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Title: Journal of Expedition in search of Burke and Wills.
Author: Frederick Walker.
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0600191h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: March 2006
Date most recently September 2013

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A map of the expedition, sourced from National Library of Australia, is appended.


in search of

Burke and Wills.


Frederick Walker.

4.—Journal of MR. WALKER from the day he left Macintosh's Station, on the Nogoa, to that of his arrival at the Albert River, Gulf of Carpentaria.

{Page 133}

[Extract from
Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London
Volume xxxiii, 1863, Pages 133-150.]

Edited by the Assistant-Secretary.

On the 15th Sept., [1861] left Mr. Macintosh's station on a reek flowing into the Nogoa, which I crossed on the 19th, and then went to the north to hit Poma, which tributary of the Claude takes its rise at my pass over the main range; this is a great detour, but by this means I avoided the dense brigalow scrub which intervenes between the Nogoa River and Salvator Lake and the pass. On the 20th we reached the beautiful Emerald Downs, on Poma Creek, camped there the 21st, and arrived at the foot of the pass and my old camp on the 23rd; the grass had caught fire from my camp, and was now a fine sward. We camped on the Nivelle the 25th. My first marked tree is on Emerald Downs, as that was new ground to me. The 26th we pushed down to the Nive, about 5 miles above my old No. 11 camp. The next day, 27th, crossed over to the Victoria, and camped (No. 6) below my No. 29 tree. On the 28th, 29th, and 30th, pushed down the Victoria by fair stages, and on the morning of the 7th October found Camp 10 was in long. 146° 1' E., lat. 24° 34' S. Whilst camped here we searched for the L tree seen by Gregory; but as we had seen his 22nd (XXII.) tree on the north bank, we searched on the same for the L tree and it was not until the 5th Jingle and Mr. Haughton found it on the south bank. In the meanwhile I had found another L tree 2 miles below our camp on north side, and 7 below the tree seen by Gregory. I looked for an open road N.N.W., but was checked by a dense, almost impenetrable scrub of acacia. Mitchell calls this acacia "brigalow," but that is incorrect, for it differs much from it, and I have seen but two or three real brigalow since we crossed the ridge dividing the Nive watershed from that of the Victoria. The blacks call this acacia "gurrt." Brigalow they call "noorwool." A little below the second L tree, I found I could pass round the termination of this scrub. I surmise that Leichhardt intended leaving the Victoria at the tree seen by Gregory; was stopped in his N.N.W. course by the same barrier encountered by me, and turned back to camp at the tree found by me, subsequently clearing the scrub where I rounded it. His track, if he had dry weather, would, on this basaltic soil, be soon obliterated.

October 7.—There was much difficulty in catching the horses this morning, owing to their having improved so much during the last few days' spell. Passed by Leichhardt's second L tree; thence over a succession of downs and plains, intersected by narrow and {Page 134} open scrub of the acacia the blacks call "gurrt." Rain at night. Distance, 17 miles.

Oct. 8.—Course still N.N.W. Crossed a sandy creek with large bed, but no water; it was here running through sand-hills, but lower down I could see it opened on the downs and plains we had been traversing all morning. One mile beyond this we killed an emeu. Passed another creek, with a pool of water, luckily for the horses. We now ascended a high downs ridge, surmounted by a belt of scrub. Still N.N.W. We had reached the division of waters betwixt the Alice and Victoria. The first creek crossed to-day was no doubt that crossed by Sir Thomas Mitchell, arid which he marks on his map as a deep rocky channel. Last 5¾ miles was through sandy box country, clothed with a grass like knitting-needles. Camped without water at dusk. Distance, 20½ miles.

