Tracks of McKinlay and party across Australia/Chapter 4
THE SEARCH FOR BURKE AND WILLS.
Editor's Remarks: Contradictory Accounts of Burke's Party reconciled; Peculiarities of Climate of the Lake District—October 18th, McKinlay starts on the search—Fish of the Lakes and Creeks—20th, Kadhiberri or Lake Massacre—21st, The White Man's Grave and the Skeleton—Other Signs—Conjectures—22nd, Meet Natives—Keri Keri; His Character and Doings—23rd, Collision with Natives—24th, Return to Depôt—November 29th, Return of Party sent for Supplies—December 2nd, Start for Cooper's Creek—3rd-5th, More of the Lake District—6th, 7th, The Graves of Wills and of Burke—11th, Return to Camp.
A report from a distance of four white persons killed seems, as the distance narrowed, to settle down with increasing clearness to one person—at least, there was but one body alluded to as McKinlay neared the scene; and report went on to say that he was buried by his comrades, but that after their departure the natives had dug him up, and cut off the fleshy parts and eaten them. Close to a small lake, which, in the face of such reports McKinlay could not do less than name Lake Massacre, a grave was pointed out—not that of a native, evidently, from the slight care bestowed upon it. A little below the surface soil, which was removed by aid of a stick, was a body; or, rather, a skeleton, which seemed that of a white man. Further on another grave is pointed out; this grave has the marks of having been dug with a spade or shovel; no body, however, is found in it. Near the spot is a camping-ground, with the marks as of camels and horses that had been tied up.
The accounts we possess of Burke's expedition enable us readily to interpret all this, and to ascertain with some probability how much of the natives' reports are true. Burke's party of four arrived entire thus far on their return, but all weary and exhausted from travel and want of food, and one of them, Gray, so much so, that he lay down and expired. Dutifully his comrades sacrificed a day in order that, with their feeble strength, they might make a grave and bury him—a fatal day to them, for otherwise they would have reached the depôt at Cooper's Creek the day before Brahe and his party had left. This duty over, the three survivors pass on to the Cooper.
And now comes a probable part of the reports of the natives; they had dug up the body after Burke had left; and, most probably, had feasted on the flesh, re-interring the skeleton in another place, and in the careless way alluded to. There are no allusions to actual hostilities to be found in the accounts of Burke's party, but on at least one occasion he ordered King to fire upon the natives when they were pressing threateningly upon him. As to the rest of the reports, adjacent alien tribes may not be supposed to catch up news from one another very accurately. The ball-ridden and shot-ridden system of the native Keri Keri, whom McKinlay's party caught near the scene, and whom Bullenjani immediately pointed out as the murderer of the white man, and who himself seemed to admit the occurrence of the massacre, may be a little perplexing. But Keri evidently indulged a most intense hostility towards these white intruders, and, as with his four "lubras," or wives, he seems to have been a chief man, it is probable that most of whatever firing did take place took a direction towards him. He had plainly been at the bottom of the determined attack made on McKinlay's party when at this scene of his old doings; although, in this one instance, at least, he seems to have kept out of harm's way, supposing, perhaps, that his share of the cold lead on such occasions had already been beyond average. Our illustration, showing his marked physiognomy, and Mr. Hodgkinson's paragraph describing his qualities, give together a good notion of this sworn enemy of our people.
Mr. McKinlay returned to the depôt from this excursion on 24th October. It was not until the 29th November that the party sent back to Blanchewater for more provisions had returned, bringing the news that Howitt had learned the fate of Burke's party, and had rescued the solitary survivor, King. Howitt arrived at the Cooper in the middle of September, just a month prior to McKinlay's arrival at Lake Buchanan, so that the reports of the natives as to some surviving remnant of the whites being at the Cooper were accurate enough. He still resolves to visit the Cooper, however, in the hope of observing its lower course towards the south, should the preceding rains have filled its bed with a running stream. After being detained above a month in the hope of rain to enable him to get over the parched country, he reaches the Cooper, and conjectures that it discharges its waters partly by Strzelecki Creek, running south towards the Torrens and Spencer Gulf, and partly by another branch taking at first a north-westerly course, but eventually turning in the southerly direction. He was successful in finding also the graves of both Burke and Wills. The remains of the unfortunate travellers were, as we have already stated elsewhere, conveyed to Melbourne by a party under Howitt, sent a second time and specially for the purpose by the Government of Victoria, and publicly re-interred in the cemetery outside that city.
