Tracks of McKinlay and party across Australia/Chapter 3
CAMP LIFE AT THE DEPOT.
Editor's précis—October 22nd, Shooting Sports—23rd, Extreme Heat and Cold—24th, McKinlay's Return from Cooper's Creek—28th, Party sent back for more Supplies—30th, Wild Dogs and Poisoned Baits—November 1st, Visits of Natives—10th, Jerking Mutton—17th, Rumours of White People at Cooper's Creek—27th, Well-digging—29th, Return of Party with Supplies—Bring News of Burke and Wills' Fate.—December 2nd, McKinlay goes to Cooper's Creek—11th, McKinlay's Return—16th, Ready for start Northward.
Mr. McKinlay had been on the look-out for a site suitable for a camp or depôt, with the view of the expedition making a halt for a considerable time, while he went in search of the missing party of Burke and Wills. The banks of Perigundi or Lake Siva, which they had passed were not suitable, owing to their boggy character. "One of the camels got bogged, and narrowly escaped." Cudgeecudgeena, or Lake Buchanan, was more promising, and in the prospect of a long stay, presented abundance of grass and clover. The water, however, was all but dried up, a few inches only being around the margin. After some search they came to a water-hole called Wantula, and there established the Wantula Depôt, where our author and others of the party enjoyed themselves with such resources as were within reach, and to such limited extent as a very chequered climate would permit.
The high temperatures recorded by Mr. Davis were occasionally those "in the sun," which of course are not much of a guide to the actual heat of the air, but in general they are "shade temperatures" to all intents and purposes to those who endured them either within the tent or outside under the scanty shelter, but where the air near the ground was heated by the baked and burning soil. There was cold too as well as heat. For example, "13th Nov. Weather quite cool and pleasant to-day, and in the afternoon cold." And again the next day, "Thermometer at 5 a.m. only 54°. Rather cold in the night watch. Greatcoats in request."
Mr. McKinlay's expeditions to Lake Massacre and Cooper's Creek, we shall give in the next chapter, as taken from his report made to the Colonial Government. Mr. Davis continues:—
Oct. 21st. Here is most splendid feed for our horses, bullocks, and all the stock, and from the quantity of wild fowl, we may say also for men; and many a goose, duck, etc., will lose the members of his mess to add to the comfort of ours.
I must here digress a little, and tell the reader what rations were allowed us per week, so that as we go on he may see how we go down in the scale (I don't wish to pun on such a serious subject) as we proceeded on our journey. Each man per week: sugar 2 lb., tea 4 oz., flour 8 lb., mutton and bacon as much as we liked. Saved flour, but nothing else; sugar was gone before the week was out often.
22nd. We shot sixteen ducks fit for an alderman's table (he is proverbially a good judge). They were of several kinds, the common, the wood duck, and various descriptions of teal. If it was not a jolly supper, I don't know what constitutes one; but oh! for a glass or a dozen of "Arthur," or Byass, or Alsopp, or Bass, for the ducks to swim in. Notwithstanding this hiatus valde deflensus in the repast, I don't think that just then any one had a care, or wished for a more jovial evening than this, for we sung ourselves to roost.
23rd. Awfully hot day, and no wind to help us. We read to-day the story of poor Kennedy's sad exploring expedition. Poor fellow! perhaps we may all of us share the same fate as his companions, who all died or were killed, like himself, on their perilous journey, with the exception of a black fellow. Watch kept all night; natives close at hand.
24th. Very cool the first part of to-day. Mr. McKinlay returned about 2·30 from Lake Kadhiberri, called by him "Lake Massacre." (His account of this expedition will be found in the next chapter.)
25th. Camp Lake Buchanan. General orders to-day for a party to proceed to Blanchewater with the despatches for government and home. Small remains of the dead, hair, etc., taken from the grave at Kadhiberri.
26th. All to-day in camp; some reading, others writing to their friends letters to be posted at Blanchewater by the party now preparing to start.
27th. Preparing for the departure of our lads for Blanchewater—Wylde, Bell, and Hodgkinson, with a native ("Jack"); they will start to-morrow, carrying despatches, and also to bring up some more stores.28th. Our party off for another look at the settled districts; they go with twelve pack-horses and four saddle, sixteen in all. The weather very sultry and close. Mr. McKinlay says there will be a storm. About 7 p.m., it was as black as midnight; at 9 p.m. a regular westerly gale. All hands turned out; but our little canvas camp was soon flying in all directions. The tents we tried to peg down as fast as a peg drew, but all to no use,
Our little canvas camp flying in all directions.