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

Oct. 10.—To-day travelled over a tableland of sandy ground, with the same needle-like grass as yesterday. Then descended into a broad sandy creek, with reeds, and which bad not long ceased running; I called this the Patrick, after one of my old comrades (aboriginal). The Patrick now ran N.N.W. 30°, and then N.N.W. 25°; I therefore followed it till it turned N.W. 45°; but I still followed it, for the heavy sandy ground and an oppressively hot day I saw was distressing to the horses; at the end of another 2 miles it turned N.N.W. 25°, when a half-mile's ride brought us to a long reach of water, at which I camped, as the day's work was too much broken into. Camp No. 14 is about 9 miles from the Alice. When I left the Victoria, I laid down in pencil, on Mitchell's map, what I supposed to be the probable course of the Alice, also a tributary which exactly answers to the creek we were on last night, and which I have now called the Macalister. The Patrick I fell in with 3 miles sooner than I anticipated, but its northerly course {Page 135} makes up for that. I hope to fall in on the other side of the Alice with a tributary coming from the N.N.W., possibly from the north. The advance party to-day saw very old tracks of horses, and apparently mules, going down the Patrick. I much regret not having seen them, as they must have been Leichhardt's. Distance, 11 miles.

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

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

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

Oct. 14.—The country at first was more thickly covered with acacia than suited me; and as we now had hit the creek again, I crossed it, and travelled parallel to it for a short distance 60° W. of {Page 136} N. by compass. The country now opened, and I resumed my N.N.W. compass course, which in about an hour and a quarter brought us to the summit of the downs ridge which separates the watershed of the Alice from that of the Thomson. Some low ranges were seen to the east, about 5 or 6 miles off, and a small one on the downs to the west, about 3 miles, is probably where the two creeks we have left take their rise. We now made 10 miles more over the downs, and as we descended stony plains came to a beautiful river, running W. by N. This, which is no doubt a tributary of the Thomson, I have called the Coreenda. Mr. Gregory, when he left the Thomson, says that river is formed by the small watercourses emanating from the sandstone ridges; had I thought that, I would not have ventured where I am now. This is splendid sheep country. I have no doubt that many of the holes in the Coreenda are permanent; but it is not possible to tell which, as that river has not long since ceased running. It floods occasionally about a quarter of a mile on each side, except where the downs approach the bank. The gum-trees look as if drought were a complete stranger to them, so fresh and healthy-looking are they. Distance, 14 miles.

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

Oct. 16.—The early part of to-day's journey was over plains covered with gurrt, at times rather too close; thence past a watercourse and two lagoons, to sandstone ridges, with needle-grass—very uncomfortable travelling. Four miles from the lagoons we crossed the well-marked tracks of a very large party going a little N. of W. These tracks were very old, and had been made in wet weather. They will be visible probably for years to come, whereas mine, made in dry weather, will be obliterated the first rainy season. We then came on to the opposite declivity of the sandstone ridges, and from thence saw a high peak which I have called Mount Macalister, being 5° N. of W. by compass; and another bluff mount, which I have called Mount Horsefeldt. I now perceived why Leichhardt's tracks had been going west. He probably camped on the Coreenda, above where my men saw the horse-tracks; thence travelled parallel to my course, and, being higher up the ridges, saw {Page 137} the peak sooner than I did, and turned off towards it. I now saw I was getting too intimate with the dividing range, and altered my course to north-west by compass. One mile brought me to a small watercourse, with many small pools of temporary water, arid, as there was a sufficiency of good grass, I camped. How is it that the blacks here have iron tomahawks? One has evidently a broad axe. The blacks on the Nive, who are much nearer the settlements, have only stone tomahawks, some very fine ones. Distance, 25 miles.

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

Oct. 18. Spelled at Camp 20.—I took a ride for 3 miles down the creek, which runs W.N.W. through the plains. I found another long pool of water, but fast drying up. We went to the top of the next ridge to get a good view of the range. Found I must still keep 10° W. of N. by compass. I observed a high mountain in that direction, with a remarkable gap in it. I expect to cross Leichhardt's track again to-morrow: of course whether we see it will depend upon whether he was still travelling in a rain season or not. The ground dries up here very quick. The thermometer, {Page 138} from 12 to 2 P.M. was 96° in the shade; the aneroid is 29.4. By observations taken from two different stars this morning, our latitude is 21° 50', 20 miles more north than my dead reckoning, which previously never differed from the observations more than 3 miles. We have travelled over some very good downs since leaving the sandstone. Near the ranges the grass is sufficiently thick, but as they slope down to the plain it gets thinner and thinner.

