Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

November 1861

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

Friday, 1 November 1861.
Preparing to shoe horses; having no blacksmith amongst us, the ship's carpenter, Mr Landsborough and myself will have to manage the matter between us. Tried [a] horse this evening and found it very troublesome work.

Saturday, 2 November 1861.
All hands of our party on shore; some of them shoeing and some making a yard to catch the nags Messrs Landsborough and Campbell, with four black boys, went to the supposed Nicholson. Hit it in 10 miles, WNW., and camped for the night. Not so wide as the Albert, water salt, covered with wild fowl and to all appearances navigable. Saw a few natives about us to-day.

Sunday, 3 November 1861.
Mr Frost arrived in whaleboat. Mr Woods and Mr Landsborough returned in barge to the Victoria, having given up the idea of getting the Firefly any higher up the Albert. Mr Landsborough seeking provisions to replace those consumed and wasted by the crews of the Victoria and Firefly. The prospects and positions of our party are indeed much altered since we left Brisbane. We started with 30 horses, and an ample supply of rations, comforts, and clothing. We have now but 23 horses remaining, most of our provisions are gone, and the health of the party is anything but good. It is to be regretted that the Victoria did not leave half her crew behind, or bring more provisions.
Monday, 4 November.
Myself, two carpenters, and black boys shoeing horses. Shod two. Moved camp, and made a yard for horses with a hawser.

Tuesday, 5 November 1861.
Shod four horses to-day, the men getting used to the work. Moved the camp one mile further up the river.

Wednesday, 6 November 1861.
Shoeing horses. Captain Norman and Mr Landsborough returned from the Victoria.

Thursday, 7 November 1861.
Landsborough had made arrangements for me to go upon the first expedition to Mount Stuart, and spoke to me on the subject, but as he intends, on his return thence to make another expedition to Cooper's Creek in search of Burke's party, I requested, as I could not obtain his consent to go on both, to go on the latter, which was agreed upon. He takes with him on the first trip, Mr Campbell, Mr Allison, two black boys and all the horses. In the meantime he has procured from the Victoria, an increase of rations. The first expedition is to be out ninety days, the second to make for Brisbane or Rockhampton. Cutter arrived with Mr Gascoine and Mr Griffiths on board. Captain Norman and Mr Landsborough went up the river this morning with the view of making the depot on the river where it, the river, is fresh. Several alligators seen by the cutter's crew in coming up the river.

Friday, 8 November 1861.
On shore in the afternoon shoeing horses. The morning occupied in moving brig and landing a mare which had been kept on board on account of weakness, she is still scarcely able to stand, but will no doubt recover with attention. I took her to a shady spot, near it waterhole and slung her to the limb of a tree. Took a ride with Mr Gascoine, and put the horses together. On shore superintending the horse-shoeing. Shod four. Captain Norman and Mr Landsborough returned, having been as far as the junction of the Barkly, and seen Gregory's marked tree. Captain Norman making camp on shore as he intends remaining here until the expedition starts, and as he daily expects Mr Walker, who is now overdue. The Firefly was to have been taken up to the fresh water, and the river was partially surveyed for that purpose, but it is not found to be practicable, and so the depot is to be formed here, that is about midway between the mouth of the Albert and juncture of the Barkly, on the west bank of the river.

Sunday, 10 November 1861.
Divine service read on board the Firefly by Captain Norman.

Friday, 15 November 1861.
From Monday last everyone has been fully employed in preparing for the atom which is fixed for to-morrow. The horses being all shod, and the rations weighed and divided for each horse ; some of the packs were put on the horses by way of experiment, Everything suited well. Some of the horses were restive and tried to throw their packs as is usually the case in every start of the sort.

