Tracks of McKinlay and party across Australia/Chapter 8
Editor's remarks on the Central District—March 24th, Scott's Ranges; Emu Plains—26th, Petrified Wood—29th, Brown's Creek— 30th, Hamilton Range—31st, Hunter Gorge—April 2nd, Prospects as to Pood; flour finished—4th, Daly River—6th, The Euro, a small Kangaroo—8th, Mueller Creek—9th, Manserg Creek—10th, Cadell Creek—20th, Blackeye Creek—21st, Hamilton and Kirby Ranges; Warburton Creek.
This chapter comprises the journey and its incidents between the dates of 24th March and 21st April. The part traversed we have named the Central District, and we have marked out the somewhat distinctive features of its southern limits where it meets the region of desert. There is more difficulty in finding any distinctive boundary to the north—any features separating the central from the tropical region. In this paucity of such signs we are glad to seize upon Mr. Davis's account of large trees of a new description growing on the banks of a fine creek; and, as the party came upon this scene on the 22nd April, so we close the central region on the 21st, and open the tropical in the succeeding chapter on the 22nd April. The position is in south latitude about 21° 45', and it is where the party have just crossed the dividing range and are descending its northern slopes to find the waters henceforward taking a northerly course like their own.
We are now in the autumn of the antipodes and in latitudes bordering on either side of the tropical line, so that, but for the moisture with which the late rains have covered the country all around them, the travellers would have found the weather much hotter and less comfortable than it actually was. The cold at night was sometimes intense, although the days were hot under a bright sun. For example, McKinlay says, on 6th April, "Beautiful cold morning," and on 7th, "Exceedingly cold during the night," and again on the 13th, "Evenings, nights, and mornings beautifully cool; the days hot enough."
The country was often exceedingly beautiful in its luxuriance of vegetation; for instance, on 3rd April we find the party "camped on a magnificent lagoon, about one mile long and about two hundred yards wide—a perfect flower-garden." But the cause of all these beauties—the late abundant rains, had brought also its disagreeables to the travellers in the generally wet and boggy state of the country; there were many running creeks—a rare and pleasant spectacle of Australian scenery; The country passed through may be described as consisting of valleys and great plains bounded by hill ranges. "On some of these vast plains," remarks McKinlay, "the traveller, if overtaken by such heavy rains as his party experienced, would be certainly washed helplessly away, for there is not a knoll six feet in height within range of the eye." Notwithstanding this luxuriance of the hour throughout this country caused by the fitful rains, the prevailing spinifex grass guides us to the poverty generally of the country. It is a country similar to that described in much less glowing language by Waterhouse while passing in the same latitudes at some distance further to the westward. The spinifex is the only permanent vegetation of the smaller kind that can face the sun and climate upon the open country; a month or two of the winds and droughts of summer and autumn sweep off everything else, and the country returns to its customary bareness and aridity, as if awaking from a casual dream.
Bright and pleasant, however, are these its dreaming intervals; as the party traverse the grass and inhale the fresh perfume of the flowers, the whole scene teems with life, animal as well as vegetable. The Emu Plains are so named from a troop of these remarkable wingless birds, the ostriches of Australia, having been seen there, and many more were afterwards visible over the other plains. The "native turkey," a kind of bustard, is also plentiful. Fish, too, are abundant in the creeks and water-holes, and were seen jumping and snapping at the flies. We commonly think that all such pleasant scenes were made for man, but man hardly ever appears in all this magnificence and busy life; there were only signs of his existence in the smoke occasionally rising from the distant ranges. Let us return to our journal.
March 24th. We travelled to-day some eighteen miles on a course a little west of north, over nothing but one grand plain with plenty of small creeks crossing our line of march, with a high range of hills running to north-west and south-east, the tops of which are well-wooded. These Mr. McKinlay has called "Scott's Ranges," after John Scott, Esq., of Adelaide, who kindly lent Mr. McKinlay two horses from his run, and also gave him leave to take anything from his station that he thought might be of use to him. This plain is undulating in some parts. Here we saw some fifteen emus, and have called it Emu Plains. Camped on a small box creek with plenty of water; there was no timber anywhere except on the banks of the creeks and the tops of the ranges.
