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

July 1862

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2085/6a, Item 4.
A W Howitt’s diary [of Victorian Exploring Party], from 3 July 1862 to 21 August 1862.

20 September 1862, pages 5-6.

Mr Howitt's Diary.

The following despatches and diary from Mr Howitt were laid bfore a special meeting of the Exploration Committee held yesterday afternoon.


Thursday, 3 July 1862.
Left the depot to-day, with Dr Murray and Messrs W Phillips, W Williams, McWilliams and Black Charley, with thirteen horses and a month's rations. We have been detained since Tuesday, partly on account of the black boy being ill, partly from the horses being astray. One of the camels is also missing; he walked away from his mates after being brought up to the camp in the afternoon. He is nowhere in the immediate neighbourhood, and up to this time he has never been more than a couple of miles from the depot. The camels just now are very troublesome. Three of the males do all they can to get as far as possible from the fourth (who is master), and from each other. Camped at the ‘Camel Waterhole’ (where Burke's camel was bogged).

Friday, 4 July 1862.
Got down to our old camp (49), at Wallconney, by 11.30 am. Day fine and clear, but no signs of rain having fallen. Picked up a blackfellow at the native camp, at Marponey. On the road down I hear that heavy rains have fallen to the north; so much the better.

Saturday, 5 July 1862 – Wirranie, Camp 63.
27° 27’, 140° 32’
Last night the black from Marponey bolted, and gave me three hours' work this morning, to find him and bring him back. I picked up his track on a sandhill, about half a mile up the creek, and ran it to the next bend ; from here he seemed to have followed the creek-bed, and out across from bend to bend, visiting the several waterholes, until I found the native camp, some three or four miles from where it was yesterday. After a great deal of yabbering and shouting, three or four natives went and brought the absconder from the bushes, where he was hidden. Ha said he had got frightened, I was not at all sorry to get him on his horse, and get away, as some twenty niggers were now shouting and talking at the top of their voices. Two of King's old friends, the brothers ‘Tohukurow,’ were there, having just come down from the flood, the first of that mob I have seen this journey. Being thus delayed, it was noon before we left Wallconney, and, as usual when led by the natives, on a very roundabout course. At sundown, out my old track to Bocabourdunnay, and camped to the east of it, at a small pool of rain-water, at 7.30 pm. I had kept on by moonlight, hoping to reach the promised waterhole; but finding that it continued to be ‘only one more sandhill’ I halted, very thankful for the small supply of water we had happened to find.

Sunday, 6 July 1862 - William's Creek.
Started at 7.45 am, after a make-believe thunderstorm at sunrise. The country looking very well; abundance of dry grass and young feed spring in since the rain; water in many places. Reached Wirrania in less than two miles, a large channel draining a considerable extent of claypan country, and marked by stunted box-trees. When full, I think it would stand for six months. No blacks - most probably gone to Bateman's Creek, which I hear is again flooded, Billy (the new black) very glum at finding none of his friends camped at the water, and very anxious to go to Merrimoko. That being out of our way, I turned towards Williams' Creek, which we reached at 12.30. Plenty of water for some time, and abundance of feed. Another good thing - no natives to bother us.

Monday, 7 July 1862 - Kyojorou Creek.
Soon after leaving camp this morning, we came on a heavy rainfall. The flats and claypans were full of water, and the grass and spring herbage beginning to grow. Reached Kyejerou at two pm. The water fallen considerably; but even where the water tastes unpleasantly of soda, very good water can be got by digging a few inches in the sand. One of my old guides from Bateman's Creek came up to the camp, and volunteered to ‘walk with us across the stones.’ Day warm and close.

Tuesday, 8 July 1862 - Appanparrow.
I left the Marponey native at Kyejerou, to await our return, highly delighted with a pair of trousers and a red shirt. Found the heavy rain had extended to this place, the water here falling, and rather strong of soda. Only a small camp of natives here just now.

