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Journal extracts from the South Australian Burke Relief Expedition.

SA Government logo. Link to sa.gov.au website

South Australian Advertiser: Adelaide.
23 November 1861: 2; 15 October 1862: 3; 25 October 1862: 4.
South Australian Register
: Adelaide.
15 October 1862: 2; 25 October 1862: 3.

Original item: Hodgkinson's Journal, 1861, Item 47, Unit 4, GRG35 583, Miscellaneous records previously accessioned by the South Australian Archives from government and non-government sources


Wednesday, 5 February 1862 - Appanbara.
The unhealthy nature of this camp continues to manifest itself daily, nearly the whole of the party suffering from continued and excessive vomiting. Whether this vomiting, and the lassitude it produces, are caused by the forced inactivity to which we are subjected, by exposure to the intense heat prevailing, by the myriads of flies which swarm upon our food, or by the obnoxious effects of a portion of damaged flour in our stores, cannot be ascertained; but probably all these causes, conjoined with the miasma perpetually arising from the rapidly evaporating waters or Lake Wattawiddido, exert their influence in the matter, and combine to keep the party in a most depressed condition of health.

Friday, 7 February 1862.
At 7 am, started with Middleton to ascertain the state of the waters between Appanbara and Goonaidranninni, reaching at 9 am. Caunbergannannee or Christmas Lake, and finding some eight or nine old men with their lubras and children camped there. The large number of natives at this lake upon our first visit had vacated it in consequence of tLennOtnessof the lake water for use, the sun having created so great an evaporation that the lake was reduced to one-third of its former size, and the portion left nauseous from the bitter salts with which it was impregnated. The natives upon it at this date derived their water supplied from small wells sunk in the feeder of the lake. A most luxuriant crop of a species of pea covered the ground formerly usurped by the water. Guonguille, our guide, was very anxious to remain with his friends here, and upon being denied permission to do so, became sulky, and pretending he did not know the way to Goonaidranninni, led us over several miles of grassy flats and box-fringed water courses. At length, I recognised a small flat called Titaupa, which I had previously visited with Mr McKinlay, and knowing that Guonguille was only waiting till dark to effect his escape, I took the direction out of his hands, and shortly after sunset reached Goonaidranninni, which was brilliantly illuminated with the fires of many hundred natives, driven thither by the scarcity of water in the surrounding district. I camped equidistant from two fires, and had hardly reached the spot before Eenmille, Dilbille, and other natives well known to the party came up, assisting most willingly in fetching firewood, water to wash the backs of the horses &c. Though there were several hundred natives round this lake, not more than five of those personally unknown to as came near, and even they left directly they were told to do so. The night passed without any disturbance, Middleton and myself dividing it into two watches - Eenmille, Gounguille, and their friends sleeping at our fire as if to assure us of their goodwill.

Saturday, 8 February 1862.
At dawn on the 8th I tested the depth of water, and found it had very slightly receded since our first visit. The quality was also still excellent, and I am of opinion that Goonaidranninni is one of the few permanent waters in the district. Shortly afterwards we left, and, calling at Moolindhuroona - which was, if possible, worse than Caunbergannanne - reached the main camp at Appanbara at 4.33 the same day. During the day a slight shower fell, followed at night by heavier rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning.

Sunday, 9 February 1862.
Rain for about an hour at 9 am, filling the claypans on the slopes of the adjacent sandhills and rendering the loamy flats on the banks of the creek very soft. The natives have already broken up their camp at Appanbara, and started for the sandhills to hunt the small marsupials with which they abound.

Monday, 10 February 1862.
Broke camp at Appanbara, having first marked its site on a tree with MK (conjoined), and the date of our stay. Started on 270° for four miles, reaching a point a little above the junction of Alfred Creek with Lake Watigaume, country intervening, consisting of sandhills and barren flats; thence on 275° for four and a quarter miles, and then on 306° for nine and a quarter miles, passing through Walmacudillina, a small dry salt lake, surrounded by low samphire-covered sandrises, situated six miles from the point where we first took a course of 306°; thence on 326° towards a flat seemingly covered with stones, and from that cause likely to have retained abundance of surface water; in two miles passing over miserable flats and sandhills, emerging fairly upon the Stony Desert; thence on 310° for four and a half miles all over stony ground, and taken together a distance of 24 miles. Except where the soil was unusually absorbent, the ground was well supplied with water in puddles, and the sandhills already covered with the fresh tracks of natives. Horses and camels, as usual, reached camp some hours previous to the dray, and finding that there was little probability of its arrival that evening, the stores were broached, and an extempore supper provided from some coarse flour fortunately at hand. The feed for camels and horses was wretched in the extreme, consisting only of the sparse tufts of grass growing between the interstices of of the stones.

