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September 1861

Edwin James Welch,
1. Journal of Contingent Exploration Party, ML C332 (CY 1115) State Library of New South Wales
2. Field book No 1. Box 2087/7, Item a, MS13071, State Library of Victoria

Edwin Welch, surveyor and second in command of Howitt's Victorian Relief Expedition, found John King at Cooper Creek.

Sunday, 1 September 1861, Camp XX, Poria Creek.
Left camp at Kurlijer at 8.25 AM and travelled for about 10 miles to the northeast would over undulating sandy country, thinly scrubbed and poorly grassed; and growing a great variety of salsola. The hollows between the rises, consisted of clay pans (some of considerable size), swampy ground covered with polygnum and cane grass growing to a great height. All this country was found perfectly dry, but is evidently at times abundantly supplied with storm water. At noon and four more to the eastward and left the sand rises, coming down upon a large tract of low swampy ground growing nothing but polygnum, scrub &c.- &c.- and containing a little water and drainage channels. At 1.00 PM came to the Poria Creek, a fine deep water channel containing an abundant supply of excellent water, which from all appearances is the drainage of the surrounding extensive swamps. The water is most decidedly permanent home of great extent, averaging about ½ chain in width, with steep banks for at least 2 miles on each side of the camp. The banks are well marked by an pretty thick growth of box on either side and the dense clothing of scrub and marsh mallows, the latter of which grows to a height of 12 or 14 feet. At 18.20 PM formed camp XX on this creek. Distance travelled 15 miles. Latitude 28°44'10". Longitude 142°41'40"E. 569' [Observations].

Monday, 2 September.
The above observations were taking this day at Camp XX on the Poria Creek, where we took spell No 1 for a day on account of the horses.

Tuesday, 13 September, Camp XXI.
Left Camp XX on the Poria Creek at 8.10 AM and struck off to the north-westward leaving Mr Burke's track a little above his 50th camp, with the intention of striking Camp 60 at Cooper's Creek in a shorter distance. And for the first 12 miles the track lay over a succession of high red sand hills, running in a general direction of northeast and southwest. On these vegetation was found very poor. The intervals between were occupied by large dried clay pans, or swampy polygnum hollows, in which a little muddy water was found occasionally. At 12.45 PM struck a small creek under high sand hills and after crossing the latter, came on the main branch, which was called Wilkie's Creek. This was a fine of wide box creek with steep clayey banks there, and containing a plentiful supply of good water in large deep holes, which for every appearance of being permanent; one fact strongly in favour of the supposition, been the quantities of mussel and crayfish shells around the desert at native camps on the banks. Continuing on our course we travelled about 2 miles of low claye swampy ground covered with stunted box and polygnum and intersected by numerous channels or watercourses in which was a plentiful supply of good water. Lines of timber marking the course of a branch creeks were to be seen on both sides. After leaving the lower ground, came again upon the undulating sandy country, rather better than that had travelled in the morning. At 2.30 PM formed Camp XXI on a small creek between two sand rises, containing a good supply of tolerable water in large shallow pools, evidently drainage from the surrounding rises. Timber small, various and scattered, vegetation not A1. Numbers of [?] Water hens and pigeon, but so wild that very few could be shocked. Distance travelled 17 miles. Latitude 28°33'00"S. Longitude 142°32'E. At noon the south west point of Stokes's range, west about 20'.

Wednesday, 4 September, Camp XXII, Keppel's Creek, Stokes Range.
Left Camp XXI at 7.40 AM, crossed the sand rise under which we had camped, and proceeded over to 1½ miles of open gum forest, the timber being of different character to any before seen. The limbs were of the dark slate-covered hue and the leaves very fleshy and of a dark green colour. This forest was of a swampy nature, growing a little else than small patches of salsola. After this about 3 miles of open clay plains, very dry and cracked, and destitute of anything like feed, numerous drainage channels like a small gum creeks intersected it in all directions. At 10.20 AM crossed the main branch of a larger and deeper gum creek (dry) running about south east from the Stokes Range from which it evidently receives at times a large supply of water. Cross this creek and several branches of the same, keeping a N45°W compass course to the Stokes Ranges (Sturt's) at the foot of which we travelled for some distance over open stony plains, growing scarcely anything. After crossing these ascended the ranges, which were comparatively low and thickly covered with loose stones of all sizes, apparently crystallised sandstone. Continued our course over these ranges until 3.30 PM, having in the meantime crossed to the deep and rugged gorges, densely covered with mulga and other scrub along the sides. The channel of each was formed by a large gum creek running in the same direction as the ranges, quite dry, with of course of a large water worn stones and boulders. The vegetation in these gorges was found far inferior to that on the ranges. After crossing the second of these formed camp XXII on the banks without water, but very fair grazing for the cattle. Distance travelled 20 miles. Lat 28°20'S. Longitude 142°19'E. The weather since leaving the darling river has been beautiful, than nights very cold, but the heat of the day tempered by a fair breeze from the east and south-east, the latter of which seemed to be the prevailing wind in this part of the country. [Observations] 606'.