The reports of the natives as to many sheets of water in this part of the country induced McKinlay to spend considerable time in making explorations, and rendered necessary the addition to his stock of provisions which he has just received. The country presented in striking contrast the remarkable features we alluded to in our opening remarks in a preceding chapter. Long continued absence of rain had completely dessicated the higher surface of the plains, where the vegetation was so crisp and dry that it would have burned like so much tinder. On the other hand the creek banks and the lake beds, some with, others without water, were generally luxuriantly grassed. In most parts the country only wanted rain to present vegetation throughout; from the numbers of the natives and the crowd of animated nature generally, McKinlay inferred that there must be supplies of permanent water, thus rendering the country valuable for pastoral purposes. There were opportunities to explore some of these numerous lakes, but others spoken of by the natives could not be visited, as time pressed for the onward march.
In a country possessing these characteristics the climate was remarkable for its extremes, being one day cool and delightful, although now near the middle of summer, and another day unbearably hot. Strong winds swept the open country, on one occasion causing the waters of the depot lake to recede for the time six hundred yards. The evaporative power of these winds was quite marvellous; owing to the comparatively small water area which they blew over they were usually imperfectly supplied with moisture, and had therefore a hot and dry feeling. On the other hand, after abundant rains the cold produced by the extended surface of evaporation greatly modified the climate. By thermometric observations taken between 10th November and 20th December, the latter date being towards the middle of the antipodean summer, the temperature varied as follows, premising that the party were in south latitude 27° and 28° in the midst of this lake district: at sunrise or daylight it varied from 54° to 85°; at sunset the temperature was usually a good deal higher, as high sometimes as 90° and 100°. In the daytime with the powerful sun, the burning ground, and the imperfect shelter, the heat was sometimes, of course, much more extreme. We now turn to Mr. McKinlay's journal.
Oct. 17th. At depôt making arrangements for a start; out in search of the water the whites are supposed to be at. I will take with me Mr. Hodgkinson, Middleton, and a native of this country, Bullenjani (who seems to say he knows something of the whites), four camels, three horses, 160 lb. flour, 32 lb. sugar, 4 lb. tea, 11 lb. bacon, and some little necessaries, etc., for persons likely to be in a weak state. Leave Bell in charge of the arrangements of the camp, Davis in charge of the stores. About twenty natives are encamped within pistol shot; but have made a fold for the sheep, and put everything in such a shape that I may find things all right on my return. Opened the sausages, and found them all less or more damaged; one tin, in fact, as nearly rotten as possible, which had to be thrown away; the others are now drying in the sun in the hope we may be able to use them. We would have been in a sad fix without the sheep.
18th. At 8 a.m., started; crossed well-grassed flooded polygonum flats or plains, for an hour, crossing Kiradinte in the Careri Creek; then left the creek on the left, and passed over a succession of sand ridges. At 9·15 arrived at Lake Cudgeecudgeena, at about nine miles. It was quite a treat, abundance of good water, and any quantity of grass of various kinds, and plenty of clover. It bears 345°, is about six miles long, and fully half a mile wide, well timbered. On a bearing from this southern end of lake (now called Lake Buchanan, after Mr. Buchanan, of Anlaby, from whom the whole party experienced the utmost kindness), Lake Bulpaner, now all but dry (and what was mistaken by me the other day, when in search of a good depôt, for this lake—very dissimilar indeed), bears 158°, distant about two miles, along almost a valley. Saw some of the natives on the way here, and sent Mr. Hodgkinson and Bullenjani back for one of them to forward a letter to Camp Depot, to desire them to move on to this place, so much more desirable for a depôt than where they now are. Turned out the animals, to await their return. In the meantime, three lubras arrived on the opposite side of the lake, and we called them over. Shortly after, Mr. Hodgkinson and the black came back: we had some luncheon, started the lubras back to the cart at the depôt with a note requesting them to advance to this lake, and, at 1·25 p.m., started on a bearing of 345° along the side of the lake, and, at 2·45, left the north-east sweep of the lake; then, on a bearing of 32°, over sand ridges and salt-bush flats. Very open country till within one mile of camp at Ghinany, a large creek, about sixty to eighty yards wide, and from twenty to thirty deep, on which we found a number of natives just finishing their day's fishing. They had been successful, and had three or four different sorts of fish, viz., the catfish of the Murray, the nombre of the Darling, and the brown perch, and I think I observed a small cod. They offered, and I took several, which were very good; they promised to bring more in the morning. We came upon and crossed a large flooded wooded polygonum flat, which continued close to the camp. Distance travelled, twenty-five and three-quarters miles.
