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October 1861

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

Tuesday, 1 October 1861.
Landed early on Sweer's Island to shoot. Killed two cockatoos and a red-bill, which we ate for breakfast. No water found. Returned at 12 o'clock, and found Mr Campbell and two blacks cutting grass. Mr Campbell had nothing to eat but biscuit and water. Watching watering the horses as usual; cutting grass for them under a tropical sun; our food dirty and disgusting to the last degree. Saw tree with ‘Investigator, 1802' cut on it, besides other names, The Investigator's crew sunk a well twelve feet deep here, which I see, with one or two others, has fallen in.

Wednesday, 2 October 1861.
Our German cook quite puzzles us; turtle, &c., quite uneatable. Wonder if his sort of cookery is fashionable in ‘farder land.' Mr Campbell and two blacks cutting grass. Four feet water in the hold of Firefly this morning.

Thursday, 3 October 1861.
Self and two black boys cutting grass on shore.

Friday, 4 October 1861.
Went on shore at 6 am. to cut grass. 2 pm. moved up to where turtle-pond is being built. It is a ring, fenced with stone and timber, on the beach, including some water. The turtle are put in, and some of the seaweed on which they feed thrown in to them; they will live a long time in this way. Saw dead sea-snake which is very venomous, Native Lass, schooner, discharging coal. Master of the Gratia went on shore to get water, but was driven back by the natives, who tried to cut his people off from their boats.

Saturday, 5 October 1861.
Captain Norman and party went on shore to protect the Gratia's people whilst getting water. Natives seen, but skeary this morning

Sunday, 6 October 1861.
Went on board Victoria to attend Divine Service. Boarded Gratia, visited turtle-pond, returned on board Victoria, and had a night in Ward-room. At 9 pm. returned to Firefly. Sent up a blue-light and three rockets as a signal to barge which is nearly due from Albert River.

Monday, 7 October 1861.
Landsborough and Lieutenant Woods returned this morning early from Albert River, all safe, with very satisfactory accounts of the country. Blacks quiet, country very fine, and game plentiful. Mr Landsborough stales that the Plains of Promise are superior to any country he ever saw before. The river is large, deep, and fresh twenty miles from its mouth. Mr Woods started this afternoon to look for a channel to take the brig up. We intend starting the day after tomorrow; the sooner the better. We are all sick of remaining on board. Horses all alive, but some of them very weak.

Tuesday, 8 October 1861.
Self and two black boys cutting grass on Sweer's Island all day. Lieutenant Woods buoying channel. Captain Norman landing stores and making depot at Sweers Island, where he leaves Mr Laws midshipman, and two men in charge during his absence. Party from Victoria cleared out well dug by the Investigator's people, sixty years ago, and got plenty of very fine water at twelve feet

Wednesday, 9 October 1861.
Mr Moore, self, and two black boys slept on shore trying to shoot game. Walked to the other end of the island and camped. On our way, saw fresh tracks of natives on the bBeach; saw nothing of them during the night, but heard them, the morning, got on their tracks and came on them suddenly. They disappeared quickly. They seem quietly disposed; their war implements are of n very rude construction. Totally without clothing; they live on turtle, and other fish. Cut more grass. Returned at noon on board Victoria, and prepared to start for Albert River.

Thursday, 10 October 1861.
Weighed at 6 am.; in tow of Victoria; anchored at 10 am., about six and a half miles from mouth of Albert. Mr Woods away in barge, buoying channel. Caught some young sharks which were good eating. Sent a couple of them to the Victoria Ward-room Officers.

Friday, 11 October 1861.
Weighed at 6 am. under two jury-masts; steered for mouth of Albert; Captain Norman and Lieutenant Woods on board. Wind fair. About 9 am. stuck on bank, nine and a half feet of water, brig being very unmanageable. We are waiting for high water, which only occurs here once in every twenty-four hours; a remarkable fact which no one can account for, and occurs, I am informed, in no other part of the world.

Saturday, 12 October 1861.
Started at high water again. Channel about 150 yards wide from bar to within half a mile of mouth of Albert River, widening as it approaches. Got on sand bank again. All hands working hard, and up nearly all night.

Sunday, 13 October 1861.
Waiting all day for tide to turn. Got off sand-bank 10 am., and stood for mouth of Albert River. Made about half a mile, and anchored in channel. Put horses on short allowance of hay. Working until 3 in the morning.

Monday, 14 October 1861.
Mr Landsborough, Mr Campbell, three black boys, and barge's crew started at 7 am. to go up the river to cut grass and find water for horses. Brig weighed at 8 am. and made the entrance of the Albert River. Channel deepens very much on nearing the river, soundings being from three to five fathoms. The channel often widens and its banks are composed of hard sand, the mouth at the entrance being 350 yards wide or thereabouts. After entering, water deepens to nine and even ten fathoms. The banks are low, but not perfectly covered by the tide, with numerous small creeks leading to or from the river. A little mangrove is visible but it is not the principal timber of the river banks. We entered about 9 am., wind fair, a fine summer morning, the first vessel that ever sailed up the Albert. Yesterday, whilst aground, four blacks, three Marys, and a child, made their way from the shore to within 200 yards of the vessel, making some signs which we could not perfectly understand, but on the barge putting off, they ran away fancying they were chased. The Albert as far as we have gone, five miles, is the finest river, with the deepest water yet known in Australia. Thermometer in shade at noon, 85 degrees. Four pm. on shore once more, having struck a shoal. Six fathoms of water alongside. Landsborough looking for water for horses. The rise and fall of tide here, I am told, springs as much as seventeen feet; a large vessel may enter and will find water enough when in.

Tuesday, 15 October 1861.
Weighed early and proceeded up the river with the tide; made about a mile and struck on shoal again. At 10 am., our party and twelve men of the Victoria on shore grass cutting for horses. Weighed again at 2 pm., and struck again in about half a mile. Mr Landsborough and black boys looking for water, but found none. Mr Campbell, Mr Allison, self, and black boys, landed again at 3 pm. to cut grass. Horses on half allowance of water again, as there are no signs of getting up the river to fresh water. Eight pm., weighed with the tide. Ten pm., stuck again. Shot a wild dog. We are now about seven miles from the mouth of the Albert. The Nicholson River is about five miles to the westward, the intervening country having the appearance of being flooded at times. The banks of the Albert are thinly timbered with small trees; plenty of grass of various sorts growing there. The country is intersected by several salt water creeks. A little further inland, the country becomes higher, and is very finely grassed, having an excellent soil. It is thinly timbered with gum, apple trees, cotton, and other trees whose names are unknown. The grasses are a sort of kangaroo grass, barley grass, and other varieties, with a little salt bush, on the whole, thickly grassed. Some of us who were on shore, came upon three gins and three children; they immediately bolted, but were overtaken by Charley and the black boy. They ran to their camp and huddled together like frightened sheep; with difficulty we made them understand that we wanted water,--as the beat was great and we had none with us, - they pointed in two directions, in both of which we found it, being a long water course covered with ducks, chiefly teal, one of which I shot with my rifle. Marked some trees and returned on board.

Thursday, 17 October 1861.
Being unable to get the brig up the river, Mr Landsborough lands the horses this morning on the west bank, and drives them to a water bore four and a half miles up the river. Landed all but two very weak ones in about three hours, twenty three in all. A very hot dirty job.  They looked much better than when shipped at Hardy's Island, and were much pleased at once more touching land.

Friday, 18 October 1861.
One of the two horses left on board died to-day, and was thrown overboard. Delayed again all day by what appears to be a sort of bar or shoal between the channel of Norman's group. We hope the vessel will get to the site of depot now that she has been lightened, by removal of horses and cleaning the hold. Sandflies and mosquitoes terrible - no sleep.

Saturday, 19 October 1861.
Nothing of any consequence to-day: horses still at Frost's Ponds Our progress up the river very slow, owing to contrary winds and frequent shoals. Mr Moore arrived this evening with Mr Frost in the Victoria's whale boat, bringing news of Captain Norman having discovered a large river to the eastward of the Albert, and about two miles from the mouth of the hatter. They went about two miles up this river and found it wider and deeper than the Albert, though not fresh, we suppose it to be the Leichardt. Mosquitoes very numerous.

Sunday, 20 October 1861.
I went with a party consisting of Mr Moore, Mr Frost, and two black boys, to look for water for horses up the river. Discovered a creek of fine fresh water about six mikes from Frost's Ponds, and running within about a mile of the river; called it Moore's Creek. Erected a beacon on bank of river, and returned to brig at 8 pm.; saw some camps, but no blacks. This creek which was discovered to-day I expect fills Woods' Lake. This part of the country is remarkably well watered. I omitted to say, that on the 16th, we came on a large vein of freestone.

Monday, 21 October 1861.
Brig making but little progress, only half a mile to-day. Mr Landsborough went on shore to see the horses. Crew getting water from Frost's Ponds. I went on shore and shot five cockatoos; they are smaller than any I have seen before, very much like the corella but differently marked, the beak not so much hooked, and no red about them.