Wednesday, 9 July 1862 - South side of Sturt's Desert, Camp 64.
20° 44’ 43”, 130° 50’ 30”
This morning, on leaving camp, we travelled for three miles across sand-hills, in a NW course, to one of the chain of shallow lakes through which the flood waters from Cooper’s Creek, to Kyejerou and Appanparrow, find their way into Lake Lipson. These I believe to be the Hope Plains of Sturt. Their banks are grassy, and the appearance of the country round them is very similar to the neighbourhood of Lake Hope. This lake, I believe, contained water when McKinlay passed it, judging from the tracks on its banks. The rain-water ceased here; and for about ten miles we travelled across high ridges of loose sand, with an occasional large flat of sandstone gravel, everything perished with drought, and desolate in the extreme. The landscape could have been represented in Indian ink and sepia. At noon, came to a small salt lake, dry, but rather boggy in the centre, and with an outlet northward. At 2.30, after crossing red sand ridges covered with porcupine grass, and where every bush was dead, excepting a few acacias, we came to the edge of the desert, the sandhills running out and into it in various lengths. It is very much as I had expected to find it - namely, extensive stony plains. We crossed about five miles of stones, the travelling not bad, and camped on a sand ridge, the stony plains extending northward to the horizon. Scarcely any feed for our horses – only the remains of grass, which looked as if it owed its origin to the Deluge, and a few plants of portulac, which some light shower had freshened up. We seem to be getting into rain again. Several small puddles we passed were only just dry.

Thursday, 10 July 1862 - North edge of Sturt's Desert, Camp 65.
26° 31’  20”, 139° 39’ 30”
Started early, having watched the horses all night. In less than three miles on a NW course came across numerous pools of rain water, among the stones - quite a godsend for our horses. The plains covered with stones - in places densely packed together, like a pavement; in other, larger in size, and loosely strewn on a spongy soil. Passed a small dry lake, about two miles across, the stones sloping on three sides to it; on the fourth, to the west, a sand ridge. About eleven o’clock, came in sight of a good deal of stunted timber, principally of kind of prickly acacia, and this our Kyejerou black, Tommy, pronounced to be the creek. On reaching it, however, it turned out to be an oasis in the stones - a tract of sandy country, well clothed with grass and bushes, and at present with plenty of water in numerous small channels. Tommy here changed his course more to the northward, and said tho creek was over the next rise - a proceeding which led me to fancy that he knew very little about its position. On the fresh course, we travelled over a large earthy plain, then a tract of stones, then a second patch of sandy ground with grass and saltbush, then stones; and finding that we might go on till night for all Tommy knew, I halted at some very good grass, with several large claypans of water close by. We have had sand ridges on each side of us all day, at from three to five miles from our track. Taking all in all, the travelling in by no means bad, and far better than our track across the Stokes Range, and thus far the celebrated desert is very little different from large tracts of country in what is known in South Australia as the Far North and the Nor'West, excepting that there is comparatively little salt-bush here. As soon as we camped, Tommy caught a dozen rats, which he roosted in the ashes. The tails were pulled off, and disposed of in a bunch the bodies wore eaten seriatim, very much like biting a sausage. After sundown, swans, native companions, and ducks, passed over us, backwards and forwards, from NE to SW.

