Tracks of McKinlay and party across Australia/Chapter 5

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CHAPTER V.


LAKE BUCHANAN TO LAKE HODGKINSON.


Editor's précis of subject—December 17th, Start from Depot—Natives and Reciprocal Adieux—A Local Newspaper—20th, Lake McKinlay, deep water—23rd, Lake Jeannie—Christmas Day, and what is done for it in the Wilds—28th, Lake Hodgkinson—Presents of Necklaces to Natives—January 2nd, Suspicious Conduct of Natives—Excursion to Explore Lake District: Browne Creek, Lakes Blanche, Sir Richard, Strangways, and Ellar.

The expedition breaks up at length from Lake Buchanan, after a two months' camping, and takes a course about north-north-east, to a fine sheet of water about sixteen miles in circumference, named after the second in command, Lake Hodgkinson, We are now in the very heart of the summer, and our travellers experience all the defects of this remarkable country. The heat is frequently intense, almost beyond the endurance of either man or beast, and aggravated by the total want of shelter of any kind, which was most commonly their lot in camping or marching over such an open country. The country was not without attractions, especially those of a utilitarian character. The principal lakes, some of which, from their extent and depth, seemed to be permanent, were fringed with luxuriant grass, and fed by fine deep, broad creeks, whose cool and shaded waters afforded delightful bathing for the party.

And yet the precarious climate of all this lake region, variegated as it now is by well supplied lakes and creeks, and in many parts waving with long grass, holds us in suspense as to its practical value for colonization. The great question is the permanency of the water—or at least of some portion of it here and there, even although that portion be reduced, during unusually dry seasons, merely to the deeper corner of some lake, or an occasional water-hole in the bed of a creek. The live-stock can readily put up with the dried-up tinder-looking vegetation. Indeed this natural hay is greatly relished by them, and during very hot dry weather, when the grass-growing quite ceases, a very small supply may suffice for the animals. But water is indispensable for daily wants, and cannot conveniently be very far distant. We have already alluded to the rapidity of evaporation over the open area of this lake district. A very striking instance occurs further on in the case of the very promising Lake Hodgkinson itself, "a splendid sheet of water," as Mr. McKinlay calls it, but which, during a brief absent interval, on one occasion, of but twelve days, the party found had changed its level to a very ominous extent, and what was still more discouraging, had in that short time changed the quality of its waters, from being quite drinkable and good, to a state entirely unfit for use by either the men or the quadrupeds. The bitter or other qualities imparted by the soil had not previously been detected unpleasantly in the larger body of water, but as the volume diminished by evaporation, these qualities gradually predominated to the extent of thus rendering the water useless. This alternation did not, however, seem to be a characteristic of all these natural water reservoirs.

The teeming life of the country seemed, as Mr. McKinlay thought, to supply the best assurance as to the permanency of the water. And yet, in alluding to the great numbers of the Aborigines he saw hereabouts, he remarks that Sturt in passing this neighbourhood seventeen years before, had met no such multitude. On the contrary, he states that few natives were seen. And with respect to this fine lake country, it must have presented quite a different appearance to Sturt, for, as Mr. Davis observes, he does not allude to any such promising features as were now seen, although he must have passed at no great distance from McKinlay's line of march. Had the unusually dry season, then, during which, as we know, Sturt went upon his central expedition, dried up every thing—creek and lake, high plain and "claypan hollow," and left the crisp and brittle grass to be swept away by the hot wind? Mr. McKinlay dilates upon creeks winding their devious course alternately through flooded flats and grassy hollows; one in particular running "principally through what was recently a large lake, now a splendidly grassed plain of vast extent." A month or two more perhaps, and the retrospect would class the grassy plain, with the lakes, as among the things that are not. If so, what a country of contrasts! The sheep grew so fat, says the journal, that one in a condition fit for "jerking" could hardly be found in the flock.

The Aborigines seemed to pour out from every "nook and corner" where there was water. They were in companies of fifty or a hundred, and sometimes in considerably greater bodies. They were mostly an athletic, hearty, well-conditioned people. There were few children among them, and the most of these, as Mr. McKinlay states, were females. Both sexes of adults had the custom of knocking out the four front teeth of the upper jaw, but a good many preserved the perfect set. With one or two suspicious exceptions, they generally were quite inoffensively disposed, and Mr. McKinlay delighted the simple creatures by distributions of bead necklaces, and on one occasion by the welcome feast of a sheep.

