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3-201 (Raw)

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author,male,Wills, William John,26 addressee
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Private Written
Fitzpatrick, 1958
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Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. I
SUNDAY, Dec. z6, 1860. - The two horses having been shod, and our reports finished, we started at forty minutes past six a.m. for Eyre's Creek, the party consisting of Mr. Burke, myself, King, and Charley, having with us six camels, one horse and three months' provisions. We followed down the creek to the point where the sandstone ranges cross the creek, and were accompanied to that place by Brahe, who would return to take charge of the Depot. Down to this point the banks of the creek are very rugged and stony, but there is a tolerable supply of grass and saltbush in the vicinity. A large tribe of blacks came pestering us to go to their camp and have a dance, which we declined. They were very troublesome, and nothing but the threat to shoot them will keep them away; they are, however, easily frightened, and although fine-looking men, decidedly not of a warlike disposition. They show the greatest inclination to take whatever they can, but will run no unnecessary risk in so doing. They seldom carry any weapons, except a shield and a large kind of boomerang, which I believe they use for killing rats, &c.; sometimes, but very seldom, they have a large spear; reed spears seem to be quite unknown to them. [350] They are undoubtedly a finer and better looking race of men than the blacks on the Murray and Darling, and more peaceful, but in other respects I believe they did not compare favourably with them, for, from the little we have seen of them, they appear to be mean-spirited and contemptible in every respect.
Monday, Dec. 17. - We continued to follow down the creek. Found its course very crooked, and the channel frequently dry for a considerable distance, and then forming into magnificent waterholes, abounding in waterfowl of all kinds. The country on each side is more open than on the upper part of the creek. The soil on the plains is of a light earthy nature, supporting abundance of saltbush and grass. Most of the plains are lightly timbered, and the ground is finer, and not cracked up, like at the head of the creek. Left Camp No. 67 at ten minutes to six a.m., having breakfasted before leaving. We followed the creek along from point to point, at first in a direction W.N.W. for about twelve miles, then about N.W. At about noon we passed the last water, a short distance beyond which the creek runs out on a polygonum (Polygonum Cunninghami) flat; but the timber was so large and dense, that it deceived us into the belief that there was a continuation of the channel; on crossing the polygonum ground to where we expected to find the creek we became aware of our mistake. Not thinking it advisable to chance the existence of water a-head, we camped at the end of a large but shallow sheet of water in the sandy bed of the creek. The hole was about 150 links broad, and feet deep in most places. In most places the temperature of the water was almost incredibly high, which induced me to try it in several places. The mean of two on the shady side of the creek gave 97.4 deg. As may be imagined, this water tasted disagreeably warm, but we soon cooled some in water-bags, and, thinking that it would be interesting to know what we might call cool, I placed the thermometer in a pannikin containing some that appeared delightfully cool, almost cold in fact; its temperature was, to our astonishment, 78 deg. At half-past six, when a strong wind was blowing from south, and temperature of air had fallen to 80 deg., the lowest temperature of water in the hose, that had been exposed to the full effect of evaporation for several hours, was 72 deg. [351] This water for drinking appeared positively cold - too low a temperature to be pleasant under the circumstances. A remarkable southerly squall came on between five and six p.m., with every appearance of rain. The sky however soon cleared, but the wind continued to blow in a squally and irregular manner from the same quarter at evening.
Wednesday, Dec. 19. Started at a quarter past eight am. Leaving what seemed to be the end of Cooper's Creek, we took a course a little to the north of west, intending to try and obtain water in some of the creeks that Stunt mentioned that he had crossed, and at the same time to see whether they were connected with Cooper's Creek, as appeared most probable from the direction in which we found the latter running, and from the manner in which it had been breaking up into small channels flowing across the plains in a N. and N.N.W. direction. We left on our right the flooded flats on which this branch of the creek runs out, and soon came to a series of sand-ridges, the directions of which were between N. 0.5 W. and N.N.W. The country is well grassed, and supports plenty of saltbush. Many of the valleys are liable to be inundated by the overflow of the main creek. They have watercourse and polygonum flats, bordered with box-trees, but we met with no holes fit to hold a supply of water. At about ten miles we crossed a large earthy flat, lightly timbered with box and gum. The ground was very bad for travelling on, being much cracked up, and intersected by innumerable channels, which continually carried off the water of a large creek. Some of the valleys beyond this were very pretty, the ground being sound, and covered with fresh plants, which made them look beautifully green. At fifteen miles, we halted where two large plains joined. Our attention had been attracted by some red-breasted cockatoos, pigeons, a crow, and several other birds, whose presence made us feel sure that there was water not far off; but our hopes were soon destroyed by finding a claypan just drying up. It contained just sufficient liquid to make the clay boggy. [352] At ten minutes to seven p.m. we moved on, steering straight for Eyre's Creek, N.W. by N., intending to make a good night's journey, and avoid the heat of the day; but at a mile and a half we came to a creek, which looked so well that we followed it for a short distance, and finding two or three waterholes of good milky water, we camped for the night. This enabled me to secure an observation of the eclipse of Jupiter's 1 satellite as well as some latitude observations. The night was so calm that I used the water as a horizon, but I find it much more satisfactory to take the mercury, for several reasons.