19th. Early this morning, about eighty natives of all sorts, healthy and strong, visited the camp, and could not be coaxed or driven away. I think they would have tried to help themselves were it not from fear of the arms; how they came to know their deadliness, I cannot say. Altering one of the camel-saddles that has hurt one of their backs, and caused us to be late in starting. Started 8·40 a.m. Immediately crossed creek to Toorabinganee, a succession of reaches of water in a broad creek, some apparently deep; spelled half an hour, crossed creek, and went over very high sand hills, pretty well grassed, with a little saltbush of various kinds, with some flooded and salt-bush flats, and arrived at Luncheon Place, an island often, now partly dry on south-eastern side, in an extensive irregular lake of about eight and a half to nine miles long, by an average of one and three-quarters to two miles. Very hot. Name of lake, Canna Canta-jandide. Thought I might be able to cross it at the narrowest place with the horses and camels, instead of going all round, as it put me out of my course. Sent Mr. Hodgkinson to ascertain its depth, and found it too deep, so had to go round. Arrived at Luncheon Place at 12·10, and started again 3·40, and travelled to east end of lake, bearing 202°, till 4·17; then course of 27°, over exceedingly high and abrupt sand hills, with poor miserable flats between them; towards the end of our day's journey, over a rather more flat country, with large dry beds of lakes or swamps, as dry as ashes, with a salt-like appearance, the only vegetation being a few scattered bushes of samphire, and an occasional salt-bush—a more dreary country you could not well imagine. Arrived at Lake Moolion-dhurunnie, a nice little lake, nearly circular, and nearly woodless, about one and a half miles diameter, at 6·55 p.m. Abundance of good water, and plenty of feed—clover, and some grass. Bearing of creek that fills lake, 350°; east end, 87°; west end, 303°; north side, 15°. Distance travelled, twenty-eight miles. On arrival at lake, saw several native fires, which, on our lighting ours, were immediately put out. Saw nothing of them.Sunday, 20th. At daylight about ninety to a hundred natives, of all sorts, visited us; they were not so unruly as those of the morning before, having evidently had some communication with whites—using the word "Yanaman" for horse, as in Sydney, and one or two other words familiar to me. Plenty of fish of all sorts in the lake, although not very deep. Cuddibaieni bears 100°. The natives here say that the whites have left above place, and are now at Undaganie. I observed several portions of European clothing about their camps as on our course we passed them. At the camp we found twenty to thirty more natives, principally aged and children; and on the opposite side of the lake there was another encampment, in all numbering about 150 souls. The sand hills in our course were exceedingly high on the western side, but pretty hard; but on the eastern side almost precipitous, and soft drift-sand; a dray or cart might get east, but I cannot fancy it possible it could return. An exceedingly hot day, wind north. On our way, the natives informed us that the natives we had left in the morning had murdered the man said to be at the end of our day's stage. On some of the ridges, and on crossing a large flat creek, I observed two new trees or shrubs (they are both); from one I obtained some seeds like beans, and rather a nice tree; the other, when large, at a distance looks like a shea-oak, having a very dark butt, and long, drooping, dark-green, narrow leaves, and did not appear to have any seeds at present. Started at 7·17. Till 9·38 nine miles, on a bearing of from 100° to 105°. At 8·18 sighted a large timbered creek, distant one mile, for about seven miles, 360° to 140°. At 9·38 observed a large, dry, salt lake, bearing 341°, north-west arm 330°, north arm 355°, distance to extreme point of north bank nine miles. Bullenjani informed us that a large lake lay on a bearing of 110°, some distance off, named Mum Murri Ando. At 10·15 started on a fresh course of 64°, crossing, 11·15, a small salt lake, rapidly drying up. At 11·30 altered course to 100°. At 11·35 to 12·50 spelled on sand hill, waiting for the camels, they feeling the effects of the steep sand hill. At 1·9 altered course to 116°; at 1·15 altered course to 161°; at 1·53 changed to 47°; and at 2·20 reached Lake Kadhiberri. Found plenty of water, and watered the horses (the camels some distance behind quite unable to keep up), and at once proceeded northward along the side of a large, beautifully-timbered, grassed, and clovered swamp (or creek, about one and a half miles across), to ascertain the fact as to the presence of a European, dead or alive, and there found a grave rudely formed by the natives; evidently not one of themselves, sufficient pains not having been taken, and from other appearances, at once set it down as the grave of a white, be he who he may. Returned to lake to await the coming of the camels, which was not till about 5 p.m. Determined in the morning to have the grave opened and ascertain its contents. Whilst I went to top of sand hills, looking round me, Mr. Hodgkinson strayed a short distance to some old deserted native huts, a short distance off, and
KADHI BIERI, OR MASSACRE LAKE.