17th. The cart is off, and we are only waiting till it gets a certain distance ahead, so that it may not be too late in coming into camp after us, as the cart carries the commissariat, and it won't do to let that be much behind in arriving after us poor famished mortals.

At 10·45 all off; horses and camels with their attendants. Blacks all around us to say "Goodbye;" they lined the side of the lake, jabbering their farewells; but there was no cambric fluttering in the breeze, there was no fair one who had lost her heart taking a last fond look of the gay deceiver. I can assure you, gentle reader, we all left free and unencumbered with the sins consequent on civilization. There is an encampment of 300 or 400 up the creek; they could soon make short work of us if they knew how we travelled. Twelve to fourteen miles to-day, nothing but sand hills and flooded flats all sandy.

Here during our long stay we got up a newspaper called the "Dakoo Review"—Mr, Hodgkinson editor,—the leading article of which I give with one or two other contributions.


"CHRISTMAS DAY.

"No snowdrift hides from view the face of the earth, no frost holds in its adamantine chain the waters; while bright as may be the stars, and deeply blue the sky, their splendour is not derived from stern winter's power. As with nature, so with mankind, the eye in vain seeks those pitiable objects of charity abounding in more northern lands; no wretched outcast parades his barely-covered and famine-stricken form, while the hand idly retains the ready dole. Still, though in lieu of this, we are now beneath a sultry sun, and seek relief in densest shade, though the myriad, busy ant swarms on the ill-protected plate, and the rapacious fly devours our luscious plums, yet the cherished recollections of the season hedge round us, repelling all incongruity, and demanding all effort for enjoyment. It must not, however, be forgotten that Christmas comprehends other duties besides those of feasting, and that our presence among the unenlightened of the earth affords to us a particular opportunity of discharging them; the good sense of the community will enable them to effect this. No one will attempt to give the savage a desire for an article of luxury incapable of an entire gratification on our limited stock of currants. No one will sigh for roast beef when only our toiling bullocks meet the gaze; but all doubtless will raise the deadly gun, bringing down the swift pigeon and obese ducks, or extend commerce by a traffic for the scaly 'parro' (a kind of fish). Should the dusky savage chaunt his wild corroboree on these southern shores, let the north resound in reply with the good old Anglo-Saxon cry of a 'Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all.'"

"IMPROMPTU BY THE COOK

"Boast, boil, and bake,
Throughout the livelong day;
Alas! why did I take
The billet and the pay?"


"NEWS OF THE DAY.

"As some of our female correspondents, including many ladies of the haut ton, having expressed a desire to learn the costume worn on state occasions by the grand hereditary Albeena of Cudgeecudgeena, the Lady Kinbella, we re-insert the following:— "Coiffure à la Centrale Australie; bust, au naturel; arms, bracelet pure ; neck, necklace a la Birmingham, the whole forming a very novel tout ensemble, and extremely adapted for hot weather."


"TO MARJARA

A NATIVE LADY OF CUDGEECUDGEENA.

I.


"She wore no wreath. No braided locks
Told Art was busy there;
No dress, no gem, no shoes, no socks,
Concealed from view the fair.

II.


"No marring touch had ever sought
To hide her lithesome form
With fabrics from the Indies brought,
Or of the silkworm born.

III.


"Ah, no! a purer taste had reigned
Upon her natal hour,
And Nature's simple rule retained
Her beauty in its power.

IV.


"Swept by the breeze, each darkened tress
To lover oft revealed
The beauties that a jealous dress
Too surely had concealed.

V.


"The swelling orbs of ebon hue,
That from her bosom sprung,
Left unconfined the ravished view
The gazer oftimes flung.

VI.


"No more shall meretricious charms
Win homage from my soul,
Since, in this lovely maiden's arms,
Love reigns without control."

Several more literary efforts might be added, but perhaps the above will be sufficient.

18th. Two black fellows came into camp last night, one our own "Friday," (Milmilly), the other a stranger, who was ordered off the premises; ours remained and slept in camp, and we kept a strict watch over him during the night. Orders this morning for Wylde and Davis to go to the cart with water on two camels. Bell is cook to-day, the cook being left behind with Kirby and Ned to take care of the cart. We left for the cart at 8 a.m., Wylde to remain to strengthen the detachment. I return by myself with some things from the cart, Ned and Hodgkinson found the bullocks that had strayed this morning, and brought them into camp about 3·30 p.m. They will proceed to the cart this afternoon with the stick that it may be fitted; we shall wait here till it comes.