Tuesday, 11 February 1862.
At 6 am. the dray hove in sight, having been delayed by the inability of the bullocks to travel so long a stage. Brindle, an old and very fat one, broke down, and several of the others could hardly move, the stony ground being unsuitable for them after their long spell on the soft ground of the lakes. Shortly after the dray came up the journey recommenced, the route lying for nine miles on 310°, over a stony plain chequered by innumerable small sheets of water, which beneath the rays of a fervid sun glistened like silver plates. We camped after this short stage upon the west side of a lofty sandhill, that afforded a considerable supply of coarse herbage and at its base abundance of water. Scarcely had the packs been removed from the cattle ere heavy clouds appeared in the west, and thunderstorms could be seen falling in the same direction. Brindle had been brought over this short stage with difficulty, frequently lying down, and upon his arrival at camp refused to feed. Two attempts at bleeding him were unsuccessful from the want of a fleamy and the thickness of his side. To the west could be seen a fire, most probably at Koonterie, a reported permanent water lying between Goonaidrauninni and Paubeeri. During the day and succeeding night several storms fell in the vicinity, removing all apprehension as to deficiency of water, but causing much discomfort as the tents were not pitched.

Wednesday, 12 February 1862.
Everything being wet a little delay ensued, but at a tolerably early hour we were again en route, on 309° for a sandhill looming in the distance, reaching it at 6¾ miles thence in 309½° for 17 miles, total 24¼ miles. At 3¾ miles from the sandhill thus alluded to we struck a flooded flat intersected by innumerable creeks, which at 11¾ miles led into the main channel, upon which at a spot called Dargreto the camp was established. During this day's march we crossed the tracks of three or four horses; from the course they ran, apparently made by Captain Sturt during one of his efforts to penetrate the Stony Desert.

Thursday, 13 February 1862.
The dray did not reach the camp yesterday, so at daylight Mr McKinlay and myself rode round the eastern bank of the main creek for the purpose of selecting the easiest route; Bell at the same time being sent on the track to stop the bullock-driver. Upon reaching the track, however, we found that the teams had already passed the spot, and in fact, Palmer arrived in camp before we did, despite an upset caused by the precipitous banks of one of the watercourses. It was astonishing how he contrived to get along so well as he did considering the length of the stages, the deficiency of feed, and the fearful fissures in the sun-cracked ground over which the route lay. The creek upon which the camp is now pitched is like a huge rent in the desolate plain it traverses, marked like its smaller prototypes by lines of straggling box and scrub. Its width is from 70 to 100 yards, with a depth of 40 feet, while neither in its bed nor upon its banks was there at this period any feed worth notice. The camels and bullocks, however, found a good substitute for grass in a species of fern, which, rising to a height of 7 to 9 feet, covered all the moister portions of the bed, while the horses eked out a miserable subsistence upon the straggling tufts of grass and tops of the polygonum bushes. About half a mile NW of the camp a large creek called Panbera joins Durgreto from the SW. There are pits in both the lakes, being doubtless the Eyre's Creek of Sturt.

Friday, 14 February 1862.
Started at about 7, and crossed Panbera Creek at half a mile, thence over flooded flats without vegetation to Toomudegone a fine waterhole about 15½ miles from yesterday's camp. Two miles and a half back we passed the bones of the only horse which Burke took with him from Cooper's Creek, the animal having evidently been killed at one of that gentleman's camps. A saddle, without stirrups or stuffing lay close to the remains of the horse. Bearings from this camp from a sandhill half a mile from ditto, on 79° 30' - Panbera 170° to extremity of creek 341°, Koonterie 170°, Goonaidranninni 159°. During this day's march Meggie and Bright, two of our best bullocks, knocked up, though the latter, ultimately straggled into camp. Course throughout the day 356° 30’; skirting the west side of creek; Emille ran away during the night.