Saturday, 16 November 1861.
Sent the black boys after the horses at daylight, every one busy in preparing for the final start, The pack and other saddles were placed in a row on the ground, each load lying alongside its saddle, both marked with the same number, to prevent, confusion, and to ensure the same being always together. To ensure perfect regularity each horse with his load and saddle should be numbered or named in order that the same load and saddle may always go on the same horse, and their backs, which are the great, difficulty, be properly and effectually taken care of. Our pack-saddles are the ordinary ones, lightly made and fitted with breeching, breast-plale and surcingle. For each saddle there are two strong canvas bags, to answer the part of panniers; they are square and with a lap, just in the shape of the old fashioned pockets which are found against the inside of, the doors of stage coaches; the lap, which is to keep the rain from the contents, being fastened down by a piece of rope, through an eyelet hole. This bag, edged with good half inch rope, is hung on books fastened below the pommel and cantle of the saddle, by means of a leather-covered eyelet hole in the rope at each of the upper corners of the bag. This operation is performed in a moment and the surcingle over all binds the load. Into these bags are put the stores sewn in several calico bags weighing about eighteen or twenty pounds each. In each of these flour bags was a bottle of rum or lime juicy where it is pretty free from the risk of breakage. Medicine, sewing gear, tomahawks, spare horse shoes and nails, &c. were also packed in bags of this description, besides two horse hide water bags each holding five gallons. Round the neck of each horse is a strap, which is never taken off, to which his hobbles, are buckled immediately they are taken off his feet, a halter on each of the horse's heads, make his gear complete. The party were provisioned for ninety days at the rate of ¾lb. flour, ½lb. jerked beef, ¾oz of tea and 6 ozs. sugar per day. A start was made at 2 pm., for there is always some confusion the first day. The party were five in number, viz, Mr Landsborough, leader, Mr Campbell, Mr Allison, and two black boys. They took with them twenty three horses. I was left behind with one white man and two black troopers at the depot. Mr Landsborough's intention is to penetrate as far as central Mount Stuart in search of Burke, or his track, and to return to the depot in ninety days. If not back within that time I believe it is the intention of Captain Norman, who is Commander-in-chief of the whole expedition, to return to Melbourne or Brisbane, for a further supply of provisions, leaving with us a supply for Mr Landsborough on his return. On Mr Landsborough's return, I believe he intends to make a second journey, skirting the desert on its eastern boundary and making to Rockhampton or Brisbane, on which trip, as I have before said, I accompany him. Besides, anything is preferable to sailing in an expedition vessel as the return party will have to do. One or two of us accompanied them a short distance on their road, when they parted for the centre of the continent. May they succeed!

Saturday, 23 November 1861.
For the last fortnight the Firefly, on board of which I live, has been lying on a sand bank in the centre of the river, rising to an even keel and falling on her side with the tide which is anything but comfortable for the dwellers in this abode of happiness. Yesterday we got her into the channel and consequently upright. At present our life is monotonous enough. The party occupying the depot are myself and Mr Frost, cook, gunner, and five men of the Victoria. Mr Frost and myself, occupy the cabin, the men the rest of the ship. The brig is moored close to the river bank with which a plank, removed after dark, connects her. Every evening at 8 p.m. we fire a 12lb. howitzer; send up a rocket and born a blue light as signals for Mr Walker, should he be in these parts. Captain Norman is camped on the bank of the river in a tent, awaiting the arrival of Mr Walker, who is over his time if he has started at all which begins to be a matter much doubted by us all. His arrival should it take place, would break the monotony of the scene. Captain Norman has the barge and crew with him. We have very little to occupy us and find time hang heavy on our holds We rise early and breakfast at eight; dine at noon, tea at five, finding it difficult sometimes on our  limited rations to raise a breakfast, having to do a little shooting to make these matters run smooth. Our weekly rations are as follows;

Biscuits, 5¼ lbs. Rum, 3½ gills. Sugar, 14 oz.
Tea, 3½ ozs. Pork, 2 lbs. Beef, 2 lbs.
Peas, 12 ozs. Flour, 1½ lbs. Lime juice, 1 gill.

Also some soup and preserved meat on Sundays, which is considered a great treat. A constant pumping going on to try to keep the old brig free of water. And here I may mention a matter which often annoys me, that is the constant pilfering of any odds and ends we may leave about, by the sailors, and the abstraction of things, in themselves perhaps trifling, but which cannot be replaced. The river is about 150 yards wide here, and salt. Though we sometimes hear the splash of an alligator, we rarely see them, as they are very timid. Fish is scarce, and we seldom catch any, except a spotted bream, or a cat-fish, which are plentiful, but not very nice eating. The edge of the river is here and there lined with mangrove which is full of mosquitoes, were it not for them we should be tolerably comfortable, but they bite through two suits of clothes, and are venomous and numerous beyond belief. The weather is one and though the thermometer ranges high, the N and NE. breezes give a pleasant freshness to the atmosphere. We have had no hot winds as yet, nor do we find the weather nearly so oppressive as on the Lachlan or Murrumbidgee Rivers, NSW. The country on both banks of the river is open and very finely grassed, and water is abundant in every direction, both in Lakes and Lagoons. It is strictly a grassed country, herbs being scarce, its form is undulating, and the sub-soil clay, on which the water lasts well. Wild fowl are numerous, but not very different from game found in other parts of the continent. In fact there is nothing to remind us that we are in a tropical country, either amongst the birds, animals, or vegetables, excepting the presence of the alligator. The aborigines resemble those of the south, and seem peaceably inclined; one of the sailors lost his way a few days ago and found himself amongst 150 of them, they did not injure him, but frightened him very much by pulling him about.

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix