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September 1861

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

Sunday, 1 September 1861.
Wind increased to a gale. Spoke the Victoria. Our Captain received instructions to keep close to the Victoria during the night, but before dark the Victoria was miles ahead of us and soon out of sight. Captain Kirby hove-to the Firefly and burnt flash-lamps every hour, but saw nothing of the Victoria.

Monday, 2 September 1861.
Blowing still a gale; wore ship; stood away on the other tack; no sign of the Victoria; Captain thinks she has entered the Great Barrier Reef, and anchored in shelter. One horse fell, got very much bruised and, after all our efforts to save him, died; the other horses suffering very much from the heavy rolling of the vessel and from want of water.

Tuesday, 3 September 1861.
Captain Kirby determines to enter the Great Barrier Reef at all hazards. Bore away for it in the morning and sighted the beacon on Reine Island about twelve &clock. Entered the Great Barrier with a fair, fresh breeze, and smooth water. Sighted Sir Charles Hardy's Islands. About four o'clock brought up to windward of the northernmost island. Strong gale blowing, and no shelter in our position. Dropped best anchor, which either went down foul or parted; we were now 150 yards off a coral reef. Let go the other anchor, which brought the brig up for the moment, but was soon evidently dragging. Heavy squalls of wind and rain all night.

Wednesday, 4 September 1861.
At daylight, all hands roused by the Captain shouting that the brig was going on shore. Made and tried to clear reef, but without success. Struck on the coral reef in five feet of water; cut away masts to ease the vessel. Launched long-boat. Part of crew and party went on shore on the Northern Island. Captain Kirby slept on board. Landed twenty-one sheep and part of provisions. I went on shore in the first boat Water proved so shallow that we had to get out of the boat and swim her over the coral, which, from our having no shoes on, cut our feet badly. One boat was swamped and smashed to pieces.

Thursday, 5 September 1861.
All hands clearing wreck; landing stores; carrying them fully half a mile over sharp rough stones, which was very fatiguing work. Sailors, as is usual on such occasions, all groggy.

Friday, 6 September 1861.
All hands cutting hole in brig's side, and landing horses. Twenty-five landed all right; one (afterwards recovered) swam to Southern Island; three dead in the hold. Black boys swimming off and assisting the horses, now very weak, to land. Sharks numerous but no accident.

Saturday, 7 September 1861.
All hands landing provisions and cargo, a very difficult matter, as the brig lies about 500 yards from shore. Sailors drunk. Law and order set at defiance; everyone helping himself to what he chooses.

Sunday, 8 September 1861.
Sighted the Victoria for the first time since Sunday last. Made signals, which were soon observed. Victoria brought up to leeward of the Southern Island, and boarded brig. We were very glad to see her. From what I observed, I lean to the opinion that her crew were not teetotallers.

Monday, 9 September 1861.
Crew of Victoria engaged discharging the brig's cargo in order to lighten her, with the view of getting her afloat. Mr Landsborough sent to Captain Norman for a guard of sailors for the protection of the stores of the party, which was much needed. Sentry takes charge of all property.

Tuesday, 10 September 1861.
Victoria trying to get off Firefly, but failed. This island is very rocky and stony. It is covered with long grass, and has many very beautiful plants and creepers. The wreck of, as we believe, the Lady Kinnaird lies to leeward; she was bound to Calcutta with cavalry horses. Sharks, oysters, and other fish numerous, and a few turtles were seen.

Wednesday 11 September 1861.
Victoria made another unsuccessful attempt to float the Firefly. She appears to be embedded in the coral. All the hay being destroyed we began to cut grass for hay, on which to feed the horses in the event of the brig being got off. Water abundant for ourselves, but insufficient and difficult of approach for the horses. It is found in springs in the SE., as well as in the NW. gullies. Some slight indications of copper were visible. Captain Norman ordered the destruction of all spirits on board the brig, to encourage a little sobriety on the part of his crew. Thus perished £600 worth of bad stuff! It must have been a sad moment to Jack, who, to judge by appearances, really loves grog! Horses improving a little, but still in very low condition. Thermometer 86° under shade of a tree. Sea-breeze very cooling. Large centipedes very numerous.