It was of no use trying to put up the tents, for they were rent to atoms, and so dark was it that we could not have found a peg for the life of us; so we got out our blankets as well as we could from the débris, and made a camp outside, under the lee of the sheep pen. We were soon asleep in our damp beds, and it continued to rain nearly till 12 o'clock.
29th. Called by Mr. McKinlay to loose camels, when we managed to get some blankets from the camp, feeling rather miserable. However the morning was beautifully fine, and soon put life into us. Oh! for some thing or other said each of us; rum, shrub, or whiskey, brandy-spider or sherrycobbler. We remained cleaning arms, for they were in a frightful state from last night's storm.
30th. Plenty of work to-day, mending and repairing the damaged tents, putting them up, and drying all our goods, etc. The only thing dry was the nest of stores covered with tarpaulin. Laid some poisoned baits for the wild dogs. Flies here by thousands, ants millions; flies in soup and the ants in the tea. It is too bad, I was going to say terrible; in a spoonful of soup you would get, I will not say how many—for fear the reader might think I was telling a traveller's tale—but this I must and will say, that if you stopped you would get no soup at all, for they (the flies) came in as fast as you could take them out.
31st. All of us employed in various ways to make our stay here comfortable, as we shall remain till the party returns from Blanchewater, probably more than six weeks. Three of the poisoned baits taken, and found two wild dogs quite dead, and we also lost our own dog Wallace; he must have got hold of one of the baits which had not been taken up, or else one must have fallen from the stump of the tree where they were placed for safety; he died about 5 p.m., and was buried in a clump of trees a little south of our camp, the first, and I trust the last, of Mr. McKinlay's party.
To-day we plant a lot of seeds—melon, peach, plum, and apricot, also some pumpkin. I hope they will grow, as they will be a boon to any poor fellows who may follow us.
Nov. 1st. Our old native friend came into camp to-day quite unexpectedly; he did not know how he would be received, but being a useful fellow, Mr. McKinlay spoke to him in rather a jocular way, and he was himself again very shortly. A westerly wind to-day, and very cold; we thought perhaps Mr. Bullenjani would be up to some of his sly tricks, and be only a spy to see if he could catch us napping, but if he did come with malice aforethought, he was done, as the watch has strict orders to note all the movements of this chap.
2nd. Mr. McKinlay left us to-day for a short time, and went out on horseback to see if he could make out any water to the east or west of our present position. He came on a fine creek northwest. Mr. Bullenjani left us again to-day, with promises to be back again to-morrow; we shall see if he keeps his word. On Mr. McKinlay' s return he reported having seen fresh tracks of natives within 300 or 400 yards of our camp, showing that there had been something in the wind with the sable gentry; the good watch kept over our ally, however, prevented his giving the signal for attack, which I now think they had thought feasible. Had such a thing occurred, I fear they would have had to sing the "Darkey's Lament," for our little Terry's breech-loaders would have told on them, and many would have been food for the crows. Mr. McKinlay found on his travels to-day some horse-dung, very old, some little distance from our camp. Who has been here with horses? And one of our fellows, the cook, getting wood, found a bottle-strap very old and rotten. No signs, however, of any camp of white men here.
5th. Guy's day in the wilds of Australia! How we talked of what would be done at home, of rockets, crackers, and pocketsful of squibs; and visions of Vauxhall and Cremorne appeared to our mental vision, an agreeable relief to the eternal gum trees.
Many natives visited us to-day, all having their front teeth knocked out. Two of our men shot twelve birds—ducks and waterfowls. The natives who came over had an invitation from our chief to dine, which they accepted with seeming pleasure, and did ample justice to roast mutton, damper, and blood pudding. The blood of every sheep was caught and made into a pudding with rice, pepper, and salt, and very good they are; it is also used by us to put into the soup, it thickens it and gives it a good colour.