We are getting on well now, and hope to continue making good days' work, every one being in excellent health. A sheep to be killed to-day to keep us up a bit, as the jerked meat does not satisfy us. We shall have to eat horses yet, I expect, and then—but don't let me think of it at present, quite time enough when the sheep and bullocks are all eaten. We had a jolly supper tonight—curry and mulligatawny soup. Beautiful weather now, and we all enjoy it much; we only want a little more to eat.
25th. A long walk after the camels this morning; they had gone beyond the horses; country same kind as yesterday, beautifully grassed all the way, but a little more undulating. Crossed a box creek with plenty of water, at about fourteen miles, to another box creek that was dry. Two miles further a creek with plenty of water, where we camped. Some rising ground in the distance to the west.
26th. (Camp xx.) The climate up here must be very healthy; the air is quite invigorating, and different to what we have had heretofore. Same kind of country as the last two, and finer could not be found for pastoral purposes. Weather beautiful; dews very heavy at night. We struck and crossed a box creek, where it loses itself in a flat. The latter part of the journey was through a large boggy swamp full of water, then over a fine plain for two or three miles, magnificent, to a large swamp running a long way to the east; so we made a long detour in that direction, and round it. Country here very flat, not a rise within sight, a nice place to be caught in a similar flood to the one we had to clear out from the 1st of the month. I don't suppose we could by any chance save ourselves, much less the animals and stores.
The plains we have been travelling over the last few days are covered with pieces of petrifaction. We saw one or two large logs quite petrified, and we got some specimens, which if we can get them to Adelaide will be considered curiosities. Camp xx., or Carbine Creek Camp—having left a carbine here that had lost its hammer and was unfit for service.
27th. Still journeying over an immense plain, and the low part of it awfully boggy, with hills on the right of the way. Crossed a creek with water, plenty of seed, and new flowers; one a kind of hollyhock, another on a large stem so like wax that we named it the wax plant; it was nearly white, with a very pretty puce eye.
Very hungry when we got to camp; found a sheep had been killed, and to which we paid great attention as soon as the supper was ready. I got some seed of the blue flower on the small creek near our camp, not quite ripe, but I shall take care of it in case I see no more. Mr. McKinlay also got bogged to-day, and got out with some difficulty; found that it was impracticable to go that way, so changed his course, found the ground for some distance better for travelling, and camped. He climbed a tree, and could distinguish hills in the distance to the north and south of east, and some high ground near. We are a long way from the main creek; the ground is sadly boggy.
28th. (Camp xxi.) Morning splendid, and most of us hearty and in good spirits; kept changing our course to avoid water until we camped on a small stony rise, beyond this there is a net-work of creeks a mile in width; we crossed a great many to-day. These creeks must drain an immense area of country. Northward also appears to be a regular nest of creeks. This is a first-rate pastoral country.
29th. A new fruit to-day; the ripe ones have rather a nice taste, the seeds of it are quite hot and fiery. The fruit is about 1½ in. long, and ¾ in. in diameter, and ribbed quite sharply outside. We found here also the "bean tree," and the fruit tree of Cooper's Creek. Distance done to-day about seventeen miles. Camped on a small creek. The day was very fine; the first part of our journey was over rather swampy ground, but good travelling on the whole. For the last two miles the ground has been more swampy and full of watercourses, with plenty of water in them, caused by a large creek from the east emptying itself out in this direction. This creek Mr. KcKinlay has called "Brown's Creek," after a gentleman, a friend of his in Melbourne.
30th. (Camp xxiii.) Our road to-day was rather level, till we came to a sand hill about eight and a half miles from last camp; the country well-grazed, passing on the left two more sand hills also well-grassed, but higher. From the top of one of these there was an extensive view of the surrounding country. To the west of creek a high range running all along it; hills in all directions, some of them well-wooded; these Mr. McKinlay has called the "Hamilton Range." In the distance apparently a mass of heavy ranges running~north, or perhaps a little west of north. This country has been terribly torn and cut up in all directions by recent floods, regularly furrowed, you may say, in many places, but quite firm and good travelling; not so much feed quite the latter part of to-day's journey, the ground being so torn up.
