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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


Tuesday, 1 October 1861
At dawn we rose and, having examined our tin canteen and parched leather bags in the fruitless hope of finding a little water, resumed our backward march. The hot wind still fiercely swept around us; clouds of drifting sand gave a fiery, gloomy appearance to the horizon, and a glare from the burning sands beneath us almost took away the power of vision. At 2 p.m. we were completely dead-beat, unable to walk or see the track and inclined to be despairing. Thinking it might afford some chance of recruiting our energies we lay buried in the sand beneath a miserable parched acacia that poorly sheltered us from the sun; the camels meanwhile complacently chewing their cud and nowise sharing the discomforts of our situation. From 2 till 7 we remained beneath that bush, and upon rising at the latter hour to make a further attempt, were barely able to stand, Finding the aspect of affairs to become really serious I had the loads taken from two of the camels and strapped ourselves upon the saddles in the hope of holding out till water or relief should arrive. Throughout the night till 12 p.m. the camels travelled north; at that hour they lay down, but at 2 a.m. resumed their course and just before daylight reached the summit of a lofty sandhill where I stopped them in order to obtain a vision of the surrounding country. Very shortly after dawn I could perceive the silvery gleam of a large sheet of water distant some 3 miles, and hastening towards it found myself upon what I afterwards learnt to be Tipandrana Lake, 7 miles W of Lake Hope. Thus the wonderful instinct of the camels had undoubtedly been the means of our preservation for from the undeviating course they pursued I am satisfied they smelt the water from the first. A large number of natives speedily surrounded us but behaved with great kindness, bringing us fish and water. Having somewhat refreshed ourselves and the camels by a two hours spell we persuaded two of our dark friends to serve as guides to Lake Hope and reached the main camp at an early hour.

Thursday, 3 October - Monday, 7 October 1861 - Lake Hope
Upon the 2nd, the day Middleton and I reached Lake Hope, the bullocks started to bring in the cart, which reached camp on the 3rd. On the same day too, I brought in the two camels loads that had been left in the sandhills, having left the lake on the 4th for that purpose. On the 6th the shoes of the horses were taken off and the 7th devoted to preparations for a move next day. Lake Hope, upon which we have for the past few days been encamped, is an extensive sheet of water; at its greatest length 11 miles, with an average breadth of 1½ in some parts extending to four. The greatest depth I had no means of ascertaining, but by floating on some canteens from the one side of an arm to another ½ a mile [away?], obtained soundings varying from 6½ to 9 feet. In the centre and towards the junction of the feeder I have little doubt of a far greater depth existing. The water is beautifully clear and soft, with a considerable quantity of soda in it.The shore immediately fringing the lake is composed of white sand bordered by a belt of clover, hedged in by sandhills in every direction save where the feeder of the lake has worked an outlet. There is no apparent creek leading from the lake. Bastard-box in some parts is tolerably plentiful and patches of polygonum abound. Fish and waterfowl are sufficiently plentiful to support a numerous tribe of healthy, and at present, peaceful natives. The sandhills bordering the lake, though almost destitute of grass, afford a scanty herbage and numberless saline plants suitable for cattle. The paucity of rainfalls appears to be the chief obstacle with which settlers would have to contend. From a sandhill some ¾ of a mile from the camp, the following bearings were taken:

Camp 209º 30
NW Point of Lake 276º
Pando Creek at its entrance to Lake 303º
Appt. course 319º
Pt. on N shore 342º 30
E Pt. ¼ to ½ mile 73º
NE sweep of Lake 80º
SE " " " 86º

The following Words afford some examples of the language spoken by the natives: ―

Yerriberrega ― a species of wader with red beak and legs, large head, webbed feet, black crest and light slate colored wings.
Thamparri ― Pelican
Coreaongo ― Kite
Coroolga ― Crow
Wapparu ― Sturt's pigeon
Kilgie ― Waterhen
Thararalgo ― Teal
Thoula ― Whistling duck

A natural historical fact of rather a singular nature recurred during our stay at the lake: a pelican being found dead upon the beach with a huge cod perch firmly stuck in his throat. The greedy fisherman had miscalculated his power of dilatation and, while attempting to swallow his refractory prey, [had] been suffocated. The sharp spines of the perch were firmly fixed in the upper mandible of the bird, whose body, though but recently dead, was when found considerably mangled by crows and hawks. The natives numbered about 100 and were remarkably healthy looking and free from that scourge of the aboriginals ophthalmia. The rite of circumcision and knocking out the teeth both of men and lubras prevails, the former custom being carried to an exaggerated degree. The scarifications [sic] upon the body are not numerous. Their (Karco) paints consist of ochre and red clay and some of the patterns they displayed were far from being destitute of grace. The temp[erture] of the lake water was 69½º; of air in shade at 6.15 p.m. 76º; water boiled at 208º and the lake showed flood marks 19 ft above its present level.