Saturday, 15 February 1862.
Middleton, Palmer, and Bell were sent this morning to bring in Muggie, if alive, and having reached camp with him, packing commenced, after which we resumed our journey along the west bank of the creek, greatly to the disgust of Guoorgnilla, who was evidently in despair at Emmille’s desertion. Travelling some five miles over a flooded plain intersected by innumerable creeks of a waterless character. Mr McKinlay and myself; with Guoorgnilla, rode to the summit of a sandhill, flanking the desolate flat which boardered the creek. Guoorgnilla after glancing in every direction without seeing the smoke of a single native fire, was so appalled at the dreary nature of the scene, that he burst into tears and refused to accompany us further. Course during day 356° 30’. Mr McKinlay suffered very severely from diarrhoea, aggravated perhaps by the anxieties inseparable from his position. Killed and jerked three sheep;

Sunday, 16 February 1862.
Spelled and jerked the sheep.

Monday, 17 February 1862.
Abandoned the cart, drawing it to the sandhills upon west bank of the creek. The rotten nature of the country, the excessive heat, and the many delays it has caused, combine to render this course imperative, though it will compel us to do without many comforts we have hitherto by its aid enjoyed. Daring the afternoon a heavy thunderstorm broke S from SW; rain fell at intervals throughout the first part of the night.

Tuesday, 18 February 1862.
Packing this morning was a most tedious operation, the horses, camels, and bullocks, having all to carry an increased load. Added to this, the roaming of the horses in a vain search after better feed prevents them from being got in early, and makes a late start every morning. The bullocks under Palmer's superintendence were initiated in the mysteries of packing; Rowdy and Brindle, the two first taken in hand being wonderfully quiet. The camel loads were not only cumbersome, but from the wretched saddles supplied continually productive of sore backs. Left camp on 340° for 14½ miles, thence on 38° for 2¾ miles to camp at a little puddle formed by the recent rains. Little or no feed.  

Wednesday, 19 February 1862.
Mr McKinlay still unwell. As there was apparently little prospect of an improvement in the country, Middleton and I started this morning to search its upward course and ascertain whether the route north was still practicable. We were fortunately successful in this object, finding an abundance of water 9 miles from camp. Lighting a fire to guide Mr McKinlay and party to the spot Middleton returned while I went some 15 miles farther, passing abundance or holes filled by the recent storms, but not one of which could be depended upon for more than four or five days. At 15 miles from camp the creek changed from a deep sandy channel to a straggling wide torrent, coursing over immense boulders of volcanic stones. Ascending its banks. I found to the north and west an undulating extent of stony country, precisely similar to and doubtless forming a portion of the desert. Peculiar conical bills of stone flanked this scene, two of which distant some 10 miles, bore 100° and 168° respectively. Having ascertained that the creek contained an abundant though temporary supply of water, I returned to the party, which had moved about 7 miles higher up the creek in a general course of 355°.

Thursday, 20 February 1862.
Spelled. Middleton being seized with diarrhoea.

Friday, 21 February 1862.
Weather fearfully oppressive. Employed making pack-saddles for bullocks.

Saturday, 22 February 1862.
Quite a change in the temperature, the wind blowing fresh and cool from the SE. Ascended a sandhill on east side of creek, a quarter of mile from camp, and took following bearings. Course to be searched 290°, tending to point of distant sandridge dipping NE. Detached table-topped hill 387°. Started with Bell to examine the country north and west. Travelled 4 miles in 290°; then on 304° for 3½ miles; thence on 34° for 9½ miles, and on 112° for 6 miles further to camp, passing alternately over sandy and stony ground, with sandridges intersecting it at intervals.

Sunday, 23 February 1862.
Travelled easterly, making the main creek in which the party were camped at 6 miles; thence followed its course through a mud plain, perfectly flat and destitute of all herbage, save a few stunted subsole. Upon this plain, at irregular intervals, stone hills cropped out, lending a most forbidding aspect to the scene. Daring our progress down the creek, upon our return to camp, saw two natives, but they were too timid to enter into communication; reached camp, finding that Wyld, who had been sent back for the parallel ruler left behind inadvertently, had just returned unsuccessful.

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