We camped on one of the main channels of the creek, with plenty of feed and water. Each man received to-day three-quarters of a pound of sugar from the fourteen pounds kept for the sick; so that he can eat it with his "adley" as we have come upon lots of it, and it will do us (as it did before) a vast deal of good, and I don't see why we should get sick with a fine climate, plenty of exercise, early to bed and early to rise, and no spirits, so that you cannot undermine your constitution with the "ardent" if you wished. Plain food, God knows it is plain, no "provocatives," nothing to hurt us, so how are we likely to get ill? We killed a sheep to-day, and we are to have two a week to vary the food. Verily, in this instance variety is charming, when you can get it.
31st. Came over some nasty swampy ground to-day for eight miles, when we rounded a large table-topped hill, crossed a flat-topped one, and descended again into the swampy country; the main creek passes through a gorge in the hills, and then branches off into innumerable smaller ones. I wish we were out of this low swampy country—looks like fever and ague—a pleasant thing to have clinging to you on the march. The floods must be severe here, I should think, judging from the drift-wood and scrub left in the trunks of tho trees, some twelve to twenty feet from the ground. The hills Mr. McKinlay has called "Hamilton," after G. Hamilton, Esq., inspector of police in Adelaide, and the gorge through which the river passes, "Hunter."
We are to-day some 360 to 370 miles from Peak Downs, due east of us, and about the same distance from the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria. We were all wishing we could make off for the "Downs" to get some flour and tea, and especially tobacco, as we have none, and we all feel the want thereof.
April 1st. All fool's day, and 200 and odd days out. Started early to-day, and our journey was entirely through swamps and water holes, with mud up to your neck—a frightful country. The day was fine, however, and we went to all points of the compass—Mr. McKinlay calls it a "zigzag" course—till we camped on a large creek well timbered. The country round and about it is a perfect bog; a man can hardly get out of some places. "We shall have a job to cross this creek. I expect Mr. McKinlay is going out to find a crossing place if he can, and there is not much doubt but he will. Our camp is in a "Dismal Swamp." We passed to the right of us some very peculiar hills on our way to-day, one was exactly like a tent. Mr. McKinlay has just now returned with the news that he has found a crossing place, and describes the country on the other side of the creek as being one network of creeks, with magnificently grassed flats, very different to this.
There is a native weir here, and the fish are very numerous, jumping up at flies and other insects on the water. Had we the proper tackle we could have good sport. The creeks to the east are drying fast.
2nd. We went only about one mile to-day. The crossing of the creek was a long and nasty job; it was as soft as mud could be. One of the camels got into it pretty deep, and it was the devil's own work to extricate him. We saw the same range of hills. They certainly are very curious, and appear as if they had been thrown up by some volcanic irruption. I regret I did not take a sketch of them, but I forgot it. We got to blind hookey, and that was the cause. Mr. McKinlay found us at cards, and we caught it. Why, I don't know, for he likes a game as well as most men I expect. We had to give in till he had turned in, and then we went at it again till 12 o'clock, playing by fire light.
To-day is a memorable day, the last we shall have any bread. The flour is all gone except two bags, which are to be kept for the sick, and to have a jolly big feed when we reach the salt water. It will seem odd to have nothing but meat and water to live on for the next three months perhaps. I suppose we shall get used to it, and not miss the staff of life in a few days. We are drawing so far to the east to avoid a creek that I should not be surprised if, after all, we went for stores before proceeding to the Gulf.
3rd. Started along the creek a mile and a half, then altered course, and passed many boggy creeks. The travelling infamous. The poor little sheep were in such a state of mud they could hardly walk. We had several times to halt while the governor went ahead to reconnoitre, and after several vain attempts to cross one of the boggy creeks, we had to "hark back." We lost a lot of time, but after going back a short distance on a different course we came on a fine lagoon, about one and a half miles long, and three hundred yards wide, with the camel food growing in profusion six feet above the water, and in full bloom it looked very pretty. Here was a native whirlie, and some utensils, stones for pounding the "adoo." From the appearance of the place it had not been visited for some time; very boggy round lagoon, and had to take off our boots to dip water for use. Fine bathing, about twelve feet deep in the centre. Plenty of mussels. Some liked them, I can't say I did, they were so muddy in flavour; and if you, gentle reader, have been "spilt" into a mudhole or dirty ditch out hunting as I have been, you will recollect the peculiar taste I mean.
Here I got a true piece of petrifaction from the bottom of the lake whilst diving for mussels, which with other curiosities I gave to Mr. Harris, the mayor of Port Adelaide, who was very kind to me on my first arriving in the colony, and who, in fact, first introduced me to our worthy leader.
No bread, and don't we growl, that's all. The meat alone is not enough for us, and we are all as hungry as hunters. Perhaps it will do us good to feel a little hollow, at all events it won't do for explorers to be particular in their habits.
4th. (Camp xxvii.) Camped in this beautiful flower-garden, for it is nothing else. The governor, Wylde, and Middleton are gone to the hills to the right, to look out for the course of the creek, and see if we could get round it, for we are going much to the east. I hope it will drive us into some place where we can get some grub, and I shall certainly call it "Salvation Creek," and a very fine one it is. Called the "Daly" after our present governor. It is a great pity the native names cannot be obtained.
5th. (Camp xxviii.) Started on a north-east course early, the weather looking rainy, with a strong wind blowing. The flies here lately very troublesome; We crossed a large swamp and to our right appeared another, or else a lagoon. Crossed between two sand hills, with a splendid feed all the way. Altered our course on account of some high sand hills ahead, saw two natives going over a swamp, they did not see us. There is a large creek on our left. We passed also on the same side some myall and sandy country but feed excellent, and the foliage on some of the trees grand. More sand hills and creeks on the left, and camped on a branch of the large creek very hungry, and only jerked meat and water for grub.
6th. (Camp xxix.) Very cold this morning and not a fly to be seen, which is a great relief. The chaps are growling about the jerked meat, which is magotty; it may be an addition, but certainly not an improvement. Had we any bread we should not feel it so much, but when I tell you that there was only twelve pounds of this horrid stuff served out daily to make soup, water bewitched, between ten hungry men, you will say that it was hardly sumptuous or plentiful fare. We used to find some "adley" and other greens occasionally. We came to camp after fifteen miles in some "mallee" scrub, with some fine water-holes. Our way to-day was through scrub and heavy timber. Sheep to be killed to-night thank goodness, for that soup with maggots floating on the top is horrible.
The governor has just returned from some high hills, where he went for a view. He brought a young euro. Pity we killed the sheep to-day. The country to-day was hill and dale; tiers of hills on the right, all along; from six to seven miles distant well-timbered detached pyramidical hills; one seen between us and the main range, Euro (called so because Mr. McKinlay shot the euro there), is about four miles off, composed of sandstone and quartz. Euro meat very good. Hope to see many more soon, to save our sheep for harder times; as it appears not improbable that we may have some such.
7th. The country to-day very much resembles what we passed through yesterday; the ground was covered with small bronzed stones. Distance travelled about seventeen miles, when we struck a very magnificent creek, 250 yards wide; in fact, it might be called a river—the water running about half a mile an hour; very steep sides, and the water so deep that none of us could get to the bottom. Feed and flowers in profusion; here magnificent gum, box, and bean trees lining the banks. Cockatoos in thousands, very wild ducks, cormorants, magpies, pigeons of various kinds, and various other kinds of birds very numerous. There is a small hill visible from our camp, with a large plain between us.
8th. (Campxxxi.) Started at 8·30 a.m. Very fine; hardly any wind; dew heavy this morning. Crossed a small boggy tributary not far from the creek, then through stony rising ground well timbered, good feed, and plenty of it. Plenty of bronzed pigeons about. Passed through myall and stony country, showing unmistakable signs of having been flooded. To the right some fine plains, with low myall ridges behind them. Crossed a boggy creek, but the old female camel "Krishna" got fast. She was soon right again. The old beast hates water and boggy places. The others are not so bad. Then over ground covered with stones, limestone, and flint. I wish the large creek did not keep so much to the east, so that we could lay our course nearer for the gulf. Vile travelling, plenty of water in creek, and running fast. Our leader has called this after F. Mueller, Esq., of Melbourne.