Tuesday, 14 [sic 8] October 1861 - Lake Camel or Appodir
Left Lake Hope at 11 a.m. on the following course and distance ― 2 m[iles] from camp 285º striking Lake Hope thence 2¼ m[ile]s NNW to the junction of lake feeder with lake; and thence on a varying course of about 7º for 10 miles till at 4.10 p.m. we reached Appodir, or Lake Camel ― a sheet of shallow water 1 mile by ½ a mile. The water slate-colored and covering a bottom of soft adhesive clay. Lake Camel is connected with Lake Hope by a creek varying from 6 or 7 yds in width at its departure from Lake Camel to 170 or 300 at its junction with Lake Hope. Timber, stunted box and acacia, sandhills all round lake. No natives. Sambo and Peter bolted this day, the latter taking with him a canteen. The sheep during the night were very restless and the party were divided into 2 watches, one under charge of Mr. Middleton the other under myself. By this system each watch had alternately a night's rest and a night's watching.

Wednesday, 9 October 1861 - Pando Creek
At 3 a.m. roused out all hands and at 8 the dray started; the track leading along the Western margin of Lake Camel and the feeder thereof. The horses and camels crossed the outlet and proceeded round the southern and eastern side, thence striking N until they struck Mr. McKinlay's dray track which, for 1¼ [miles] skirted lakes; thence on 20º for a similar distance; camp bearing from head of lake 171º. At 3 miles struck the creek feeding Lake Camel, ½ a mile to last passing an island formed by an ana-branch leaving an [sic] re-entering Creek at this point. Thence for 3½ m[iles] on 339º, but, finding that an apparent lake mark was erroneous, retraced steps for 3 m[iles] on 145º, passing through the bed of a dry lake termed Malleeowdenah and covered with most luxuriant feed with a fringe of box and full foliaged bushes. Thence on a bearing of 20º; two miles to camp on W bank of ck; dry in many parts but opposite camp 6 ft deep. The natives reported a large lake bearing 19º from here. While the horses were skirting Lake Camel in the morning a native who had been asked to accompany us at Lake Hope suddenly appeared and shewed us where to cross the creek. He however declined accompanying us but said he would join us at a lake farther north.

Thursday, 10 October 1861
At 7.30 a.m. the cart left camp with Mr. McKinlay, Palmer and the two natives, Jack & Frank, with the sheep travelling 3 m[iles] on 10º, crossing at 9.30, Pando Creek; forming at the crossing place a wide, dry, grassy flat. Continued same course 1¾ miles more, then changed to 40º for 3 miles, thence half a mile north[erly], reaching a small waterhole called Coobakalumhowena. Here we camped after Mr. McKinlay and myself had scouted in every direction in search of water, and, upon the faith of the native statements, made a considerable detour over the heavy sandhills covering the whole country round us.

Friday, 11 October 1861
Mr. McKinlay, Mr. Middleton and Bulingani, a Lake Hope native, started in search of a lake reported north. I rode down the creek to seek a more convenient camping place, and at a distance of ½ mile found a large waterhole with abundance of grassy feed in bed of lake, to which I resolved to move the camp. A few natives were there when Mr. Poole, who accompanied me, and myself arrived and, taking up their spears, peremptorily ordered us off; though after a little gesticulation we succeeded in establishing amicable relations and I invited their principal men to the camp. At sunset Frank, who had been absent all day in search of two of our bullocks, returned without them; having, I suspect, been skulking with some blacks instead of following their tracks.

Saturday, 12 October 1861 - Poole's Pond
At 8.30 removed camp to Poole's Pond, or Walkatunne, the waterhole discovered the day previous, and having, by 1 p.m., got the camp pitched and sheep yard erected, at 2 were rejoined by Mr. McKinlay, Middleton and Bulingani who had visited the reported lake (Perigundi), finding it some 25 miles distant on a course of 18º. Frank, sent in search of the missing bullocks, did not return during the night.

Sunday, 13 October 1861 - Poole's Pond
At 5.30 Palmer and Jack started in search of the bullocks and Frank, returning with both during the afternoon. Walkatunne is a fine waterhole ½ a mile long with a depth of 8 or 10 feet and scrubby banks of polygonum, acacia and box bordered by the inevitable sandhills.