21st. Up in good time. Before starting for the grave, went round the lake, taking Mr. Hodgkinson with me, to see if natives were really on the lake, as I did not intend saddling the camels to-day if there were no natives here, intending to leave our camp unprotected; rather unwise, but being so short of hands could not help it, the grave being much out of sight. Found no natives round the lake, nor any very recent traces, saving that some of the trees were still burning that they, when here last, had lighted. We started at once for the grave, taking a canteen of water with us, and all the arms. On arrival removed the earth carefully, and close to the top of the ground found the body of a European, enveloped in a flannel shirt with short sleeves, a piece of the breast of which I have taken; the flesh, I may say, completely cleared from the bones, and very little hair but what must have been decomposed; what little there was I have taken. Description of body, skull, etc.:—Marked with slight sabre cuts, apparently two in number, one immediately over the left eye, the other on the right temple, inclining over right ear, more deep than the left. Decayed teeth existed on both sides of lower jaw, and right of upper; the other teeth were entire and sound. In the lower jaw were two teeth, one on each side (four between in front) rather projecting, as is sometimes called, in the upper jaw, "back teeth." I have measured the bones of the thigh and leg, as well as the arm, with a cord, not having any other method of doing it. Gathered all the bones together and buried them again, cutting a lot of boughs and other wood, and putting over top of the earth. Body lies with head south, feet north, lying on face, head severed from body. On a small tree, immediately south, we marked—"MK. Oct. 21, 1861." Immediately this was over we questioned the native further on the subject of his death. He says he was killed by a stroke from what the natives use as a sword (an instrument of semicircular form), five to eight feet long, and very formidable. He showed us where the whites had been in camp when attacked. We saw lots of fish-bones, but no evidence then on the trees to suppose whites had been there. They had certainly chosen a very bad camp, in the centre of a box shrub, with native huts within 150 to 200 yards of them. On further examination, we found the dung of camels and horse or horses, evidently tied up a long time ago. Between that and the grave we found another grave, evidently dug with a spade or shovel, and a lot of human hair of two colours, that had become decomposed on the skin of the skull, and fallen off in flakes—some of which I have also taken. I fancy they must all have been murdered here; dug out the new formed grave with a stick (the only instrument we had), but found no remains of bodies save one little bone. The black accounted for this in this manner, he says they had eaten them. Found in an old fire-place, immediately adjoining, what appeared to be bones very well burned, but not in any quantity. In and about the last grave named, a piece of light blue tweed, and fragments of paper, and small pieces of a nautical almanack were found, and an exploded "Eley's cartridge." No appearance on any of the trees of bullet marks, as if a struggle had taken place. On a further examination of the blacks' camp, where the pint pot was found, there was also found a tin canteen, similar to what is used for keeping naphtha in, or some such stuff, both of which we keep. The native says that any memos, the whites had are back on the last camp we were at on the lake, with the natives, as well as the iron-work of saddles, which, on our return, we mean to endeavour to recover if the blacks can be found; it may be rash, but there is necessity for it. I intend, before returning, to have a further search. No natives yet seen here.
22nd. Breakfasted, and are just about to get in the horses to have a further search, when the natives make their appearance within half a mile of us, making for some of their old huts. Immediately on observing us, made off at full speed. Mounted the horses and soon overtook one fellow in much fear. In the pursuit, the black fellow with us was thrown from his horse; the horse followed, and came up with us just as we pulled the frightened fellow up. Immediately after, our black fellow came up, mounted his horse, and requested us at once to shoot the savage, as he knew him to be one of the murderers of the man or party; but we declined, thinking we might be able to glean something of the others from him. On taking him back from where we caught him to the camp, he brought us to a camp (old) of the natives, and there dug up a quantity of baked horsehair, for saddle stuffing. He says everything of the saddlery was burned, the iron-work kept, and the other bodies eaten—a sad end of the poor fellows. He stated that there is a pistol north-east of us, at a creek, which I have sent him to fetch; and a rifle or gun at the lake we last passed, which, with the other articles, we will endeavour to recover. Exceedingly hot; windy, and looks as if it would rain. The natives describe the country from south to north of east as being destitute of water or creeks, which I afterwards found cause to doubt. I have marked a tree here on north side—"MK, Oct. 22-61; west side, Dig 1ft.;" where I will bury a memo., in case anyone should see my tracks, that they may know the fate of the party we are in search of. There are tens of thousands of the flock pigeon here; in fact, since we came north of Lake Torrens, they have been very numerous, and at the same time very wary. Mr. Hodgkinson has been very successful in killing as many of them as we can use, mixed with a little bacon. Before the native went to fetch the pistol he displayed on his body, both before and behind, the marks of ball and shot wounds now quite healed. One ball, inside of left knee, so disabled him that he had to be carried about (as he states) for some considerable time; he has also the mark of a pistol bullet on right collar bone; and on his breast a number of shot—some now in the flesh, but healed. His family, consisting of four lubras and two boys, remained close to our camp awaiting his return, which he said (from pointing to the sun) would be 10 or 11 o'clock next day. When called at 10·40 p.m. to take my watch, I had not been on duty ten minutes when I observed a signal fire in the direction he had gone, about six miles distant, and wondered he did not make his appearance but all was quiet for the rest of the night, excepting that at intervals the fire was replenished.