Thursday, Dec. 21 [sic] [...] Our course from here, N.W. by N., took us through some pretty country, lightly timbered and well grassed. [...] We camped on what would seem the same creek as last night, near where it enters the lagoon. The latter is of great extent, and contains a large quantity of water, which swarms with wildfowl of every description. It is very shallow, but is surrounded by the most pleasing woodland scenery, and everything in the vicinity looks fresh and green [...] There was a large camp of not less than forty or fifty blacks near where we stopped. They brought us presents of fish, for which we gave them some beads and matches.
Friday, Dec. 21 - We left Camp 70 at half-past five a.m., and tried to induce one or two of the blacks to go with us, but it was no use. Keeping our former course, we were pulled up at three miles by a fine lagoon, and then by the creek that flows into it; the latter being full of water, we were obliged to trace it a mile up before we could cross. I observed on its banks two wild plants of the gourd or melon tribe; one much resembling a stunted cucumber, the other, both in leaf and appearance of fruit, was very similar to a small model of a water melon. [...] Up to this point the country through which we have passed has been of the finest description for pastoral purposes. [...]
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. 2. Lat. 27 deg. to 25.5 deg. Stations 72 to 78.
Saturday, Dec. 22 - At five minutes to five a.m. we left one of the most delightful camps we have had in the journey, and proceeded on the same course as before, N.W. by N., across some high ridges of loose sand, many of which were partially clothed with porcupine grass. [353] We found the ground much worse to travel over than any we have yet met with. As the ridges were exceedingly abrupt and steep on their eastern side, and although sloping gradually towards the west, were so honeycombed in some places by the burrows of rats, that the camels were continually in danger of falling. At a distance of about six miles we descended from these ridges to undulating country of open box forest, where everything was green and fresh. There is an abundance of grass and salt bushes, and lots of birds of all descriptions. Several flocks of pigeons passed over our beads, making for a point a little to our right, where there is no doubt plenty of water, but we did not go off our course to look for it. Beyond the box forest, which kept away to the right, we again entered the sand ridges, and at a distance of six miles passed close to a dry salt lagoon, the ridges in the vicinity of which are less regular in their form and direction, and contain nodules of limestone. The ground in the flats and claypans near has that encrusted surface that cracks under the pressure of the foot, and is a sure indication of the presence of saline deposits. At a distance of eight miles from the lagoon, we camped at the foot of a sand-ridge, jutting out on the Stony Desert. I was rather disappointed, but not altogether surprised, to find the latter nothing more nor less than the stony rises that we had before met with, only on a larger scale, and not quite so undulating. [...]
Sunday, Dec. 23 - At five a.m., we struck out across the desert in a W.N.W. direction. At four miles and a half we crossed a sand-ridge, and then returned to our N.W. by N. course. We found the ground not nearly so bad for travelling on as that between Bulloo and Cooper's Creek; in fact, I do not know whether it arose from our exaggerated anticipation of horrors or not, but we thought it far from bad travelling ground, and as to pasture, it is only the actually stony ground that is bare, and many a sheep run is, in fact, worse grazing than that. At fifteen miles we crossed another sand-ridge, for several miles around which there is plenty of grass and fine saltbush. [354] After crossing this ridge, we descended to an earthy plain, where the ground was rather heavy, being in some places like pieces of slaked lime, and intersected by small water-courses. Flocks of pigeons rose from amongst the salt bushes and polygonum, but all the creeks were dry, although marked by lines of box timber. Several gunyahs of the blacks were situated near a water-hole that had apparently contained water very lately, and heaps of grass were lying about the plains, from which they had beaten the seeds. We pushed on, hoping to find the creeks assuming an improved appearance, but they did not, and at one o'clock we halted, intending to travel through part of the night. About sunset three flocks of pigeons passed over us, all going in the same direction, due north by compass, and passing over a ridge of sand in that direction. Not to have taken notice of such an occurrence would have been little short of sin, so we determined to go eight or ten miles in that direction. Starting at seven o'clock p.m., we, at six miles, crossed the ridge over which the birds had flown, and came on a flat subject to inundation. The ground was at first hard and even, like the bottom of a clay pan, but at a mile or so we came on cracked earthy ground, intersected by numberless small channels running in all directions. At nine miles, we reached the bed of a creek running from east to west; it was only bordered by polygonum bushes, but as there was no timber visible on the plains, we thought it safer to halt till daylight, for fear we would miss the water. At daylight, when we had saddled, a small quantity of timber could be seen, at the point of a sand-ridge, about one and a half to two miles to the west of us, and on going there we found a fine creek, with a splendid sheet of water, more than a mile long, and averaging nearly three chains broad; it is, however, only two or three feet deep in most parts.