Tuesday, 22 October 1861.
Went on shore with Messrs Landsborough and Campbell and three black boys up the river to mark trees, and put up pieces of paper to give notice to Mr Walker, whom we expect overland from Rockhampton, that we have been on the river and are in the vicinity. We are now looking anxiously for him. We landed on the east bank, went about three miles along the bank and returned at 1 pm., putting up notices in every direction. Very fine open country as far as we could see; found fresh water in two places, at 9 pm., weighed to start, nearly flood tide.

Wednesday, 23 October 1861.
Went on shore on east bank in charge of watering party, to a water hole I found yesterday, filled water kegs and returned to brig in an hour and a half; distance, about one and a quarter miles. The blackfellow ‘Fisherman,' caught two fish; one a bream, the other a cat-fish. I caught several more fish in the evening. Fresh water plentiful on both sides of the river.

Thursday, 24 October 1861.
Went on shore after breakfast with black boys to drive the horses from Frost's Ponds to Moore's Creek. Found we were on an island; waded through the channel on to the main land. Found six of the horses, the others having strayed; drove on these to another water hole, caught one, and sent black boy on the tracks of the remainder. Jackey returned to my camp at the water hole at 9 pm., after having been five hours after them. Hobbled two horses out of the six and camped for the night. Shot three ducks and a wallaby, which we eat for supper.

Friday, 25 October 1861.
Started the black boys at daylight for the six horses, whilst bringing them, the boy ‘Fisherman,' shot a wallaby, which we eat for breakfast. After breakfast sent Jackey on a horse without saddle, with a bridle made of straps, after the other horses. Self and party returned to brig at noon. Fisherman shot a wallaby very cleverly with my rifle. Saw no blacks whilst camping out, but many tracks were visible. The black boy Jackey returned with the missing horses at sundown.

Saturday, 26 October 1861.
Camped on shore with black boys, and started at daylight to put the horses together. Found eight at Moore's Creek; shot some ducks and a wallaby, and returned at sundown. Marked a tree on Moore's Creek:

G B and L A.

Made no progress in the brig for the last three days, the tide flowing fifteen hours and ebbing only nine hours.

Sunday, 27 October 1861.
Attended divine service at pm. Dined on wallaby; after dinner went up the river with Lieutenant Woods to look at the channel. Mr Campbell went with black boys this afternoon to put the horses together. Some natives came to the brig two days since, five of them swam over the river. Mr Landsborough gave one of them a red blanket, but they have not made their appearance since. They are timid and suspicious. It is not very far from where Mr Gilbert was killed, and Mr Gregory was attacked. As yet we have seen but few of them.

Monday, 28 October 1861.
Went on shore with Mr Rennie, four black boys, and Mr Campbell, to bring horses back to the brig and hobble them, as they are getting fresh and inclined to ramble; found some of them at Moore's Creek, three miles off. Camped there and started in the morning to look for the rest; found them all and returned to ship at 5 pm. Hobbled most of them and got on board at dusk.

Tuesday, 29 October 1861.
Shot a wallaby with breech loader at 250 yards. Mr Campbell, whilst following the tracks of horses yesterday, discovered a large salt water river, which he says is as large as the Albert, and about ten miles off. The intervening country is well watered, fairly grassed, and would be an excellent run if fenced in, which it might easily be. The same may be said of the country on the other bank. Thermometer 7.30 am., 85 degrees.

Wednesday, 30 October 1861.
Thermometer 4 pm., 92 degrees; position, Shoal Reach Islands. Not been able to move the brig. Mr Landsborough went over to but the horses together and camped on what we suppose to be the Nicholson; Mr Campbell and four black boys are with him.

Thursday, 31 October 1861.
Thermometer 2 pm., 92 degrees. Started. the old brig at 2 pm. with much trouble, and accomplished a mile, which is more than we have done for some days. I went on shore with Mr Hennie, Mr Woods having asked me to look for some water for the ships. I landed on both sides of the river and found water half a mile off. Sixteen natives paid the brig a visit, without any Marys (women), some biscuits were thrown to them and they appeared anxious to communicate with us, though much alarmed if we made any attempt to approach them. After firing some shots from a rifle, to show them the beauty of that weapon, they were much frightened and perfectly scared by my throwing on them the reflection of the sun from a looking glass, and left immediately. The mosquitos are very numerous and punish us much. Game is scarce, and our salt provisions becoming disagreeable. We are allowed daily half a gill of rum, which is mixed with lime juice, sugar, and water. The sailors take quinine in their rum daily. No news Mr Walker.

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