19th. Remained in camp all day. Cut "MK., Dec. 17th, 18th, 19th, 1861," on a tree under which we camped. A native dog came into camp last night, and tried to get at the sheep in the fold (for at every camp we have to build a brush fold), but was shot by our native "Frank." The natives in the encampment close by, already mentioned, took fright at the report, and cleared out sharp, and not one was to be heard a quarter of an hour after. With them Bullenjani—he was a useful fellow in his way; I don't suppose we shall see him again. One of them returned in the morning. Temperature during the afternoon, 145°—very hot; indeed, no air hardly. The cart arrived all right; the men worked all night at it by the light of a fire, and, consequently, came up some hours before they were expected—too late for a start, but to-morrow we shall be on the road again.

20th. Up very early, and left "Gunani" Creek at 8 a.m.; passed over some fearful country, the horses and camels up to their knees in the rotten flats, over which our course lay, the horses quite in a lather; the camels even sweated, the first time they ever did so during the journey; it was awful work for the bullocks; the cart, when we passed it, was up to the naves of the wheels in the rotten earth, and the bullocks up to their knees. I don't know when they will get into camp to-night.

One of the finest bullocks died from the heat of the sun to-day; he was very fat, and it is a pity we could not save any of the meat, as it would have helped out our sheep considerably; Mr. McKinlay did not know anything of it till the cart came in the evening, too late to send out.

On our journey to-day, after passing these rotten flats, we came to a small creek, where we spelled for a short time, and crossed this creek to a lake, where we camped on the north-east shore at about 1 p.m., where the water seemed deepest. Mr. Hodgkinson went out to try the depth, and found at some 300 yards from the shore 10½ feet. It is certainly the deepest lake we have yet come to. This lake I should say is permanent, and from its depth must be a great resort of the natives far and near in great droughts. The native name of it is "Goonaidranganni," but called after our worthy leader, "Lake McKinlay." Splendid bathing in this lake, the water being so
Tracks of McKinlay and Party Across Australia 0224, Lake McKinlay.jpg

LAKE McKINLAY.

deep enabled those who could swim to indulge in that healthy exercise.

Orders to-night for three of the party to go after the dead bullock and get his hide, it being so very useful for hobbles or ropes; and in the event of being very hard up for grub, what can be better than bullock's hide well boiled!

A good deal of thunder, with indications of rain; hope it may come and cool the air. Hot wind blowing to-day, and very disagreeable. McKinlay found Frank, the native, asleep on his watch last night, for which he got severely reprimanded. He became impudent and sulky. It would have served him right had the governor given him a good tanning for his insolence. He said he would go no further, so McKinlay discharged him, giving him an order on the Commissioner of Crown Lands for his money. He has gone back to Perigundi, where is a young female, rejoicing in the name "Kintullah" (Anglice, "shedog") with whom this fellow had fallen deeply in love, as he told us some time before at Lake Buchanan. He said that he should when he returned marry this Kintullah—a nice name for a man's wife. I expect that she is the chief cause of his leaving; so wishing him a happy honeymoon, if they have moons of that description here, we will leave him to his own devices. Only a few drops of rain after all our expectations.

21st. This morning three started off about 4 a.m. to skin the dead ox and bring in his hide; they returned at 8·30 a.m. The bullocks were left unhobbled last night, as they were very much distressed; consequently, they rambled away, and were not found till 11 a.m. We started about 1 p.m. This was a day indeed; the horses before they were packed were in a perfect lather, and the perspiration pouring off us like water; the camels also suffered much, the loading and saddling the beasts was quite a task from the intense heat. We were nearly done up before we started; in fact, it was a mercy none of us had a sun-stroke. We arrived after a start at 3 p.m., at Moolionboorrana, hot, tired, and nothing to eat, the cart, as usual, not having arrived. We had a great loss to-day, the thermometer got broken, so from this time we shall be unable to record the temperature.

Passed over flooded flats and sandhills, then made the bed of a dry lake, with splendid grass, looking very park-like and pretty. All the rest of the way was over low sandhills and flats. We arrived with the horses and camels about 3·30 p.m. Not a tree hardly to be seen at Lake Moolionboorrana, so we had to camp without the slightest shade; reflection from the water and sand very trying, the latter burning the feet as we walked. The cart and sheep not up to time. Wylde and Bell went in search of the missing party with a pack-horse to bring some food, if the dray could not come on; it became so dark, however, they could not follow the tracks, and returned unsuccessful at 10 p.m. Innumerable pelicans, ducks, gulls, waders, cormorants, and pigeons, plenty of fish also. Small quantities of rain in the claypans. A little flour and water mixed, on the coals, and to bed.