Thursday, 12 September 1861.
This afternoon the Victoria succeeded in getting off the brig, everything having been previously thrown out to lighten her. All our party in high spirits to see her again afloat, hoping soon to be on our way to the Gulf. Grass-cutting going on. Gathered some remarkably fine oysters, which are numerous, Captain Norman, Dr Paterson, and Mr Moore paid us a visit.

Friday, 13 September 1861.
Helping black boys to cut grass. Victoria towed Firefly to the other side of the island. Shifting camp and taking stores on board.

Saturday, 14 September 1861.
Shipping stores by boats. Walked over to new Camp. Weather fine. Thermometer 86° at noon, 75° at night, with fine breeze. Remains of turtle numerous but none caught. Victoria is fitting up Firefly. Mr Campbell unwell from cold and pin in the head.

Sunday, 15 September 1861.
Passed very quietly; everyone glad to get a day's rest.

Monday, 16 September 1861.
Victoria's people set to work early at the brig. Our party busy grass-cutting with knives. The horse which had swam to the Southern Island, in landing, brought back by the Victoria's boat.

Tuesday, 17 September 1861.
Cutting grass; very hot work. One of our horses fell down a gully and eventually died. The other horses, I regret to say, are still in low condition, having improved very little since they landed. The rocky ground hurts their feet, and so prevents them feeding well. A horse whilst foot-sore never improves. Water is scarce for them. Yesterday, our party were put on ship's rations: week days, salt beef and salt pork alternately; Sundays we are treated to soup and boullie, one glass of rum; and a tablespoonful of lime juicy is also served daily to each man.

Wednesday, 18 September 1861.
Still cutting grass for horses, twenty trusses of hay only having been saved from Firefly. We hope to get as much as will last to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Many persons gathering coral, which is plentiful. We caught four and a half dozen of fish in a hole left by the tide.

Thursday, 19 September 1861.
The party, without any assistance, trussing hay. Exposure, salt water, salt food, &c., beginning to show their effects; several of the party having boils and sores. Killed a sheep. Fresh meat very acceptable.

Friday, 20 September 1861.
Shipped horses and hay on board they Firefly. Nags very low in condition. What they will be when we reach the Gulf, goodness knows! They are, however, to have more water, daily, than before. Thermometer rising 90° at noon, 78° at sunset; the cool breeze has made the weather, heretofore, very agreeable. Although, in 11 degrees, the weather is not so hot as in Brisbane, or even in Sydney or Melbourne.

Saturday, 21 September 1861.
All our party, except Mr Landsborough, who is on the Victoria, on board the brig, ready to be taken in tow tomorrow morning. Party from Victoria on shore all the morning trying to bring off the sheep. After a great deal of running, all were secured but three, one of which was shot, the other two left behind. They will yet, no doubt, prove an unexpected dinner to some shipwrecked sailors, for Sir Charles Hardy's Island seems a favorite place for such disasters, to judge by the tracks we saw on it. I discovered, this morning, a tree which had been sawn off probably many years ago, for the part sawn has grown high up, and is now far out of reach of the saw. A few goats turned loose on these uninhabited islands would increase very rapidly, and might be the salvation of future Colonial ‘Selkirks.' Looking back at what has occurred since we left Brisbane, it appears, at least unfortunate that a vessel such as the Firefly should have been chosen to carry the Expedition. She is but it sorry old tub of seventeen years standing, requires pumping every four hours at farthest, and a wretched sailer. The comfort of the party, for which the Royal Society did not forget to stipulate, as well as the well-being of the horses, being quite out of the question. Then the horse-fittings have turned out quite insufficient, and the water supply but just enough to support life in the quadrupeds. Let what can happen from this out, much valuable time has been lost, provisions spoilt, and the horses so much reduced as to jeopardise both the success and safety of the party. A long rest will be necessary to recruit our stud at the Albert River. And then the horrid, filthy stench of this odious cabin - will it ever leave our nostrils?