Friday, 11 July 1862 - Short's Lake, Camp 66.
26° 18’ 45”, 139° 40’
Started at 8 15; west towards a high sand ridge, N70°W from the camp, at the foot of which we had seen some box timber, both for the purpose of ascertaining if there were any waterholes, and to see how the country looked before deciding on our future course. On rising one of the stony undulations, I found a wide extent of salt bush flat between us and the sand ridges. Its peculiar green appearance made me feel certain that there was water, but I certainly did not expect to find it as it proved to be. On reaching its edge we travelled a short distance through a thick bed of native clover, and all kinds of plants, a foot high, but were brought to a halt by the boggy state of the ground, and the numerous water channels which intersected it. We were evidently on the edge of the flood. Finding that we could not cross, I turned to the north, and after being a little bothered with the water-channels, reached the stones. The flood-mark was quite plain, the luxuriant vegetation ending in a sharp well defined line. We skirted these flats, with the stony plains on our right hand, all morning, keeping a general course a little to the E of N, sometimes travelling on the stony plains, sometimes through flats covered with as rich a vegetation as the most luxuriant clover field, and the effect was more heightened by the barren country and bare sand ridges on our right. We were bothered at times by the small channels and pools of water left by the flood in falling. The valley appears to be about five miles wide, the western side bounded by a continuation of sand ridges, the eastern by the stony plains, intersected by ridges of sand some four or five miles apart. Owing to the quantity of water out, it was not possible to ascertain whether there is any continuous creek through those flats, but I think not, although thick clumps of box trees could at intervals be seen under the sandhills. At two o'clock came to a sand ridge running to a point in the water which is here about three miles across from sandhill to sandhill. Finding a little timber, I camped, as we had not passed anything larger than a bush all day. Numbers of emues were feeding on the flats, apparently more curious to know what we were than alarmed. Native companions and wild fowl numerous. In the after-noon, I walked on to the sandhill near our camp, and from it had a view of a lake of about six miles in diameter. It is on unbroken sheet of water, and seems to be surrounded by sandhills, I have named it after Mr W II Short, who was foreman of the prospecting party I had the honour to command in Gipps Lind, and I have great pleasure in being able to pay this slight tribute to the zeal and energy he displayed on that expedition. The wind brings a delightful smell of new hay across the clover flats. Tommy is in a great fright at my taking my own course, and at being out of his own country. Decidedly he is an impostor, and knows nothing on this side of Appanparroo.

Saturday, 12 July 1862 – Camp 67.
26° 3’, 139° 41’
This morning, on leaving camp, we skirted round the lake, half expecting to find the creek by which the flood waters had come at its northern side. On the eastern edge of the lake is a very high ridge of loose sand, and the water is now up to its foot. Old marks show that there has been a flood some three feet higher than this one. From this ridge I could see over a large tract of country. No outlet to the lake anywhere but by the way we had come, so that in all probability some creek comes in through the western sandhills. To the east and north-east were large stony plains, with low, stony table lands beyond; to the east of north an extensive dry lake; and to the north, high, broken sandhills. The whole of Lake Short could be well seen from this ridge, but, from the flats being also under water, it is impossible to say what its depth may be. At present, it looks very much the size of Lake Hope. On leaving the lake, I struck a course north for some high sand hills, having taken the precaution to fill the canteens, as the showers that have fallen are very partial. Crossing some bare, loose ridges of sand, we came to a change of country of a peculiar character. Instead of the stony plains, intersected by parallel ridges of sand, we had here what may be described as an undulating, stony country, overlaid by sandhills. Some of the ridges were stony, some of sand, and the flats were of the same mixed character. Plenty of grass, though rather dry, the rains having been light here, and this young grass consequently scanty. At 2.30, Phillips and Williams, who were out looking for water, came across a small supply in some stony pans. We camped here with plenty of feed for the horses. Day cool and pleasant; flying showers in the morning.