Monday, Dec. 24 - We took a day of rest on Gray's Creek, to celebrate Christmas. This was doubly pleasant, as we had never in our most sanguine moments anticipated finding such a delightful oasis in the desert. Our camp was really an agreeable place, for we had all the advantages of food and water attending a position on a large creek or river, and were at the same time free of the annoyance of the numberless ants, flies, and mosquitoes that are invariably met with amongst timber or heavy scrub. [355]
Thursday, Dec. 25 - We left Gray's Creek at half-past four a.m., and proceed to cross the earthy rotten plains in the direction of Eyre's Creek. [...] We were surprised to find all the water-courses on the plains trending rather to the south of east; and at a distance of three miles, after changing our course, and when we approached the sand-hills towards which we had been steering, we were agreeably pulled up by a magnificent creek, coming from the N.N.W. and running in the direction of the fire we had seen. We had now no choice but to change our course again, for we could not have crossed even if we had desired to do so.. The day being very hot, and the camels tired from travelling over the earthy plains, which, by the by, are not nearly so bad as those at the head of Cooper's Creek, we camped at one o'clock p.m., having traced the creek up about five miles, not counting the bends. For the whole of this distance we found not a break or interruption of water, which appears to be very deep. The banks are from twenty to thirty feet above the water, and very steep; they are clothed near the water's edge with mint and other weeds, and on the top of each side there is a belt of box trees and various shrubs.
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. 3. Lat. S. 25.5 deg. to 231 deg. Stations 78 to 85
Sunday, Dec. 30 - Finding that the creek was trending considerably towards the east, without much likelihood of altering its course, we struck off from it, taking a ten day's supply of water, as there were ranges visible to the north, which had the appearance of being stony. A N.E. by N. course was first taken for about seven miles, in order to avoid them. [...]
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. 4. Camp 85 to 90. Lat. 23.5 deg. to 22.25 deg.
Fine Country - Tropics
Saturday, Jan. 5. [1861] - On Leaving Camp 84 we found slight, but distinct indications of rain in the groves, and a few blades of grass and small weeds in the little depressions on the plain. [356] These indications were, however, so slight that but for the fact of our having found surface water in two holes near our camp, we should hardly have noticed them. At a distance of about two miles, in a N.N.E. direction, we came to a creek with a long, broad, shallow waterhole. The well-worn paths, the recent tracks of natives, and the heaps of shells, on the contents of which the latter had feasted, showed at once that this creek must be connected with some creek of considerable importance. The camels and horses being greatly in need of rest, we only moved up about half a mile, and camped for the day.
Sunday, Jan. 6 - Started at twenty minutes to six o'clock, intending to make an easy day's stage along the creek. As we proceeded up in a northerly direction, we found the water-hole to diminish in size very much, and at about two and a-half miles the creek ran out in a lot of small water-courses. At the upper end of the creek we found in its bed what appeared to be an arrangement for catching fish. It consisted of a small oval mud paddock, about 12 ft. by 8 ft., the sides of which were about nine inches above the bottom of the hole and the top, of the fence, covered with long grass, so arranged that the ends of the blades overhung scantily by several inches the sides of the hole. As there was no sign of timber to the N., we struck off to N.W. by N. for a fine line of timber that came up from the S.W., and seemed to run parallel with the creek we were about to leave. At a distance of about three miles we reached the bank of a fine creek) and containing a sheet of water two chains broad, at least fifteen feet deep in the middle. The banks were shelving, sandy, and lightly clothed with box trees and various shrubs. On starting to cross the plains towards this creek, we were surprised at the bright green appearance of strips of land, which look in the distance like swamps; on approaching some of them we found that there had been a considerable fall of rain in some places, which had raised a fine crop of grass and portulac, wherever the soil was of a sandy and light nature, but the amount of moisture had been insufficient to affect the hard clayey ground, which constitutes the main portion of the plain. [357] The sight of two native companions feeding here, added greatly to the encouraging prospects; they are the only specimens of that bird that I remember to have seen on that side of the Darling.
Monday, Jan. 7. - We started at half-past four a.m. without water, thinking that we might safely rely on this creek for one day's journey. We, however, found the line of timber soon beginning to look small; at three miles the channel contained only a few pools of surface water. We continued across the plains on a due north course, frequently crossing small watercourses, which had been filled by the rain, but were fast drying up. Here and there as we proceeded, dense lines of timber on our right showed that the creek came from the east of north. At a distance of thirteen miles we turned to the N.N.E., towards a fine line of timber. We found a creek of considerable dimensions, that had only two or three small water-holes; but as there was more than sufficient for us, and very little feed for the beasts anywhere else, we camped. I should have liked this camp to have been in a more prominent and easily recognized position, as it happens to be almost exactly on the tropic of Capricorn..
Tuesday, January 8 [...] After traversing a plain of greater extent than the rest, we, at ten miles, reached the creek, proportionately large and important looking. The channel, however, at the point where we struck it, was deep, level, and dry, but I believe there is water in it not far off; for there were some red-breasted cockatoos in the trees, and native parrots on each side [...] The mirage on the plain to the south of the creek was stronger than I have before seen it. There appear to be sheets of water within a few yards of one, and it looks sufficiently smooth and glassy to be used for an artificial horizon. To the westward of the plains some fine sand-hills were visible nearly in the direction in which the creek flowed. To the north of the creek the country undergoes a great change. At first there is a little earthy land subject to inundation. The soil then becomes more sandy, the stony pans in which water collects after rain; the whole country is slightly undulating, lightly timbered and splendidly grassed. A number of small disconnected creeks are scattered about, many of which contained water, protected from the sun and wind by a luxuriant growth of fine grasses and small bushes. [358] We passed one or two little rises of sand and pebbles, on which were growing some trees quite new to me; but for the seed pods, I should have taken them for a species of casuarina, although the leaf-stalks have not the jointed peculiarities of those plants. The trunks and branches are like the she-oak, and leaves like those of a pine; they droop like a willow, and the seed is small, flat, in a large flat pod about six inches by three-quarters of an inch. As we proceeded, the country improved at every step. Flocks of pigeons rose and flew off to the eastward, and fresh plants met our view on every rise; everything green and luxuriant. The horse licked his lips, and tried all he could to break his nose-string in order to get at the food. We camped at the foot of a sandy rise, where there was a large stony pan with plenty of water, and where the feed was equal in quality, and superior as to variety, to any that I have seen in Australia, excepting perhaps on some soils of volcanic origin.