23rd, 4 a.m. Just as we were getting up, not very clear yet, headed by the fellow I yesterday sent for the pistol, came about forty others bearing torches, shields, etc., etc., etc., shouting and kicking up a great noise, and evidently endeavouring to surround us. I immediately ordered them back, also telling the native that was with me to tell them that if they did not keep back I would fire upon them, which they one and all disregarded—some were then within a few paces of us, the others at various other distances. I requested Hodgkinson and Middleton to be ready with their arms and fire when desired. Seeing nothing else left but to be butchered ourselves, I gave the word "Fire!" A few of those closest retired a few paces, and were being encouraged on to the attack, when we repeated our fire; and until several rounds were fired into them (and, no doubt, many felt the effects) they did not wholly retire. I am afraid the "messenger," the greatest vagabond of the lot, escaped scathless. They then took to the lake, and a few came round the western side of it, southward, whom we favoured with a few dropping shots to show the danger they were in, by the distance the rifles would carry on the water. They then cleared off, and we finished with them. I then buried the memo., for any person that might happen to follow my footsteps, at the same time informing them to beware of the natives as we had, in self-defence, to fire upon them. I have no doubt, from the manner they came up, that they at once considered us an easy prey; but I fancy they miscalculated, and I hope it may prove a useful lesson to them in future.
We here transfer from Mr. Hodgkinson's journal a description of this "messenger," who was no other than the Keri Keri, already alluded to.
"Oct. 22nd., Kadhiberri. We had just saddled the horses this morning, purposing to ride some few miles beyond Burke Swamp, when our attention was attracted by some natives walking from the north towards the whirlies where I had found the pannican and canteen. They were five in number, a man and four lubras (women), and did not at first perceive our presence on the lake. The flutter of our blankets, which were hanging on the branch of a tree, at length attracted their pursuit, and away they posted in the direction from which they had come. Mr. McKinlay, Bullenjani (a native), and I were after them at mil gallop in an instant, but Bullenjani, unaccustomed to such rapid motion, parted with his horse, which still continued the pursuit. In about a mile we two riders with our three horses pulled up the dark individual, and certainly a more expressive subject of mingled fear and rage could not be found. With hanging jaw to show his fear,
KERI KERI, A NATIVE OF KADHIBERRI, CENTRAL AUSTRALIA.
distended nostrils his surprise, and glaring eye his hate, there he stood, covered by my gun, convulsively twitching his waddy, as if meditating to hurl it at one or other. Bellenjani coming up, however, somewhat assuaged his fears, and ultimately forced a maniacal laugh from him. With a few shrill cries he let his lubras know no immediate harm was intended, and forth from their place of concealment came these hideous objects of his solicitude. On being questioned as to the white fellows, he led us to an adjacent sand hill, and without hesitation commenced scratching on a spot from which he brought to view a quantity of burnt horsehair, used for the stuffing of saddles. He was then taken to our camp, fed, and more closely examined. A wound on his knee attracting our attention, he showed how he had been shot, by pointing to my gun, and carried from the spot on another native's back. Besides the wound on his knee, there was another bullet-mark on his chest, re-issuing between the shoulders, and four buckshot still protruding from the centre of his back. He corroborated all Bullenjani had said relative to the massacre and its cannibalistic denouement, distinctly stated that four whites were killed, and ultimately departed, leaving his lubras as a hostage, for the purpose of fetching a pistol in the possession of his tribe. … He said his name was Keri Keri."
Got breakfast ready and over without further molestation, and started at 10·30, on a bearing of 197°. At 11·15 reached a recently-flooded richly-grassed flat, surrounded by a margin of trees; the main bulk of it lying south of our course; thence, bearing 202°, stopping twenty minutes for camels, and proceeding, and at 12·30, crossing north-west end of another dry lake or grassed and clovered flat, similar to the other. At 1·20, made a large box creek, with occasional gums, about from fifty to sixty yards wide, and eighteen to twenty feet deep, sandy bottom, where we struck it perfectly dry, where a stream flows to west of north, with immense side creeks (I fancy Cooper's Creek is a branch of it). Followed its bed in its course northward, and at 2 p.m. reached a water-hole with no very considerable quantity of water. Watered the camels and horses. This creek is named Werridi Marara. From thence, Lake Buphanan bears 232° 30'; Kadhiberri 41°; Lake Moolion-dhurunnie, 296°. Crossed the creek and went on a bearing of 215° 30 till 6 p.m., striking same creek and following its bed (dry) for about two miles, and reached Dharannie Creek; a little indifferent water in its bed, very steep banks, about thirty feet high and sixty yards broad. The bed of the creek, from where we struck it at 6 p.m., was chiefly rocky or conglomerate stone, resembling burned limestone.