6th. Fearfully dull to-day; nothing doing after 8 a.m.; worse than a soldier's life in barracks, there you can get books from the regimental library. Mr. McKinlay has a few books, such as the "Travels of Leichhardt," and "Stokes' Discoveries in the Rattlesnake." We had also a few pictorial newspapers; had we the courage perhaps we might have been able to put up a small library, but as it is we are all thrown on our own resources. Wind east. Out after ducks this afternoon, but could not get near them. We all weighed ourselves, having nothing better to do, and found that most of us had lost considerably. Mr. McKinlay lost two stones, Davis twenty pounds, Kirby sixteen pounds, Wylde eight pounds, Middleton four pounds, but strange to say the bullock-driver had gained four pounds; perhaps this may be accounted for by his having done the duty of cook for some time, as cooks generally do get fat; and another thing, he had been on the roads for years, and was able to stand the hard life we were leading.
7th. To-day we got up a revolver match, Poole v. Middleton, distance fifty yards, Mr. McKinlay umpire, who did all in his power to keep us employed, lending us his books and getting up rifle matches to pass the time pleasantly, keeping away blue devils; three shots each this match, at 10s. a shot. The shooting would pass muster, but Middleton proving himself the best man, Poole was not satisfied, but challenged him to a second contest, when Middleton again was the winner; when Mr. McKinlay took his revolver, and put all three bullets within an inch of the bull's eye, clearly showing that he was the best shot of the lot, and he commenced chafing Middleton and Poole until they were glad when the cook called out "Supper." No sport to-day, nothing shot. Every appearance of rain.
8th. Mr. McKinlay left us this morning to look at the country to the east. We were visited during his absence by a lot of natives, old friends from Lake Siva; did not let them come into the camp, but gave them a fire-stick to make their own fire some 300 yards away. One or two got talking to them by signs, for it is impossible for us to understand a word they say, nor could they understand us. We surprised them much with a revolver, firing off the six barrels one after another as fast as possible. They looked at it when offered them, but would not touch it; what they thought of it of course we could not tell, but they talked very fast among themselves, and by their actions seemed to look upon the pistol as a wonderful machine. It reminded me of some of the hill tribes in India, who for the first time saw a steam-engine at work, and after they had danced round the place for some time, they fell down and worshipped it.
9th. Many natives coming about our camp and very friendly with our black fellow, who is taking care of the sheep on the other side of the lake.
Mr. McKinlay returned to-day very much knocked up, having had no water or food since he left (twenty-four hours); his horse failed him, and I certainly never saw one so done up and so fallen away in so short a time. He was seventeen hands high, and from his appearance you would have imagined he would have held out much longer. Mr. McKinlay was looking very ill, his cheeks hollow, and his eyes sunk; he turned in after some breakfast, and drinking citric acid and water. He suffers also from a slight attack of dysentery. Weather very hot and disagreeable. Got two new natives to go to Cooper's Creek.
10th. Mr. McKinlay very unwell to-day; however, there is plenty of medicine. Some of us also suffering from sore eyes, caused by those pests of Australia, the flies.
We jerked some mutton yesterday, that is cut it in strips and dried it in the sun, and it is very nice; we tasted it to-day at dinner; it reminds one of the "Tasso" of the Orinoco prepared from beef, only it is well rubbed with salt before drying. A day of rest to-day. Our native ally seems very comfortable; he requested leave to go for a net to the lake, and promised to return shortly.
11th. Fearfully hot; thermometer 135°. Mr. McKinlay still continues very unwell. It is so very hot in the sun that most of the animals are in the lake, some even rolling in the water. Mr. McKinlay rather worse to-day.
12th. The wind very high last night, and nearly sent the tents all flying again. Mr. McKinlay still very unwell, but rather better. The flies bother the animals very much, and what with them and the excessive heat, they are falling off visibly. Obliged to throw away all the remainder of the sausages, and very sorry we are. We boiled them, fried them, and tried them in rolls, but they were too bad; so we put them in a hole by the side of the lake. The bacon we got from Mr. Poole is first-rate; pity there is only such a little, as it is a good stand-by; and fancy bringing all the sausages this long way only to bury them!
13th. Weather quite cool and pleasant to-day, and in the afternoon cold. Quite glad to get into the blankets when off guard at midnight. Beautiful night; sky without a cloud. Still at Lake Buchanan, with little or nothing to occupy the mind. Mr. McKinlay gradually getting better. Very cold; blue shirts over Crimean. Flies still teasing animals. Bullocks looking better than the horses; feed round this lake splendid.