22nd. We remained at this camp all day, awfully hot, no covering, the pegs of the tents having no hold in the sand, so we had to make a sort of an impromptu one with blankets, pack-bags, and camel saddles; water very brackish, and containing soda. Hodgkinson, Bell, and a native were off very early to see what had become of the cart. It appeared that it got turned over crossing a sand hill; sheep all right, and nothing the matter. The men with the sheep and cart had to be up all night to watch the natives, they being numerous, and moving about close by all the time. This lake is about three miles long by two wide. The bullocks very much jaded to-day from the last two days' work, and persist in remaining in the water, sometimes lying at full length in it; they are all off their feed.

23rd. We left this morning with no regret, and came to a creek about seven miles off. The water shocking, so bad that neither horses nor camels would touch it, quite bitter—the name of it Gadbung-oonie; fortunately, we had a little in the canteens, or we should have felt the heat more. We, with the horses and camels, came up to Mr. McKinlay, who was waiting for us here. He started, after getting a drink of water, very much disappointed, as he intended to stop here to give the bullocks a short stage. We soon followed on his track to a second creek, "Watthie-gurkie," which fills Lake Abberangainie. This is quite dry, and the water in the creek salt and bad, so had to go on to Lake Cann-boog-o-nannie; passed two or three salt lakes on our way, also another quite dry, well timbered, with lots of feed. We arrived at this fine lake, Cann-boog-o-nannie, at about 4 p.m.; splendid feed and water.

This is a fine lake, but not so deep by any means as Lake McKinlay. Pelican, ducks, and fish here. We shall spend Christmas-day here, so that the bullocks will have a rest; they will not arrive here till to-morrow, as they will not be able to travel this long stage (twenty-five miles) to-day, in this fearful heat, after the last two hard days' work. This lake is some nine or ten miles round, perhaps more. We passed through some of the best country for grazing to-day since we left Adelaide. The female camel gave us some trouble to-day; she did not seem to like the long day's march, and kept breaking her nose-string. We arrived here rather tired, but the cart, as usual, not being up with the pots, kettles, and meat, we were obliged to sup off scons[1] baked on the coals, and a pot of tea without sugar. The natives came round, as many were old friends who had also visited us at Lake Buchanan. They brought lots of women with them, and among them the only pretty face we have seen, and she is really very pretty, her features regular, and her figure faultless. They provided us with an ample supply of fish. Some of those who had been with us before baked some "adoo" for us, but we did not touch it, having seen the process of the manufacture, which certainly was anything but tempting. They grind it between two stones, then winnow it, put it into a wooden trough, and mix it thus—they don't pour water on it as we should, but take a mouthful at a time, and squirt over this flour, if it may bear that name, until they have kneaded it into a paste, which they make into thin cakes, and bake in the ashes, in fact an "adoo" damper. One of our men got some from one of the natives, and made it into a small cake; it had a strong astringent taste, and leaves a hot sensation in the throat. They also brought us water for cooking, wood, etc., and were highly delighted we had come. Not loss than 200 or 300 were round us at one time.

Mr. McKinlay has called this "Lake Jeannie," after Miss Jane Pile, of Grawler. We called it Lake Christmas, and did not know that he had named it otherwise till we saw it in his journal in Adelaide. Cart only got as far as the last bitter water-hole we passed.

24th. Christmas-eve, We spelled to-day; many natives. Mr. McKinlay started Hodgkinson this morning to the cart with a pack-horse and two large canteens of water for the men, and to find a firmer place to cross the creek than where we did, as it was rather boggy. Any quantity of pelicans, showing that fish is plentiful; in fact, we saw the natives with large strings of fish going to their whirlies; they brought us plenty also. Cart arrived at 12·30 p.m.; they found a little good water last night. Kirby with the sheep got astray to-day, but was found during the afternoon not far from the camp, but going quite past it, by Bell and Wylde. This part of the country is very fine; magnificent feed, indeed, all round about here.

The natives were kicking up a great disturbance in their camp last night, when the governor ordered a rocket to be sent up, when, as if by magic, the noise ceased, and was heard no more this night. What their ideas may be of fireworks I don't know; perhaps they think us some superior beings, making stars and coloured fires in the clouds. It is a pity that we can understand them so little; their ideas on different subjects would be very original and amusing. We made a night of it—singing, throwing weights, etc.—but no grog, or perhaps we should not have gone to bed at all; first time I was ever without it—maybe it is all the better for us.