24th. Left at 7·15 15, bearing 215°; travelling one hour and twenty minutes over splendid grassy flats with low intervening sand-ridges. At 9·55 made Arannie, a recently-dried lake (abundance of clover and grasses), three miles long by one broad, at right angles to our course, and struck it quarter of a mile from its northern extremity. At 10·22 made Ity-a-mudkie, another recently dried lake; plenty of luxuriant feed. At 10·50 reached its western border, at a creek called Anti-wocarra, with no great quantiiy of water, flowing from 320°. At 1 p.m. left Anti-wocarra. At 1·55 made a large flooded flat, recently under water, with a great abundance of clover and grasses reaching as far as the eye can trace. At right angles to our course, at 2·15, reached its western border, and at 2·25 reached the depôt at Lake Buchanan, or Cudgeecudgeena—the place where I directed the camp to be shifted to,—and found everything in good order, much to my satisfaction. My black female messengers it appears did not go back at once to our camp with the note I gave them, and consequently they did not get here till Sunday.
25th. At camp very much the appearance of rain, but none has fallen. Clearing off any heavy trees round our camp that could be used by natives as places of concealment. Have made up my mind to send a party into the settled districts, as far as Blanchewater, with such information regarding the object of my search and as much general information as is in my power, with copy of journal and tracing showing our route, which Mr. Hodgkinson will be better able to do neatly at Blanchewater than here in the tents; although he has made here on the spot such a one as would give a very good idea of all that is necessary. No part of this country has had any rain for very many months; the grasses and herbage, generally, on the hilly ground, being like tinder. If it had an ordinary share it would be an excellent healthy stock country. From the number of natives, and their excellent condition, I am satisfied that many lakes and creeks in this part are permanent; and as I mean to give it a good look over I have come to the conclusion that I will require a further supply of flour, tea, sugar, and a few little et ceteras, and will therefore send horses with the party that goes to Blanchewater, under the guidance of Mr. Hodgkinson, to bring up additional supplies, trusting to get them there, and at the same time hoping this course may meet the approbation of the Government; for in so doing I adopt the course I would pursue on my own account, and therefore do it on theirs. The men are in excellent health and good spirits, and the animals, except the camels (they cannot stand the heavy hills of sand if at all hot, which it was on our last trip), are all in good condition—many of them much better than when we left Adelaide. The wind is blowing from all parts of the compass, but rather cool. For days previous it kept from the north, and generally very hot indeed. As yet no rare specimens obtained of birds, animals, or anything else.
COPY OF LETTER BURIED AT LAKE MASSACRE.
S. A. B. R. Expedition.
"To the Leader of any Expedition seeking tidings of Burke and party.
"Sir,—I reached this water on the 19th inst., and by means of a native guide discovered a European camp one mile north, on west side of flat. At or near this camp traces of horses, camels, and whites were found. Hair, apparently belonging to Mr. Wills, Charles Gray, and Mr. Burke or King was picked from the surface of a grave dug by a spade, and from the skull of a European buried by the natives. Other less important traces—such as a pannican, oil can, saddle stuffing, etc., have been found. Beware of the natives; upon whom we have had to fire. We do not intend to return to Adelaide, but proceed to west of north. From information, all Burke's party were killed and eaten.
I have, etc., JNO. McKINLAY.
P.S.—All the party in good health. If you had any difficulty in reaching this spot, and wish to return to Adelaide by a more practicable route, you may do so for at least three months to come by driving west for eighteen miles, then south of west, cutting our dray track within thirty miles. Abundance of water and feed at easy stages.
Mr. McKinlay gives some of his views and plans after the return of the party sent south to Blanchewater for additional supplies.
29th. At 7·30 two natives arrived on opposite side of the lake, bringing the joyous tidings that the party under charge of Mr. Hodgkinson had camped at a creek called Keradinte, about eight miles from this, last night, so that I expect them every hour. I was heartily glad to hear of them. At 9·30 a.m. Mr. Hodgkinson and party arrived safe, for which I was truly thankful. I was afraid something had happened to them, from their apparent long absence. I am sorry that the native, Jack, that accompanied them from this, deserted about the inner stations, having heard some idle report of something having happened to the party here. Mr. Hodgkinson has brought back with him nearly everything I required. By him I also received some Adelaide papers, in which were some Melbourne telegrams, one of which announced the rescue by Mr. Howitt of one of Burke's party, King; so that I have been deceived as to appearances at Lake Kadhiberri respecting the different colours of hair found. Still I am under the impression that when Burke's diary is published that it will show of some affray with the natives about that place, or they would not have acted towards us when there as they did. By receipt of such intelligence, and that now the whole of the unfortunate party are accounted for, it renders my journey to Cooper's Creek as I intended, useless for any purpose of relief. Had they on their arrival from the north coast at Cooper's Creek depôt only pushed westward this length, they could, with the greatest ease to themselves, have made the Adelaide stations. I am quite surprised that they could not get south by Strzelecki's Creek, being under the impression that two-thirds of the water of Cooper's Creek was drained off by that watercourse southward. My impression from observation here is, that a very great portion of the waters of Cooper's Creek is drained northwards from this. Before leaving this it is my intention to push eastward some distance to ascertain the character of the country, and on my return to push westward for some distance to ascertain if the Stony Desert exists so far southward as this. I will then proceed northward and examine the waters reported by the natives to exist in that quarter, and ascertain if they are likely to be of permanent use to South Australia. From them, I shall be entirely guided by the appearance of the country there as to my future movements. I am now satisfied that water can be had by digging. By the time I return from the east and westward the horses that have been down to the settled districts will have so far recovered from their fatigue, and be again able to proceed northward.