Sunday, 13 July 1862 - Camp 68.
25° 48’, 30”, 139° 33’
On leaving camp travelled about four miles over similar country to that I mentioned before, only that the undulations were more marked and more stony. About two miles west could be seen part of a table land, and a similar ridge was visible at times some miles to the eastward. Coming to a small box creek, we followed it down, as it lay nearly in our coarse (N10°W), but finding that its bed was too loose to retain water, I left it, and at 10.50 am. came to the edge of the stony table land where the sand ridges sloped off in to it. Here the country I changed. To the north, and about three miles distant, was the first of three or four sandstone hills - a bold, square mass, with a bluff face. I have named this after Mr Hugh M'Williams, of this party. To the west of north tho country fell in long, stony slopes, the valleys marked by lines of small timber, and all trending north-west towards a bluff table land, and just beyond which a heavy line of limber could be seen through the mirage. Changing the course more to the west-ward, to avoid the sandstone hills, we followed the course of the creeks over very fair travelling ground, often stony, occasionally sandy, and, wherever not actually covered with small stones, well grassed. About 1 pm., crossed the tracks of two horses going towards the hills, and shortly afterwards the same tracks returning - no doubt some of McKinlay's party: they look to be some three months old. Coming to a well-defined creek, full of high grass, and where there were numbers of speckled doves, finches, and crows. I halted the party, and went down with Weston Phillips to look for a waterhole, About two miles west, where two creeks join just under a low stony rise, and run in several deep channels through a dry flat, I found a small waterhole, with water that will probably last three weeks; all the other channels dry. A good many box and bean trees mark the place. Returning to the party, I found that Black Charley had gone out water-hunting on his own account, and could not be seen anywhere; after a time Williams found him some way off, walking in a wrong direction, and - to use his own expression – ‘By one cry, because lose 'em all about whitefellow,’ The two natives I have this trip are a regular nuisance. Tommy is frightened at being out of his beat, and Charley has not been of the slightest use since the Peradinna blacks tried to kill him for his clothes. He must certainly be a little cracked, for not long ago, one very cold night, he took off all his clothes, and sat by the fire having a talk to himself; after which he put a lot of [?] that were around the fire into his blanket, and lay down on the ground with a charred log to warm him. Williams found him that way, and had some trouble to get him put to rights. Abundance of grass in the flats, but rather dry. Summer rains appear to make things grow here.

Monday, 14 July 1862 - Wills's Creek, Camp 69.
25° 48’ 20”, 139° 3’
Left camp this morning at 7.30 am, making for the heavy line of timber visible about five miles off across a clay plain. Two long spurs of the tableland run down to the creek about six or seven miles apart. We travelled close to the western one. At 8 crossed the tracks of a number of horses and two or three camels, and going up the creek about NE. They had been skirting the flood waters. On reaching the creek timber, we found ourselves pulled up by a billibong. The main channel could be seen in a large bend at the point of the bluff ridge just below us. Not finding any more tracks, I turned up the creek, cutting across a large bend towards the point of a stony spur. The flat, or rather plain, was firm and hard, and covered with a rich vegetation. At 10.30 came to a native camp at the end of a billibong, and so hidden by marsh mallows and polygonum that we nearly passed it. One old man was at home, and he instantly disappeared into his wurley, and shut the door with, a bundle of grass. Tommy held a palaver with him, and persuaded him to come out, upon which we had a talk. He told us that M’Kinlay's party were camped ‘three sleeps’ lower down the creek, with camels, horses, and sheep, and counted the three stages on his fingers, naming the places. On this information we turned back, and recrossing the plain, followed down the general course of the creek. Camped at a small billibong, in a clay plain covered with herbage, marsh mallows, and native spinach. About two miles off is a remarkable sandstone hill, of which Dr Murray took a photograph. After dinner I walked across to the mount to try and pick up McKinlay's tracks, of which we have seen nothing since this morning, I found them just at the edge of the flood mark, where the ground had been soft, both going out and returning, but they were very faint, and were only plainly visible in one place. Must try and pick up the tracks in likely places, as it would be an endless job to follow them round where the flood has been besides, the party must now be camped on the main creek.

Tuesday, 15 July 1862 - Camp 70.
28° 57’ 30”, 139° 25’
This morning travelled over a large clay plain, cut up by channels, and at 9.15 came to a stony ridge. The creek could be seen from here spread over plains in various branches, every flat looking green with plants. To the south-east some square hills. Part of the creek here broke off to the south, but the main branch, which is still running, although fallen thirty feet, held to the westward, through thick box timber. Where the flood waters, in finding a passage over then extensive flats, are confined by the sand ridges, they form waterholes, marked by box-trees. Several we paused were of large size, and, of course, brim-full. At 1.15, coming to a fine waterhole, and finding that we were getting too far in among the flooded flats, and that the tracks must be to the eastward of us, I halted the party, and went on with Weston Phillips. After riding about three miles, we picked up the tracks, both out and in, in the sand ridges; but, after running them for about a mile and a half, not only lost them, but were quite unable to discover which way they had gone. The horses seemed to have been feeding about in a little flat, but there was no camp. The tracks were everywhere very blind, and were drifted out everywhere but in the small flats of firmer ground.