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

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

Oct. 21.—Started 30° W. of N., till we crossed a tributary of the Haughton; thence to the top of a scrubby spur of the range, on which Patrick shot a turkey. I had now to turn north by compass to get out on to a plain, then N. by W. by compass, and crossed another tributary of the Haughton. Here three of the men in vain looked for water, and we had to push on over a ridge for 2½ miles. I ran down a creek W.N.W. for 4 miles, and then W. by N. {Page 139} for 4 miles more, being enticed on from point to point by the appearance of the gum-trees, and the hope of finding water to bring my mare on to it. I saw it was of no use, and turned to the top of a gap in a mountain I have called Pollux; another to the east I called Castor. I had now a fine view of the country to the north, and with my glass saw gum-trees across a plain about 5 miles off. We went down the slope of the downs, and reached some splendid reaches of water, evidently the back-water of a large river. We had, however, to leave four more horses on the downs, and it was dark before we got our saddles off. The horses, parched with thirst, having bad no water during a fearfully hot day, rushed into the water, packs and all; luckily no damage was done. Distance, 24½ miles.

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

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

Oct. 24.—When I got to the top of the range this morning, I found I was on an extensive basaltic tableland. The aneroid stood at 28.9. The range, with a peak which I saw from Mount Pollux, stood in the midst of this tableland. Two very high {Page 140} mountains were seen about 18 miles off; one 10° E. of N., and the other 20° E. of N. The basalt was distressing to the horses, and we could not average 2 miles an hour. We were pulled up by a deep ravine with a large creek at the bottom, and lined with cliffs of basalt columns; and it was with some difficulty we found a slope of debris not too steep for our descent; and then great care had to be taken. On reaching the foot of the cliffs we ran down the creek W. by N. to a fine pool, where we camped, having been five hours doing (Distance) 6½ miles.

Oct. 25.—Made a fair start at 7.45 A.M. I followed down Jingle Creek, as I wished to clear the basaltic ranges if possible: 11½ miles in a general westerly direction, now brought us to the Barkly River, leaving which we ascended to a bit of downs. I now saw that a spur of the same basaltic ranges must make the Barkly run W.S.W.; and, as there was no help for it, I steered in that direction, crossing the river and camping at a fine pool of water, with good grass and open country—the 'beau ideal' of a camp. The large tributary which I have called the Macadam, must have joined the Barkly at the back of a spur I see from here, bearing 30° S. of E. I had a view of both of them from the tableland, and then a plain separated them. We have had lots of pigeons at this camp; a lagoon about half a mile from here is reported to be permanent; I shall probably see it to-morrow. The day has been very hot, and yet not oppressively so, owing to a breeze which, although blowing from the W.S.W., was, strange to say, cool. We have generally had cool breezes from the east hitherto, at night especially. After sundown the thermometer was 100°; aneroid, 29.2. Distance, 14½ miles.