25th. Christmas-day: a sober and very quiet one it was, but we had a first-rate dinner off roast mutton and plum-pudding, and we made it as jolly as circumstances would allow; we had no cares or Christmas bills. This is, I suspect, the first English plum-pudding made and eaten on this lake, and I shall long remember this day. I have spent Christmas-day in many parts of the world, but this is the quietest I ever did see. I spent one coming down the Red Sea, and I thought that was bad enough, but I find there are worse places in the world to eat your Christmas dinner in than on board a fine Peninsular and Oriental steamer. It does not seem like Christmas, it is so hot, the wind quite a hot blast, and endless myriads of ants and flies teasing us to death—may we never spend another like it, say I. We roused the echoes a bit with songs, and many a cheer for absent friends and the girls we left behind us, drinking their healths in cold tea (if ever it did get cold), and so ended with us Christmas of 1861. Where shall we all be this time next year?

Any number of natives prowling about all round our camp; strict watch kept all night. 26th. This morning broke fine and clear. Mr. McKinlay deposited documents under a tree, against which our tent was pitched—the tree being marked —

MK
Dec. 23, 24, 25,

61.
Dig.

Started about 8 a.m. Going to the north end of lake. We, with the camels, took a short cut, and came on to the cart crossing a creek. McKinlay had gone in a straight course for another lake, and we followed on his tracks, and came up to the cart in a very short time. The horses were long after us. Had they followed us they would have been all right. There are lots of natives on and about this creek; its name, "Appam-barra." Got here about 11 a.m. Plenty of water in the creek, which abounds with fish. We camped on a small tributary of this creek. Feed not very good. Any quantity of crawfish here also.

Country looks very hard and bare; no vegetation to speak of, great numbers of salt, polygonum, samphire, and other kinds of bushes. The natives are a fine, healthy race of men, the women as usual rather small and insipid-looking; they always accompany the men when they visit us. Mr. McKinlay distributed a quantity of necklaces and bracelets to them all. They are as friendly as any one could wish, doing almost anything that is required of them. Their bringing up their lubras is a sign of faith and good will to the "white fellow." They all smell awfully of fish, living as they do principally on the scaly denizens of the lakes about here; you can positively scent them some distance from you.

27th. On sending for the horses this morning up the creek, it was found they had vanished, showing by their tracks that they had gone in the direction of our last camp, on Lake Cann-boog-o-nannie, so some of us had to go after them on two or three that had not wandered. We found them right on the lake. They seem to like the feed there better than on the creek. We did not get back till 4·30 p.m., so were obliged to remain here all night. McKinlay set us to work to clear the polygonum bushes on the side of the creek, to prevent a surprise. It was terribly hot work, but he likes to see the men usefully employed, and quite right too. Had he not found work for us at the different camps we remained at, some would certainly have had the blue-devils. Nothing like employment; at any rate, it keeps the men out of mischief. Something must have frightened the horses, as many of the hobbles were broken; consequently we lost the chains attached to them, which is a serious matter.

From the number of natives here, there will be a strict watch kept. There was a slight row in the evening, so McKinlay, Bell, and Davis started off. McKinlay fired his revolver, but no natives could we see, so returned to camp, and went to bed with our arms by our sides. We lost a ewe in lamb in the scrub: how she got away is a mystery to us all.

28th. Left the camp about 9 a.m. There was not a breath of wind to stir a leaf, consequently very hot. After a short journey of about five miles struck a most magnificent lake, which Mr. McKinlay has named after Mr. Hodgkinson; in fact it may be called two lakes, as there are two fine sheets of water joined by a narrow strait. We shall remain here a few days, I expect, as Mr. McKinlay is going to look for some more lakes, said to be east and south of our present camp.

More necklaces for the natives, who were highly delighted with their presents; they are all a fine, sleek, fat-looking race: they must live principally on fish, in fact there seems little else for them to eat, unless they can catch the gulls and ducks sailing about the broad and beautiful lake, or bring down some of the pigeons and cockatoos of all kinds that abound here. Occasionally a black may be seen with a solitary bird, but not often.

