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April 1862

Bourne's Journal of Landsborough's expedition from Carpentaria, in search of Burke & Wills
Melbourne: H T Dwight.
(Ferguson 7303).

Tuesday, 1 April 1862 - Camp 39.
Steered south down the Thomson for eighteen miles on left bank. Mr Landsborough having stopped behind to take the sun, in overtaking us, saw the recent tracks of a party travelling with horses, and followed them some distance, not overtaking us at camp until sundown.

Wednesday, 2 April 1862 - Camp 40.
Made twenty-three miles. Steered SSW. twelve miles; SW by S six miles; and SSW five miles. Passed a ridge of hills in twelve miles at right angles with river, two more at six miles further; the country on the hills stony. The natives say the river runs westerly here. To-day, as we were about looking for a camping place, a number of natives ran out from the creek and followed us for two or three miles. As we made it a rule not to let them see where we camped, and it was getting late, I did not wait to speak to them, but they followed us so close that I was compelled to stop the horses, turn them about, and face them, upon one of the black boys telling me that one very powerful, fellow was running behind me and shaking his boomerang, as if about to throw it. The others kept at a more respectful distance, but this fellow seemed determined to do as be pleased. Upon seeing him in the act of throwing his boomerang at me, I fired a bullet from my revolver so close to him that, although he laughed, he evidently thought it as well to keep a little further away. Jemmy, the trooper, who had asked me several times to allow him to fire, now fired his regulation pistol, the bullet of which made such a noise that he turned about and ran. Soon after, Mr Landsborough and Jackey came up. As we were pitching camp, several more came up and took little notice of our motioning them away, until Mr Landsborough fired  a rifle at a tree, which alarmed them slightly. After a time they retired about half-a-mile and camped.

Thursday, 3 April 1862 - Camp 41.
This morning the natives came up soon after daylight, seeming curious to try what they could make out of us. We would not allow them to come close to the camp, but went to meet them. Fortunately, but strange to say, one of them spoke the same language as the trooper Jemmy, and  we obtained considerable information from him about the country, &c. and still more strange, none of them had ever seen any one of the parties, who must have passed in this neighbourhood. But it is extremely difficult to obtain information of events passed any considerable time; they are much fonder of asking questions than answering them. They say the river we are on runs south, and that we shall, by steering south-east meet a larger river running a long distance; that we shall cross barren dry country, but would find water from recent rain. They were anxious to examine our firearms, and so I fired my revolver close to one's head, when they ran off much alarmed, but returned upon our assuring them we were not angry. We gave them an old rasp to make into a tomahawk, and some bread, with which they were much pleased. However, nothing can be clearer to anyone who knows them well, that they would overpower any party if possible, and hence the folly of allowing them to come too near in any numbers. Made ten miles S; six, SW and by S; country very good. The natives say there are no more mountains south within their knowledge.

Friday, 4 April 1862 - Camp 42.
Steered down Thomson, which still runs about south. Made four miles SSE., and four more SE., which took us away from the river into the back country, which is very open Downs, belts of boree, saltbush, &c., much barley-grass, but the prevailing grass neither Mr Landsborough nor myself can name; it seems very good and capable of enduring heat well. Saw no water back from the river, but several water-courses which could be easily dammed, and down which much water must flow in the wet season, and would be fine for sheep out-stations. This was only about six miles from the river, but there seems every appearance of water further back. Some of these creeks run as far as fifty miles, with water only in places and at most seasons. Saw tracks but no natives. Occupied a camp they had been in a few days before.

Saturday, 5 April 1862 - Camp 43.
Left Camp, and steered SW by W. and NW. eighteen miles to river, which turns considerably to the westward. The back country is wretchedly dry, not seeming to have had any rain for twelve months, and certainly does look something like a desert. We are camped on a fine deep waterhole at least sixty yards wide, very deep, and a mile in length; in fact it is part of the Thomson properly, though larger than its usual channel, for the river spreads on the plains and forms many channels in flood time. A few natives appeared to-day, and are very quiet and friendly. One of them has an iron tomahawk which he must have had for years, as it is worn almost to the eye, but we cannot learn from him where he got it.