[The indefatigable leader now gets ready for Cooper's Creek, rain or no rain.]
Sunday, Dec.1. A little rain during the night, but not enough to wet a sheet of paper. At sunrise temperature 70°, calm. At noon slight breeze, southerly; temperature 110°. Found suspended the spring of one of Terry's breech-loading rifles round the neck of a native. He describes the remaining portions of the rifle out to the north-east, which will be nearly in our north course. Highest temperature during the afternoon in the sun, 129°; at sunset, 90°.
2nd. Wind south-south-east, temperature at sunrise 77°, sky completely overcast. Start out eastward to examine the country, with two camels, five horses, and sufficient food for one and a half weeks, taking with me Middleton, Poole, Frank (native), and a native of this place. My main object in going out now is—firstly, to ascertain if there is a likelihood of a flood down Cooper's Creek this season, after all the rain that has fallen along the eastern side of the continent some months back, and which I thought possible might have fallen as well on and to west of coast range, so to secure to us an open retreat in the event of our being able to make some considerable advance northward, and being detained some time; and secondly, to ascertain if any one was as yet stationed on Cooper's Creek, in order to intimate to such my intentions of proceeding northward for some distance, and the almost certainty of my crossing any track which either of the search parties from the northern coast could possibly make en route to Cooper's Creek or even Eyre's Creek. Started at 9·15 a.m., and passed through nothing but sandhill and flooded flat country till 3 p.m., and arrived at Tac Wilten Creek, containing little water, but drinkable. For the first few miles the sand hills were further apart, with, in the interval, salt-bush and grassy flats. Watered the horses and camels, crossed the creek, passed up the south side, crossed a sand hill, crossed the creek, went a short distance on north side of creek, recrossed it, and went up south side to water. This is a long narrow strip of water, not deep, and drying up fast. A number of natives here. Crossed creek again and went to Aunrinnie, arrived at north-east end of water, and crossed creek 4·30 p.m. Distance about twenty-five miles. The water here, although enough, is quite unfit for use, the horses and camels refusing it, but there is good green feed in the flat.
3rd. Started at 8 a.m., passed over sand hills till 8·43 and made large lake, dry, Cullamun by name, destitute of vegetation, and no margin of trees; passed over sand hills and flooded flat to a creek very broad, deep, and well defined by timber, and trending northward; not much water at present, good here, but unfit for use above and below, like that of last night. Creek called A-ga-boog-ana. Distance, about eight miles. I went there rather out of my course to water the camels, being the nearest in going anything like the course I wished; passed sand hills through south end of large dry lake at 11·22, and again sand hills; then through large flooded swamp, Narrogoonnoo Mooku, with no marginal trees; southern end a good deal of cane grass; then again sand hills till 12·46; then large cracked flooded plain, Wandra-brin-nannie, till arrived at a creek with no water; crossed and rode up creek on south side to east of north to Barka Water, no feed. Got down into the bed of the creek and rode up about three-quarters of a mile to a water called Moollaney, pretty good; no great quantity, and but little feed. Total distance, about twenty-five miles. A lot of stones of a fruit found here of a very ornamental little tree, from six to fifteen feet high, which I have secured.
4th. At or rather before daylight Middleton, in attending to the camels, unfortunately got his foot seriously injured by a considerable sized stick which was stuck in the ground, its end penetrating deeply into the foot as he was returning to the camp down the steep bank. I am afraid I will have to return with him. I have pulled out several ragged pieces of wood from the wound; a lot of small tendons protrude. I will try one day up the creek, and see if he can stand it. Started at 9·40 leaving creek on right, crossed small flooded flat to sand hill, then good low sand hills, firm travelling; passed a water called Appo-more-millia, about one and a half miles to our right in the creek. Crossed creek in the centre of a cracked flooded flat, bearing to the north by west; passed over sand hills and a heavy flooded, cracked, and timbered flat, in which is a creek bearing north-east, with sandy hillocks and native whirlies. Bore south to creek Goonnooboorroo, with little water. Distance, about sixteen miles to-day. Middleton's foot pains him much.