Oct. 26.—I overtook the advance party, and found them in vain endeavouring to get a parley with some gins who were crouching in the long grass on the bank of the river. I gave them some tomahawks, which gave them more confidence. One old lady who spoke a language of which Jemmy Cargara understood a little, stated that she had seen men like me many years ago down the river; pointing W.S.W., she said another river joined it from the south-east; this must be the Haughton. She also, in pointing W.S.W., repeated the words "Caree Garee" several times. I now turned north-west by compass, but the basalt again made us turn S. by W. 10°, to a fine reach of water and fine feed for the horses. I determined to spell here a day before attempting the basalt, which, coûte qui coûte, I must surmount if I wish to get to the north. Jingle having seen a little black boy near this, Mr. Haughton went to the camp with three of my men, and where he fell in with three black men: they had with them one of the gins to whom I had given the tomahawks; this insured a friendly reception and them returned to my camp with Mr. Haughton. They {Page 141} gave us to understand by signs, and by as much of their language as Jemmy Cargara could comprehend, that this river flowed W.S.W. by compass into Careegaree; that it was joined by another large river from the north-east. If we went north-west by compass, after crossing that river, we would go over a range and then come to a river which ran north-west into Careegaree, by which we conclude they mean the Gulf of Carpentaria; the other must be Stuart's great lake. These blacks have superior spears, thrown by a womera. One of grass-tree jointed was of immense length; another, not quite so long, had three prongs, one of which was barbed with a bit of bone fastened on with gum. Thermometer 86° at sundown; at 12 to-day it was 88°, and 100° at 2 and 3 P.M. Aneroid 29.21. Distance, 13 miles.

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

Oct. 28.—Made an excellent 7 o'clock start. After rounding the spur at No. 27, we had 1½ hour's fair riding, north-west, until we reached the top of the basalt; then over this spur, the descent and a ravine in it being so broken as to cause me to fear some accident to the horses; luckily none took place, and 2½ hours' fast riding north-west, over good undulating downs, brought us to the first river, which I have called the Dutton, after my friend Mr. Charles B. Dutton. The old black's doubts as to the water proved {Page 142} correct, and as Rodney, by digging, found some within a few inches of the surface, I determined to camp and make a pool for the horses. To supply forty-eight horses was no light undertaking, but all hands worked with a will, and before sundown the horses were all satisfied, and had plenty to return to during the night. The small black ants here are such a nuisance that no one can sleep. Distance, 16 miles.

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

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

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

Oct. 31.—The question now was, what water were we on, and had we crossed the main range or not? The river below our camp turned a little S. of W. We went 11½ miles west by compass, over very good downs, with a skirt of scrub on our right, and the river trees visible a long way on our left. I now turned. W.S.W. by compass, for the sake of getting water, and came upon, not the Stawell, {Page 143} but a river coming from the north-east. Thunder at night, and a little rain. Distance (direct) 16½ miles.

November 1.—Spelled at Camp 31. The grass is very good here, and as we have now abundance of water we spell here to-day; to-morrow we must make another try for the main range. Yesterday evening I hit the Stawell below the junction of this, which my men have called the Woolgar River. The Stawell now runs south-west, and is evidently a large contributor to the Barkly. There must, I think, be water somewhere near this, for we saw three ducks pass in the night, and the cockatoos are numerous. The bed of the Woolgar River I measured, 111 yards from the foot of one bank to the other.

Nov. 2.—Spelled.

Nov. 3.—Spelled. At 3 P.M. thermometer 97°. Spring found down the river, latitude 20° 16'. Cool night.

Nov. 4.—Still at Camp 31. Men all day in vain searching for tracks of lost mare. Saw large pools of permanent water in the Stawell.

Nov. 5.—Started an advance party N.N.W., and did not get away in pursuit of it till afternoon, and so missed it. It was dusk when we reached a tributary of the Stawell; Mr. Haughton had not, however, stopped here, and, as we could no more see the tracks, we searched for a spot to dig for water, as he had all the water-bags with him. The place we tried gave every symptom, but nothing beyond mud. There was no help for it, so having tied up the horses we tried to sleep. The night was quite cold. Distance (out camp), 18 miles.

Nov. 6.—Reached Camp 32, and stopped remainder of day. Mr. Haughton had got water in another tributary by digging. Some blacks had been encountered near the camp, who had attacked Paddy and Rodney, who were looking for water; one was killed by a shot from Paddy. Thermometer 104° in the shade at 3 P.M., but a cool breeze from south-west. Distance (from Camp 31), 26 miles.