Thursday, 5 September, Camp XXIII, Stokes Range.
Left Camp XXII at 7.15 AM and travelled all day in a north westerly direction over the Stokes's ranges, taking a very circuitous calls in picking the best road for the horses which do not crossed the stones nearly as well as the camels. The soil here was a sort of red clayey sand, covered without a break by loose stones and boulders of sandstone conglomerate, with occasionally a patch of sandstone gravel. The ridges and hollows were all of the same nature, the former very rugged and precipitous running in directly athwart our course, taking a considerable time with much labour to cross, more especially as our horses were unshod. Nearly all these regions were separated by a deep ravines or gorges, the bottom of which consisting of large smooth round stones, formed in all of them a creek bed, the line of which was strongly marked by a thick growth of fine gum trees. No water was seen anywhere, and but from the number of birds in these places, I should say that the water must be found by following up the creeks. The hollows and sides of the gorges are all well grassed, and very thickly scrubbed, in addition to which were a very large number of fine shrubs and flowers and a great variety of salsola, giving the place of very picturesque appearance. Tops of the rises were generally flat, forming small table-lands from ½ to 1½ miles across, the vegetation very poor, and scrub much thinner. And the geological formation the same throughout. About 12 noon we obtained a view of the open country to the northward and after descending a very steep bluff, came on an undulating stony flat lightly grassed and bounded on all sides by rises. Fine owatercourses running in all directions but no water could be found, although kangaroos and emue tracks were very plentiful and a great number of native dogs howling round us. At 3.30 PM came to camp on the side of a dry watercourse, with an apparently interminable extent of ranges on all sides. The horses very jaded, some of them lane and the day having been very warm, were much and in one of water having been 48 hours without. Gave each of them 2 quarts, being although we had being able to carry from the Poria Creek, to meet such an emergency. Distance travelled 17 miles. Camp XXIII. Latitude 28°10'33"S. Longitude 142°8'E. [Observations].

Friday, 6 September, Camp XXIV, Tank.
Left Camp at 6.45 AM and proceeded to the north-westward over low rises, (thickly covered with stones) which were evidently draining towards the open country; scrub in patches very thick and low stunted timber growing thickly along the numerous watercourses between the rises. Vegetation varied but very poor. The about 3 miles which clear of the rises and travelled over open the stony plains, almost destitute of vegetation and sloping gradually downwards ahead of us. After crossing these in about 4 miles came on loose rotten clay plains, very poor, intersected by numerous small dry creeks. On one of these we disturbed a camp of aborigines, who bolted immediately they saw us, but after running along the creek for some time, sat down and howled at our approach, appearing very frightened. One old man, we persuaded by signs to come with us and point out of water, but after going about 200 yards he took the first opportunity of getting up a tree, from which he could not by any means be induced to descend. We accordingly proceeded and shortly after crossed some low sandy rises and carried the succession of the same over about 3 miles. These rises were thinly scrubbed, carrying very good though dry feed, and proved a great relief to the horses after the stony ranges. At noon we found a small dirty water hole in the flat between two of these rises and being glad to get water of any sort for the horses we camped here. Shortly after camping in commenced terrain and camped on stony for nearly 3 hours, in the first since leaving the settled districts, with the exception of a few scattered drops at Bilpa and Wonnominta. Distance travelled 14 miles. Camp XXIV. Latitude 28°00'S. Longitude 142°2'E.

Saturday, 7 September.
Remained all gained camp to spell the horses. Employed repairing saddlery and digging a tank in the water hole, so that if returning at the same track we may have water to depend upon. Between 10 and 12.00 PM last night and are very heavy squall and steady rain last thing for 2 hours. The morning, dull but brightened up about 10.00 AM and turned out to find a warm day. [Observations].

Sunday, 8 September, Camp XXV, Cooper's Creek.
Left Camp at 8.10 AM and proceeded on a N65°W course over lightly scrubbed sand rises, some of them well grassed and others not, and running in a general direction of north and south. These hollows between these rises were formed by a series of box and polygnum swamps of a loose, rotten, earthy nature, very hard to travel. Plenty of water since yesterday's rain. And at 1.00 PM came out on an open earthy plain about 5 miles across bounded by sandy ridges. After crossing this came to a chain of high red sand hills well grassed, the crests covered with mesambryanthemums, and an the pink flower of which gave the scene of very pretty appearance. On one of these rises, we disturbed and aboriginal, engaged in rats and tin and approached within 20 yards before he saw us. Immediately he did, he turned round with a loud yell and bounded away like a kangaroo. Crossed these rises to another small earthy plain, which extended to the creek, and on which we crossed one of its branches. These earthy plains look very like a field of old stubble; the soil is quite loose and rotten, broken up by deep cracks or fissures, the bottom of which cannot be seen, the depth varying from 3 to 18 inches, they prove very hard to travel as they afford little or no footing for the horses. At 4.00 PM we camped on a water hole in Cooper's Creek, covering a large surface, but very shallow. A line of stunted box marks the creek banks on each side about six chains apart. The banks of the same formation as the first plains and bearing signs of a much larger body of water and than that now in the creek. Camp XXV. Latitude 27°57'S. Longitude 141°46' E. Distance travelled 24 miles. [Observations]. Weather very fine and pleasant, gentle breezes from north east to south east the prevailing quarter. 661'.

Monday, 9 September, Camp XXVI, Cooper's Creek.
Left Camp at 8.15 AM just after receiving a morning call from half a dozen blackfellows who left their weapons on the opposite side of the creek and waded across to us. Went back around the south point of the water hole and after going about 100 yards struck Burke's track which we followed up. This led us over and earthy plain of about 12 miles in length, broken only had about 3 miles by a chain of low sand rises. This plain was if possible worse than that crossed yesterday, the cracks being wider and deeper, notwithstanding we made better travelling on account of having the old track. After crossing we again struck on the creek, surrounded by low scrub the sand rises, but not finding any water we crossed it and camped at a clay pan under a sand rise, in which we found a little storm of water from the late rain. Distance travelled 13 miles. Camp XXVI. Latitude 27°49'S. Longitude 141°38'E. On coming to camp the aspect of the weather was very favourable for rain. About two it commenced with scattered drops from the north westward and soon after came down in earnest, lasting until nearly midnight, light but steady.

Tuesday, 10 September, Camp XXVII, Cooper's Creek.
Left Camp at 8.10 AM and crossed the ridge of high red sand hills on to the old track. On these rises we found a large body of natives, one of them who was and daubed with clay, skeleton fashion, came near, gesticulating violent and motioning us away. Continued travelling on the old track over a succession of small earthy flats, broken only by points of creek timber. These flats were found much better than those farther from the creek, not so much cracked and showing in places slight signs of vegetation. The run of the creek it would be impossible to delineate correctly, without having sufficient time to examine it closely, as it appears to be split up into an infinite number of channels, the courses of which are extremely tortuous. They nearly all contain water, in small holes, some widely separated. At 12.45 passed a small low grassy, stony rise and at 1.00 made into a point of creek timber, followed by 15 or 20 natives, some of them by the way were fine strapping fellows, and wore a belt of net round of the loins. At 1.15 camped in this timber, close to a number of small dry creek channels, in a general direction of east and west, containing no water, with the exception of a few small pools of storm of water from last night's rain. During our journey of today saw a large number of the snake species, three of which we killed, one a and large sulphur covered reptile, the other two deaf or death adders. Distance travelled 15 miles. Camp XXVII. Latitude 27°39'S. Longitude 141°30'E. [Observations]. Shortly after 7.00 PM at the clouds cleared away and turned out a very fine night. Very close, with sheet lightning all round the horizon.

Wednesday, 11 September, Camp XXVIII, Cooper's Creek.
Started from Camp at 8.35 AM and travelled during the day of along the banks of the creek in a north westerly direction. Passed some low stony rises and observed a range of the same on the other side, [?] to the creek. The soil of a loose earthy nature, and growing scarcely anything, bear, here and there in the channel beds, a few tufts of course, though green, grass. The banks were thickly grown with box and various scrub with large patches of polygnum occasionally. Drift high up in the trees, would of itself to show that the floods in this creek must be tremendous, and across the flats for miles. Passed several large water holes, in one of which the water was beautifully clean and transparent, but on tasting it we were greatly disappointed to find it brackish. At 1.10 PM passed a small pool of salt water, in the stony channel diverging from the main creek, near it were several small pools, only slightly brackish. There we camped on account of the feed been better than in most places. Observers' a chain of high ranges to the northward apparently running parallel to the creek. Distance travelled 13 miles. Camp XXVIII. Latitude 37°35'S. Longitude 141°19'E. [Observations]. 702'.

Thursday, 12 September, Camp XXIX, The Fishpond, Cooper's Creek.
Started from the Camp at 8.15 AM and proceeded to the westward, traversing the banks of the creek, which we found still scrubby and thickly timbered, would almost destitute of any other vegetation, save a few tufts of old dry grass. In about 5 miles came on a dry channel trending north-westward, which we crossed and shortly after crossed and followed up the beds of several others; the courses and connections of which with regard to the main branch, it was impossible to discover, without time to stop and examine them. Some of these were very deep narrow channels, with by the white sand or stony bottoms, the latter in places where the stony rises ran down to the creek. All of them have evident marks of heavy floods, but the most extraordinary feature, is a succession of sand walls, which were left standing in the centre, parallel with the banks, some of them 20 to 30 feet long and covered with dense polygnum scrub. And the high range which we saw were yesterday to the northward, presented on a newer view a very strange broken appearance, like the top of the table with large pieces chipped out. It extends form a number of miles north-north eastward and south-south-west would about 8 miles from the creek at camp XXVII. This range Mr Howitt christened the "Welsh Mountains". Passed several very large and good water holes in the main creek, one of them extending in an apparently unbroken line for several miles. All of them were found more or less covered with a variety of wild fowl, ducks, pigeons, teal, pelicans, cormorants &c.- &c.- And in our on which we camped at 2.10 PM we caught several fine perch averaging about 2 lbs weight. Distance travelled 16 miles. Camp XXIX. Latitude 27°35'S. Longitude 141°6'E. [Observations] and 718'.

Friday, 13 September, Camp XXX, Cooper's Creek.
Started from Camp at 7.45 AM, after working around a chain of low grassy sand rises, came again upon the creek, which we followed for about 2 miles to the second depot of the exploring expedition or 'Fort Wills'. This place had evidently been visited by the natives, but was left undisturbed, and the plants of buried provisions undiscovered. Proceeding from thence, we crossed several branch creeks, dry, and ultimately camped on a small waterhole in the main channel, which is a much narrower and deeper downwards, then where first seen, and the water quite sweet eight clump. A clump of low grass in the sand rises, about ½ mile to the south westward of the camp, on which were a large quantity of the Mesambryanthemums, in full flower, giving a very pretty lake coloured appearance to the rises and. The ground along the banks of the creek, much firmer and better, with more vegetation, than any hitherto found here. At great variety of fine birds, among which I may mention the crested pigeon, which exists in hundreds numbers, making a first rate change of diet, when roasted on the coals. Distance travelled 9 miles. Camp XXX. Latitude 27°38'22"S. Longitude 141°00'00'E. [Observations]

Saturday, 14 September, Camp XXXI, Cooper's Creek.
Left Camp XXX at 8.40 AM and followed the creek to the westward on a native path, which sometimes traverses the bed and at others the banks, the former being mostly white sand, the latter stiff clay, very scrubby and poorly grassed. Red gums more numerous and much finer than higher up the creek, in fact the whole aspect of the country is much better and. At 11.00 AM came to a low stony rise on the south side of the creek, which we crossed with some difficulty and came upon a very fine reach of water, the largest yet seen being and nearly ¼ mile wide for some distance the banks very green. A large and varied stock of wild fowl on the surface. Proceeding at xx to the westward the creek ran through a long and narrow valley from 3 to 4 miles wide, formed by the Welsh Mountains one of the north side and a range of low stony rises on the south. Between these on each side of the creek where high, white, and grassy sand hills running in a broken chain for some distance parallel with the ranges. At xx to.15 PM struck into the creek at camp LXVI, the last known camp of Mr Burke, situated on a final waterhole in a grassy hollow with a low stony rises stretching far away to the northward. Formed Camp No. XXXI at this place. Distance travelled 17 miles. And latitude 27°41'43"S. Longitude 140°46'E. [Observations] 44'.

Sunday, 15 September, Camp XXXII, Cooper's Creek.
Left Camp at 8.00 AM and proceeded along the banks of the creek to the westward, passed several fine water holes and found the country improve as we went on. At 10.20 passed a larger body of natives on the opposite side of the creek, and shouted loudly that owns and kept pointing farther down the creek, much to our astonishment, although as we were now following the track of the small party which he had left the depot for the north coast, we were [?] looking for any indications of their return. Following up this sheet of water, a number of natives were observed at the other end, apparently waiting for us. At this time Mr Howitt and Sandy there were some distance ahead running the track, all the rest of the party save myself were leading packs and, and he used the road in the rear, finding it easier to note the variations of course there than in the front. Looking at carelessly that the natives ahead, to whom we were gradually approaching, I was startled at observing what appeared to be a white man come from amongst them, although had it not been for the hat, it might still have been mistaken for an aboriginal as many of them had obtained old clothes at the depot. The hat convinced me it was a white man, and giving my horse his head I dashed down and the bank towards him, where he fell on his knees on the sand for a few moments in the attitude of prayer. On a rising I hardly asked " who in the name of wonder are you?" And received the reply "I am King, sir, the last man of the exploring expedition". The party having come up, we halted and camped; King was put in a tent and carefully attended to, and by degrees we got his story from him which was as follows.

To camp XXXII.
Latitude 27°44' S, Longitude 140°40'E.
Distance travelled 8 miles. 752'.

Melbourne to Swan Hill 220 miles;
Swan Hill to Cooper's Creek Camp XXXII 702 miles;
Total 972 miles.

Mr Burke, Mr Wills (Surveyor), Grey, and King left the depot at Camp LXV on Cooper's Creek on the 16th December 1860 with provisions for 3 months, taking 6 Camels + 1 Horse.

Pursuing a steady course northwards, they reached the Gulf of Carpentaria on the ___ ___ remaining only 3 days on account of the short allowance of provisions, having left 1 Camels some distance back knocked up.

They returned by a different route, hurrying as much as possible to reach the Depot before the provisions were all consumed. On the way back they killed the Horse and two Camels for Meat, and lost one camel, leaving them with only two to finish the journey. They had of course to walk and throw away everything, with the exception of what little food they carried. Mr Wills's instruments &c.- &c.- were buried in the desert. Two days before reaching the depot, and Gray gave in, telling them when he turned in at night that he felt he could not live until morning; he went to sleep and never awoke, being perfectly exhausted and reduced by starvation. With great difficulty they managed to dig a grave about 3 feet deep in the sand and buried him.

The remaining three pushed on at once for the Depot and to explain the narrative from here it is necessary to go back a little. When Mr Burke and party left the Depot on Cooper's Creek, he left there a small party in charge of stores &c.-, comprised of Mr Brahe, Baltani (sepoy), McDonough, and Patten, with instructions to wait for three months at any rate and longer if they could, but he confidently expect to return within the time named. This party remained until the 21st of April, 1861 when in consequence of one man (Patten) being in a dying condition, and the others suffering slightly from scurvy, Mr Brahe the officer in charge, having more than fulfilled the time mentioned, thought it prudent to retire into the settled districts, in the hopes of saving of Patten, and more over the length of time since the departure of the expedition had led him to conclude that they had either failed in their object, or returned to the settled districts by a more convenient route.

He accordingly buried all the provisions he could spare, and with the aid of camels and horses returned to Bullo, where he joined Mr Wright's party. He left the depot camp at 10.00 AM proceeding eastward, and Mr Burke, Mr Wills and King reached the same camp at 7.00 PM on the evening of the same day. They saw the date cut in the tree, and the recent tracks, but unfortunately had not strength sufficient to follow them. They were all there in a very exhausted state, owing to the want of proper nourishment and the two Camels they had with them, had with difficulty been brought in at all. In this dilemma they found the tree marked "Dig" and soon and brought to light the small quantity of provisions which had so recently been buried there. They remained at the Depot 5 days, recruiting their strength and that of the camels and in the meantime decided upon making their way into the settled districts via Mount Serle, as being the shortest, + one on which Mr Burke was supposed to have understood from the committee, he would find the best travelling, with plenty of water.

Having buried despatches, field books &c.- they filled up the hole and left it as before, without leaving any external mark of the visit. (This fact will to a certain extent explain our having supposed it to be undisturbed, and for Mr Brahe, who was again at the place with Mr Wright a fortnight afterwards, had not noticed the disturbance, neither did he when we passed last week, and seeing nothing to indicate Mr Burke's return we of course concluded that it was untouched.)

On leaving the camp, they pursued a westerly course down the creek, making easy stages and finding themselves much improved. Unfortunately in endeavouring to crossed the creek, previous to striking south, one of the camels got bogged in a quicksand and united efforts for upwards of 24 hours, were not successful in extricating him. They accordingly shot him and cut off as much of the flesh as they could carry, which they stopped and dried.

This with his loading they shared amongst themselves to carry, and travelled very slowly. The remaining camel however, was rapidly giving in, and shortly afterwards was unable to get up off his knees. This consummated their misfortunes. They had to kill this beast also, and take as much of the meat as they could, and each with a heavy swag proceeded on their way.

They followed a branch creek for some miles to the southward which they found eventually lost itself in the channels of an earthy plain, and accordingly had to retrace their steps to the last water left. All were beginning to feel more or less the effects of these numerous hardships, and hoarding of their small remaining stock of provisions made their way on to the main creek, with the intention of recruiting there for a short time preparatory to making another attempt. Unhappily however each succeeding day found them weakened, and as their short rations were finished, they had to adapt the means of living like the natives.

Their principal article of food under these circumstances, was a seed called by the natives "Nardoo" which is indeed a stable amongst the natives themselves. This is a small seed, found in great abundance about the creek and in fact in nearly all the wet or swampy ground to the Nd. of Torowoto. It grows on a small plant about 6 inches in height, looking something like clover, and as it ripens drops the seeds upon the ground. These are swept up, grounded between two stones, and sifted with the rough means at command; the residue is then made up in balls with water, and heated on the ashes. This sort of bread, with a few fish which they had given them at times by the natives, who were very friendly, kept them alive. They ocasionally succeeded in shooting a crow or hawk happening to come near their camp, but were too weak to seek for game.

During this time, poor Wills made a trip to the Depot on foot, between 30 + 40 miles, to bury some more of his books in the plant. On this trip he underwent great hardship and exposure, and returned to the camp exhausted. The weather was very fine, days very warm, but the nights very cold and as they had a very scanty supply of clothing they felt the changes severely. Wills became so bad that he could not move out of his the gunyah. Burke and King were gradually getting weaker, but the latter managed to keep them supplied with nardoo, which he also had to pound and cook, the others being unable. Wills apparently suffered most; the Nardoo passed through him as soon as eating, with great pain and he was totally unable to rise from the ground.

Matters had now become so serious, that Burke and King, the two strongest, consented at the urgent request of Wills, to leave him and seek for the blackfellows, as being a their only chance of salvation, by procuring food. The idea of separation was not a pleasant one, but seeing that they had no hope of saving either his life for their own, they consented, and after leaving a supply of nardoo, water and firewood within his reach, they departed. At this time, as he himself describes it, his pulse was at 30, and he felt he could not last long, but looked forward with hope to the return of his comrades.

Mr Burke and King proceeded up the creek, anxiously looking for the natives but unfortunately he could not see any. After going about 12 or 15 miles, the former gave in and told King he could not possibly manage to go any further. King however succeeded in persuading him to another attempt, which proved but a short one, + he again sank on the ground. As luck would have it, at this spot they found a nardoo patch from of which King succeeded in extracting enough flour to make a small ball, and was fortunate enough to shoot a crow. Of this repast they both partook heartily, and Burke expressed himself much refreshed, but still too weak to proceed. The night was very cold, which they felt severely, more especially King, who had no clothing save a dilapidated pair of flannel trousers and the remains of a pair of boots.

During the night Burke said he felt comfortable, but that he was dying + extracted a solemn promise from King, that when dead, he would on no account bury or cover his body, but leave it as he died, uncovered, this pistol placed in his right hand. He gave no motives for this very extraordinary request, but made a note to that effect in his memorandum book to exonerate King from any blame. He also wrote a few lines for the committee as follows:

I hope we shall be done justice to, we fulfilled our task but were not followed up as I expected, and the depot party abandoned their post. R O'H. Burke.

In addition to this he wrote a few lines respecting the disposal of his property and gave the book to King. At about eight o' clock in the morning of the following day (29th of June/61) he breathed his last and King was left alone. He left the body as he had promised, and proceeded farther up the creek, with the noble object of procuring assistance for Wills, from the blacks. He continued to suffer much both from hunger and fatigue, but still prosecuted his search.

He was however unsuccessful in finding the natives themselves; but on camping one night in one of their deserted gunyahs, he had the good fortune to find a large supply of nardoo which had been left behind by the owners. With this he determined to return to Wills, which he succeeded in doing in four days, having spelled two days to recruit his strength at the spot on which he found the seed, shooting a crow also at the same place.

To his great consternation and dismay he found that poor Wills had also died. He found him lying in the gunyah just as they had left him, apparently some days dead, and many articles of clothing having been stolen by the blacks, who however good for their disposition, are always found incorrigible thieves.

He had now no alternative but to remain where he was, + accordingly erected another gunyah close to the spot, in which he camped for a fortnight, subsisting upon the nardoo which he had so luckily found when up the creek. This being nearly finished, he covered up the body as well as his strength would admit, with boughs and sand, and again wandered off in search of the natives.

He luckily soon fell in with the tribe, who were very kind to him for the first two days, but finding that he had nothing to give away, they signed him to go. Knowing however that his only chance was in remaining with them, he determined on doing so + pertinaciously followed them about from one camp to another, until they at last began to look upon him more as one of themselves, + showed signs of pity for his desolate condition. He gave them to understand that other white men would eventually come for him, and they allowed him to remain with them, the women supplying him with a share of nardoo, and the men with a share of fish. By the aid of his gun he sometimes got a crow or hawk, and but reserved as much as possible his ammunition, in case of need.

Living in this state, we found him, more like an animated skeleton than anything else, and a complete blackfellow in almost everything but the color.


Monday, 16 September.
Remained the day in camp. Making preparations for shoeing horses &c.- King are very much improved, though still very weak and emaciated.

Tuesday, 17 September.
In the camp. Shoeing horses &c.- &c.- King improving rapidly.

Wednesday, 18 September.
At 8.30 AM party comprising of Mr Howitt, Mr Brahe, King, Doctor and myself, mounted and left the camp, proceeding down the creek, to inter the remains of Mr Wills in a proper manner. Pursuing a west-south-west course nearly for about 7 miles we reached the spot, marked by two gunyahs erected on the sand in the bed of the main creek between two waterholes. When King had left this, he had placed boughs and sand over all completely covering the gunyah in which the body lay: but I am sorry to say we found it much disturbed, the gunyah being partly pulled down, and the bones of the arms and legs scattered widely round. The skull was nowhere to be found, but the greater portion of the hair was matted together amongst the horse hair from the camels cushions, on which he had died. The body itself being enclosed in two shirts, and the sand not yet removed, was not altogether destroyed. This horrible work was evidently attributable to the native dogs, tracks of which animal all round the place where are very numerous. Gathering together all the remains, we dug a hole in the sand, on the same spot, under the gunyah, and deposited them within. Having no prayer book amongst us, we were obliged to use the testament, and Mr Howitt feelingly read the XV Chapter of 1st Corinthians. And I here feel no shame in acknowledging that the first tears which I had shed for years, forced themselves into my eyes, when I reflected on the fateful and melancholy death of this fine young man. These reflections were still further embittered by the knowledge that a similar task was yet to be performed for another. We piled at the grave with sand and logs, and marked a large gum tree adjacent:


and having completed our sad task, returned to the camp having first taken a few trifles which King had previously buried there. King on our return felt rather fatigued with his ride, but is nevertheless much better. Beautiful weather. In the evening at Camp XXXII obtained the following observations. [Observations]

Thursday, 19 September.
Employed shoeing horses &c.- and as most the requisite, shot some of the crested pigeons which are very numerous here and spliced their tail feathers on to the four carrier pigeons brought from Melbourne, having rubbed off for their own, by knocking about in the cage on a packhorse. Dull weather, sky overcast and threatening rain.

Friday, 20 September.
Employed shoeing horses &c.- At 6.00 AM flew the carrier pigeons, all four with the a similar message. They did not fly very strong, and seemed afraid of the hawks, separated widely and did not again and get together. Two were found about half an hour afterwards on the opposite side of the creek, one dead, the other was brought back to the camp where he remained perched in a gum tree. Weather dull with light flying showers. King progressing favourably. Cleared a little in the evening, enabling me to get the following observations. [Observations]

Saturday, 21 September.
At 8.00 AM and Mr Howitt, Mr Brahe, the Doctor, Aitkin and myself left camp and started up the creek to inter the remains of Mr Burke. King was not sufficiently strong to go this time, but gave as directions how to find the place. Strange to say, this was within a 300 yards from our last Camp (XXXI), and barely 20 yards from our track, and had it not been for of the dry mallows and scrub intervening, we must have seen it when we passed; perhaps it was fortunate we did not. The body, as King had left it, was under a large box tree on the edge of the creek, but it had been moved about 10 or 12 feet, most probably by dogs, for although the skeleton was complete with the exception of the hands and feet, the bones were quite denuded of flesh. We dug a grave under a gnarled old box tree and close to, and wrapping the remains in our Union Jack, we deposited them within. Mr Howitt reading the 11th chapter of the gospel of Saint John. On the tree cut with a chisel:


and having completed this second melancholy duty, returned to camp. His pistol, which we found near the body, was brought away: a Colts' Revolver, loaded and capped, but useless and rusty from exposure. Hands in camp employed and shoeing horses &c.- &c.- Weather very dark and threatening, scattered rain occasionally.

Sunday, 22 September.
Day of rest in camp. Obtained the following observations: [Observations].

Monday, 23 September.
The above observations have, I am sorry to say, caused a great obscurity of vision in the left eye, which I have been compelled to use for this purpose, since the loss of sight in the right, which occurred at Swan Hill. Further use of the instrument, is for the present strictly prohibited by the Doctor; were it not so by much I fear that observations taken under existing circumstances would prove of very little value. At 9.00 AM Mr Howitt and one man went down the creek to look for the blacks who were so kind to King. He found them in about 4 miles, and giving them a few trifles persuaded them to come up to the camp, and they should all have presents. They had left the part of the creek the day after we camped here; King thought because they were afraid they would have to supply us with nardoo and fish, as they had done for him; and as there were 12 of us, then shyness is scarcely to be wondered at. Finished shoeing the horses.

Tuesday, 24 September.
Shortly after breakfast this morning the whole tribe of blacks made their appearance, numbering between 20 and 30. As a body they are most emaciated, hungry looking crew, but more especially the women, one of which in particular, was the exact facsimile of a baboon. All appeared in a perfect state of nudity, as they exist. The generality of the men are circumcised, in addition to the loss of the front teeth, and some few of these wear a girdle of grass net round the loins. The only weapon, at least as far as we have seen, is the boomerang, which though very rudely cut, he still effective at short distances, and certainly a great exhibition of Haitians, when one considers that they have no tools but a sharp flint to construct them with. After making them sit down, we distributed a large collection of trifles amongst them, which we had brought with us to meet any such an emergency. These consisted of tomahawks, knives, looking glasses, beads, handkerchiefs, coloured ribbon &c.- &c.-, with all of which they appeared highly delighted, more particularly with the cutlery and looking glasses. In addition to these we gave them a [?] bag of flour, explaining that it was "white fellow nardoo" and a small bag of sugar, which they like very much. They returned to their camp, apparently in the state of great excitement, yabbering loudly, and continually repeating "Whitefellow, Whitefellow", and the only word they are as yet acquainted with. From my slight knowledge of these people, I should say that a little kind treatment would render them subservient, and their services are very valuable addition in many of respects to any white man coming amongst them. They are highly superstitious and may therefore be easily wrought upon, either for good or evil. Their great failing, appears to be a disposition to theft, one very simply contracted; that the kindness of the natives, will I think after the forgoing narrative be scarcely called into question. They have certainly too great a fear of a white men even to seek a quarrel, but will doubtless in the event of finding themselves the strongest party, appear rather [?] (colonial). Their courage is, however, doubtful and their very wholesome dread of firearms leads them to conclude, from one shot fired over their heads, that discretion is the better part of valour.

Wednesday, 25 September, Camp XXXI.
Packed up and started from our camp at 8.00 AM and proceeded slowly up the creek at Camp XXXI, where we again have formed our camp. From the marked tree at this Camp, I chained the distance to Burke's grave and found it magnetic south, 19 chains. At the grave I gathered some nardoo and a specimen of the plant, most of the party indeed it did the same, a sad memento of the great expedition. King is very much improved and, but although riding a camel, and he feels fatigued with the short distance performed today. We left at Camp XXXII the white pigeon which was brought back the morning they were flown, which remained in the gum-tree near the camp all the time we were there: he was certainly not worth taking back to town. A slight improvement in the left eye today.

Thursday, 26 September.
Proceeded on the old track for about 8 miles and camped at 11.00 AM on the large reach of water half way to the next camp. (Eyes as bad as ever).

Friday, 27 September.
On bringing the horses up this morning, found that one of them years had foaled, and we were consequently obliged to remain here for the day, which as there happens to be both shooting and fishing, is no great hardship. Killed the foal, being impossible to bring it with us. Fine, but hot wind.

Saturday, 28 September, Camp XXIX, The Fishpond.
Left Camp at 8.20 AM and proceeded up the creek on the old track. Found the water holes in the main channel slightly lower, but the appearance of the country much improved since we went down about a fortnight ago. At 12.20 PM, stopped at the depot (Fort Wills) and dug up the plant made by Mr Burke on his return from the gulf. This consisted of field books and a few rough tracings, some notebooks, and a tin case with letters enclosed after filling in the hole we proceeded, and at 3 miles camped under the sand hills at the fish pond where we had previously formed Camp XXIX, and at this place we again caught a large quantity of fish, unsurpassed in quality, I believe, by any fish in the colonies. (Hot wind all day).

Sunday, 29 September.
King being very much fatigued by yesterday's journey, and being pronounced by the Doctor unfit to travel today, Mr Howitt decided upon remaining here. Fine day but very unpleasant hot wind from a northward, blowing in gusts and raising the temperature to 90°F in the shade. Different members of the party caught amongst them upwards of 100 lbs weight of fish, averaging about 1½ lbs each, although some of them, weighed as much as 4 lbs.

Monday, 30 September, near Camp XXVIII.
Left camp this morning at 7.45 and proceeded on the track towards our old Camp No XXVIII, but on our arrival there, found that the small pool of water had dried up, we accordingly followed the creek up, and in about ½ mile came on a small pool of surface water in the bed, shaded by a thick clump of tea-tree scrub, where we camped. Hot window again all day from northward, temperature 99° F in shade, dying away with the sun and recommencing at daylight.

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