We had travelled fifteen miles to camp. On our arrival, Mr. McKinlay took a fresh horse and went to the north-west. On his return he told us that he had seen a creek to the west that he thought would do to travel down. There is also, he says, a large creek from north and east going south, not flowing now, with broad stony bottom, with splendid reservoir of water. A long way to the east is a fine high range running north and south, named also after F. Mueller, Esq. It was rather amusing to hear some of our fellows wishing for something they should like to eat. One, a loaf and one pound of Cheshire cheese; another, loaf and some cheese; another did not care what it was, so long as there was enough of it. We certainly did have something, but it was the "enough" that was wanted.
9th. (Camp xxxii.) A very heavy dew this morning, everything quite wet, fine, though with no wind, and a few fleecy clouds floating about. Started rather early this morning after breakfast on a course 15° west of north. After crossing the creek mentioned yesterday, went over a splendid plain, and crossed another nice creek, which Mr. McKinlay has called the "Manserg." Some spinifex ranges on the right, with good open country and fine soil. A creek to the left about two miles. Went into a low range, with bronze stone to the left, but plenty of food growing between. Saw innumerable traces of kangaroo, but none of the animals. Plenty of emu in the plains, but so wild that one cannot get within 500 yards of them. We shall never cease crossing small creeks to-day. The country is pretty; at least it is diversified with plain, river, and wood, and now and then a nice view—pastoral, decidedly, as I should say. There is plenty of permanent water; pigeons by thousands. Hodgkinson went and shot at some, and that's all, they are so wild. This country differs in that respect from Alexander Selkirk's, for there their tameness "was quite shocking to him;" and here the reverse is the case in every respect, their wildness being excessively disgusting to us. One wild turkey also made his appearance, and he had a shot from a revolver, but also with no effect: he flew away quite coolly. Had we only bagged him, just imagine the breakfast!
We came to a halt while Mr. McKinlay went to the top of a high hill to see the country on the other side. We soon got the "cooey," and off we were again, and soon camped on the creek down which we went a quarter of a mile. The last two miles rather miserable country, spinifex and porcupine grass, with detached conical white clay-slaty hills, timbered however with small white gum.
Helped Mr. McKinlay to lay down his course and distance to-day, when we found we were somewhere about 21° 37' south, 142° 17' east.
10th. Started rather late this morning, as the animals had wandered some distance, so went only about twelve miles to-day for the above reason. We made a great deal of westing to-day, for we are nearly or quite 2° east of the Albert River, and the more we make the sooner we shall get to the Gulf. We had a horrid day's journey through a miserable country covered with rough stones, spinifex, myall scrub, and white gum. Obliged to change our course on account of the heavy creek to the left crossing our path, and went a little to the west. Innumerable creeks with plenty of water intersect the country. We camped. The hills run a good way back, and are not such rough ones to look on as yesterday. The large creek Mr. McKinlay has called Cadell Creek, after F. Cadell, Esq., the enterprising navigator of the Murray and Darling.
11th. (Camp xxxiv.) Fine morning again, and we all came along well; caught in a squall from Mr. McKinlay for losing tracks; governor not very amiable lately, and no wonder, he having to go so much out of his course, and devilish little in the grub locker; however, we went a good westing stage of nineteen miles; we had a very light and delicate breakfast, this only consisting of two table-spoonfuls of flour, with water, made into a sort of pap; I took a little laudanum, as I had a slight touch of diarrhoea, which soon put me all right, Maitland left the handsaw at the last camp, and the skipper rather astonished him; Hodgkinson has to go to-morrow and get it, then catch us at the next camp, and a very nice ride he will have all alone—solitude may be very agreeable sometimes, if you are not hungry, but when combined with short and bad grub it is not exactly the thing. Our course lay through upland plains after crossing the different branches of the large creek, passing a small line of detached hills. Distance to-day eighteen miles, through generally a good country. Numbers of very curiously topped hills, one in particular seems as if it had a coronet on its brow, bearing north by east from camp.
12th. (Camp xxxv.) Started rather early this morning; the country passed through to-day was peculiar, many small hillocks scattered about the large plains, which were all well grassed; we made a short stage on account of the man sent back for the saw; about fourteen miles was the stage, and we camped on another little creek; we shall not be short of water at all events, if the country continues like this; man and saw arrived safely.