5th. Obliged to camp with Middleton. On a large gum tree marked "MK Dec. 4, 5, 1861." One large creek comes in here from the south, and immediately below this, about 100 yards, another from same quarter. Bronze wing and crested pigeons here; also some beautiful parrots, black ducks, teal, whistlers, painted widgeons, and wood-duck in small number, also parroquets and quail. Some dry grass here on top of banks up to my waist, further out there is some good tussocky grasses, and there has been plenty of oats. Secured seeds from the bean tree, and the stones of the fruit before alluded to. Fish in water here, although there is only a small quantity and drying up fast. In looking for the horses in the morning up the main creek, found about three-quarters of a mile from this where Burke had camped in the bed, and had dug for water. From the appearance of their camp and quantity of camel dung, he slept more than one night here. I think when they camped there, there was water both below and above; it is now quite dry, however. A small quantity of sewing twine was found at this camp.
6th. Middleton's foot a little easier. Thought of returning, as he is quite unfit for work, but have made up my mind now to go on and ascertain the facts I went out to obtain. I therefore started at 8·25 a.m. for the upper waters of the creek, keeping on the south bank; crossed several creeks until 12 o'clock, when we found in the camp a little above Pardulli a gum tree marked "W.I. Wills, N.N.W., xlv. yds., A.H." Turned out our horses here for some time; between the last crossing of the creek and this I got a view of a couple of red sand bluffs, and distant sand hills or hills of some kind to north-west. Started from Wills' grave at 4·10 and crossed creek, struck the creek again at 5·35 with plenty of water to Howitt's camp, xxxii.; thence on to Burke's grave, striking dry creek, and following it to Yarrowanda; arrived here at 7·10 p.m.
7th. Started at 7·7 a.m. and came to Burke's grave, about two miles on south bank of creek. On the north-east side of a box tree, at upper end of water-hole, native name Yae-ni-mem-gi, found marked on tree, "R.O'H.B., 21-9-61., A.H." Deposited a document, in case of the return of any party. Saw a cobby horse on arrival here last night; tried to catch him. Saw the tracks of cattle up the creek short distance from him, they had gone further up the creek to a water, Culli-muno. Spelled to-day.
8th. Started back for camp; passed large numbers of natives; marked small gum sapling "MK" roughly; made for heavy creek that joins another at Strzelecki's Creek, and camped at a water called Tac-durrie, a small water about two miles from Goone-borrow in the main creek. Distance travelled to-day about twenty-seven and a half miles.
COPY OF DOCUMENT LEFT AT COOPER'S CREEK, DATED 7TH DECEMBER, 1861.
"To the Leader of the Party out for the remains of the lost Burke and Wills, but more especially to the Officer in charge of the Depôt likely to be formed on this creek.
"Sir,—I beg to state that I have had communication with Adelaide, and have received papers from there intimating the relief of King, the only survivor of the Melbourne Gulf of Carpentaria party, and an announcement that the Melbourne Government were likely to have the remains of the late gentlemen removed from this creek to Melbourne to receive a public burial and monument to their memory; and at the same time stating their intention of establishing a depôt somewhere on this creek to await the arrival of one or other of the parties (in search of the late Burke and Wills) from Rockhampton, or the Albert, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
"I beg to state I am with my party stationed on a lake about eighty-five miles westerly of this, and immediately on my return there I start northward; and for the first part of my journey a little to east of north, and will at every suitable camp on my route bury documents conveying the intelligence meant to be conveyed to either of the parties by the depot party likely to be formed here of the fate of the late party, by which means they will be put in possession of the facts, and can return to the Albert or go on through to Adelaide. There is at present, and will be for some time to come, easy access to Adelaide by my route, which the wheel tracts of my cart have clearly defined.
"By this means of intimation to the parties in question, it will relieve the party about to be stationed here from the necessity of passing a summer in this hot region. My course will intersect any course either of the parties out from the northward can make between Eyre's Creek and the late Burke's depot on this creek.
"I beg to remain, sir,
"Your most obedient servant,
"Leader of the S. A. B. R. Expedition."
9th. Started 7·25 a.m., followed creek down, and passed Goonooboorroo water-hole; passed flooded cracked flats and sand hills to Molanny Creek. Distance travelled to-day, seventeen miles.
10th. Started and crossed creek at 7·30 a.m. over sand hills, then through bed of large dry lake or swamp; name of swamp Wando Binannie, a good deal cracked, and bad travelling. From thence through low sand hills, flooded box flats, steep sand hills; crossed Narro Dhaerrie swamp, crossed creek at east end of main water, this drying up fast, crossed creek twice, and camped on south side of lower end of Tac Wilten.
11th. Started at 6·30, crossed creek and flat, over sand hills and flooded flat, with large salt-bush and polygonum; timber to the right, and some samphire bushes; crossed my old single track with alternate sand hills and cracked flooded flats, and arrived at our depôt camp on Lake Buchanan at 11 a.m. Distance, about nineteen miles.