14th. Thermometer at 5 a.m. only 54°. Fine weather lately; rather cold in the night-watch. Greatcoats in request. It is rather dreary, that two hours; nothing to be heard but curlews and wild dogs, and your own measured tread. And then in fancy you go home to scenes never to be enacted again, and conjure up happy faces never to be seen any more, and old associations—till you get lost in thought, and so the night slips, or rather glides, away, till I rouse my relief and let him take a spell. But enough of this, and I should not have written it, only that it is very hot, and I am in a queer temper.
15th. Our native friend, with two women, came into camp to-day, and brought another male native; very friendly. They got their dinners, and slept at the camp—rather cold, I should think, as neither man nor woman had the slightest covering; the men, perhaps, with a belt of hair plaited round their waists. These are from Lake Perigundi, or Lake Siva. This new chap has a most hang-dog look about him; the other native is not so bad-looking. The ladies, of course, quite nude. If they went as the Turkish women do, faces and all covered, it would be an improvement. One of them, say sixteen; the other quite a girl, scarcely twelve years old. I dare say, as they have their lubras with them, that the men may remain in camp some time.
16th. At daylight the thermometer was 63°; at 2 p.m. it was up to 140°; heat intense; no breeze. Some natives fishing this afternoon on the opposite side of the lake. One is with us, making a net of the rushes that abound round us. They use no mesh, but the first two fingers of their left hand answer the purpose, and they make a neat, tidy net.
17th. Quite calm this morning. Read aloud Galton's "Art of Travel." The thermometer at noon was 130°; at 12·20 it was up to 164°! The heat was so great we could do nothing. We tried to sleep, but the flies prevented our burying our troubles in that way. Everything was hot, the water in the lake even. I think it was about the worst day any poor devils ever spent.
A number of natives on the other side of the lake. Frank, our nigger, got a story out of Mr. Bullenjani, that there was only one white man killed at Kadhiberri. He says that four fellows came there with camels and horses, and attacked the blacks first; that several were killed and wounded, but only one white, and he was buried by his comrades, who then went away in the direction of Cooper's Creek; that afterwards the natives dug him up, and eat the sinewy part of his legs and arms, and then reburied him, but not in the same grave. This seems a true tale, as Mr. McKinlay only found one skull, and that had old marks of sabre-cuts. This, in all probability, is Grey, who is reported to have died, in Burke's journal, on his way down; but there is no mention of any encounter with the natives; he seems silent on this point. There must, however, have been a scrimmage there some time or other, as a smashed tin pot was found, some empty "Eley" cartridges, and also some "Terry" rifle cartridges, empty too; so I don't think there can be much doubt on the subject after these indications of a fight.
18th. This day opened fine, with very little wind; the highest temperature 160° in the sun. We are anxiously expecting the detachment from Blanchewater. Any quantity of natives on the opposite side of the lake. We read to-day poor Wills' journal—or rather, that part of it up to Cooper's Creek; also Wright's journal, the officer Mr. Burke left in charge at a place called "Bulla." They were interesting to us, we being one of the relief-parties sent out in search of Burke. Let us hope we may succeed better. At all events, we have every confidence in our leader; for it is a well-admitted fact that the colonies cannot produce a better, if as good, a bushman as McKinlay, and having been here so long, he is up to all the dodges of the natives, and knows their general character well. The Government could not have found a better man; in fact, for a wonder, it was "the right man in the right place."
19th. The weather still hot, with fine southeast breeze. Thunder and lightning to the north-west; looks as if there was rain in that quarter.
20th. Last night the heat was insufferable; most of us forsook the tent and took our blankets into the open air, which was an improvement. Rain brewing all round. Some heavy drops falling. To the west and north it seems to be raining heavily. Thermometer, 6 a.m., 86°; wind strong; perhaps when it lulls we may have some rain. The wind as hot as if it came out of a furnace. Our Blanchewater fellows ought to be close at hand, as they have now been away some twenty-four days. Very boisterous indeed—looks like rain.
The wind was so high to-day that it actually drove back the water in the lake some five or six hundred yards. We could not make out what was up at first, when we discovered the water receding so fast from our camp. It looked very curious.
21st. This morning calm and sultry, and no rain to disturb us last night, but the sentry in the middle watch called us, as he was afraid the wind would take the tents away again. We were all soon out, but the tents were too well pegged down, and we turned in, "all standing," in case we might be wanted in a hurry.
The water in the lake has returned to its old mark. Thermometer at daylight 85°. Mr. McKinlay got a long yarn out of a native who came into camp yesterday, about Burke and his companions. He seems to have been up to Cooper's Creek with him, or followed him, as he tells McKinlay every water they passed, and every place they halted at. They had been seen by this fellow gathering the "adoo" (or, as Burke calls it, "nardoo"), grinding it and preparing it for food; also baking it in the ashes, as we do the damper. The seed is procured in almost any quantities in the flooded flats, by sweeping it up into heaps. When cooked it is not very nice, leaving a nasty sensation in the throat; but it will sustain life for a long time.
We had a visit from the natives to-day, some from the north-west, and others from west-northwest, from about the Stony Desert, as they speak of nothing but stones in that quarter. Mr. McKinlay distributed to them necklaces of glass beads; to one set he gave white beads, to the others necklaces of different colours, so as to distinguish one tribe from another. He also showed them some papier maché figures of Tom Sayers, Uncle Tom, monkeys, etc., with which they were highly delighted; and when the strings were pulled, and the legs and arms set in motion, nothing could exceed their astonishment: it was quite childish. Several of the men had their hair and beard dyed red, and the hair of the head was all brought up to the top and tied in a knot quite on the very top. To see Mr. McKinlay with his white hair blowing from under his Scotch cap, surrounded by some 150 niggers—men, women, and children of all ages—with some of us hovering round with rifles all ready in case of a rise—was quite a pretty picture. The expression of the faces, and the positions they were in, was very pleasing. Had we brought a photographic machine to have taken their likenesses, it would have been first-rate; but, alas! no such thing was thought of till it was too late. Mr. McKinlay and all of us often regretted that we had not brought one.
Some of these men are very like those at Aden, with their red heads and beards, whom I dare say many of my readers may have seen on the overland trip to India or the colonies, as the steamer lies coaling in Aden harbour, diving for coins that the passengers throw over the side into the water, so clear that they often catch the sixpence before it gets to the bottom. A great many of these birds of the wilds had only one eye, and many also at the time they came to see us were suffering from ophthalmia or some other disease of the eye. Some were awful looking rascals, as if nothing were too hot or too heavy for them. The majority, however, were fine looking fellows, jolly, sleek, and healthy; and had they only known their strength, I fear we poor fellows would have come off second best. They don't seem to understand the proverb about unity. I suspect the little shindy at Kadhiberri gave them a wholesome dread of Mr. McKinlay and party. They won't forget us in a hurry in that quarter. These chaps are easily managed, and Mr. McKinlay knows how to do it.
The heat very great to-day—no air to speak of; looks like rain, only I fear it will blow over as before. The Blanchewater party not in yet. Mr. McKinlay very anxious about them. They could not have been able to get the quantity of provisions there, and must have gone down lower to Mr. Jacob's station for the stores required, or they would have been back by this time.
A circumstance happened to-day which put us all on the qui vive. Mr. Bullenjani bolted off all of a sudden, and the other niggers would have gone but we saw him in time and collared him, and kept him in conversation till dark, and then watched him. Why he started we could not make out. Towards dark a lot of lubras and children crossed the lake and came into our camp, as if there was something very formidable up with them, but Mr. McKinlay made them go back where they came from. They were evidently in a great fright about something, but what it was we could not find out.
22nd. Many native watch fires on other side of lake, and last night we had to keep a bright look-out on our watches, as something uncommon was certainly stirring. We all slept with our arms by our side, and some slept in their clothes, ready to turn out at a moment's warning; and knowing that there were two or three hundred natives camped on the other side of the lake, it looked like an attack. We all expected it, and I don't think anything would have pleased some of us better than to have had a brush if they meant mischief, though five or six whites to that mob of natives. I should like to have known what really was in the wind. Our native bolting first, then all the women and children coming up to our camp for protection. We tried to fathom it, but, alas, it was no use. They could not understand us, and we, on the other hand, could not make out what they were talking about, so we were obliged to give it up as hopeless. No Blanchewater detachment yet, McKinlay very uneasy about them, though he does not say much.
23rd. Fine and cool to-day, the highest temperature 94°, every appearance of rain, clouds heavy and low, and the wind rising. There was rather a row to-day between two of our fellows, all about a whip. It was thought there would have been a stand-up fight, the odds being about three to one on the little one; but they both thought that discretion was the better part of valour, and let it alone after a good deal of wrangling. I should not have mentioned this incident were it not that I can add that this was the only serious row during the whole of our wanderings except one that occurred at a place called Broadsound, on the East Coast. This speaks a great deal for the morale of the party. I think that considering all things, and that not one of us knew a single mate till we met at the place of "enlistment," I might say Mr. McKinlay could not have had a much better selection. At all events he has expressed himself in almost the same terms, and therefore I suppose it is a fact.