Sunday 13th. (Camp xxxvi.) We went through some pretty country to-day, with hills on either side for some distance, and then up a beautiful valley, with fine creek on our right. Valley well wooded with white gums; there is also a small tree, name unknown, from which we obtained large lumps of amber-coloured gum, very pleasant to the taste, and consequently devoured as soon as it was found to be palatable. After we came to camp we found abundance of the native oranges. Why it should be called "orange" I don't know, as it is as much like that fruit as a gooseberry is like a pine-apple. They are not first-rate eating, but still they served to fill up vacant places. We also found a new fruit here, something like the last, it splits open when green, and ripens in that way. It is somewhat larger than the orange, growing on a prickly shrub, which sticks close to any tree in its reach.
Kirby with the sheep is not up to-night, he has lost the tracks and gone up the other side of the western range. We shall stop here if he does not come in early to-morrow. A good fire is being lighted on the highest point of the range, and blue lights are being burnt in case he is in the neighbourhood. Mr. McKinlay is rather uneasy about him, and some of us will have to go and look for him in the morning.
14th. Slept like a top, but up early, as some of the men must go and look after the lost sheep and shepherd. They all came back about 1 p.m. He says he got bothered among the creeks and lost the tracks. He is all right and so are the sheep. Lots of kangaroo and emu, but very shy. Looking like rain and rather hot. Worked up course and distance with governor, for be it known we have never taken an observation all the way, he having done it all by dead reckoning; he makes it about lat. 21° 5' south, lon. 141° east.
15th. (Camp xxxvii.) We made a very short stage to-day on our course, on account of not finding water; we went about six miles north, and then four miles east, as the appearance of the country did not promise water, and rather late at starting this morning, as some of the nags were absent without leave. We followed right bank of creek, and passed tributaries coming in on both sides; passed a remarkable table-topped hill on the right; the hills on either side. After coming to camp Mr. McKinlay went out to examine. His journal at this date says:—
"After camping, got a horse and went out over the ranges in a west and north direction, and saw what I suppose will be a course to suit me to-morrow; otherwise it was my intention to have taken one man and a pack-horse, and pushing over the range northward, to see if we are near the north watershed, or to have found a practicable route. Ranges are covered with spinifex and rough stones. Hodgkinson shot an euro, which will help us on, and save a sheep."
16th. Started over ranges, and at about seven miles came to a splendid flat, covered with myall for two miles, with reddish table-topped ranges close on our right; passed through them and made for a gum creek that appeared to come from the ranges; no water in it or on the flat, but found some in a side creek where we camped. Saw a native signalizing some distance off. Jolly feed of "euro," small species of kangaroo. Currie, my boy, for supper!
17th. Up by starlight this morning, which was delightfully cool, in fact cold. After breakfast started over a fine flat, well wooded with box, myall, gum, with numbers of small creeks running into it; water in many of them. We went on our course 305° for eleven miles, and crossed a fine creek going to the north; then changed our course five points, and crossed one spinifex ridge on to a splendid open flat with beautiful grass, high ranges to the east, and camped on the first creek, with abundance of water in it. The scenery here is very pretty from the spot where we first struck—the plain from the range, the high hills, the high but undulating country, the timber intersecting the plain, marking the course of the creeks, was really a sight not to be forgotten. What a park it would make should this part of the country be ever inhabited with the Anglo-Saxon!
To-day Kirby and sheep got astray, and Hodgkinson was sent to find him and bring him on our course; but they having to travel through so much spinifex he could not get their tracks at all, and returned to Mr. McKinlay on the march, who started him back again instanter with a flea in his ear. He arrived about 10 p.m., without having ever seen the sheep tracks. He went back to our last camp to try and pick them up; was unsuccessful. Old Kirby and sheep won't be here to-night, it is too late; poor fellow, he will be very hungry. Mr. McKinlay says here:—
"After getting into camp I rode out south, towards the water- shed, but found it further off than I anticipated from this camp. It must be from ten to fifteen miles, and most excellent country. The main range, west, from what I could see of it, is very stony; few trees, and a great abundance of kangaroo and other grasses. Emu and kangaroo in abundance. Range runs to east of north a little, and to south of west a little, and is formidable. Distance travelled seventeen and a half miles."
