturesque appearance sketches of which were taken by Mr Becker. The whole maß of these all appears to be a sandy alluvial deposit containing limestone concretions apparently formed by the infiltration of calcareous matter. Five or six distinct strata can be seen parallel with the surface of the hills which is inclined at an angle of 25° to the horizon.

Friday 19 October 1860.
Started from Menindee or Watnyala at half past ten am with 16 camels and 12 horses. we were accompanied by Mr Wright and two black natives. The party comprises of Mr Burke, six men and myself. Travelled about 11 miles NbyW½W to Dorpulka a shallow basin of surface water from there we went nearly North to Totoynya, a similar hole but where there is more feed for the camels than at Dorpulka. All the way from Watnyala we paßed open fine salt bush plains bearing nearly every variety salsolaceous plant that is to be seen in this part of the world. As well as a fair quantity of spear graß at Dorpulka there is plenty of water and a good number of ducks but at Totoynya which is more shallow the water is rapidly drying up. The Blackfellow Dick explain to me the meaning of these two names. Dorpulka menas deep hole and Totoynya is the name of a small bird whose name is an imitation of the noise it makes when flying about.


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