Sunday, 22 September 1861.
Left Sir Charles Hardy's Island without regret, in tow of the Victoria, at daylight. Passed two small islands about 11 am; neared the main land, and anchored under the lee of Cairncross Island at half-past 4 pm. Saw something resembling the barge of the Victoria lying on the beach. Boats of the Victoria went in shore and found that it was the barge which they had lost at Sir Charles Hardy's Island on the night of the 11th inst. She had drifted about seventy miles, must have passed over several reefs, and had sustained no injury. Saw a sea-snake or, perhaps, an eel.

Monday, 23 September 1861.
Weighed anchor at 4 am. and steered for Booby Island; passed several fine looking islands during the day. The country on the main land appears well-grassed and timbered, with ninny fine Days. Bush-fires, but no blacks visible. Captain Norman went ashore to get letters and inspect Visitors' Book. Amongst other things, found in it a memorandum, stating that the vessel seen by us at Sir Charles Hardy's Island was the Lady Kinnaird; that the crew and passengers had been picked up by two vessels, after being eight days there, and that one lady had been confined whilst there. Wrote letters to Brisbane and sent them on shore. Saw another sea-snake.

Tuesday, 24 September 1861.
Left Booby Island at half-past 0 a.m. A month out to-day. Fine weather; smooth water.

Wednesday, 25 September 1861.
Steamed away all last night, weather being fine. Caught some bonita, though dry, we found, to be good eating; and shot a porpoise. At pm., wind rose with a heavy sea; our old tub rolling gunwale under. Could get nothing cooked; impossible to sleep from the motion. Brig rolled her foremost out during the night, there being no sail on to steady her, and the Victoria having ceased steaming at 1 pm. Our party watching the horses and trying to keep them on their legs. Had the hawser broken which attached us to the Victoria during this awful night, nothing could have saved us. We should have sank as soon as we got broadside on to the sea. Four feet water in the hold; horses up to their knees in it. Had the hawser broken and the vessel sunk, the Victoria could have done nothing but drop to leeward and pick up the swimmers; no boat could have lived in the sea that was running.

Thursday, 26 September 1861.
Wind dropped somewhat; brig still rolling heavily. No breakfast, 12 o'clock, sea going down; had a feed of bonito.

Friday, 27 September 1861.
Take a salt water bath every morning, one of the sailors throwing it over me with a bucket. Weather fine. Land, supposed to be Bountiful Island, on the starboard bow. Pumping ship constantly; stench of the bilge-water indescribable. At 4 pm. anchored off Bountiful Island, Mr Campbell and myself went on board the Victoria. Three boats went in search of turtle; returned with eight. Several parties went on shore turtle hunting during the night; bagged, in all, 125. They are very easily taken, and excellent eating. We jerked some of their meat, cutting it into slices and hanging it in the sun.

Saturday, 28 September 1861.
Shot a large shark. Victoria taking in turtle. Bountiful Island is well named - turtle, oysters, and fish of various other kinds being very plentiful and good, There is, also, plenty of grass and timber, and no doubt water exists as in all the other islands. The island is about three miles by two size, with good anchorage all round. Returned to Firefly 1 pm still rolling heavily.

Sunday, 29 September 1861.
Weighed anchor 9 am. 2 pm. sight Bentinck Island; shortly after anchored between that and Sweers Island. Found the brig Gratia and schooner Native Lass lying here with coals and provisions for Victoria. Saw some blacks on Bentinck Island. Captain Norman and Mr Landsborough went ashore on Sweer's Island. With our port in sight, we begin to think of the delights of the land.

Monday, 30 September 1861.
Mr Campbell and self landed on Sweer's Island to cut grass for the horses; took our guns; grass plentiful. Saw many birds, such as bustards, pigeons, quail, pheasants, crows, native companions, &c. No surface water to be found, but the dews at night are very heavy, more like rain than dew. All the grass cut for the horses at Sir Charles Hardy's Island being used, we shall have to cut here enough to last them until they are landed, which may not be for several days to come. Lieutenant Woods, Mr Landsborough, two blacks, and crew, went out to survey the Albert River, and decide on a place for landing the horses. Our party put on bare seamen's rations; bad preparation for a journey!

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