18th. (Camp xxxix.) Up early, and got breakfast over as soon as possible, so that the men could be off after the sheep. Middleton and Palmer started immediately after the meal. It was bitter cold last night, and Kirby must have felt it without his blankets, though I dare say he lighted a good fire, as he would have to watch the sheep all night, there being no fold for them. Mr. McKinlay and Poole started to try and cut his tracks. The horse Jemmie that Ned had to ride gave great trouble, neither whip, nor spur, nor a touch-up with a long pliable stick, administered with no light hand by the governor, had the slightest effect. Middleton then tried him, and after horse and man coming to the ground three times, he "gub" it up, and away they went across the plain, Middleton riding him as if there was a bush fire or a tornado behind him; he stuck to him like a brick, and fairly, by putting plenty of it in, took all the steel out of him. I hope they will be successful, it would throw a gloom over the party should he be lost, to say nothing of the sheep, and that would put us all in a queer state. We have nothing for dinner, and till Mr. McKinlay comes back we cannot get even a little flour. Should they not find him we shall have to kill a bullock, and then "two birds with one stone," viz., jerk him, and keep on looking out for Kirby. Mr. McKinlay adds in his journal: —
"Middleton and Palmer got on his tracks, and followed them to about dark, when within a very short distance of our tracks here, and more than half the distance to this camp, and thought it not improbable, from the course he was then pursuing, that he had got to our camp, and came home, but the unfortunate had not. Had he been followed the day before by Hodgkinson with the same perseverance, all would have been well, and much anxiety spared to all. If the poor man has kept to the ranges, I'm afraid there is little hope of him — it will be a sad end for the poor fellow; a better man for his occupation could not be found. Just fancy an unfortunate man lost between two and three hundred miles from the coast, in a perfect wild, with twenty-three sheep (and I question if he has any matches), left to sink or swim beyond reach of any Christian soul. If he is recovered he may thank God. Will still keep up the search for some days to come, in hopes of recovering him."
Some of our fellows who have been successful in the diggings, say that there is every indication of gold being here. I know nothing of the matter myself so cannot venture an opinion. Mr. McKinlay and Poole came in about sundown, and we dined on flour and water (paste). Poole says that there is gold in the ranges. Not a bird to be seen all day, or we might have had something, if only a hawk, to fry, but there is nothing alive at all about here.
19th. Up before daylight. Mr. McKinlay called out to me to give the unwelcome cry, "Turn out, boys." I sleep near him, with the camels' packs, etc., the horses being a little distance off; bitterly cold all night, and this morning worse; but Mr. McKinlay, after he turned in, determined to kill a bullock, so we had to fetch them up and all the other animals, for you see we had nothing to eat but that horrid "paste" ever since Kirby was lost, so up we soon had the said animals, and before the first blush of morn had tinged the sky "Mr. Blackeye" lay a helpless mass of beef, with a revolver bullet through his brain; didn't we all work with a will, McKinlay with one knife, and every one doing something towards getting an early breakfast, which was soon made of some of the late Mr. Bullock's liver, to which we did ample justice; then immediately off went Ned and Middleton, with plenty of it, in search of Kirby; there are only three bullocks remaining. Mr. McKinlay remarks on this:—
"In the event of Kirby not being found, with the sheep all correct, not very bright prospects for the party to travel to the Gulf and round to Port Denison upon; certainly we have the horses, but I would be loath to kill them, except in extreme need, but I will still hope for the best, but cannot stay beyond a week, whether found or not, as our provisions, beef, will be lessening daily; the flour we still have in a small quantity, reserved in case of sickness, and for the purpose of putting a small quantity daily in our soup, to make it appear more substantial; at present the vegetable the party were all so fond of has disappeared, except some old dry remnants, which all feel the want of much. I hope it may reappear. By noon of same day, on our not coming across his tracks, I started out and skirted the foot of the range where he ought to come out on his course, but was unsuccessful in finding the slightest trace of the unfortunate man. What thoughts must pass in his mind. Not a probability of ever again seeing any one of his own colour. Possibly destroyed by the natives, whose fires are to be seen daily, although they don't make their appearance. Never again to see his home nor his friends'; it must be awful for the poor man! Dusk now setting in; I have better hopes of his recovery, as neither of the three horsemen have made their appearance. Just at dark up rides Middleton with the joyous intelligence that man and sheep are found, Palmer staying behind to push on and overtake Bell and Kirby with the sheep on our track here, and Middleton took a more direct route here to give information of the good news, at which all of us were glad and thankful. About 11 p.m., horsemen Kirby, and sheep arrived safe, and I was truly grateful for the deliverance. The poor man says he never expected to see us again. Bell fortunately picked him up within three miles of our last camp; he was then, after having been considerably south, and now completely bewildered and thinking he had missed the camp while travelling in the dark, steering a north-west course, and in ten minutes longer would have been on our track for this place. Middleton and Palmer had traced him throughout; and as they found they were drawing near our track, Palmer went to the track to see if anything was to be seen of him there, and called out to Middleton that they were found, and gone towards home on the tracks, when Middleton immediately started with the information, leaving Palmer to follow and overtake and assist them to camp with the sheep. The man Kirby, on arrival, was completely worn out, not for want of food, but with a troubled mind and want of sleep. He had killed a sheep the second night after leaving last camp, and had with him a small portion for his use. How thankful he must have been to see Bell!"