More natives down to-day. McKinlay held a levée, and presented certain individuals not exactly with the Cross of the Legion of Honour, but what they valued perhaps more, some necklaces. They are simple beings indeed, and I believe would, if well treated, be docile and tractable. There is a great feeling against them. I do not like them, in fact I was going to say that I hate any black after the horrible atrocities and massacres in India, and having been present one almost takes a dislike to the whole of the "black family;" and even here there have been several horrible murders committed by the natives; but perhaps they were occasioned by some aggression on the part of the whites at some time or other, and the law of reprisals here is not well defined, revenge being their motto.
24th. We are out now 102 days, but the time has slipped away quickly and pleasantly, and we are all in good health here at the depôt camp, Lake Buchanan, and we hope that our absent men are as well and hearty. They ought to be with us now with the extra rations. To-day we had nothing to do but the usual routine, seeing all the animals right and safe. The weather cool and fine, the thermometer only 84° in the shade.
25th. Fine cool breeze from south-south-east. All hands mending boots, clothes, etc. Some one or two went out with McKinlay after ducks, and shot a few—a great treat, as we had lived on mutton only so long. Anything for a change. After dinner we turned into washerwomen—a transformation none of us like.
26th. There is not much doing in a camp like this. Unless the niggers attack us, or some other game of the same harmless nature occurs, there is hardly anything to put down in a journal; in fact, in McKinlay' s there is nothing save the state of the weather and the range of the thermometer. The wind from south-east and beautifully cool, which, as you may imagine, dear reader, is a luxury in an Australian summer. Highest range of thermometer to-day, 120°.
27th. McKinlay gone out to-day to the eastward on horseback; passed a lake with not much water in it; passed a dry one, "Pal-coor-a-ganny," with very fine feed in it, consisting of clover and various grasses. There is a well here dug by the natives, about twelve feet deep. East of the lake there is also a small encampment of blacks close to us. Before leaving McKinlay started us to dig a well, although there is a fine lake within thirty yards of our tents. What in the world he wants with a well no one knows, unless it is to keep us from brooding over our cares, and just keep the cerulean imps away. Nothing like active employment to do that. We of course commented on the propriety of working like navvies, and apparently for nothing, in a temperature of 117° in the sun, and we came to the conclusion that it was insanity, or bordering close on it, while so many black chaps were to be had for a stick or two of tobacco. So we set them to work; they did it well, too, and struck water at about nine to ten feet. Then we went to work, and finished the job, and most beautiful water it was, clear as crystal, and splendidly cool. This water was so hard that the soap would not lather, but floated on the top. On Mr. McKinlay's return he had a bucket poured over his head, and it made his hair stand up as stiff as wire, and he was obliged to send to the lake for some, which is very soft indeed, to wash it, before he could get it into its usual state. It was, however, first-rate for drinking, as we could always get it cold. McKinlay returned about 6.30 p.m., and was glad we had found it. The well is to be deepened to-morrow, and made larger altogether. No rest for the wicked, "Ora pro nobis." Very uneasy, all of us, about Blanchewater detachment.
28th. At daylight set to work after breakfast at the well; had to do all the work ourselves, governor being in camp; wished him away. We set to, however, with a will, and soon accomplished the feat, making it full ten feet deep, and about three times the size, the water rising from south-east corner, and almost too fast for us to bale out and work too. The soil through which we dug before obtaining water was partly a mixture of light-coloured yellow clay and sand, next three and a half feet gypsum and blue clay, and at the bottom fine sand, through which the water pours in from all sides now it is finished.
29th. News this morning at daylight of the Blanchewater detachment brought in by some blacks. They were at a creek called "Karadinti." They arrived at 9·30, all well, and we were very happy to see them; they brought us news that Howitt and party had found the remains of Burke and Wills at Cooper's Creek; also that they had found the only survivor of that ill-fated expedition (King) living with blacks on Coopers Creek. There is no necessity to mention here what they told us on their return, "or what we read in the Adelaide newspapers they brought us; the circumstances are now so well known. It certainly was a most unfortunate expedition, equalled only by poor Kennedy's. Where is Gray? He must be the poor fellow whose bones were found at Lake Massacre; but then how are the different coloured hairs to be accounted for? Perhaps the mystery will be cleared up when King gets to Melbourne, or when Burke's journal is published.