Nov. 7.—Went N.N.W. by compass, over a tableland of red sandstone, after having crossed some downs near Patience Creek. I observed that rain had fallen not long ago, and the grass was green; but it made me feel very grateful when I found a small creek with abundance of good water, and fine feed for the horses. Barometer 29.11. Distance, 11 miles.

Nov. 8.—Notwithstanding the great heat, we managed to do 16 miles N.N.W. and 3 W. by N. down a creek, but no water. At first we tried to dig where we camped, but as the water came too slow, went half a mile further down, and there found a spring, which, being dug out, made a capital water-hole. Very good burnt grass {Page 144} here. Is this not a tributary of the Flinders? Ground very heavy all day. Aneroid 29.25. Distance, 19 miles.

Nov. 9.—So great was the heat and so heavy the ground, that the horses were much distressed, and it was a great comfort to find some bulrushes, good springs of water, and grass, at the end of 10 miles. Our course has been, on an average, 32° N. of W., and we had crossed over to a large creek still running W.N.W.

Nov. 10.—Great delay in collecting the horses, and did not start until 10; the consequence was, that the heat and heavy ground, the latter worse than ever, nearly brought us to a standstill. My course for first 2½ hours was N.W. by compass. I then turned 32° N. of W., when I reached a large river, with a fine pool of water 6 feet in depth. Short as the day's stage was, we were obliged to camp. (No. 36.) Distance, 10½ miles.

Nov. 11—Started early down the river, and reached another fine pool 14 feet deep, before the heat of the day. The ground is also harder. An anabranch turned me N.W. by compass, and hit the river again about 9 miles beyond. If the ground opens, instead of being the brushy sandy country we have encountered hitherto on these waters, I intend taking advantage of the moonlight nights. Distance, 24 miles.

Nov. 12.—Ground dreadfully heavy all day. This day, I find from Mr. Haughton's report, as well as my own experience, has knocked our horses out of time altogether, so I must spell here a couple of days. Distance, 15 miles.

Nov. 13.—Spelled. The thermometer at 109° at 5 P.M. in the shade; aneroid as high as 29.51.

Nov. 14.—Spelled. Upon looking at the horses, no one would suppose they were so completely done up, for none are in bad condition; but the dreadfully heavy ground, with the heat, brings them to a stand-still at the end of 8 miles. This is a melancholy, good-for-nothing country. Aneroid, 29.50. What does this mean; for the sky is very clear, and there is a cool breeze? The nights are still delightfully cool. There are flocks of bronze-winged pigeons at this hole. Thermometer at 3 P.M., 103° in shade; at sundown, 91°; Friday morning at daybreak, 61°.

Nov. 15.—We started at 5.30 P.M., and had a pleasant ride at first over hard ground W. by S. 10°, and then W.N.W.; this brought me to a pool of water, and I camped, for although we have a splendid moon the brush is too thick to travel by night. Distance, 7 miles.

Nov. 16.—To-day reached what I supposed to be the real river, the last two camps having been, as I suspected, on an anabranch. The river turned us 32° N. of W. by compass; then a course of W.S.W. brought us to a pool where it was deemed prudent to camp. {Page 145} Aneroid, 29.64; thermometer at 2 P.M., 105° in shade. Distance, 8 miles.

Nov. 17.—To-day has been more encouraging; we got an early start, and passed W. by N. over ground which was rapidly improving and getting more sound. I now turned W. by S., and was delighted to see some box-trees. The ground now is quite hard along what I take to be an anabranch; this turned us W.N.W. first, and then 6° S. of W., till the watercourse was no longer visible; still keeping the same course we crossed over to another branch. This is still too small for the main river, but my men are inclined to think it is so notwithstanding. If so, this is not the Flinders, but merely a tributary; it now turned W.N.W. and then N.N.W., which brought us to a small pool of temporary water, at which we camped. As we had a gentle breeze blowing from the gulf, the day was not unpleasantly hot. At this camp (41) is a remarkable oval ring, planted all round with tall thin saplings placed about a foot apart; none of my men understand the meaning of it. Distance, 20 miles.