Wednesday, Jan. 9. [...] Traversed six miles of undulating plains covered with vegetation richer than ever. Several ducks rose from the little creeks as we passed, and flocks of pigeons were flying in all directions. The richness of the vegetation is evidently not suddenly arising from chance thunderstorms, for the trees and bushes on the open plain are everywhere healthy and fresh-looking; very few dead ones are to be seen, besides which the quantity of dead and rotten grass which, at present, almost overgrows in some places the young blades, shows that this is not the first crop of the kind [...]
Thursday, Jan. 10. [...] I should mention that last evening we had been nearly deafened by the noise of the cicadae, and but for our large fires should have been kept awake all night by the mosquitoes. A walk of two miles across a well grassed plain brought us to a belt of timber, and we soon afterwards found ourselves pulled up by a large creek, in which the water was broad and deep. We had to follow up the bank of the creek in a N.E. direction for nearly a mile before we could cross, when to our joy we found that it was flowing, not a muddy stream from the effects of recent floods, but a small rivulet of pure water, as clear as crystal. [359]
At about five miles from where we crossed the river, we came to the main creek in these flats, Patten's Creek.
Friday, Jan. 11. Started at five a.m., and in the excitement of exploring fine well-watered country, forgot all about the eclipse of the sun, until the reduced temperature and peculiarly gloomy appearance of the sky drew our attention to the matter. It was then too late to remedy the deficiency, so we made a good day's journey, the moderation of the midday heat, which was only about 86 deg. greatly assisting us. The country traversed has the most verdant and cheerful aspect; abundance of feed and water everywhere. All the creeks seen to-day have a course more or less to E. by S. The land improves in appearance at every mile. A quantity of rain has fallen here and to the south, and some of the flats are suitable for cultivation if the regularity of the seasons will admit.
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. 5. Camp 92 to 98
Lat. 22.25 deg. to 21.25 deg. Standish Ranges
Saturday, Jan. 12. - We started at five a.m., and keeping as nearly as possible a due N. course, traversed for about eight miles a splendid flat, through which flow several fine well watered creeks, lined with white gum trees. [...] As far as we could see in the distance, and bearing due north, was a large range, having somewhat the outline of a granite mountain.
Sunday, Jan. 13 - We did not leave camp this morning until half-past seven, having delayed for the purpose of getting the camels' shoes on - a matter in which we were eminently unsuccessful. We took our breakfast before starting, for almost the first time since leaving the Depot. Having crossed the creek, our course was due north as before, until at about six miles we came in sight of the range ahead, when we took a north half east direction, for the purpose of clearing the eastern front of it. We found the ground more sandy than what we had before crossed, and a great deal of it even more' richly grassed. Camp 93 is situated at the junction of three sandy creeks, in which there is abundance of water. The sand is loose, and the water permeates freely, so that the latter may be obtained delightfully cool and clear by sinking anywhere in the beds of the creeks. [360]
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. 6. Lat. 21.25 deg. to 20.25 deg. Stations 98 to 105. Upper part of Cloncurry
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Field-Book No. 7. Lat. 20.25 deg. to 19.25 deg. Camps 105 to 112. Middle Part of Cloncurry
Sunday, Jan. 27 - Started from Camp 105, five minutes past two in the morning. We followed along the bends of the creek by moonlight, and found the creek wind about very much, taking on the whole a N.E. course. [...] Palm trees are numerous, and some bear an abundance of small round dates just ripening. These palms give a most picturesque and pleasant appearance to the creek.
Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria
Returning from Carpentaria to Cooper's Creek Field-Book No. 9. Sunday, February
Finding the ground in such a state from the heavy falls of rain, that the camels could scarcely be got along, it was decided to leave them at Camp 119, and for Mr. Burke and I [sic] to proceed towards the sea on foot. After breakfast we accordingly started, taking with us the horse and three days' provisions. Our first difficulty was in crossing Billy's Creek, which we had to do where it enters the river, a few hundred yards below the camp. In getting the horse in here, he got bogged in a quicksand bank so deeply as to be unable to stir, and we only succeeded in extricating him by undermining him on the creek side, and then lunging him into the water. [361] Having got all the things in safety, we continued down the river bank, which bent about from east to west, but kept a general north course. A great deal of the land was so soft and rotten, that the horse, with only a saddle and about twenty-five pounds on his back could scarcely walk over it At a distance of about five miles we again had him bogged in crossing a small creek, after which he seemed so weak that we had great doubts about getting him on. We, however, found some better ground close to the water's edge where the sandstone rock runs out, and we stuck to it as far as possible. Finding that the river was bending about so much that we were making very little progress in a northerly direction, we struck off due north, and soon came on some table-land where the soil is shallow and gravelly, and clothed with box and swamp gums. Patches of the land were very boggy, but the main portion was sound enough. Beyond this we came on an open plain, covered with water up to one's ankles. The soil here was a stiff clay, and the surface very uneven, so that between the tufts of grass one was frequently knee-deep in water. The bottom, however, was sound; and no fear of bogging. After floundering through this for several miles, we came to a path formed by the blacks, and there were distinct signs of a recent migration in a southerly direction. By making use of this path, we got on much better, for the ground was well trodden and hard. At rather more than a mile, the path entered a forest, through which flowed a nice water-course, and we had not gone far before we found places where the blacks had been camping. The forest was intersected by little pebbly rises on which they had made their fires, and in the sandy ground adjoining some of the former had been digging yarns, which seemed to be so numerous that they could afford to: leave lots of them about, probably having only selected the very best. We were not so particular, but ate many of those that they had rejected, and found them very good. About half-a-mile further, we came close on a blackfellow, who was coiling by a camp fire, whilst his gin and picaninny were yabbering alongside. We stopped for a short time to take out some of the pistols that were on the horse, and that they might see us before we were so near as to frighten them. [362] Just after we stopped, the black got up to stretch his limbs, and after a few seconds looked in our direction. It was very amusing to see the way in which he stared, standing for some time as if he thought he must be dreaming, and then, having signalled to the others, they dropped on their haunches and shuffled off in the quietest manner possible. Near their fire was a fine hut, the best I have ever seen, built on the same principle as those at Cooper's Creek, but much larger and more complete. I should say a dozen blacks might comfortably coil in it together. It is situated at the end of the forest, towards the north, and looks out on an extensive marsh, which is at times flooded by the sea-water. Hundreds of wild geese, plover and pelicans, were enjoying themselves in the water-courses on the marsh, all the water on which was too brackish to be drinkable, except some holes that are filled by the stream that flows through the forest. The neighbourhood of this encampment is one of the prettiest we have seen during the journey. Proceeding on our course through the marsh, we came to a channel through which the sea-water enters. Here we passed three blacks, who, as is universally their custom, pointed out to us, unasked, the best way down.
Thursday, Feb. 21 - Recovery Camp 6, R. - Between four and five o'clock a heavy thunderstorm broke over us, having given very little warning of its approach. There had been lightning and thunder towards S.E. and S. ever since noon yesterday. The rain was incessant and very heavy for an hour and a-half, which made the ground so boggy that the animals could scarcely walk over it. We nevertheless started at ten minutes to seven a.m., and after floundering along for half an hour, halted for breakfast. We then moved on again but soon found that the travelling was too heavy for the camels, so camped for the remainder of the day [...]
Friday, Feb. 22 - Camp 7, R. - A fearful thunderstorm in the evening about eight p.m., E.S.E., moving gradually round to S. The flashes of lightning were so vivid and incessant as to keep up a continual light for short intervals, overpowering even the moonlight. Heavy rain and strong squalls continued for more than an hour, when the storm moved off W.N.W.; the sky remained more or less overcast for the rest of the night, and the following morning was both sultry and oppressive, with the ground so boggy as to be almost impassable. [363]
Saturday, Feb. 23 - Camp 8, R. In spite of the difficulties thrown in our way by last night's storm, we crossed the creek. We were shortly afterwards compelled to halt for the day, on a small patch of comparatively dry ground near the river. The day turned out very fine, so that the soil dried rapidly; and we started in the evening to try a trip by moon light. We were very fortunate in finding sound ground along a billibong, which permitted of our travelling for about five miles up the creek, when we camped for the night. The evening was most oppressively hot and sultry - so much so, that the slightest exertion made one feel as if he were in a state of suffocation. The dampness of the atmosphere prevented any evaporation, and gave one a helpless feeling of lassitude that I have never before experienced to such an. extent. All the party complained of the same sensations, and the horses showed distinctly the effect of the evening trip, short as it was. [...]
Sunday, March 3, 1861. - Eureka Camp, 15 R. - In crossing a creek by moonlight Charley rode over a large snake. He did not touch him, and we thought it was a log until he struck it with the stirrup-iron. We then saw that it was an immense snake, larger than any that I have ever before seen in a wild state. It measured eight feet four inches in length, and seven inches in girth round the belly. It was nearly the same thickness from the head to within twenty inches of the tail, it then tapered rapidly. The weight was eleven pounds and a half.
Tuesday, March 5 - Camp 17, R. - Started at 2 a.m. on a S.S.W. course, but had soon to turn in on the creek, as Mr Burke felt very unwell, having been attacked by dysentery since eating the snake. He now felt giddy, and unable to keep his seat. At 6 a.m., Mr Burke feeling better, we started again, following along the creek, in which there was considerably more water than when we passed down. We camped at 2.15 p.m. at a part of the creek where the date trees were very numerous, and found the fruit nearly ripe, and very much improved on what it was when we were here before. [364]
Wednesday, March 6 - Camp 18 'R. - Arrived at the former camp, and find the feed richer than ever, and the ants just as troublesome. Mr Burke is a little better, and Charley looks comparatively well. The dryness of the atmosphere seems to have a beneficial effect on all [...]