Monday, 14 October 1861 - Perigundi
At 11 the last of our party left camp, the dray & sheep always being allowed 2 or 3 hours start to allow camp being reached as nearly as possible at the same time. Took a course of 18º for 16½ miles over sandhills, flooded flats and the scrubby course of a dry creek, occasionally expanding into well grassed flats; then on a bearing of 337º for nine miles to camp on the west side of Lake Perigundi or Siva. At 24½ the sandhills immediately bordering Lake Perigundi were topped, and several natives came running towards us bearing presents of paroo, or fish. Three natives accompanied us this far from Poole's Pond, but now left, and after making violent contortions with their arms from the top of sandhill to announce their arrival, joined the sable cloud thronging from all quarters to greet us. I noticed a small marsupial captured during the route ― of a light grey color with large rounded ears nearly destitute of hair; head like a bandicoot; very slender limbs and unusually long forelegs; about 14 inches in length of which the tail was 4 and 3 in height.

On testing the water of Perigundi I found it to average 2 to 3 feet and to be excessively brackish; the natives sinking holes all round to procure better drinking water. The lake abounds with fish but the shores are so boggy that it is difficult to find a spot for watering horses. Little feed exists but plenty of samphire lends a deceptive appearance to the margin. The timber, dead or dying bastard-box, is wretched in the extreme, lending an air of desolation to the spot; nevertheless upwards of 200 natives were leading an apparently well-pleased existence by aid of its fish and countless fowl. Their whirles [sic], formed by arched sticks coated with clay, met the gaze in all directions; and the number of ebony infants sporting about proved the Malthusian philosophy was set at nought.

Tuesday, 15 October 1861
At 6.20 Mr McKinlay, Bulingani and myself started scouting in search of a practicable route and proceeding round NE flank of Lake to the summit of a sandhill took the following bearings:

Sandhill - 2 miles from camp.
Camp - 264°
Entrance to Lake - 175° 30'
Out from Lake - 222° 30'
S edge - 285°
N W sweep - 306° 30'
E point - 224°
Greatest breadth - 251°

At 12.10 having travelled from 8 to 11 miles on 223° reached the summit of a ridge overlooking a lake called Pulpanee or Chrishna 2 miles in length and at this Southern extremity a sheet of glistening mud. Its breadth was from ¾ to a mile, and upon approaching it, it was apparent from the divers and waders which could be seen through the glass seeking food in its very centre that the water had nearly evaporated. Indeed on testing it, it was found to be most nauseous in taste and nowhere more than 2 or 3 inches deep. A rich belt of clover encircling the Lake made us lament the badness of the water.

Bastard Box abounded.

Upon our return on a slightly varying course we crossed at 2 miles SSW Kiradinte a fine Creek with good feed and abundance of fine water, ¾ of a mile from thence another Creek or branch with open well graased flats and thick clumps of poligonum. At 5.20 reached Perigundi Camp.

Wednesday, 16 October 1861 - Perigundi
During Mr Middleton's the first watch last evening an elderly native came up to the camp and on being questioned as to his intent produced our only axe which one of the tribe had contrived to secrete and carry off. Being told he should be rewarded if he would come to the camp in the morning he quietly took his departure. For some time however the natives held aloof being uncertain how they would be received but seeing no signs of a retribution being exacted, shortly after breakfast they came thronging round until 81 were noisily seated around us. The old men got a full string of beads each and all men women and children obtained a single string, a piece of tobacco or a fish hook not seeming greatly to appreciate their decorations though Mr McKinlay and I for two hours were employed as valets de chambre.

Motoleini who had doubtless acted with such honesty from gratitude for a gift made to his invalid child the day previous was regarded with a tomahawk in addition to his beads, care being taken to let him know why he was thus distinguished.

At 10.20 broke camp and moved to the Careri Creek.

Several of our Perigundi friends accompanied us amongst them Kientala and Margara two lubras portrayed in the sketches sent herewith.

On our arrival at Careri we had quite an exhibition for the amusement of the blacks, with some grotesque figures brought from Adelaide by Mr McKinlay.

A mouse however reserved as the grand coup utterly disappointed expectation refusing when wound up to exhibit any signs of vitality.

The Careri camp of which I send a sketch was pitched in a most picturesque spot, to the left bounded by a creek fringed with box and poligonum scrub, to the right by sandhills fringed at their base by box saplings and a graceful shrub termed Willauru. In part an open plain bounded by poligonum afforded first rate feed for the horses, bullocks and sheep.

Here for the first time we opened our preserved sausages only to find them emit a most disgusting odour, a bladder of lard packed in each tin having considerably contributed to create the putrefaction. This event caused us to congratulate the precaution which had induced Mr McKinlay to bring our sheep, which gave little trouble and furnished an acceptable repast of fresh meat.