Nov. 18.—Managed to make camp before the heat of the day, when we found a pool of water, and as Jingle could find none within two or three miles lower, we camped. The morning was made pleasant by the cool breeze from north-west. The river to-day has averaged a course of 48° W. of N. by compass; it has a better defined channel, and we passed one lagoon only just dried up; after all it is a mere apology for a river. The ground still continues hard, and is nearly all closed with spinifex; Jingle saw large plains when looking for water lower clown; thermometer at 3 P.M., 104°; aneroid, 29.82. The pigeons, both at the last camp and at this, have been in large flocks; I was unwilling to expend powder, of which I have only three canisters left, but as I thought a change of diet beneficial, I allowed the men to shoot at this camp, and the result was we had twenty-seven pigeons. Distance, 12 miles.

Nov. 19.—Fell in to-day with some gins, who could give no information of white men, but gave us the pleasing intelligence that henceforth there was plenty of water. The country to-day is much more open, but there were no plains. Aneroid, 29.83; thermometer at 3 P.M., 103° in shade. The river is more respectable; it was joined by a creek from south-east 4 miles below Camp 42, where is an excellent pool with fish, and good burnt feed. Distance, 19½ miles.

Nov. 20.—For the first 6 miles travelled 30° W, of N. by compass; then N.N.W. for 2 miles, when we crossed the river, having to-day been on the right bank. It now for 1 mile kept the same course, N.N.W., and a plain extended along the south bank; but now it turned north by east for 3 miles, and then N.N.E. for 1 mile, {Page 146} when we came to a deep permanent water-hole, and five blacks with gins and children at it. A friendly intercourse was established, and I gave 'them some tomahawks. They were subsequently joined by ten or twelve more men. We camped here: the blacks on one side of the water, we on the other. As this north-east turn of the river was perplexing, an endeavour was made to ascertain which way it now went. The blacks made us understand clearly enough that this river now ran N.W. by N. by compass; we understood, but not so clearly, that it joined another running more to the westward. They told us to follow this watercourse, and we should at short intervals find plenty of holes like this one. Large plains lay to the north-west, and, strange to say, they used for this the word "coonical," the same as Weerageree and Coreen Jemmy's language. They said we must avoid going west, as the country was no good, like what we had seen if we came down this river. They had heard of no white fellows being to the N.W. or W.N.W. I now suspect that what Mr. Gregory called the eastern end of the Gilbert, is the real Flinders; and this I believe to be the tributary. The country is now good, but a large proportion is subject to inundation. It is a great relief to have done with the heavy sandy country—with spinifex and brush of melaleuca, and other rubbish. Aneroid, 29.85; thermometer, at 2.30, 108° in the shade. The north-west breeze was cool this morning, but after 12 it now and then brought a hot blast from off the plains, which are visible from the back of this camp (No. 44). Distance, 13 miles.

Nov. 21. I went the course directed by the blacks, N.W. by N., but as this brought me, after passing the flooded plains, to heavy sand, I turned off north, and found a chain of good water-holes in the river, with good grass, and there camped. My men got a few fish here, about half a pound weight each. Thermometer in shade, 108° at 3 P.M.; aneroid, 29.84. Distance, 9½ miles.

Nov. 22.—To-day I followed the course of the river, merely cutting off the bends. Great doubts are entertained as to what river this is, for if it is the Flinders, I am 20 miles out in my longitude, and the way the blacks point, it ought to take me by my map to the camp of 11th of September of Gregory; but how this can be is a puzzle, considering the width of the inundations and the abundance of permanent water. How does this correspond with Gregory's dry irregular channels? Camped at one of the finest sheets of water I have seen for many a day. Our latitude, both by observation and dead reckoning, is 18° 18', and this corresponds with Gregory's 11th September camp, and so does my longitude. Distance, 17 miles.