This is a fearful camp, sand everywhere, gets into all your things, and every mouthful you take is covered. Seven or eight dark houris camped close to us by themselves, in a "mia mia," but no one knew anything of it till the following morning—rather cool that; the morning watch thought he discovered something in the bush, and sure enough there they were, all curled up together. Their intentions were evidently friendly to us poor forlorn travellers of the desert. Native name of this creek is "Watti-widulo." As soon as we arrived here we were beset by natives—young men and maidens, old men and children, and some of the most hideous old crones among them ever seen; they were nearly all to be decorated with beads, and Mr. McKinlay sat down and hung round their jet necks necklaces, and round the arms of the young girls he placed bracelets of multifarious colours. The tribe here is legion. Most of the elderly people have their four front teeth knocked out in the upper jaw; in the younger portion of the community you do not see it so often.

Killed a sheep to be jerked for the coming journey to the east, but all were too fat, and we were obliged to pick out the poorest for the purpose; but they were all fat, fatter, fattest, and not a poor one to be found; however, we picked out the leanest, and soon had him cut up and hung out to dry; the sun being very hot will soon jerk it. The little sheep are holding out well, you will say, and the country not so very bad, when they are too fat to jerk.

29th. Remained at Watti-widulo. Weather sultry and uncomfortable in the extreme. A black fellow from our last camp arrived to-day with the news that a party of white fellows, some six or eight, had arrived at Lake Buchanan, and were coming on our tracks to overtake us. Mr. McKinlay and all of us wondered who and what they could be. The only conjecture we could come to was that the Government had heard the same report that our detachment did at Blanchewater, that we had all who were left behind been killed and eaten by the natives. McKinlay does not put much faith in any party being out at all; however, we shall soon see, as we shall remain here some days, and they can be with us in a day or two. If they have come out on account of the story told, they will all be rejoiced to find us both well in body and spirits. It may be also only some ruse of the blacks, as they, in common with most savages, are well up in deceit.

Busy jerking for McKinlay and party to-morrow. Hot wind, and the sand blowing in all directions. Pity the thermometer is gone, as we should have noted day by day the changes in the temperature, which are very great and sudden out here.

30th. McKinlay and party started this morning to explore the lakes talked of by the natives. Wind very high from south-west. Middleton, Hodgkinson, and Wylde accompanied the leader in this expedition, and a native calling himself Dilbilly. It is very odd that Sturt did not discover these lakes, as he went within a few miles of them. McKinlay takes with him two camels and horses, with a week's provisions.

31st. Sky heavy, and looking very much for rain. Remained in camp, certainly the most uncomfortable one we have had; no green to shelter us, and not much grass or other green to counteract the fierce glare from the white sand. We all hope the party will soon return, so that we may escape out of this. Mr. McKinlay left orders to see that the wants of the white men, should they arrive, were properly attended to; and they shall be if they can be satisfied with roast mutton, bread, rice, and a pot of good tea out in the desert. A feed like this makes you forget weariness, and instills new life into you. This afternoon as we were cleaning our arms, etc., a whirlwind took our tent completely away, leaving it a wreck some yards off. The other tent, some fifty yards away, was not touched.

We shall see the old year out, and bid him farewell with one hand, while with the other we welcome the new face of his successor. Farewell then, 1861! Could we but recall thee, and just look over the days and nights we have spent and wasted thoughtlessly, we might, perhaps, like to blot out the remembrance! but it is idle regretting. This wont bring back the days gone by; but we may, by "overhauling" a little our faults and failings, benefit somewhat, and render a better account at the close of 1862, by avoiding the follies of the past year.

Jan. 1st, 1862. All hail to the new year! May we have a more jolly and a happier one than the last, and may it also prove more profitable to us all than the last! This year opens bright and fair—the sky without a cloud, and millions of stars out. I sit at 1 a.m. ruminating on the past, and hoping for the future, for it is my sentry from 12 to 2.

The blacks had annoyed us much during the first part of the night, numerous fire-sticks being seen in various parts, through the bushes and scrub, which kept us on the alert, in case they had intended anything in a hostile way. I believe they had some notion that way, as our black came into camp, and slept by the fire all night. Nothing happened, and the others turned in at 12 o'clock, having fired once or twice into the bushes at the sight of the fire-sticks. Nothing, however, was seen between 12 and 2, not a stick. Another very significant thing occurred. The fair deceivers decamped from their domicile, where they had been since our arrival, and did not return till the next morning early.