Wednesday, 16 July 1862 - Camp 71.
26° 12’ 30”, 139° 34’ 30”
Started at 7.5 am., on a course S65°E, hoping to cut the tracks, and at the same time keep out-side the flood waters, round which they seem to have been travelling; Phillips and Tommy some miles outside of us, looking for tracks. Travelled for rather more than three miles over fine flats and low well grassed sandhills. Three miles more over ridges of loose drifted sand brought us in sight of a large shallow lake, or lagoon. It was about a mile wide, and four miles long. I left the party here, and rode across the sandridges for three miles to the eastward, where I met Phillips and Tommy, but no signs of tracks. Returning to the party, we turned more to the south, skirting the lagoon towards a heavy body of timber at its lower end. Passed this at 2.30. Evidently a large feeder from the main creek. It has, no doubt, some fine waterholes. I saw one that looked well, but the flats were too boggy to get near. At 3 pm. crossed some high sand ridges, and at 3.30 came to flats connected with the creek just spoken of. Fine feed and numerous small waterholes. Camped at one of those. It is very strange that we cannot got any fresh tracks, and looking for camps without any clue is hopeless. I do not understand it.

Thursday, 17 July 1862 - Camp 71.
Returned to last night's camp, after a day spent to very little purpose. On leaving in the morning, I went south, proposing to strike the edge of the Lake Short waters, and run them into the main creek. I found, however, on crossing one sandhill beyond the flat on which we had camped, that we were brought to a stand-still. A sheet of water, about a mile wide, extended to the right and left, in a horse-shoe form, coming round the sandhills into the flat we had left, and at a point where I could see some heavy box timber. Going on to the highest point of the ridge, I could see Lake Short to the E, and it was quite evident that the line of box trees marked a creek where the waters found their way between the sand ridges. Our progress being thus effectually stopped, I turned towards the head of Lake Short, and sending the party back to camp, I went on with Weston Phillips as far as our up track, about eight miles, and ascertained that there were no tracks in that direction. Get back to camp a little before sundown. The country gone over to day, excepting where influenced by the flood, is as bare and miserable as any of the Darling sheep country after a long summer. The only course now is to make back on to the main creek. If the old native has not misled us, we ought to  be within a day's journey of the camp.