Sunday, 6 April 1862.
Rested all day.

Monday, 7 April 1862 - Camp 44.
The nights are very cold, but the days very pleasant. Having only once blanket, I cannot remain in the tent, so take to the fire and warm my sides alternately. We have now to cross on to the river mentioned by the natives, which must be the Victoria, or Cooper's Creek, here called the Barcoo, and from the dry appearance of the country there is not likely to be much water between the rivers. Started at 11 am.; Mr Landsborough remained behind to take the sun, with one of the black boys. Steered S by E about five miles, the river running westerly, when we saw a smoke, and made for it SE. As the country is very dry, the black boys, as well as myself, think there is water close to this fire which has not long been lighted by the natives. We steered for the fire SE., until nearly sundown, when Mr Landsborough overtook us. We proceeded until 8 pm., when, having found no water, Mr Landsborough thought it prudent to turn back. Cold, thirsty, and hungry, we have now to undo our day's work and return to our former camp. If the observations are anything like correct, it cannot be further to the Barcoo than we could manage without water, besides having the chance of finding some between. We travelled all night until within two hours of daylight, when we tied the horses up to trees, and threw ourselves down for an hour's rest.

Tuesday, 8 April 1862.
Made Camp 44 at 11 am., and rested all day. Leeson is very ill again, and the sextant is broken. The natives were camped here when we left, but they have gone. Flies very troublesome.

Wednesday, 9 April 1862.
Mr Landsborough went, S. this morning with Jemmy to look for water. They take a horse each, and a pack horse, on which is but the blankets and rations for two or three days, and the two leather bottles, each holding five gallons of water. The horses having to do without water suffer considerably on these minor expeditions. Mr Landsborough returned at dark, having found the natives seen before, eight miles down the river, who promised to go and look for water, appointing to meet us at a certain spot.

Thursday, 10 April 1862.
Made thirteen miles down the river and found the natives, who were anxiously looking for us. They went with us to camp and remained until evening, when we sent them away to their own camp, giving them some rations, the trooper showing them how to bake a damper, which astonished them very much. They were very suspicious of eating anything we gave them at first, but soon got over it. One young man among them was particularly amusing, imitating every gesture I made, and showing a great inclination to pilfer everything he could. He was very tall, with an immense protruding stomach, no doubt the effect of hard times and starvation in his earlier days. From his very peculiar formation I christened him with the rather vulgar cognomen of 'Potgut,' with which he was delighted, repeating it incessantly. He succeeded afterwards in stealing a paniken, notwithstanding our vigilance.

Friday, 11 April 1862.
This morning, according to arrangement, two natives came up to camp, obtained some bread, and went south-east to look for water; they are to return to-night. We have lost the best part of this week. The two natives returned this evening without finding water, so we shall have to follow the river down for some distance yet.

Saturday, 12 April 1862 - Camp 45.
This morning we mounted an old black named Wittin on horseback, who promised, for a consideration, viz., tomahawk, blanket, &c., to show us over to the Barcoo. It required some persuasion to induce him to mount at first, and his essay at riding was very amusing. Perfectly naked, on an old very uneven saddle, with two straps for stirrups, and a piece of rope for a bridle, it was wonderful how he managed to keep his seat at all He clung to the horse just as a baboon would, and when he did fall, which he could not avoid occasionally, he did so in such a way as to create roars of laughter, nor did he seem to think much of it after the first tumble. We had made thirteen miles down the river SSW., when the old black meeting some of his tribe declined going any further to-day, so I camped, lest he should leave us, Mr Landsborough, having stopped behind to take the sun, not overtaking us until we had camped. Country very dry, and natives quiet.