Thursday, 17 October 1861 - Careri
Intensely hot, employed throughout day in clearing the scrub round the camp, sinking a hole to retain the water as long as possible and making preparations for the advance of a light party with which Mr McKinlay resolved to push on to Kadhi Bieri.

Friday, 18 October 1861 - Gunane
Having packed up 150 of flour, 32 of sugar, 4 of Tea, 11 of Bacon, a hind quarter of mutton and a few articles of nutrition likely to be useful to men suffering from insufficient diet, at 8 am. Mr McKinlay, Mr Middleton, Bulingani, myself with 4 camels and three horses started for Kadhi Bieri the spot where the white men were reported by the natives to exist. Leaving camp at 8 am. we travelled on a bearing of 39°30' 1¾ miles orossing Kiradinte there flowing from W of North to E of S with scrubby banks of poligonum, Willaru and box unusually large and full of foliage. This Creek was also Caieri and I now found for certain that Careri was a creek and "Pando" a Lake, At 9.30 or 5 miles from camp passed N.W. boundary of Lake Pulpanee and in 3 miles further reached another beautiful sheet of water termed Cudgee Cudyeana. A small mound near the S termination of the Lake was christened Anlaby Hill and the Lake itself Lake Buchanan after Mr Buchanan of Anlaby a gentleman who shewed the greatest kindness to the party on its road up.

Lake Buchanan besides being a handsome sheet of water had sufficient feed and open ground to render it a far more desirable camping place than Careri and Mr McKinlay being anxious to remove the party thither sent Bulingani and myself in search of some blacks who had followed us a part of the road but suddenly disappeared.

Unable to find them I returned to the Lake only to see three of them seated near our small party who had turned out the beasts to spell and were discussing luncheon some ¾ of a mile from Anlaby Hill on the E border of the Lake. Having written a note to Mr Bell in charge of the main camp, Mr McKinlay entrusted it to one of the natives explaining that he wished it to be conveyed to the "wheelbarrow." This commission was duly executed on the following day and in pursuance of the instructions contained in the note the Main Camp shifted to Lake Buchanan on the 20th.

At 1.25 restarted skirting the N E shore of the Lake on 345° for 5½ miles at 15m to 3 reached the sandhills bordering Lake thence on 32° at 4.20 or 6 miles reaching Gunane a fine deep creek running from W of N to E of S. The country passed over was sandhills and flats of saltbush. Immediately we touched the Creek several natives surprised at their occupation of fishing ran up w th strings of fish in their hands. Three sorts could be seen, a species of bream, the golden perch and the Murray cat fish. The natives offered us some fish but though seemingly so friendly they nearly contrived to secrete a tomahawk with their feet while unsuspiciously attracting your gaze to their face. As soon as the saddles were removed we commenced clearing the scrub round our camping plaoe and in order to give the natives a due respect fired a blue light. Two of the horses were tethered the third quietly fed near them, the camels however were inclined to wander and had to be vigilantly watched and ultimately tied up at the four corners of the camp.

The night was of course duly divided into three watches.

Saturday, 20 October 1861 - Mulindhuroona
Being anxious to test the depth of the creek at 4 am. I had a bathe and found the hole to be very deep.

Soon after sunrise a train of natives came pouring into camp, 76 men, women and children being counted. They were on the march or pretended to be bearing seed and water vessels, spears, boomerangs, waddies & an ugly looking weapon some 8 feet in length crescent shaped and apparently employed as a two handed sword.

They were very anxious to get us to the S and SSW promising abundance of (paroo) fish and seeking to entice us with some fearful looking hags to whom St Benedict had remorselessly consigned them. Emboldened by our small number - they at length became impudent one under pretence of a salutation roughly pulling Mr McKinlay's beard another trying to take my veil before my face. During this it was amusing though tinged with anxiety to notice their irresolution. At one moment after a loud angry consultation they would order their women away, in the next noticing our readiness to meet any hostility they would laugh and joke with simulated frankness.

During this little scene Mr McKinlay whose "personnel" seemed greatly to restrain them kept them at a proper distance, Mr Middleton packed the camels and I prepared a rough chart of the previous day. At 20m to 9 we left keeping a careful look out while crossing the scrubby creek and travelling on a course of 34° for 4½ miles at 10m to 10 crossed a large flat covered with grass and subject to inundation. At 6 miles struck Toorabinganee a fine large Creek well timbered with box acacia &c. and running from W of N to E of S. The country intervening between Lake Buchanan flats covered with salsolaceous vegetation and sandhills hard, bare and sloping in the SE but on the NW loose and precipitous in descent. Gunane bearing 214°.

On nearing Toorabinganee a signal fire was seen but no natives. At 15m to 11 left Toorabinganee on same course at 3¾ miles reaching the S arm of a large Lake. At another mile topped a sandhill forming portion of a projection into Lake Canna Cantagandide and from thence took following bearings:

Gut filling Lake - 315°
S arm - 202°
E arm - 145°
Centre of bight - 65°
Projeoting range - 26°
Knobby point - 255° 30'
Greatest breadth - 3 miles, length 8.
Apparent course of Creek for 5 miles - 325°
Peninsula from Whence bearings were taken ¼ of a mile by 300 yds, forming when Lake is full an Island.

At 20m to 4 left Lake McKinlay as I had by Mr McKinlay's permission named it reaching the S.E. arm at 17m past four or 2¼ miles.

At 3 miles passed a dry salt Lake named Warninyangulle a little E of track. At four miles took bearing, of course which from this point became a perfect maze, Bulingani being very unwilling to go further. When asked for water he would wring his hands and cry "panee" dry but if well frightened by a stern look from our Leader would quickly point out Pando's and Careri's in all directions. Changed to 27° entering at 1¼ miles a large dry Salt Lake running S and W.

Thence crossing a large tract of samphire and claypan country in which we disturbed thousands of roosting pigeons at 5m to 7 or 7 miles struck another Lake called Mulin-dhu-roona and camped there with excellent feed. We were however unable to boil our tea water without great difficulty the only available fuel being the roots of samphire plants. During the night the blacks were in a great inquietude respecting our arrival making and extinguishing signal fires.

Sunday, 20 October 1861 - Kadhi Bieri
Lake Mulindhuroona or Samphire as it was christened bears thus from the point we struck it:

E.end ½ a mile - 87°
W - 303°
N side 1½ mile - 15°

During this trip our allowance of sleep was rather limited each having 19 hours duty out of the 24. At one or two spots perhaps watching might without any bad result have been dispensed with but the undecided behaviour of the natives showed that fear alone prevented their attacking us.

Shortly after daylight the shores of Mulindhuroona were alive with dusky forms thronging to our camp and at length more than a hundred were eying the process of packing. They did not bring any weapons with them and behaved remarkably well. Bulingani (a Lake Hope native who had been induced to join us) contrary to custom did not show any great delight in meeting them, and sedulously remained close to the packs. Previous to starting Bulingani stated that the whites had removed to Undra but the truth is he is exceedingly unwilling to go an, further.

At 7.17 left on a course of 100° passing over barren steep sandhills upon which for the first time was noticed the bean tree and another with which I am unacquainted from 18 to 30ft high with long narrow dark glistening leaves and a black rough bark. At 5 miles reached a large Creek running for 7 or 8 miles from 360° to 140°. Called it Middleton Creek. At 140° a dense mass of timber from which smoke ascended marked either a Lake or Creek. No water in the creek we crossed.

Course from 7.17 to 22m to 10 or 9 miles 100°

At the latter hour observed at ¼ of a mile E a large dry Salt Lake bearing 341°, NW arm 330°, N arm 355°, distance to limit of N bank 9 miles.

Bulingani informed us that a large lake Murri-murriando lay at 110°

At 15m to 10 altered course to 64° crossing at 11.15 or 2 miles a small lake rapidly drying up and very boggy in its bed.

In another mile at 11.30 altered course to 100°.

From 25m to 12 till 10m to 1 spelled on a sandhill, the camels being fatigued by the steep ascents, descents and loose sand.

At 1.9 or 1 mile altered course to 116° but finding the country to become still more dreary and arid in appearance at 1.15 took a bearing of 161° which led us to a range of sand-hills overlooking an extensive dry Lake bed to the S.

This Bulingani at once recognised and at 7m to 2 having travelled 2m on 161° altered to 47° reaching at 2.20 or 1½ miles Kadhi Bieri a small lake shallow but with good water encircled by a ring of thick box and poligonum scrub and open at its N.W. end whence its feeder coursed through a thickly grassed and wide flat.

Mr Middleton being some distance in the rear with the camels and no natives being visible though still-burning trees marked their recent presence Mr McKinlay, Bulingani [an Aboriginal guide from Lake Hope] and myself at once rode to the spot where we hoped to rescue our unfortunate creatures. I have however forgotten that during the day Bulingani had taken an opportunity when we were riding apart to tell both McKinlay and myself that there was but one white fellow and one horse, that the latter had been killed by the former for food and that lastly the white man had been slain by the natives with one of the wooden swords I have described. This tale was repeated with an appearance of profound grief ending with a request that we would go back to Mulindhuroona and shoot the perpetrators of the massacre.