Friday, 18 July 1862 - Camp 72.
26° 1’. 139° 19’ 30”
This morning started across for Wills's Creek, on a course N70°W, the direction in which some fresh native tracks are seen going close to our camp. In about three miles and a half came on a small camp at a box swamp among the sandhills; the natives had, however, seen us first, and were posed on a sandhill a mile off. Leaving the party, I rode towards them with Charley, shouting to them to come up. After a great deal of manoeuvring, very much like playing a large fish with a weak line, I got within speaking distance of one old man, but nothing would persuade him to come nearer. My Cooper's Creek talk seemed quite unintelligible to him – as Charley expressed it, ‘No hear 'em, ‘nother one yabber.’ At last I got him to understand that I wanted him to go with me to his camp, and as I had managed to get outside of him, he could not very well go in any other direction. Accordingly we set off at a great pace over the sandhills, a big boomerang in each hand, and bawling ‘Amma murda!’ as loud as he could. I had to ride pretty hard to keep him in sight. At his camp, instead of waiting to have a talk, he at once waded into the box swamp, and was out of sight in the polygonum in a few minutes. I fancy he took alarm at the doctor, who was on a sand hummock, waving a great branch as a token of friendship. In the mean time, Phillips and Tommy, being about a mile outside on the look-out, had caught some lubras collecting ‘towar,’ but learned nothing, as they had only just come across the desert from near Appanparoo. As it was no use waiting, we kept on a NW course, passing another box swamp, and crossing alternate flats and sand ridges. At 2.30 pm. came to high sand ridges, evidently the division between the branches of the creek, and I changed the course for N70°W, the shortest way for the main stream. We continued crossing the loose ridges or red sand, all very barren and miserable, until four o'clock, now and then getting a distant glimpse of the creek timber. On reaching tho crest of the last ridge, one of the most charming bits of scenery I have seen in the interior was before us. The sandridge fell abruptly, forming the bank of a large waterhole, or billibong, over-hung with trees, and surrounded by thick beds of marsh mallows ten foot high, polygonum, and flowering plants. Everything looked most luxuriant. Beyond this was a largo box flat, lightly timbered, and covered with clover, the creek timber coming round it in a half circle. Although we have kept a very sharp lookout for tracks, and the country has generally been very favourable for finding them, yet we have seen no trace whatever! Where the tracks can be, or where McKinlay's camp can be, is a mystery to me. I feel very much like someone trying to find their way into a maze; and I have a strong feeling that we have been hoaxed by the old native; why or wherefore it is hard to say.

Saturday, 19 July 1862 - Camp 73.
26° 14’, 139° 22’
Shortly after starting this morning, I found the track of a single horse in the edge of sandhill; it was very old, and with several single camel prints, was probably made by Burke's party. A little further on the rest of the party came on the fresh tracks of a bullock walking down the creek - at least so far fresh that they were not more than three or four days old. These we followed - seeing in one or two places the single horse track and the well defined prints of boots – till 11 am., when coming to a sudden bend of the creek, where there was a ford in a hard bed of clay and lime, we crossed and went over towards a sand ridge. No tracks but of the single horse; beyond the sandhill, extensive plains and isolated sandhills to the W of N. Returned by the ford, and picked up the bullock track, now increased to two. Followed the direction they were going, leaving a large bend of the creek to the westward, and at 2.15 pm. came on them feeding in a large plain, a mile or so back from the creek. They were two workers, no doubt belonging to McKinlay. The description and brands are as follows: Red bullock, near horn down, dP near shoulder, like NP (blotch) near ribs, off ear marked, white bullock, little strawberry in neck, 7 over T in circle off shoulder, off ear marked, coupling chain and strap. Turned towards the creek, and camped at 2 pm. The country here is much the same as higher up the creek, but if anything, the banks and low flats are more luxuriant. Here the marsh mallows are in [particularly?] nearly as high as a man on horse-back. The creek is about 100 yards wide from bank to bank, and is still running, though probably only draining the large billybongs and the main channel. The bed is visible at our camp in several places, and a little above the water falls over a ledge of clay and lime. The course of the creek and the flats are thickly timbered with box trees, but I have seen no game. The creek nowhere looks to be more than one-[third?] the size of Cooper's Creek.

Sunday, 20 July 1862 - Camp 73.
Left the party in camp, and went down the creek with Phillips, At about seven miles came on the tracks of six weight horses on a piece of the flat that had lain above the flood waters. Philips afterwards struck the same tracks in the sandhills, apparently coming from the SE. All tracks over which the flood has risen are, of course, gone. While Phillips was looking about I went down towards a sandhill that seemed to stand in the centre of a dense mass of box timber. Close to it I was brought up by a branch creek trending to the SE; it was about one-fourth of the river, and had steep boggy banks. The main stream takes a sharp band to the westward, and shows a hard bottom of clay and lime; the opposite bank is, however, impracticable, being at present little better than a quicksand - indeed, excepting the difficulty in crossing the main river, there is nothing to prevent a party moving in any direction. The difficulty of crossing lies in the scarcity of fords just now, and in the banks of sand and mud deposited by the flood, which have not yet become solid. There can be but little doubt that all the immense extents of earthy plains in this portion of the interior owe their origin to the deposits of successive floods. Returned home, following the river, but found no traces nor any ford. The banks a jungle of plants and shrubs, especially marsh mallows. Riding through these is like being in a large field of white hollyhooks in full flower. No signs of natives, but numbers of birds of all kinds. Got home about sundown and found that during my absence Charley had bolted, taking only his blanket, and leaving his boots and trousers. Tommy gave Williams notice when he ran off, and he gave chase, but lost him in the mallows. He has been not only useless, but a nuisance and a hindrance to me since leaving the depot. Finding his gun an encumbrance, he quietly dropped it off his horse, and cooly told me afterwards that it was on my packhorse. On being threatened with a waddying, he went back, and found it. This morning he was very nearly receiving the promised thrashing for having told me several bare-faced lies. However, he has effectually taken himself off my hands, and must shift for himself.