Wednesday, March 13 - Camp 25 R. - Rained all day, so heavily that I was obliged to put my watch and field book in the pack, to keep them dry. In the afternoon the rain increased, and all the creeks became flooded. We took shelter under some fallen rocks, near which was some feed for the camels, but the latter was of no value, for we had soon to remove them up amongst the rocks out of the way of the flood, which fortunately did not rise high enough to drive us out of the cave; but we were obliged to shift our packs to the upper part. In the evening the water fell as rapidly as it had risen, leaving everything in a very boggy state.
Wednesday, March 20 - Camp 32, R. - Feasting Camp Last evening the sky was clouded about nine p.m., and a shower came down from the north. At ten o'clock it became so dark that we camped on the bank of the creek, in which was a nice current of clear water. To-day we halted, intending to try a night journey. The packs we overhauled, and left nearly 60 lb. weight of things behind [...]
Thursday, March 21 - Humid Camp, 33 R. - Unable to proceed on account of the slippery and boggy state of the ground. The rain had fallen very heavily here to-day, and every little depression in the ground is either full of water or covered with slimy mud [...]
Monday, March 25 - Native Dog Camp, 27 R. Started at half-past five, looking for a good place to halt for the day. This we found at a short distance down the creek, and immediately discovered that it was close to Camp 89 of our up journey. Had not expected that we were so much to the westward. After breakfast took some time altitudes, and was about to go back to last camp for some things left, when I found Gray behind a tree, eating skilligolee. He explained that be was suffering from dysentery, and had taken the flour without leave. Sent him to report himself to Mr Burke, and went on. He, having got King to tell Mr Burke for him, was called up and received a good thrashing. There is no knowing to what extent he has been robbing us. [365] Many things have been found to run unaccountably short [...]
Saturday, March 30 - Camp 42, R. - Boocha's Rest., Employed all day in cutting up, jerking and eating Boocha. 
Monday, April 8 - Camp 50, R. - Camped a short distance above Camp 75. The creek here contains more water, and there is a considerable quantity of green grass in its bed, but it is much dried up since we passed before. Halted fifteen minutes to send back for Gray, who gammoned he could not walk [...]
Wednesday, April 10 - Camp 52, R. - Remained at Camp 52, R. all day to cut up and jerk the meat of the horse Billy, who was so reduced and knocked up for want of food that there appeared little chance of his reaching the other side of the desert; and as we were running short of food of every description ourselves, we thought it best to secure his flesh at once. We found it healthy and tender, but without the slightest trace of fat in any portion of the body..
Wednesday, April 17 - This morning, about sunrise, Gray died. He had not spoken a word distinctly since his first attack, which was just as we were about to start. [...]
Sunday, April 21 - Arrived at the depôt this evening, just in time to find it deserted. A note left in the plant by Brahe communicates the pleasing information that they have started today for the Darling; their camels and horses all well and in good condition. We and our camels being just done up, and scarcely able to reach the Depot, have very little chance of overtaking them. Brahe has fortunately left us ample provisions to take us to the bounds of civilizations namely:
Flour, 50 lb.; rice, 20 lb.; oatmeal, 60 lb.; Sugar,. 60 lb.; and dried meat, 15 lb. These provisions, together with a few horse-shoes and nails and some odds and ends, constitute all the articles left, and place us in a very awkward position in respect to clothing. Our disappointment at finding the Depot deserted may easily be imagined; - returning in an exhausted state, after four months of the severest travelling and privation, our legs almost paralyzed, so that each of us found it a most trying task only to walk a few yards. Such a leg-bound feeling I never before experienced, and hope I never shall again. The exertion required to get up a slight piece of rising ground, even without any load, induces an indescribable sensation of pain and helplessness, and the general lassitude makes one unfit for anything. [366] Poor Gray must have suffered very much many times when we thought him shamming. It is most fortunate for us that these symptoms, which so early affected him, did not come on us until we were reduced to an exclusively animal diet of such an inferior description as that offered by the flesh of a worn out and exhausted horse [...]
Journal of Trip from Cooper's Creek Towards Adelaide,
April, 1861
The advance party of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, consisting of Burke, Wills, and King (Gray being dead), having returned from Carpentaria on the 21st April in an exhausted and weak state, and finding that the Depot party left at Cooper's Creek had started for the Darling, with their horses and camels fresh and in good condition, deemed it useless to attempt to overtake them, having only two camels, both done up, and being so weak themselves as to be unable to walk more than four or five miles a day. Finding also that the provisions left at the Depot for them would scarcely take them to Menindie, started down Cooper's Creek for Adelaide, via Mount Hopeless, on the morning of the 23rd April, intending to follow as nearly as possible the route taken by Gregory; by so doing they hope to be able to recruit themselves and the camels, whilst sauntering slowly down the creek, and to have sufficient provisions left to take them comfortably, or at least without risk, to some station in South Australia [...]