Sunday, 13 April 1862 - Camp 46.
Having lost so much time lately, we break through the rule and travel to-day, making thirteen miles SSW. The country is still very dry, and may at some periods well be called a desert, two dry seasons being enough to make it so, while at other times it may be flooded and look beautiful as a garden. The uncertainty of rainfall will always be a great drawback to this part of the country, otherwise very rich. But this is more or less the case in most parts of Australia. It is very amusing to see the effect of riding on the old black. With great difficulty he gets off the horse, and when off cannot move, and seems puzzled because we are not stiff also. He wished to run away he could not do it. Our rations are very bad now, we have used the best of the bad flour, the remainder is very bitter and nasty. We hope to find someone a long distance out from the settled districts with cattle. This morning an old black brought up to our camp a gin, perfect enough in form for a Venus. He seemed very proud of her, but she did not much relish our admiring gaze. She had a fine fat little girl with her, but not her own. The old men always secure the young gins, persuading the younger men that they would disagree with them, and that the old ones are better for them. This is also the case with their food. A young man is only allowed to eat certain animals, most easily obtained, such its opossum, fish, &c., but should he be fortunate enough to get an emu, or kangaroo, &c., he must hand it over to the old men, who tell him he would certainly get ill or die if he dared to eat it, and many of the young men believe it, though, I dare say, there are a good many sceptics among them. One consolation is that the horses are keeping their condition wonderfully well.

Monday, 14 April 1862 - Camp 47.
Left Camp 47; steered S by E down river. At 10 am. sighted a mountain range, bearing S by E., running SE. and NW. Made seventeen miles. No alteration in the country. We reckon we are within sixty miles from the Cooper, or Barcoo River. Latitude 24 degrees, as near as may be. The black is still with us; he fell off his horse to-day, much to our amusement, but gets along very well. This must be the Thomson, called higher up the Landsborough.

Tuesday, 15 April 1862 - Camp 48.
From Camp 48, steered SE. and by S. to a large creek which was called Dunsmure's Creek. In the lower part of it there is abundance of water, though the country is excessively dry. This creek, the black tells us, will lead us within easy distance of the Barcoo. This range on our right, or west side, is called by the naives Rumba Tumpy .and called by Mr Landsborough, Mount Johnson. The old black is getting very uneasy, and wishes to return. He is getting too near the boundary of his hunting ground, and fears being killed by tho blacks on the Barcoo, who, he says, are very numerous, and for whom he warned us to keep a sharp look out. With some persuasion, be accompanied us another day.

Wednesday, 16 April 1862 - Camp 49.
This morning, before the horses came up, the black disappeared. I was standing by the camp fire watching him, but he walked a short distance so boldly that I did not suspect his intention of bolting then; but not seeing him return, I went after him and found he had got into the bed of a dry creek and ran along the channel out of any sight. We tried to find him without success. I am sorry he has gone without his blanket and tomahawk as he has behaved very well. We followed Dunsmure's Creek up twelve miles. We had to return four miles to water, as it was getting near sundown. From the marks in the trees, &c., this creek has been recently flooded to a great height. The country is good, and game plentiful.

Thursday, 17 April 1862.
This morning, Mr Landsborough and trooper Jemmy have gone towards the Barcoo to look for water. All hands in Camp, making hobbles and repairing gear, &c. Leeson and Jemmy have almost recovered.

Friday, 18 April 1862.
Mr Landsborough did not return last night, not having found water, I presume; weather cool and pleasant, but the flies very troublesome, though the mosquitoes are gone, which is not a good sign for us, as they appear only to be where there is plenty of water. We are anxious to know the result of Mr Landsborough's search, as we shall have to return some distance if he does not succeed. This morning I marked my name in full upon a tree close to the waterhole near which we are camped., It may amuse some future explorers, wondering who it was that was here before him, for it is a great satisfaction, on a lonely trip of this sort, to see even the name of a white man, and will cause a little conversation which frequently flags. Men retire within themselves - general topics get exhausted - a dull silence follows - and you feel inclined to quarrel with anyone, though you are soon glad to come again upon speaking terms, for you must speak to someone. Mr Landsborough returned this afternoon, having made the Barcoo about thirty miles to the north-east; no water nearer.