Monday, 21 July 1862 - Camp 72.
Returned up the river to follow out the very slight clue we have now, namely, the bullock tracks. If it were not for them I should feel convinced that McKinlay's party are not in this district at present. If I cannot make anything out in a day or two I must be off. We are screwing our rations as much as possible. Near this camp, picked up the bullock tracks where we had found them first, and with Weston Phillips ran them back for some distance to get the direction they had come from. Found that they had been following down the river, sometimes going into the bends, sometimes cutting them, feeding as they walked, and evidently on the way back to the settlements.

Tuesday, 22 July 1862 - Camp 74.
25° 52’, 139° 19’
Left camp at 7.30 am., and followed the bullock tracks from where we left them last night. After a short distance they left the river. On being followed out, they were found to be coming direct from that part of the river we had first visited. It looks very much as if they had got away above where we struck it; but it is hard to conjecture where they may have been wandering to and from. At 9, following up the course of the river, we saw smoke, but were unable to catch the natives - too much cover everywhere. Travelled till 11 through a box forest cut by blllibongs, and at 11.20 found a ford - the stream running over a gravelly bottom. Crossing here, kept along the course of the river for half a mile and then turned north for a mile to some box trees under a sandhill. Found them to be at a fine billibong, between two low stony ridges. Turned in again towards the river, and camped at 12.30, having seen no tracks.

Wednesday, 23 July 1862 - Camp 74.
This morning, I rode across to some sandstone hills visible (N25°W) from near the camp, and named after Mr W H Sampson, of the contingent exploring party. Found them to be about five miles distant, and very stony. From the top could see across stony plains for some miles to another elevation, but whether stone or sand it was impossible to say, owing to the haze. On this range, we found a new tree, much resembling a heoak in appearance, but growing higher. In place of leaves, it is furnished with long thin spines set in bunches, and has a flat pod, containing several flat black seeds. On leaving the range, crossed seven miles of stony plains - ridges of sand to the west, low stony rises to the east. Only the actually stony places were bare, everywhere else was well covered with bushes and last summer's grass. On reaching the rise I found it to be a sand ridge, running north into the stony plains, and gradually dying away in a few miles. All the plants on it, even the porcupine grass on the loose top, were healthy and green. The view from it is easily described. From Sampson's Range (about S20°E), round by east to north and west, were stony plains, more or less undulating, and everywhere showing abundance of grass and bushes where there was any soil. To the west were ridges of sand, ending abruptly on the stony plains. Violent south wind all day, with a thick haze.

