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March 1862

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2085/6a, Item 3.
A W Howitt’s diary [of Victorian Exploring Party], from 20 March 1862 [Blanchewater to McKinlay’s depot to Cooper’s Creek depot] 3 June 1862; containing diary of excursion north, Sturt’s roan mare then back to Blanchewater. Written on twenty-four sheets of blue foolscap expedition notepaper. 24p. ms.

Wednesday, 16 April 1862, page 4.

Exploration: Mr Howitt's Diary

The unfortunate expedition and of Burke and Wills has been the cause of our obtaining a large quantity of information relative to the interior of the Australian continent beyond that which was gained from the diary of Wills himself. And we are now in possession of the diary of Howitt, giving as a further knowledge of the country in the neighbourhood of Cooper's Creek.

Thus Exploring Expedition undertaken by Victoria, if it was unfortunate to some of the members who compose it, has at least had become lateral effects of widening the bounds of our knowledge of the geography of the vast interior, and of proving that the dangers to be encountered in its exploration, and I were sufficiently numerous, are not so formidable as we have hitherto supposed.


Monday, 1 March 1862 - Camp 32 of last journey, Cooper's Creek.
Returned today, keeping much the same course, but nearer the creek over a succession of very rotten flats, timbered with box. Had a vociferous leave taking with our black friends, who have promised to wait four "sleeps" until I return. Made Camp 32, where King was found, at sundown. Had a feast of native oranges, which require an acquired taste, being hot and pungent, with a flavor of rock melon. Thunder clouds all day, and at night had to shift our quarters to the creek bed, on account of numbers of enormous centipedes, and all kinds of insects, which came to our fire. Down below we were eaten up by mosquitoes.

Tuesday, 2 March - The Depot.
Reached home at 8 am. Found all right excepting that two or three of the party show very slight signs of scurvy in the gums. Nothing of any consequence, and we are using every precaution in the way of fresh fish, preserved vegetables, and portulac. The weather, too, is getting cooler every day. Getting ready to start on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 3 March-The Depot.
Shoeing horses, weighing stores, looking over water-bags, &c.

Friday, 5 March - Camp 26.
Left the depot this morning with Weston Phillips, William Williams, and Henry Galbraith, with six camels, four horses, and a months rations, and every water bag and canteen we possess. Got to this place by 1.30 as the camels travelled fast without loads, and are in splendid order, every bit as good as when they left Menindie. Day warm with northerly wind.

Saturday, 6 March - Camp 27, Tungurilla Water channels.
Had a very late start, owing to great trouble in fixing the numerous water bags. We carry about 200 buckets, of one and a half gallons each, but at present some of the bags are leaking very much. Did not reach Tungurilla till dark, and found Pardree and his mate still there. The first inquiry was for the tomahawk, but finding that they did not intend going with me I refused it on the principle of "no water, no tomahawk." Found plenty of water for our use in one of the channels. Day very hot and close.

Sunday, 7 March - Camp 28.
28° 8' 30", 140° 18'
This morning our black friends had decamped before sunrise, being afraid, I suppose, that I should press them into the service. Travelled to the small pool in the sandhills by two pm., where our horses got a drink, which exhausted the supply. The country very inferior sandhills and plains, almost devoid of vegetation; only a few Acacia bushes. Camped at 4.30 on a patch of green grass, but without water. Day very thundery and close.

Monday, 8 March - Camp 29, Strelezki's Creek.
28° 26', 140° 22' 30"
We had camped last night on the verge of the rainfall, and this morning found green grass, becoming more plentiful as we proceeded. Leaving the sandhills we crossed a saltbush plain, and under a high ridge of red sand beyond them Weston Phillips found a good supply of water in a claypan. We here filled up pur bags, and I was surprised at the quantity drunk by our horses, and also by the camels, some of the latter taking as much as ten gallons. From here travelled over sandhills and box-flats full of channels, which would hold water for some time had there been any rain where they are. On a course of S20°E, struck Strelezki's Creek, at three pm. - it is here lined with box, and has a wide flat bed, full of such bushes as generally grow with polygonum, but no places likely to retain water. On crossing the creek again came on green grass and as birds were very numerous, camped. Weston Phillips went to look for water, and was successful in finding a full channel at the end of a cane-grass flat, containing about fifty buckets of water. Day very hot and oppressive.

Tuesday, 9 March - Camp 30.
28° 25' 18", 140° 16' 30"
Started this morning at 7.45. Watered at the channel and filled up our bags, leaving not more than a bucketful behind. The country at every mile greener; the sandhills covered with grass to the top, and all kinds of birds in flocks. The creek, marked by a line of box timber, runs through undulating country, flanked by steep red sandhills, thinly clothed with bushes. From these sandhills the drainage runs in off claypans to the creek. The bed of the creek is very flat, and only at rare intervals are there any places that would hold water. At 11.30, came to a fine little waterhole; about three feet deep, at the end of a chain of claypans. The horses and the camels again drank an amazing quantity, the latter about seven gallons each. I cannot see that they care less about it than the horses, although they bear the want of it better. Followed the creek down for some time, when, coming to a fine channel of water among the polygonum bushes, I camped to give the camels and horses a chance of a good rest and feed, as the travelling across the steep sand hills with, such a load of water has been very severe. Day hot.

Wednesday, 10 March - Camp 31.
28° 46' 30", 140° 12'.
Our day's stage through similar country to that passed yesterday. The creek flanked by red sandhills. Grass not so plentiful and green as yesterday. Saltbush and cottonbush abundant. Rainwater in many small channels, but drying up fast. Passed several pools in the creek not more than two feet deep, at places where the local drainage of a large extent of claypans was concentrated. The best of these pools might last six weeks. The remainder of the creek bed flat, and grown with bushes. Timber, however, more abundant, and in places the channel well defined. No signs of floodmarks at any height; and, from the general appearance, I fancy that very little of the Cooper's Creek flood-water finds its way into it across the extensive plains we have passed over. At one pm came to a good pool of water, about 100 yards long by four wide, and three feet deep. Camped close by Gregory's marked tree (small triangle over 77 within triangle).

Thursday, 11 March - Camp 32.
29° 2' 15", 140° 1' 45"
Horses away this morning, so had a late start. Followed down the creek from point to point, the country looking better at every mile. At noon, and about where the creek I takes its first decided bend to the westward the rain seemed to have been very heavy, I many of the claypans being still full. Phillips, who was riding down the creek looking out for waterholes, came on one of a respectable size, being some four hundred yards long by sixty wide, and probably four to five feet deep. The sandhills not so steep as those farther up the creek; and they and the wide claypan flats between are covered with luxuriant grass. As far as we could see round us were green rolling sandhills, dotted with cottonbush. The creek bed here wide and sandy, and lined with red gums, had beds of grass knee deep. Birds very numerous. I think it highly probable that water could be obtained here at a moderate depth. Camped in the creek by a small pool, and close to a sandhill, where one could mow the grass.

Friday, 12 March - Camp 33.
29° 20' 15", 139° 57' 30"
Travelled down the creek, cutting off the bends. Passed Gregory's marked tree (small triangle over 78 within triangle) about a mile and a half below our camp. The native well he mentions was covered by a pool of water. The country from this changed for the worse, becoming such as is usually seen round salt lakes. Almost all the grass disappeared, and was succeeded by plants of a saline nature The amount of rain had been the same, but the soil was different. Struck the creek again just above a pool of salt water. It here runs between ridges of white drift sand, very closely resembling, both in appearance and in vegetation, the barren sand hummocks on many parts of the coast. At three pm saw, the first view of the mountains of the far north. A bold slate range, with a serrated summit. Camped at the foot of the sandhills, near some large claypans fast drying up.

Saturday, 13 March - Camp 34.
29° 35' 20", 139° 43' 30"
Crossed the creek soon after starting, where it bends towards Lake Torrens. A native well under a high sand hummock close by; the water drinkable. At noon left the irregular ridges of white drift sand, and crossed the bed of a dry lake to a high bank of red gravel, which appeared to form the margin of dry lakes on each side of us. This gravel bank turned out to be the edge of the stony plains which stretch from the ranges to the lakes. Travelled over miserable country till camping time, when we came to a small watercourse with pools of rainwater and good feed. Signs of cattle being about.

Sunday, 14 March - Camp 35, Prospect Hill.
29° 45' 30", 139° 31' 30"
Our course this morning lay over the same miserable stony plains, which are thinly scattered with salt bush, towards a high slate range, which I believed to be Mount Hopeless. Numbers of cattle were out looking for something to eat among the stones. At 10 am crossed some stony ridges running from a low pointed hill, which I now find to be Mount Hopeless. I felt surprised that the most insignificant hill in the neighborhood should have been taken as a landmark here. Having heard so much of Mount Hopeless, I had expected at least something respectable. At noon came to where all the cattle tracks concentrated towards a remarkable hill standing on the edge of the plains, and under which are numbers of fine springs rising from the schist rock of which it is composed. Following a creek which runs round this hill, I found the cattle tracks becoming less, and having nothing before me but a jumble of stony hills, under tbe high slate ranges, I halted at a small pool of rain water - feeling sure that we were close to but past the station. In the afternoon I walked over the hill with Galbraith, and on the other side found Mr Jacobs outstation, where we were most cordially received.

Monday, 15 March - Camp 35, Prospect Hill.
Halted to get some information about the country, and shoe a horse at the station.

Tuesday, 16 March - Camp 36, Blanchewater, Baker's Station.
29° 31' 40", 139° 26' 45"
Travelled today over stony plains all the way to this place - sixteen miles. Just as stony here, but a shade better as regards feed. Most hospitably received by Mr James, who bas rendered me every assistance in his power.

27 June 1862, pages 4-6.

Mr Howitt's Diary.

The following is a copy of the diary of Mr Howitt, the leader of the Victorian Exploration Party, which was received in Melbourne yesterday, by the Exploration Committee, along with a despatch, given in another part of our paper, dated Jacob's Station, Parallana, South Australia, June 4,1862.


Thursday, 20 March 1862 - Camp 37.
29° 19' 30", 139° 26' 30"
Travelled for fourteen miles from Blanchewater over poor stony plains, and camped on a waterhole in a box creek.

Friday, 21 March 1862 - Camp 38, Baker's Station, Appamourana.
29° 12', 139° 17'
Travelled to-day at first over stony plains, afterwards among rugged hills. It came on to rain steadily about nine o'clock from the south-west, and continued, with occasional peals of thunder, until about three ; claypans every- where full of water. The country rather better about Appamourana, which consists of a stock- yard and a stone hut, on a large plain of red gravel. The Tooncatehyn Creek has a well defined channel, lined with small gums and polygonum, and contains some good waterholes. Most hos- pitably received by Mr Herbert James.

Saturday, 22 March 1862 - Camp 39, Manuwalkerninna Creek.
29° 1', 139° 8' 30"
Left late, as the horses had strayed. The day cloudy but hot at times, and the flies a perfect torment after the rain. Travelled about fourteen miles to this place over a gravelly country, with patches of sand ridges, which are now well clothed with grass. The creek appears to have a wide, irregular channel, with occasional waterholes. The high white sandhills on the other side of Lake Torrens in sight all day, at only a few miles' distance.

Sunday, 23 March 1862 - Camp 40.
28° 40' 30", 139° 13'
Left the stony plains behind at about two miles from last night's camp. Crossed a salt creek connecting two dry lakes (boggy) of no great size-the only indication hereabouts of the celebrated Lake Torrens, and came to the sandhills which occupy so much country to the west mid east of north from this lake. For about twenty miles followed McKinlay's dray track through very poor country, growing scarcely anything but salsolaceous plants, and camped where there was a little green grass, and by good fortune, a small quantity of water still remaining in a claypan since the rain. The sandhills have a general but by no means a decided direction to the south, and are neither so high nor so steep as those crossed by us on our route down.

Monday, 24 March 1862 - Camp 41, Lake Hope
28° 22' 45", 139° 13' 45"
Travelled for about sixteen miles over a sandhill country of an inferior description, but without the saline appearance prevalent near Luke Torrens. At about half-past two o'clock, saw Lake Hope from a high sand ridge, a large extent of water lying in a long flat depression, and bordered with a narrow belt of stunted box trees. Camped by McKinlay's marked tree (MK conjoined, in a square) ; abundance of grass on the shores of the lake, but the water slightly brackish. Day cool and pleasant.

Tuesday, 25 March 1862 - Camp 42, Wallpappaninna Lake.
28° 14' 30", 139° 6' 30"
On leaving the camp this morning, followed round the edge of the lake to the north and west. The country bordering it consists of high ridges of red sand, having a general north and south direction, and is very poor, hardly producing anything but a few bushes. The edge of the lake where the water has retired, for a space varying from 30 to 100 yards, is now covered with grass, and in places with native clover. The lake looked even larger this morning, viewing it from the upper end, than it did last night. It is probably eight or nine miles in length, by about half that, at the widest. Its great want is good country and better timber ; it is, however, I suspect, very shallow in most places, as the banks have a very slight dip. At the upper end we came to the creek which supplies the lake. Pelicans, swans, and other wild fowl could be counted by hundreds. Four natives, all tall fine men, made their appearance, each bringing a small present of fish. One could speak a few words of English, and offered to accompany us. We followed this creek till one o'clock-at first though (through) a valley rather better than a mile wide, flanked by high ridges of sandhills, running at a very acute angle to the creek. The flats in places were well grassed; afterwards the sand-hills closed in, confining the creek to a narrow channel, now dry. At one o'clock came to Lake Appadeer, a wide flat basin surrounded by sand-hills, and not long dry. No water being here, but a small salt pool in the creek, the natives took us across a very high sand ridge to this lake, where we camped. It is about two miles long by one wide, and is surrounded by consider- able sandy flats; no timber. Tho water is very unpleasant, and is rapidly drying up. The natives collected as soon as we appeared over the sandhills from all sides. I camped on an open grassy flat, and we wore soon surrounded by natives watching our doings. They brought us wood and water, and were not very troublesome -only inquisitive. At one time, I think, they mustered fully 100.

Wednesday, 26 March 1862 - Camp 43, Perodinna.
28° 1' 45", 139° 15' 30"
Started early to avoid our inquisitive neighbours, who, however, gathered round us to see the interesting process of packing up. Four accompanied us on the road to this camp, where there are two or three tolerable pools of rain-water in the creek bed, a perfect luxury to us after the water we have had the two last nights. I strongly suspect that before long all the lakes about here will be either dry or salt. The country to-day, very poor.

Thursday, 27 March 1862 - Camp 44.
27° 55' 30" 139° 20' 45"
Our guides from Lake Hope remained at the native camp at Perodinna, and a blackfellow who was out with McKinlay, named Boulin-ganne, accompanied us this morning. He says that the water on McKinlay's route is now dry. Four other natives accompanied our guide. We left the creek we camped ou last night soon after starting this morning, and crossed a country which may be summed up in a few words. Alternate ridges of red sand, running nearly north and south, with large box creeks and box flats, which follow the fall of the country between them. As seen from the ridges, the country looks thickly timbered and scrubby, and bears every sign of receiving the drainage of a very large district, and it seems probable that not only the flood waters of Cooper's Creek find their way down here into the numerous lakes, and thence into Lake Torrens, but also creeks which rise still more to the northward. Everything very much burned up and dry, the rains having produced but very little grass. Two shallow pools of rain-water here.

Friday, 28 March 1862 - Camp 45, Apparalpa.
27° 47' 30", 139° 29'
Yesterday evening. after writing my diary, the tribe of blacks who were camped near to us took offence at the camels coming down their way, and were hunting them with waddies, when Williams stopped them. Hereupon a great commotion took place. The lubras and children were all sent to the back of the sandhills, the men held a council, shield and boomerang in hand, each one talking at the top of his voice. Our guide and three of his friends who had travelled with him came over to our camp, looking somewhat uneasy, and said that the others had driven them away, and would not give them anything to eat. It had rather a suspicious appearance, but ww were quite ready for double their number, and they cooled down. Our four natives requested leave to sleep by our fire, not liking to go to the other camp. This morning I had a great deal of trouble to prevent our guide's three friends from coming any further; they seemed to have a great friendship for us, and would sit for hours looking at our doings, or run about and fetch wood or water for us; in fact, do any little services, and travel all day - only, as far as I could see, for the satisfaction of being with us. The country passed over to-day was thickly timbered and scrubby, lying in flats and dry lakes, between ridges of drift sand. I found it very difficult to determine the fall of these wide valleys, but I believe that most of those passed to-day run to the W. of N. Porcupine grass on the sand ridges. Camped after twelve miles at two small pools of rain-water. A camp of blacks about half-a-mile off, collecting the portulac, &c - the native harvest just now.

Saturday, 29 March 1862 - Camp 46, Corderinna.
27° 38', 139° 32'
On leaving camp this morning came at once into a change of country. Extensive dry lake beds lying between long ridges of red sand. They are for the most part covered with a kind of couch grass, and round the edges lightly timbered with clumps of box. They have a much better appearance than the country we have passed over, and remind one somewhat of the grassy plains met with nearer the coast ; indeed, they might be better described as grassy plains flanked by sand ridges, and subject to floods, than as lakes. At one o'clock, came to a box creek running between two sandhills into one of these grassy plains, and found a large number of friendly natives camped at two small holes of rain-water. These storm waters are their mainstay just now, all the lakes and flood waters hereabouts being now dry. It has been reported to me by these natives that McKinlay's party are somewhere many days' journey to the north, beyond a large flooded creek, which has cut off the communication with the south. Some of them stated that the intermediate tribes had told them that the whites were surrounded by water. Although native rumours are always much exaggerated, there may probably be some foundation for this report, and it had struck me this morning, on riding across the alternate sand- ridges, and creeks, flats, and dry lakes, that in the event of a flood coming down, a party might find it somewhat difficult to extricate themselves before being hemmed in.

Sunday, 30 March 1862 - Camp 47, Murdacoloa.
27° 34', 139° 43' 30"
Left our guide Boulin-ganne with the Cudgee-gudgenee blacks, who are, by the by, the ugliest race I have seen, and took on a native belonging to the lower end of Cooper's Creek. Passed over country similar in some respects to that seen y\esterday, but inferior, and with greater intervals of sand- ridges between the lakes. Very little grass any- where, and only a scanty supply of saltbush and acacias. About noon, passed a good pool of rain- water in a bare clay flat. At three came in sight of a large branch of Cooper's Creek running through earthy and clayey flats, and flanked by sandhill. Appearance of the flats as miserable as those met with elsewhere on Cooper's Creek. Our guide was disappointed in finding the water- hole dried up Tho natives had sunk a well eight feet deep through stiff blue clay, in which we obtained a small supply of excellent water. Distance, eighteen miles; day hot.

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