Saturday, 19 April 1862 - Camp 50.
Started at 9 am., and made the Barcoo in about twenty-four miles, passing through myall and well-grassed country. In this myall scrub, saltbush is plentiful, but scarce on the plains. Mr Landsborough went on to the top of Johnson's Range while I proceeded with the remainder of the party. Natives are numerous here; we saw some to-day who ran away. Mr Landsborough and Fisherman overtook us at sundown. I dropped my pint pot to-day, and was much annoyed at losing it, but fortunately Fisherman, in overtaking us had picked it up some ten miles back. The weather now is very pleasant during the day but very cold at night, and the flies are very troublesome. A bag of cheese cloth to fasten on the hat and round the neck would be the best thing I can think of to keep them off, for they treat an ordinary veil with contempt. I made a pair of goggles out of canvas and mosquito net which keeps them out of the eyes effectually.

Sunday, 20 April 1862 - Camp 51.
Spelled to-day; marking trees, &c.

Monday 21 April 1862 - Camp 52.
Followed the Barcoo up for twelve miles, which has not been flooded for some time, there being very little water in the holes. Saw natives' fires all any a-head of us. We, unfortunately, lost our marjoram tea bag to-day, but as our little sugar is nearly done it is of no consequence; we have had a drink of this substitute for tea about once in ten days.

Tuesday, 22 April 1862 - Camp 53.
Followed river up right bank for eighteen miles. Just at sundown, as I was making in to the river to camp (Mr Landsborough having stayed behind to take the sun), a number of natives, alarmed by the screams of a gin who had seen us, ran out from the river, shouting, shaking their weapons, and wanting us to stop, but as it was very late I declined, until compelled to turn about and face them to keep them off. They came quite within throwing distance of and Jackey assured me that one of them had thrown a stick at him, and begged of me to let him fire, but as I did not see it, and knowing their eagerness to shoot blacks, and wishing to use as much forbearance as possible, I just kept them off by presenting my gun whenever they came too near, until Mr Landsborough came, as the boy with him speaks their language. When Mr Landsborough came up they seemed friendly enough upon hearing themselves addressed in their own tongue. We gave them a few presents and told them to go to their own camp, and come up to ours in the morning, but not during the night, or we would shoot them. We camped a mile or so above them on the

Wednesday, 23 April 1862 - Camp 54.
Last night, at 10.30, Jemmy, the trooper, awoke us by saying the blacks were in the camp. One had got close up to him as he sat by the fire, but ran back on seeing him rise. We rose at once, but as it was very dark we could only hear them among some trees quite close to our camp, walking and talking slowly. I told Jemmy to ask them what they wanted, they replied, a fire-stick. Upon hearing the voice I fired in that direction (as did all but Mr Landsborough), hoping to hit one by chance, as it was so dark we could not see them. They moved away, showing many fire-sticks in their retreat, proving the want of one a mere excuse and a specimen of their cunning. We then tried to send up a rocket, but they were so damaged they would not act, and only created some merriment amongst the niggers. This morning, very early, two men made their appearance first, and sat down within ninety yards of our camp. Mr Landsborough told them, through Jemmy, to go away, as he was angry at their coming up to the camp at night; but they either did not understand Jemmy or took no notice, and were immediately joined by about twenty more, who squatted round their fire-sticks in two circles, the morning being very cold. We were now perfectly safe from these men, as they had no spears but only a few throwing sticks and boomerangs which are comparatively harmless, nor did they show any disposition to attack us in any way, but Mr Landsborough, finding they would not go away, gave the order to fire a volley on them, which we did as they sat, wounding one very severely; the rest took to their heels and disappeared in a moment. They are very timid, and seldom or never stand for a second shot, nor can any encounter with the unfortunate wretches be dignified by the name of a fight. The wounded man had by this time managed, with difficulty, to crawl about 150 yards away, but was overtaken by Mr Landsborough, Jemmy, and Jackey, and despatched, by two different shots, though begging hard for his life. Some of the horses being close to camp we caught two and sent two boys after the rest; they reported having slightly wounded one man they had found secreted in a waterhole. It is more than probable that, had we all been asleep last night, we should have been killed. Passed a great many to-day but did not stop. These natives are fine muscular fellows, and are very hardy, as they are perfectly naked and although the nights are bitterly cold they sleep entirely without covering, merely making a fire on each side of them, few thinking, it necessary to do this even.