Thursday, 24 July 1862.
Left camp late, the horses having gone some distance down the creek. Crossed about a mile below the camp, where there are stony banks on both sides, and travelled about SE to cut our up track near Camp 70. About 11 came upon two natives digging for rats; they jumped up in a great fright, as we were close to them before they saw us, and walked off to their camp, shouting to us to stop where we were. Half a mile, further on, four were seen in the box saplings, and they sat down on a clay bank until Tommy and I came up. One of them spoke something of the Kyejorou dialect. They soon became very friendly, and the usual distribution of wax matches - the current coin in our district - took place; they were, of course, highly delighted with such an easy mode of making a fire. Their information was that ‘Pinnarou’ (McKinlay) and the ‘whitefellows’ had 'thrown away their wheelbarrow,’ – I translate literally, - and were gone up the creek with their horses, camels, and sheep. The direction they pointed out to me was NE and round to E. Tommy says they told him the ‘whitefellows’ were gone to ‘Calliou-marou’ (our depot); but I heard nothing of the kind, and believe it to be an invention of his own. This last information directly contradicts the first we received; how much truth it contains it would be hard to say. As we were going, about a dozen men and some lubras came running up to see the wonderful strangers, and were very anxious that Tommy should go to their camp and eat ‘bower.’ However, he excused himself by having to ‘walk a long way.’ Camped at a small waterhole about two miles past Camp 70. Cold wind from south I all day.

Friday, 25 July 1862 - Short's Lake.
Travelled SE for the north end of Short's Lake, which we reached, after rather more than eighteen miles, over a succession of heavy sand ridges. Camped on a large clover flat at the edge of the water. No firewood but a few bushes. This morning, ice in the bucket at sunrise.

Saturday, 26 July 1862.
Followed round the lake to-day, and camped at a waterhole about six miles past our Camp 66. Another branch of Wills's Creek comes through the sandhills at this place. Four or five waterholes in sight - they are from 100 to 200 yards long, and from ten to thirty feet across, and with say five feet of water. They will probably last the summer. The creek feeding Short's Lake, I should say, is good for twelve months. Of the lake itself, it is impossible to give any; estimate at present. Sharp frost again last night; the water froze in the bucket after sunrise, and the clover flats were covered with hoar frost.

Sunday, 27 July 1862 - Desert Waterhole.
26° 35’, 139° 35’ 45”
Followed down the flooded flats, and about noon came to where the waters had been confined by a low stony ridge on the east and a sandhill on the west. Numbers of channels and a deal of water, so that it was by no means an easy matter to reach the sand hill to camp. The largest water-hole is completely under water, being at present nearly 200 yards wide, and more than a mile long. In two places where we crossed the smaller channels the water was up to the pack-bags, and if it had been only a little more boggy than it was, it would have been impassable. From the high sand ridge at the back of our camp extensive flats, separated by low sandhills, are visible to the west. Numerous large sheets of water and lines of box timber, marking the course of short creeks, can be seen. The fall seems about SW. There is the largest 'village' here I have yet seen – no less than thirty-seven winter huts. They provide us with a good supply of firewood - a scarce article here. The tracks of two bullocks pass close by here, going to the north-west. They went by either yesterday morning or the evening before, and were going at a smart pace. Several native tracks close by, also going in a hurry in the same direction, look very suspicious. Very like a beef hunting affair.

Monday, 28 July 1862.
Crossed the desert to-day, and camped near the small dry salt lake in the sandhills. The stony country is about seventeen miles wide; of this only eight are at all bad travelling, and would be nothing with shod horses. By taking every advantage of the isolated sand ridges and the patches of sandy ground a couple of miles more might be avoided. Neither grass nor water to-night, but plenty of firewood, as nearly all the bushes are dead.

Tuesday, 29 July 1862 - Appinnarrow.
Reached this place in about four and a half hours, the horses walking very fast to reach the water. Our up track completely blown away already in many places.

Wednesday, 30 July 1862 - Kyejerou.
Got here by noon. The rain that had fallen when we went up has done hardly any good. The little grass and herbage that commenced to grow is already withering. I cannot understand why the immediate neighbourhood of all the large waters connected with Cooper's Creek is so barren, but it is a fact. A number of natives here now. They came up to our camp with some small fish, to trade for matches; unfortunately for us, their day's fishing had been very unproductive,

Thursday, 31 July 1862 - Konatie.
Reached this place at 2.30. Not much water remaining; will be dry in ten days. The rain has done no good. The country is gradually drying up to chips.

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