"Jack," the black fellow who went with the detachment to Blanchewater, has bolted, not much liking the service. He was an obliging fellow, and good-natured. Instead of him they have brought a white man from Mr. Jacob's station, to act as cook. Of him more anon.
30th. Highest temperature to-day 120°; wind this morning south-south-east. Mr. McKinlay and party, composed of Middleton, Poole, and two natives, preparing to start for Cooper's Creek, and to look at some water reported to the south-east.
I wonder where we shall be off to, now that the fate of the Melbourne explorers has been determined. I hope the governor will go to the Gulf of Carpentaria, that is, if he can do so without leaving behind him half his crew; although, perhaps, if he does, the difficulties and dangers passed will be thought little of should he fail, even if he leaves his bones and those of most of us in this hitherto unexplored country. Should any return, they will doubtless get all the glory of the exploit; at least, so it is with the world generally. Eighteen inches of water in well; temperature only 99° at noon.
Poor Burke and Wills! it is sad to think that those intrepid fellows should have been the first to cross this great continent, the vast deserts of the interior, and supposed to have arrived within almost a "cooey" of the settled districts, to have only arrived at their depôt some few hours after the depôt party had left there, under Mr. Brahe—who remained there until he could do so no longer from the illness of his men,—and to have there laid down and died; it was hard just as they had the laurel wreath almost within their grasp, and that so hardly won. I can fancy these poor fellows, after digging, finding the note stating that Brahe had only left that morning. It must have been a fearful disappointment to them; fancy, reader, just place yourself in their situation, seeing the date of that note after arriving from such an expedition, weary and faint with hunger and exhaustion, clothes in rags, and perhaps hardly a boot to your foot; fancy, I say, arriving a few hours after your friends had gone, who you fully expected would be there to give you help and succour, and finding yourself too feeble to follow in their track. They, as it afterwards turned out, were only fourteen miles away.
Dec 1. Kept holy the Sabbath-day; all very quiet reading newspapers, and those who had any, their letters. Good news from home. How pleasant it is to receive a little cheerful tidings from anywhere, but from those we love doubly so! I was not troubled with anything of the sort, but one of the party had enough for the lot, so he told us anything he thought we might like to hear—lucky dog, to have friends to write to him! Temperature to-day 139°, and rather hot, as you may suppose.
McKinlay and party start to-morrow for the south-east and Cooper's Creek. I wish I was going with them. To-day a few natives came into camp, and round the neck of one of them was found suspended the side-spring of a Terry's breech-loading rifle, and tells McKinlay that the rest of the rifle is out to the north-east. I suspect it must be one of Burke's, who left it behind at the fight, or else it got disabled, and was of no further use: a little bit of mystery again. "I wonder whose rifle it was," or, "Who left it, I wonder," you hear from mouth to mouth, and divers opinions on the subject. I suppose it will be all cleared up by the publishing of Burke's journal.
110 days out to-day. All well, but much thinner, at least the majority. I wish we had some Bass or Alsopp, or any other good beer. You, reader, will perhaps ask why we did not take some. The answer is simple—we had no carriage for it.
2nd. Mr. McKinlay and party started this morning with two camels and four horses, about 9 a.m. Bullenjani is left in charge of sheep. Frank, our native shepherd, going with McKinlay.
Again we must trespass on McKinlay's journal for the narrative of his trip, as I was not with him to Cooper's Creek and back. Meantime I will just jot down what happened during his absence at the depôt camp, Lake Buchanan, where the remainder of us are staying.
Wind very light to-day. A squall, accompanied with rain, passed over the camp about 3 p.m., and the wind continued blowing hard till midnight. We had a jolly evening notwithstanding, singing songs and telling stories of bygone days. To-day the last tobacco served out—twenty-eight sticks for each man; not much certainly, so we must husband it. Two of the party tossed up who should have the two allowances. Ned Palmer won the toss, and immediately put them up to auction, and they were bought by Davis for £1 4s., so he has three. Ned knocks off smoking at once.
3rd. The morning broke fine and clear, wind west. Our rations reduced to-day—flour, from 8 lb. to 7 lb.;. sugar, from 2 lb. to 1½ lb.; and tea, from 4 oz. to 3 oz., a man per week. Our sugar never held out before, what will it do now? We may have to go without presently, which I think very likely to occur if we are out any length of time, and so it is as well to begin to live on short commons by degrees.