Nov. 23.—We went the first hour north-west, and then north of west brought us round the end of a magnificent reach of water to some small pools to camp. In the afternoon I rode out to reconnoitre. {Page 147} I saw the river was now going a little east of north, and was again in long reaches. I struck out to the west, and came on some box-flats, and on my return to camp passed a lagoon, which I had no doubt was that which Gregory passed on his way from 10th September camp to that of 11th September. My map is right after all, and this I suppose is the river marked on the maps as Bynoe. Distance uncertain.

Nov. 24.—I went out a little to the N. of W. by N., and camped on the creek on which Gregory camped 10th September. Distance, 5 miles.

Nov. 25.—This eventful day, on a course W. by S. 5°, by compass, brought us to the Flinders River. We found it a beautiful large river, with high banks, and a delicious cool breeze blowing up it. We got a good many ducks, which were very acceptable, for our meat was finished yesterday. At this camp, latitude 18° 7', were found the well-defined trail of either three or four camels, and one horse: they had come down the Flinders. This night we had a tremendous thunder-storm; the first heavy rain we have had since starting from Bauhinian Downs. Distance, 16 miles.

Nov. 26.—I had to go up the river 8 miles before I could get a crossing-place, and last night's rain had made the ground so heavy that the horses were much distressed. I therefore camped as soon as we had crossed. This morning Jemmy Cargara, in collecting the horses, found Burke's trail returning across the plain, and going S.S.E. Grateful Creek, at Camp 33, and the three large creeks crossed upon leaving it, are evidently the heads of the Flinders, but the southerly trend which the main one took caused me to cross it. The tableland is therefore the dividing range. Distance, 8½ miles.

Nov. 27.—We went west by compass, crossing Gregory's 8th September creek half-way. We have had plains all day, but I can see low sandstone ranges not far on our left. Night oppressive. Aneroid fell to 29.96 from 29.84. Distance, 18 miles.

Nov. 28.—Started W. by N. At first we passed over plains so full of holes as to be distressing to the horses, who were constantly stumbling. We now crossed a creek with deep holes, but now dry. Higher up, where I saw many calares and a clump of trees, I think there is water. We now began to rise, and crossed over a spur of red sandstone ranges. Crossed two dry channels, then a ridge of good downs, and finally reached one head of Morning Inlet, and camped on some lagoons. This is very good pastoral country, but I fear too hot for sheep. There is much thunder hanging about, and some storms appear to have again fallen on the Flinders, but none have reached us. A cool N.N.W. breeze rendered the afternoon very pleasant, but the forenoon was very oppressive. The {Page 148} immense plains which stretch away to the north and north-west, I suppose are the same mentioned by Captain Stokes. Sent a rocket up at night. Distance, 15 miles.

Nov. 29.—Expected a storm, but it passed over. Reached the main head of Morning Inlet, on a course west by north. After rising from the creek at last camp, we rode over red sandstone all day until we descended to box-flats, near the main creek: the first part box-trees, broad-leaved and good grass; and the latter portion melaleuca, nearly no grass, and with innumerable cones, some 6 feet high, made by the ants. On the banks of Morning Inlet was again, where the sandstone abutted on the creek, the hateful spinifex grass. The plains are visible north of this camp (53). Cool breeze from north-west. Night very oppressive and sultry. Mosquitoes triumphant. Distance, 9 miles.

Nov. 30.—After having crossed, not far from camp, three creeks, or branches of a creek, we cleared the sandstone, and rode across a fine plain, with a small creek in the centre, and found on the west side a large creek, with two anabranches, and a fine lagoon. We now crossed a sandstone ridge, with good grass and box-trees, and reached a plain, on leaving which we had to pass over downs and stony plains, of an excellent description for pastoral purposes, to a hole in a good downs creek. I was very glad to water the horses. Another mile brought me to where Mr. Macalister had judiciously decided on camping on a creek evidently flowing into the Leichhardt, which cannot be much more than 2 miles ahead of us; indeed, I think I can see the trees of it. Distance, 17 miles.