Thursday 24 April 1862 - Camp 55.
Steered E all day. The river here divides into several channels, and it is difficult to tell which is the main stream. Made twenty-two miles.

Friday, 25 April 1862 - Camp 56.
Country here very good and well watered, myall and saltbash plentiful. There is a fine high range to our right, and from an elevated spot the view is very fine. In this neighbourhood we see, for the first time, the drooping myall.

Saturday, 26 April 1862 - Camp 57.
The river having divided into so many channels, we have crossed it, I believe, but Mr Landsborough is of opinion that it is still south of us. Steered S towards the mountain, which must be Mount Gowan on the chart, until within six or eight miles, when we turned due E, and made a creek with plenty of water, steep banks, and large box and gum trees. The country here is equal, if not superior to any we have seen. Mr Landsborough's sextant is constantly getting out of order, and the watch will not go on a cold night, unless allowed to be near the fire.

Sunday, April 27 1862.
Remained in camp.

Monday 28 April 1862 - Camp 58.
The horses not being found, we did not start until noon. Passed over fine country for two miles, open and very well grassed, by steering E., then SE., and came on a large creek which we followed some distance, but had to return, as it was taking us south-west. The country is patchy, being very scrubby in places.

Tuesday, 29 April 1862 - Camp 59.
Left Camp 59, and steered, due E. through good country for six miles, When we stopped for Mr Landsborough to take the sun on the plain. Since our last affair with the natives, and their being so numerous, it is not safe to separate the party. The grey mare Mr Landsborough was riding died in the greatest agony in seven or eight minutes, evidently bitten by a snake or adder; her symptoms were just those of an animal poisoned by strychnine. Latitude as near as may be 24 degrees 44 minutes. Steered E. until 3.30, where made Cooper River in sixteen miles in all. Country good, but scrubby in places.

Wednesday, 30 April 1862.
Steered SE. from camp through patches of thick dead boree scrub, well grassed, with small plains between, for ten miles, when came an a creek where we drank. This creek falls into the head of the Cooper I think, which must be to the east, as we have not crossed it, but now Mr Landsborough prefers taking a straight course. Travelled until dark on very scrubby ridges, when there being no. prospect of water a-head,-the course had to be changed to the E. By keeping to the falling ground we got on a small watercourse which led us on to a flat, and became much larger but without water. We followed this watercourse for some time until it ran out after which, we steered S. for an hour, when we came to a stand still. We are now in a slight fix. A consultation is held. The black boys' opinion being first ascertained as to which way we should go. They seem to think that we should go more to our right, or westerly. My opinion being then asked, I advise an easterly course, which is followed. By doing so we soon came on a deep steep-banked creek without water. It is now very late and dark. A large bush fire is burning to the north-east, evidently the work of natives. Mr Landsborough has crossed the creek and is leaving it. I ride up and advise following it up for some distance. We now commence lighting the grass on the banks of this creek to try and find enough water; but, after searching in vain, camped. Upon seeing where natives had been burning the grass, and hearing a duck fly past, we conclude water must be near. We hobbled the horses short, and let them go; fortunately we had our water-bottles full. Country at this camp good, but very little water.

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