4th. Blew very hard this morning and during the night, and very cold, during the middle part. Could not see the thermometer, the night was too dark; the two camels on being let loose this morning started away round the lake, and took it into their heads to explore a trifle on their own account. A fine walk I had after them, seven or eight miles. I got on their tracks, but could see nothing of them for a long time, the sand hills being so many and close together. At last I saw one on the top of rather a high sand hill, just going over, then in a short time discovered the other; they were hobbled still; they went along at a good stiff walk, and kept me for an hour or so till I could come upon them, a stern chase being always a long one. I at last headed them, and turned them to go home.
Arrived at 11·30, and found that Bell and a black had gone out after me, thinking that I had lost the tracks returning, or could not find the animals; it certainly was rather difficult tracking them, as they leave so. little marks behind them, and then the sand was blowing so much that in many places the marks were quite obliterated, and having no compass I steered by the sun, knowing pretty well where the camp was.
I missed Bell as he followed the outward tracks, and I had come a shorter way home. He arrived about 1·30, and found us just getting our dinners. It was a weary and lonely walk, and I was tired when I got home, the sand being in some places very deep and soft. One of our men had got a severe kick from a horse to-day, which placed him hors de combat for two days. The well was sounded to-day, and had two feet eight inches water in it. Temperature cool; rather windy.
5th. This morning delightfully cool and pleasant. 113 days out from Adelaide to-day. On going after the animals to see if they were all right, the bullocks were not to be seen. Ned and the driver went after them, and found their tracks to the eastward, and also our faithful (?) native Bullenjani on the track, which circumstance created the suspicion that they had been driven off by some of the natives.
6th to 10th. For the last week I find nothing in the journal but the temperature; extreme variation, 64° to 122°. Making trousers and repairing wardrobes generally, which by this time were rather the worse for wear, seeing we were only allowed to take two shirts, two pairs of boots, two pairs of trousers, and half a dozen pairs of socks, one coat, etc.; some did infringe a little, and took three or four shirts. We sang songs, and made ourselves as jolly as circumstances would permit. The water in the well has risen to 3 ft. 10 in., although we are constantly using it for drinking.
11th. To-day, about noon, McKinlay returned, having succeeded in finding Burke's and Wills' graves.
13th. Mr. McKinlay is going out to-morrow to the stony desert of Sturt. The party consists of two white men, two blacks, five horses, and two camels. At 11·30 a.m. to 12 o'clock the thermometer was up to 165°. Reader, how would you like that style?
14th. This morning the party started at 7·30, crossed sand hills and flooded flats, thirty or forty miles, to a small creek, where they camped; there is little or no water in it, and from the report of the natives there seems to be no likelihood to be any further on; so McKinlay determined to return to camp to-morrow, and to go no further, as the natives' report seems correct from the appearance of this creek, and from what we could see of the country from off the top of a very high stony hill. Had a first-rate supper—chocolate and jerked mutton.
15th. Up very early; got breakfast, and started for depôt at 8 a.m. We went another route home. Soon got out of the stones. At 12 a.m. came to a native well, where we camped under some trees; unloaded the animals for a couple of hours; gave them some water from the well, and let them browse about while we got a fire under way, and our pots on for some tea. By the time the horses had been watered, our impromptu snack was ready, consisting of tea and jerked mutton. We then had a smoke, till McKinlay gave the word to saddle, which was soon done; and we started for Lake Buchanan, and arrived about 6·30, tired and hungry. Country undulating, and not very promising.
16th. Up very early this morning to get all ready for a start northward, packing the dray. We shall be off to-morrow if all goes on well, at least that is the leader's intention. Many natives about. Cut on a large tree at the back of the camp, after nicely squaring a place on it about 2 ft. by 1 ft. 3 in.
fm. Oct. 20th to Dec. 17th,
The arrow points to the spot where McKinlay buried some letters in an air-tight tin case, for any parties who might come there; also some memoranda for the Commissioner of Crown Lands. We are all very happy that we are to be on the road again, although we were very comfortable here under all circumstances. Still we got tired of the awful monotony of the same humdrum life; same niggers, same trees, same pelicans. Everything ready for a start the first thing to-morrow morning.
- The next chapter alludes to this subject.