2nd. Two of our men going out for the horses were told by the native to "take their saddles with them" (we always carried revolvers, so did not require any other aids), and it was a long time before they would; but he was so urgent that they eventually did. They caught the two first horses, and got on them, to go quickly after the others, and head them, when to their astonishment, they disturbed a hundred or more of these black brutes, armed for war, with boomerangs and spears, etc., cowering and hiding in the bushes. They appeared not to notice them, but went after their other horses. At last they began to move, when the horsemen gave chase, and drove them across the creek. Poole and I, who were superintending the jerking of some mutton, were surprised to see some black fellows running from a sand hill, seemingly in a great hurry, and appearing to show us by their gestures that the whites were coming round the lake. The women also joined them, and it was evident that they had some plan in their heads to surprise the camp, and rob it, if not murder us, as well. We did not see the force of their arrangements, so did not move. They wanted us away, and the fellows that Bell and Ned drove across the creek would have come down and done for the few in camp, and murdered us in detail; pleasant, kind creatures, certainly! I confess I should not like to be eaten by very ugly savages. The idea is not agreeable; bad enough if you were sure two or three pretty young females of the wild tribes had the picking of your bones; and even then, living a little longer is preferable; and "so said all of us." So they were frustrated this time. Had they come in for a good fight, I should have more to write about. They have a wholesome dislike and dread of fire-arms; moreover, essentially cowards. If they can catch you "on the hop," well and good; but for anything like a fair stand-up fight, they don't believe in it.

Washing clothes to-day—a job which everybody detests, though it must be done. Cutting down and burning scrub behind our camp, as it affords too good an ambush for our sable friends; and it is not worth while giving them a chance of surprising us, which they might have done easily from behind. About 5 p.m. Mr. McKinlay and party returned from the eastward, having ascertained that there are lakes there, for which you will search his journal; or, rather, the following extract: —

"Dec. 30th. Sky very much overcast and very sultry; wind from north-east. Started at 8·10 with two camels and five horses, and a week's provisions. At four and a half miles got to Appam-barra, near old camp, at the dray crossing. At 8·45 arrived at about one mile west of dry lake Toondow-low-annie; centre bearing of lake, north and south, three miles, by a width, east and west, of one and a half miles; well grassed. At ten and a quarter miles passed south end of lake, and travelled on flooded ground on west side of CarideiTO Creek, in which there is water, to where we cut the Cariderro Creek, about sixteen miles, at a place in the creek where a large creek branches off east, and fills a large lake, now dry; abundance of feed. Lake called Mar-courgannie, and found water in creek—a short distance south, from which quarter it appears to come. It is a splendid gum creek, from 80 to 100 yards wide, and fifteen to twenty feet deep, and flows a northward course. Started after spelling a time, and went one and a quarter mile, on bearing of 239° to Appa-dar-annie, now a dry lake with abundance of good feed in its bed; then went south by east, eight miles, along the Cariderro Creek. It is a splendid one, and well lined with fine gum trees; and as far as we went, I may say, was one continuous sheet of water, and with not less than from 200 to 300 natives. I have named it Browne Creek, after "W. H. Browne, Esq. Many of the natives have, apparently, quite white hair and beards; they were particularly anxious that we should encamp with them; they were the first tribe that we fell in with so fully armed, every man with a shield and a lot of boomerangs, and some with spears. I thought it better not to camp there, as they had a good deal of sneaking, and concealing themselves from bush to bush, and might have brought about a disturbance, which I did not desire. Took some water in air bags, and started out from the creek, one and a quarter mile; then on a bearing of 5' for Appacal-ra-dillie Lake, seven miles fully. Crossed, and camped on east corner of dry lake Mar-cour-gannie, and on the margin of the dry lake Merrada-booda-boo; the bulk of this last lake bearing north from this, and splendidly grassed.

"31st. Started at 6·30 a.m. to Appacal-ra-dillie Lake, through side of Lake Merrada-booda-boo; passed several flooded flats proceeding east from last-named dry lake—the first of which was an extensive one, passing on our course from left round to the right, and apparently round to south as far as visible, then over alternate and indifferent flats and large sand hills—a considerable deal of flooded land to the westward. At fifteen miles, arrived on top of a very prominent sand hill, which I have named Mount MacDonnell, from which hill opens out to our view two beautiful lakes, which, in honour of her ladyship and his Excellency the present governor of South Australia, I have named respectively Lake Blanche and Lake Sir Richard, separated by a small sandy rise, through which passes a small channel that connects them, and which I have named New Year's Straits.