Tuesday, April 23. [...] We only went about five miles, and camped at half past eleven on a billibong, where the feed was pretty good. We find the change of diet already making a great improvement in our spirits and strength. The weather is delightful, days agreeably warm, but the nights very chilly. The latter is more noticeable from our deficiency in clothing, the Depot party having taken all the reserve things back with them to the Darling. [...]
Wednesday, April 24 - From Camp No. 1 - As we were about to start this morning some blacks came by, from whom we were fortunate enough to get about twelve pounds of fish for a few pieces of straps and some matches, &c. [367] This is a great treat for us, as well as a valuable addition to our rations.
Friday, April 26 - From Camp No. 3. [...] This comparative rest, and the change in diet, have also worked wonders, however; the leg-tied feeling is now entirely gone, and I believe that in less than a week we shall be fit to undergo any fatigue whatever. The camels are improving, and seem capable of doing all that we are likely to require of them [...]
Sunday, April 28 - From Camp No. 5 - Morning fine and calm, but rather chilly. Started at a quarter to five a.m., following down the bed of a creek in a westerly direction, by moonlight. Our stage was, however, very short, for about a mile one of the camels (Landa) got bogged by the side of a waterhole, and although we tried every means in our power, we found it impossible to get him out. All the ground beneath the surface was a bottomless quicksand, through which the beast sank too rapidly for us to get bushes or timber fairly beneath him, and being of a very sluggish stupid nature, he could never be got to make sufficiently strenuous efforts towards extricating himself. In the evening, as a last chance, we let the water in from the creek, so as to buoy him up and at the same time soften the ground about his legs, but it was of no avail. The brute lay quietly in it as if he quite enjoyed his position. To Camp No. 6.
Monday, April 29 - From Camp No. 6 - Finding Landa still in the hole, we made a few attempts at extricating him, and then shot him; and after breakfast commenced cutting off what flesh we could get at, for jerking.
Wednesday, May 1 - From Camp No. 6 - Started at twenty minutes to nine, having loaded our only camel, Rajah, with the most necessary and useful articles, and packed up a small swag each of bedding and clothing for our own shoulders. [...]
Thursday, May 2, Camp No. 7 - Breakfasted by moonlight, and started at half-past six. Following down the left. bank of the creek in a westerly direction, we came, at a distance of six miles, on a lot of natives, who were camped on the bed of a creek. [368] They seemed to have just breakfasted, and were most liberal in the presentations of fish and cake. We could only return the compliment by some fish-hooks and sugar.. [...] Rajah showed signs of being done up. He had been trembling greatly all the morning. On this account his load was further lightened to the amount of a few pounds, by the doing away with the sugar, ginger, tea, cocoa, and two or three tin plates.
Monday, May 6. [...] The present state of things is not calculated to raise our spirits much. The rations are rapidly diminishing; our clothing, especially the boots, are all going to pieces, and we have not the materials for repairing them properly; the camel is completely done up, and can scarcely get along, although he has the best of feed, and is resting half his time. I suppose this will end in our having to live like the blacks for a few months.
Tuesday, May 7 - Camp No. 9. Breakfasted at daylight, but when about to start, found that the camel would not rise, even without any load on his back. After making every attempt to get him up, we were obliged to leave him to himself. Mr Burke and I started down the creek to reconnoitre At about eleven miles we came to some blacks fishing. They gave us some half-a-dozen fish each for luncheon, and intimated that if we would go to their camp, we should have some more, and some bread. [...] On our arrival at the camp, they led us to a spot to camp on, and soon afterwards brought a lot of fish and bread, which they call nardoo. The lighting of a fire with matches delights them, but they do not care about having them. In the evening, various members of the tribe came down with lumps of nardoo and handfuls of fish, until we were positively unable to eat any more. They also gave us some stuff they call bedgery, or pedgery. It has a highly intoxicating effect, when chewed even in small quantities. It appears to be the dried stems and leaves of some shrub.
Friday, May 10 - Camp No. 9 - Mr. Burke and King employed in jerking the camel's flesh, whilst I went out to look for the nardoo seed, for making bread. In this I was unsuccessful, not being able to find a single tree of it in the neighbourhood of the camp. I however tried boiling the large kind of bean which the blacks call padlu; they boil easily, and when shelled are very sweet, much resembling in taste the French chestnut. [369] They are to be found in large quantities nearly everywhere.
Saturday, May 12 - Camp No. 9. - To-day Mr Burke and King started down the creek for the blacks' camp, determined to ascertain all particulars about the nardoo. I have now my turn at the meat jerking, and must devise some means for trapping the birds and rats, which is a pleasant prospect after our dashing trip to Carpentaria, having to hang about Cooper's Creek, living like the blacks.
Sunday, May 12 - Mr Burke and King returned this morning, having been unsuccessful in their search for; the blacks, who, it seems, have moved over to the other branch of the creek. [...]
Tuesday, May 14 - Mr Burke and King gone up the creek to look for blacks, with four days' provisions. Self employed in preparing for a. final start on their return. This evening Mr Burke and King returned, having been some considerable distance up the creek, and found no blacks.