Were we not all glad to welcome back a comrade that we had all but given up for lost; after the second day we certainly did not expect to see him again; it would have been bad enough to return with a death to report, but such an awful thing as this would have been, indeed, a thousand times worse; thank God he is right, and many a hearty shake of the hand he has had this night of our Lord.
20th. Kirby rather done up this morning; he looks rather pinched up in the face, but otherwise well; he had hardly any sleep since he left us, having stuck to his charge like a Trojan; finished cutting up and jerking to-day. A pity this delay has occurred, as we were going on swimmingly for the gulf; as we are only about 250 miles from the mouth of the "Albert," we ought to do that, say, in thirty days, if we have no more stoppages, as we shall have a good store of jerked beef to take us along, and help out the mutton. "Forward" is Mr. McKinlay's motto; ours . The creek we are on is to be called "Blackeye," after the bullock, and first-rate beef he made. Doing odd jobs, mending and repairing, etc. etc.
21st. We shall be obliged to remain here another day, as the meat is not quite fit for packing. The ranges Mr. McKinlay has named after different officials and friends, among whom he certainly has not forgotten G. Hamilton, Esq., for here he is again represented by a fine creek running west of south, containing plenty of water. More power to him, for he worked hard enough to my knowledge, before we started, to get everything ready for the trip complete, and took great interest in the expedition. The one flowing south from No. 39 camp he has called Warburton's, after P. E. Warburton, Esq., Commissioner of Police of Adelaide, so the police is well represented in the far north, and I hope it will not be long before the gallant troopers of the mounted police will be pushed forward here to look after the duties that may fall to their lot from the quick occupation of the country in these latitudes. The corps of cavalry police of South Australia are second to none in the Colonies, and are as fine a body of men, both as regards education and esprit de corps, as one would wish to see, and Mr. Hamilton may well be proud of his command. They are few in number, more's the pity; but they are the right sort.
The ranges on the east side of the creek Mr. McKinlay has named after Kirby, to commemorate his providential escape, not but what I fancy it will never require the chart to remind my friend Kirby of those here ranges. Plenty of mussels in a little water here. Strange it is that now we have killed a bullock, we could shoot any quantity of curillas, hawks, etc.
Fine pastoral country, the Government ought to make each of us a present of a bit of it somewhere out here toward the Gulf. We would soon get it stocked, I warrant you, if we go to the Gulf and back to Adelaide all well, under the guidance of John McKinlay, Esq., our worthy old leader. I hope he won't punch my head for calling him "old," for since I wrote this in the "far countree." he has taken unto himself a superior moiety, so I do not mean the word to be taken in its literal sense. Some government or other, I don't care which, ought at all events to give him a tidy slice of all the plum-pudding—stone, etc. etc.—that he has gone over, or, what would perhaps be a more graceful way of doing it, let him select a tract of land for himself, not forgetting the "heirs for ever," and if they like to give us each a slip we won't say nay, Kirby is as sound as a trout. Off to-morrow.