"Jan. 1st, 1862. Started at 6·45 round the first lake, Blanche (Lady MacDonnell), to where the creek passes through a low sand hill and connects it with the other lake, Sir Richard (his Excellency the Governor). The first-named of these lakes is, where it was tried, between five and six feet deep, and seven and three-quarter miles in circumference, nearly circular, bare of timber, and tens of thousands of pelicans on it, one solitary swan, with innumerable other birds, gulls and ducks of various kinds (one new and one dark-brown large winged), cormorants, avocats, white spoonbills, crows, kites, pigeons and magpies of various kinds, and plenty of fish. The other lake immediately adjoins, and its south-east end is more to the eastward than Lake Blanche, it is nearly circular, and is six and three-quarter miles in circumference, but when casually tried was not quite five feet deep; pelicans, birds of all kinds, fish, etc., as the other. Between forty and fifty men (natives) came to meet us as we were passing round the lakes at the creek, which they had all to swim; and from the appearance of the camp, some short distance off, there could not have been less than about 150, all apparently friendly. Started from north-west end of Lake Sir Richard, and went along the course of the creek that fills these lakes on a bearing of 305°; then south-south-west half a mile, to a fine basin of water in the valley of the creek, three-quarters of a mile wide and more than that in length, and opening again and contracting alternately up to Lake Blanche, which in honour of the veteran explorer I have named Sturt's Ponds; abundance of fish and fowls. From this point, course 308° up the creek for four miles; at two miles a creek went off to the right through a flooded flat, thence on a course varying from 224° to 239° principally through what was recently a large lake—now a splendidly-grassed plain of vast extent, and at the latter part a few small sand hills. Distance to-day, thirty-six miles."

3rd. Shift camp to-day from this side of the lake to the north-east side. Mr. McKinlay goes out to-day with two camels, five horses, and the same party as before, Middleton, Hodgkinson, Wylde, and black fellows, to see some lakes reported to be to the south-west, but returned soon after we had finished the sheepfold and pitched tents. They found a fine creek with deep water, well timbered, with plenty of fish. Also they came on the lake to the south, called "Wattigaroony," which Mr. McKinlay has called Lake Strangways, after the Hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands. It is a fine deep one, but not well timbered.

We keep New Year's Day to-day with plum-pudding and roast mutton, as we were not all together yesterday. I sat in the water yesterday for a long time with only my shirt on, and the consequence is my legs, from the intense heat of the sun, are so burnt I cannot wear any trousers, and feel very unwell. Applied glycerine and they got better. The lake literally covered with waterfowl.

4th. Very monotonous to-day. Shoeing horses, repairing pack-bags, jerking mutton, etc.

5th. Mr. McKinlay took a ride out to the north to-day, accompanied by Poole and black fellows. He returned in the evening.

The following is an extract from his journal of this excursion:—

"Jan. 4th. Camp, Lake Hodgkinson. Shoeing horses, repairing pack-bags, etc.

"Sunday, 5th. I, with Poole and a black, went out north to see what the country was like. On bearing 360°, over sand hills, arrived at and found lake dry; four and a half miles of stones around it, same as in Stony Desert; went through the middle of it, it sweeps round from north-east to south-west; passed through it where it was two miles broad, it is fed from Lake Goonalcarae (now dry); the lake passed through has not had a supply of water for years apparently; lots of dead mussels and crayfish in its bed. At two and a half miles further (nine miles in all), over sand hills, changed course to 16° for a large sand hill in the distance, the country to the north being rather low. At two and a half miles on this course came upon a succession of flooded basins, some of great extent, Gnatowullie, and slightly lined with stunted box, some as high up the sides of the sand hills as forty-five to fifty feet, entirely supplied by the rains, but have not had a supply for some time, as there was neither water nor vegetation; which flooded basins continued till I went nine miles on this last course, and from the top of the hill could distinctly see the "beds of innumerable others of the same kind. From west round to north-east and east some dark-peaked sand hills, north-east of last course, as far as I could discern with the aid of a glass; turned back on course of 200° to where I saw some shady box trees about two and a half miles, and turned out horses to rest, and went to camp direct. On bearing of 187° at five and a half miles, came to the water-course that supplies the dry lake Marroboothana from Goonalcarae, which I have named the Ellar, and the creek that fills it, in which there is at present water, Ellar's Creek."

A terrible row with the horses and bullocks. They went off in scores to-night, either driven off by the natives, or frightened in some manner by them. Several of the party went after them, and a nice night's walk they had of it, as they could not head them for a long time. They did at last, and turned them. Saw no natives about the horses. They were very wild after they were brought in, and must have been terrified by something or other. Still very busy jerking mutton.


  1. A Scotch term for thin cakes of kneaded flour and water.