Friday, May 17 - Nardoo - Started this morning on a black's path, leaving the creek on our left, our intention being to keep a south-easterly direction until we should cut some likely-looking creek, and then to follow it down. On approaching the foot of the first sand-hill King caught sight in the flat of some nardoo seeds, and we soon found that the flat was covered with them. This discovery caused somewhat of a revolution in our feelings, for we considered that with the knowledge of this plant we were in a position to support ourselves, even if we were destined to remain on the creek and wait for assistance from town [...]
Friday, May 24 - Started with King to celebrate the Queen's birthday by fetching from Nardoo Creek what is now to us the staff of life. Returned at a little after two p.m., with a fair supply, but find the collecting of the seed a slower and more troublesome process than could be desired. [...]
Monday, May 27 - Started up the creek this morning for the Depot, in order to deposit journals and a record of the state of affairs here.
Tuesday, May 28 [...] Obtained some mussels near where Landa died and halted for breakfast. [370] Still feel very unwell from the effects of the constipation of the bowels.
Thursday, May 30 - Reached the Depot this morning, at eleven o'clock. No traces of any one except blacks having been here since we left. Deposited some journals, and a notice of our present condition [...]
Tuesday, June 4 - Started for the blacks' camp, intending to test the practicability of living with them, and to see what I could learn as to their ways and manners [...]
Thursday, June 6 - Returned to our own camp, found that Mr Burke and King had been well supplied with fish by the blacks. Made preparation for shifting our camp nearer to theirs on the morrow.
Friday, June 7 - Started in the afternoon for the blacks' camp with such things as we could take, found ourselves all very weak, in spite of the abundant supply of fish that we have lately had. I myself could scarcely get along, although carrying the lightest swag - only about thirty pounds. Found that the blacks had decamped, so determined on proceeding to-morrow up to the next camp, near the nardoo field.
Saturday, June 8 - With the greatest fatigue and difficulty we reached the nardoo camp, no blacks, greatly to our disappointment. Took possession of their best mia-mia, and rested for the remainder of the day. [...]
Thursday, June 20 - Night and morning very cold, sky clear. I am completely reduced by the effects of the cold and starvation. King gone out for nardoo. Mr Burke at home pounding seed; he finds himself getting very weak in the legs. King holds out by far the best; the food seems to agree with him pretty well.. [...] I cannot understand this nardoo at all; it certainly will not agree with me in any form. We are now reduced to it alone, and we manage to get from four to five pounds per day between us [...]
Friday, June 21. [...] I feel much weaker than ever, and can scarcely crawl out of the mia-mia. Unless relief comes in some form or other, I cannot possibly last more than a fortnight. It is a great consolation, at least, in this position of ours, to know that we have done all we could, and that our deaths will rather be the result of the mismanagement of others than of any rash acts of our own. [371] Had we come to grief elsewhere, we could only have blamed ourselves; but here we are, returned to Cooper's Creek, where we had every reason to look for provisions and clothing; and yet we have to die of starvation, in spite of the explicit instructions given by Mr Burke, that the Depot party should await our return, and the strong recommendation to the committee that we should be followed up by a party from Menindie; [...]
Saturday, June 22. . Mr Burke and King out for nardoo. The former returned much fatigued. I am so weak today as to be unable to get on my feet.
Sunday, June 23 - All hands at home. I am so weak as to be incapable of crawling out of the mia-mia. King holds out well, but Mr Burke finds himself weaker every day.
Monday, June 24 - A fearful night. At about an hour before sunset, a southerly gale sprang up and continued throughout the greater portion of the night; the cold was intense, and it seemed as if one would be shrivelled up.
Tuesday, June 23 [sic] [...] Mr Burke and King remain at home cleaning and pounding seed. They are both getting weaker every day. The cold plays the deuce with us, from the small amount of clothing we have.
Wednesday, June 24 [sic] [...] Mr Burke and King are preparing to go up the creek in search of the blacks. They will leave me some nardoo, wood and water, with which I must do the best I can until they return. I think this is almost our only chance. I feel myself, if anything, rather better, but I cannot say stronger. The nardoo is beginning to agree better with me; but without some change I see little chance for any of us. They have both shown great hesitation and reluctance with regard to leaving me, and have repeatedly desired my candid opinion in the matter. I could only repeat, however, that I considered it our only chance, for I could not last long on the nardoo, even if a supply could be kept up [...]
Friday June 26 [sic] [...] I am weaker than ever although I have a good appetite, and relish the nardoo much, but it seems to give us no nutriment, and the birds here are so shy as not to be got at. [372] Even if we got a good supply of fish, I doubt whether we could do much work on them and the nardoo alone. Nothing now but the greatest good luck can now save any of us; and as for myself, I may live four or five days if the weather continues warm. My pulse [sic] are at forty-eight, and very weak, and my legs and arms are nearly skin and bone. I can only look out, like Mr Micawber, 'for something to turn up'; but starvation on nardoo is by no means very unpleasant, but for the weakness one feels, and the utter inability to move oneself, for as far as appetite is concerned, it gives me the greatest satisfaction. Certainly, fat and sugar would be more to one's taste, in fact, those seem to me to be the great stand by for one in this extraordinary continent; not that I mean to depreciate the farinacious food, but the want of sugar and fat in all substances obtainable here is so great that they become almost valueless to us as articles of food, without the addition of something else.