December 1.—To-day has been an annoying day. I first went W. by N. to some sandstone cliffs, descended from them W.S.W. to a saltwater creek, which we had to run up E.S.E. for nearly 4 miles, and the last corner took us east to complete the 4 miles, so that we have come back parallel to our course. We now found some small holes of fresh water; having crossed this, we went W. by N. and W.N.W., when we at last got to the Leichhardt River—the water as salt as brine. We ran it up S.S.E. by compass for 8 miles, passed by a black fishing at what looked like a ford, just above the junction with a creek, which I take to be that of Gregory's camp, 3rd September. The black never saw us. There was now a good crossing place, but as Jingle signalized there was fresh water in a creek at the back of a plain close at hand, I went to it and camped. My men shot two ducks in the river, and a couple of blacks were watching them a little lower down the river. After dinner, or a make-shift for one, my men went over towards the river in hopes of getting some ducks; but as they were crossing the plain they saw two mobs of blacks approaching. As their {Page 149} appearance looked hostile, they returned to camp. Presently it was reported that they were stretching out in a half moon, in three parties. This move, which my men term "stockyarding," is peculiar to blacks throwing spears with a woomera, the object being to concentrate a shower of spears. It was one long familiar to me, and I charged their left wing. The result was that the circular line doubled up, the blacks turned and fled. Their right wing, which was the strongest, got over the river and were off; but the centre and left wing suffered a heavy loss. Distance uncertain.

Dec. 2.—Rodney found in a black's camp a sailor's jumper and an empty cognac bottle. The men (black) have all gone to the river to shoot ducks, for I cannot cross over until low water, which will be about 2 P.M. After crossing I made for Gregory's Creek, of 3rd September, and there camped, reaching it in four hours. Distance not given.

Dec. 3.—Went W.N.W. to the Albert River; found plenty of grass and the water fresh, but with a suspicion of salt; more decided when the tide rose. We had crossed an alternate succession of plains and flooded, box-flats with small watercourses. Gun heard down the river at 8.7 P.M. Distance, 22 miles.

[It now appeared that Camp 57 was 8 miles only from Victoria Depôt, but having started to reconnoitre with a single attendant, Mr. Walker fell in with hostile natives, from whom he narrowly escaped, and had to camp out. The second in command had meanwhile been ordered to camp higher up, as it was not known the night before that the depôt was so near. Next morning, 5th December, they arrived safe at camp.—Ed.]

Dec. 5.—Mr. Macalister had found Gregory's marked tree, and also a bottle under ground, near a tree, marked by Captain Norman, with directions to dig. The bottle contained a note, stating the depôt of the Victoria was about 12 miles lower down on the left bank. We now having saddled up, went up the creek until we could cross it, just above where I had slept last night. We then went N.W. by W. to Beame's Brook. Some delay took place, owing to the creek being boggy, and I was glad to camp as soon as we had crossed, for I was unwell from yesterday's anxiety and fatigue; and as Captain Norman's note is dated 29th November, there is now good hope of our meeting to-morrow. [Distance uncertain.]

Dec. 6.—Proceeded E.N.E., but had to camp, in order to make all safe for a storm. Night dismal, but the sound of a cannon within two or three miles was a comfort, and produced loud cheers. Distance, 16 miles. {Page 150}

Dec. 7.—In 2 miles, through a pelting hurricane of rain, reached the depôt, and I had the pleasure of shaking hands with Captain Norman.

Frederick Walker,
Leader of the Expedition.*

[* This paper completes the narrative of the various expeditions despatched in search of Messrs. Burke and Wills; Mr. Howitt's expedition, which rescued King, as published in Vol. xxxii. of the Society's Journal, p. 430, having for the most part traversed ground so well known as to render it unnecessary to reproduce it in extenso.—Ed.]

Walker and Landsborough's Routes.

National Library of Australia Map rm1086-sd-cd.

Click on the map to enlarge it.


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