So many and so varied however were the reports we had heard that nothing could be depended upon and travelling up the flat I have stated as running from the NW end of the Lake in 1½ mile we reached a spot where Bulingani pointed out a grave and a heap of ashes as the scene of the white man's death and burial. This grave was far more rudely constructed than those used for the interment of the natives a few boughs being thrown over it as protection from the wild dogs. It was situated on the W side of the flat, close to a box sapling, 30 yards from the camping fire and 300 from some occupied native wurlies. A quantity of fish bones were strewn in the vicinity of the fire place but no marks could be seen upon the ground or trees about.

The afternoon being far advanced and Mr McKinlay being anxious to ascertain if Middleton had arrived further search was deferred and we returned to the Lake. Finding the camels had not come I took a walk towards some wurlies on the Lake and entering them discovered a bent pannikin without a handle, no mark was on it by which it could be identified. At 5 p.m. the camels arrived and we camped beneath a tree on the margin of the Lake maintaining a strict watch all night. Once or twice a fire sprang up at the southern end of the Lake.

Monday, 21 October 1861 - Kadhi Bieri
At 7.28 a.m. Mr McKinlay and I started to examine the Lake, discover the origin of the fire seen the previous night and ascertain if any blacks were about for our party being so small it was impossible to divide it and therefore necessary to leave the saddles &c., unprotected while investigating the flat to the North. At the Eastern end of the Lake were several whirlies which we examined without finding anything and a large grave evidently recent to the one up the flat. In the whirlies where I found the pannikin I now found a square canteen one of a kind not usually supplied and similar to those supplied to the Burke Expedition. No marks upon it. During our ride no natives were seen nor could we discover the locality of the fire seen the previous night. On returning to camp, all four started for the flat and upon our arrival commenced the disinterment of the body with a native sword the only instrument at hand. This operation being performed with the utmost care so as not to preclude the possibility of identification. We found a European corpse buried about 6 in. beneath the surface a mound of sand some 2 ft. in height being above.

The face lay downward, the body on its back, the head being dislocated. A flannel undershirt with short sleeves was on the body. The skull still retained a tuft of straight dark hair much decomposed and short. The scull [sic] was also marked with apparent sabre cuts two in number, one over the left eyebrow, another on the right temple inclining towards the ear. Decayed teeth existed in both sides of the lower and right upper jaw. The other teeth were entire and sound. In the lower jaw (one on each side of the four front ones) were two teeth similar to those vulgarly termed buck teeth. Dimensions having been taken of several bones and a piece of the flannel shirt secured, the remains were carefully reinterred and the sapling near marked MK. Oct 21.61. No traces of note book or anything by which the body could be identified were found. The corpse was in a most decomposed state the whole of the flesh being consumed. A soft substance in the socket of the eyes and the cavity of the chest was all that remained save the skeleton.

Who was this? That he was a European is beyond doubt from the conformation of the head, the presence of the two front teeth in the upper jaw, the shirt and the little pains displayed in his interment.

There were four members in the ill-fated party led by Burke from Cooper's Creek. Mr Burke, Mr Wills, King and Gray. I know the body was not that of either Wills or Gray from the texture and color of the tuft of hair which will with other relics be forwarded to Town.

There remains Mr Burke and King. Both (the latter I know) had seen military service; both had black hair; the former a dark strong beard. No traces of a beard were found in the grave and unless someone can identify the teeth I am of the opinion from the facial angle of the scull and the absence of hair from a beard that the remains are those of King formerly a soldier in the E.I.Co's service and one of the party brought over by Landells with the camels.

Bulingani during all these proceedings had assisted with great reluctance but at their completion he revealed a still further extension to the affair.

Leading us to the bank of the Creek some 200 yds. to the E the traces of a European encampment occupied for some time became visible. Close to an overhanging box tree with broken boughs a quantity of horse dung lay and at the foot of other trees the dung of camels marked where those animals had been tied up and indisputably identified the party as Burke's.

The two large fire places deep in ashes with many fish bones scattered about proved that the camp had been occupied for some time. A piece of a cabbage tree hat, a fragment of a light blue shirt of fine wool, the remains of an Ely cartridge; and a portion of a Nautical Almanac with the date 1858 and seemingly used for wadding led to the most dismal conjectures rapidly hastening to horrid certainties when upon Bulingani informing us the natives had eaten their victims we proceeded to examine the ashes I have spoken of.

Those ashes were partly composed of calcined bone a small portion of which Mr McKinlay picked up and retained.

On further examination our attention was directed to two holes dug with a spade and from their shape intended for graves. On the surface of one of these, locks of hair were strewn about and carefully collected by us. The hair thus obtained was of three descriptions, one, light sandy inclining to be golden, the other, dark curly brown, the third, black and straight. The holes were dug up but no remains found except one small foot bone. Bulingani stated the natives had dug up and eaten the bodies. Not a scrap of iron work, note books or anything else was discovered and leaving the spot we returned to our camp at Kadhi Bieri. Mr Wills' [sic] had light sandy hair inclining to golden, Gray had curling brown hair, the third dark hair must have belonged to King or Burke. At any rate four individuals were accounted for, four was the number of Burke's exploring party at the date of the death of those bodies with camels and one horse On our return to Kadhi Bieri every article we had found was carefully packed up. To Account for the singular fact of so few articles being discovered Bulingani stated that the natives had burnt everything that would burn and carried off the remainder.

Nothing occurred during the night a strict watch being kept on Bulingani who however showed no desire to bolt.

Tuesday, 22 October 1861 - Kadhi Bieri.
We had just saddled the horses this morning, purposing to ride some few miles beyond Burke Swamp, when our attention was attracted by some natives walking from the north towards the wurlies where I had found the pannican and canteen. They were five in number, a man and four lubras, and did not at first perceive our presence on the lake. The flutter of our blankets, which were hanging on the branch of a tree, at length attracted their pursuit, and away they posted in the direction from which they had come. Mr McKinlay, Bulingani, and I, were after them at full gallop in an instant, but Bulingani unaccustomed to such rapid motion, parted with his horse which still continued the pursuit. In about a mile we two riders with our three horses pulled the dark individual, and certainly a more expressive subject of mingled fear and rage could not be found. With hanging jaw to show his fear, distended nostril his surprise, and glaring eye his hate, there he stood covered by my gun, convulsively twitching his waddy as if meditating to hurl it at one or other. Bulingani coming up, however, somewhat assuaged his fears, and ultimatily forced a maniacal laugh from him. With a few shrill cries he let his lubras know no immediate harm was intended, and forth from their place of concealment came these hideous objects of his solicitude. On being questioned as to the whitefellows, he led us to an adjacent sandhill, and without hesitation commenced scratching on a spot from which he brought to view a quantity of burnt horsehair, used for the stuffing of saddles. He was then taken to our camp, fed, and more closely examined. A wound on his knee attracting our attention, he showed how he had been shot, by pointing to my gun, and carried from the spot on another native's back. Besides the wound on his knee, there was another bullet-mark on his chest, re-issuing between the shoulders, and four buckshot still protruding from the centre of his back. He corroborated all Bulingani had said relative to the massacre and its cannibalistic denouement, distinctly stated that four whites were killed, and ultimately departed, leaving his lubras as a hostage, for the purpose of fetching a pistol in the possession of his tribe. This was at 4 p.m. At nightfall he had not returned, the lubras being camped about 60 yardä from us, between the lake and our camp. I forgot to mention that he represented the camels as having gone south, and that his name was Keri Keri. A sketch of him accompanies this diary.

Wednesday, 23 October 1861 - Durane.
About 11 pm. last night a good deal of whispering took place between Bulingani and the lubras, the latter being very anxious to light a fire, but not being allowed to do so. Very shortly afterwards a fire was seen on the summit of a sandhill, some five miles off, and at 3.30 torches could be seen moving between the site of the fire towards the lake.

At 4, or a little after, a dark mass, feebly shown by fire-sticks, was within half a mile of the camp, and quickly a large group of blacks, led by Keri Keri, advanced towards us. When Bulingani, speaking to them, told them to keep back or they would be killed, they burst into frightful yells of 'whitetellow, whitefellow,' and boldly ran at us; at the same moment the lubras sprung up and hastened towards them, and in a brief interval we should have been surrounded had not Mr McKinlay given orders to fire, upon which our two rifles and double-barrelled gun came into play. They stood fire with unexampled bold ness. Keri Keri standing his ground and encouraging them on. At length they turned and sought the refuge of the water: and having breakfasted und packed up, at 10.30 we left Kadhi Bieri on a course of 197°; at 11.15, or two miles, reaching a flooded flat, dry and covered with luxuriant clover. Thence on 202° for five miles,stopping twenty minutes in consequence of Crishna objecting to surmount the heavy sandhills crossed. At 12-30 crossed NW end of another dry grassy lake, and at 1.20 made a large creek, with the first gums on it that we had seen for a long time. Following its bed to N. and W. at two miles we reached a waterhole termed Weride marara.

At 2.15 left, and at 12 miles, or 6 pm, on a course of 215° 30' over a flat bordering the creek, reached a chain of waterholes, containing abundance of shallow and not very good water. The creek here was 50 or 60 yards broad, with steep banks excessively scrubby. Durane is the native name, and Day's Creek its European appellation.

Thursday, 24 October 1861 - Cudgeecudgena.
At 7.15 left Duraue, or Day's Creek, travelling on 235° or thereabouts, over splendid dry lakes, covered with grass, and divided by sand ridges of insignificant elevation.

At 10 am. to 11, or 14 miles, reached Antiwarcoroo, flowing from 320°, and forming a chain of shallow holes.

At 1 p.m. left Antiwarcoroo on same course, crossing at 2 a large dry lake, abounding in clover and grass, and surrounded by a box forest, beneath which thousands of pigeons sought food and shelter.

At 2.15 topped the sandhills encircling Lake, Buchanan.

At 3, or nine miles, reached the lake, and shortly afterwards camped, finding the party perfectly safe. The camels were some little later in their arrival, as they could not keep pace with the horses. The country over which our return journey was made, was as different as possible from that by which we went to Kadhi Bieri. In truth, Bulingani sought to dissuade us from going, by the dreary nature of the ground to be traversed, and in coming back chose the quickest and easiest route.


Blue Background

Letter from John McKinlay to the Commissioner of Crown Lands (South Australia).

28th October 1861

Coodie-go-dynnie or Lake Buchannan
28th Octr. 1861
The Honble. Commr. Of Crown Lands

Seeing that the first part of the duty entrusted to my charge has so far been accomplished & that no doubt you desire a speedy outline of circumstances and events that have occurred up to this date.

I forward for your perusal my journal up to this time which, without further entering into the subject here, will explain every thing that has occurred worth mentioning. Mr. Hodgkinson will forward you from Blanche Water a copy of a sketch of our route that he has laid down here and which I think is pretty nearly correct, it is much to be regretted that he is unable to fix the Latitude of the different prominent features of the country we pass over, as at some no very distant period, the bulk of this part of the country will be taken up by squatters. There is abundance and variety of fish in all the waters we meet. I have had to incur more expense than I could have wished ― but I considered it was absolutely necessary for the health & safety of the party under my charge. A copy of my expenditure I herewith enclose. The leather packet enclosed contains what I have found in connection with the unfortunate Burke party up to this date. And I will not leave a stone unturned in further search of remnants of the V.E. Expedition. It is to be regretted that hostilities were unavoidable with the natives, but I trust that they now see their error and be friendly disposed, they are very numerous which speaks well for the country. Whilst my party is away, I will move about in all directions gaining information of the surrounding country. I send by Mr. Hodgkinson for a further supply of rations, as it is just possible I may be shut up from pushing forward as I would like, for some little time till rain falls and not arrive at Finnis Springs for some time after the supply will have arrived there. In consequence of sending Mr. Hodgkinson I have commissioned him to purchase several little things we are, or will be, short of; and have given him blank orders with my signature to fill up to pay for same.

In sending supplies to the Finnis Springs I trust it will be seen-to that every thing is of the best description, as part of our flour is even now almost unfit for use, & if it was to continue would no doubt produce disease which would be much to be deplored. We are at present all in the best of health & spirits. I am sorry to be obliged to complain of the rubbishy double arms supplied to this expedition and trust that at the Finnis Springs they may be replaced with a better article & something that a person can trust his life to. We will there require a fresh supply of ammunition, Terrys, Colts, & double gun cartridges of 14 gauge, with a good supply of powder & shot Nos. BB. 1, 3, 4, & 7, for useful purposes & No.14 wads. A large supply of citric acid, (double the qty. before sent). Another prismatic compass & case of instruments, & fresh supply of metallic memo books & good supply of pencils with a supply of stationary including another sketch book and BB & HB pencils. I will forward you further particulars of our journey when opportunity offers.

I have the honor to be
Your Most Obt. Servt.
John McKinlay
Leader of the
S.A.B.R. Expedition



Blue Background

A fresh supply of Indian-rubber air pillows necessary, as they are the only things except the canteens that we have to rely on for water carrying, but the taps at present in them requiring to be removed and their places substituted with larger ones treble the size. We will also require a doz. of extra strong bush qts. & pts.
John McKinlay



Friday, 25 October - Saturday, 30 November 1861.
The period embraced between the dates above given was employed in spelling at Cudyee Cudyena, and in proceeding from that lake to Mr Jacob's station of Petemaia for a fresh supply of rations. The particulars of this duty were embodied in the despatch which I had the honor to address to the Commissioner of Crown Lands from Blanchewater.

Nothing of the slightest importance occurred during the journey to the settled districts or the return therefrom to the main camp at Cudyee Cudyeena. By Mr McKinlay's directions I engaged a man named William Maitland to perform the duties of cook; and also two natives - both of whom, however, deserted upon our arrival on the return at Mannwulkaninni, the station of Mr Stuckey, and lying upon the southern margin of Lake Torrens.

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