Start from Carpentaria Downs — Order of Travel — Canal Creek — Cawana Swamp — Simons’ Gap — Cowderoy’s Bluff — Barney’s Nob — Casualties in Parallel Creek — Basaltic Wall — Singular Fish — Black Carbonado — Improvement in Country — Search for the Lynd — Doubts — First rain — Error of Starting point — Large ant-hills — Ship’s iron found — Native nets — Second start in search of Lynd — Return — Byerley Creek — The whole party moves forward — Belle Creek — Maroon Creek — Cockburn Creek — Short Commons — Camp Burned — The Powder saved — Maramie Creek — The Staaten — First hostility of Natives — Poison — “Marion” abandoned — Conclusion as to River — Heavy rain — First attack of Natives — Horses lost — Barren Country — Detention — Leader attacked by Natives — Black-boy attacked — A “growl” — Mosquitoes and flies — Kites — Cattle missing — Horses found — Leader again attacked — Main party attacked — Return to the River — Character of Staaten — Lagoon Creek — Tea-tree levels — Junction of Maramie Creek — Reach head of tide — Confirmation of opinion.
‘October’ 11. — At sunrise the cattle was started with Cowderoy and two black-boys, Eulah and Barney, the former acting as pilot. Their instructions were to camp at the swamp at the junction of Pluto Creek, seventeen miles from McDonald’s station, mentioned on 3rd. September. The pack-horses were not got away until half-past 12, two, “Rasper,” and the mule (as often provokingly happens when most wanted) being astray, and having to be hunted for. There was also the usual amount of “bucking” incident to a start, the unpractised pack-horses rebelling against the unwonted load and amount of gear, and with a few vigorous plunges sending pack-bags, pots, hobbles, and chains in scattered confusion all round them. Few starts of a large party occur without similar mischances, but a day or two, suffices for the horses to settle to their work, after which all goes smoothly. The country travelled has been described in the preceding chapter. A hill at five miles on Pluto Creek, received the name of Mount Eulah. On reaching the swamp, the brothers found the cattle party had not arrived. This was the first of many similar annoyances during the journey. It being between 8 and 9 p.m., it was useless to think of looking for them at that time of night. They therefore encamped on the river, intending to return and run the tracks of the cattle in the morning. The distance travelled was about 20 miles.
‘October’ 12. — Leaving Binney in charge of the horses, with orders to feed them about the Lagoon, where there was better grass than at the river, the brothers started at sunrise in quest of the cattle party. They met them at about five miles up Pluto Creek, which they were running down. It appeared that Master Eulah, the pilot, had got completely puzzled, and led the party into the ranges to the eastward, where, after travelling all day, they had been obliged to camp about half-way from the station, and without water. He was very chop-fallen about his mistake, which involved his character as a bushman. The Australian aborigines have not in all cases that unerring instinct of locality which has been attributed to them, and are, out of their own country, no better, and generally scarcely so good as an experienced white. The brothers soon found water for them in the creek under Mount Eulah; after which,returning to the camp, it was too late to continue the journey, particularly as it had been necessary to send one of “the boys” back for a bag of ammunition that had been lost on the way. This is the work they are most useful in, as few, even of the best bushmen are equal to them in running a track. The day’s stage of the cattle was about 11 miles.
‘October’ 13. — The cattle started at a quarter-to-six, in charge of Alexander Jardine and two black-boys, while Frank and the rest of the party remained behind to pack and start the horses. This at the commencement was the usual mode of travelling, the horses generally overtaking the cattle before mid-day, when all travelled together till they camped at night, or preceded them to find and form the camp. Two incidents occurred on the way: “Postman,” a pack-horse on crossing a deep narrow creek, fell and turned heels uppermost, where he lay kicking helplessly, unable to rise, until the pack was cut clear of him; and “Cerberus,” another horse, not liking the companionship of the mule, took occasion in crossing another creek to kick his long-eared mate from the top to the bottom of it, to the intense amusement of the black-boys, who screamed “dere go poor fellow donkit” with great delight. The whole course was about 11 miles. The camp on a small dry creek. They procured water in the main channel of the river, on the south side. During the journey at every camp where there was timber, Mr. Jardine cut (or caused to be cut) its number with a chisel into the wood of a tree, in Roman numerals, and his initials generally in a shield.
‘October’ 14. — The distance travelled to-day was only 11 miles, but described by Mr. Jardine, as equal to 20 of fair travelling ground. The course lay over very stony quartz and granite ridges, which could not be avoided, as they ran into the river, whilst the bed of the stream would have been as difficult, being constantly crossed by rocky bars, and filled by immense boulders. The grass was very scarce, the blacks having burnt it all along the river. There were patches where it never grows at all, presenting the appearance of an earthen floor. They encamped at the junction of Canal Creek, under the shade of some magnificent Leichhardt trees (’Nauclea Leichhardtii’) that grow there, without other water than what they dug for in the sandy bed, and reached at a depth of two feet. On the opposite side and about a mile from the junction there is a swamp, splendidly grassed, which looked like a green barley field, but the water was too salt for the horses to drink, an unusual thing in granite country. The timber of the ridges was chiefly stunted hollow iron-bark, that of the river, bloodwood, and the apple-gum, described as so good for forging purposes; there was a total absence of those tall well-grown gums, by which the course of a stream may usually be traced from a distance. So little was the river defined by the timber that it could not be distinguished at a half-a-mile away.
‘October’ 15. — The party moved to-day as far as the swamp mentioned on the 19th September. It received the name of “Cawana Swamp,” and is described as the best and prettiest camping place they had yet seen. It is surrounded by the high stoney range called Jorgensen’s Range on two sides, north and east, whilst on the south and east it is hemmed in by a stretch of cellular basalt, which makes it almost unapproachable. The only easy approach is by the river from the westward. It is six miles round, and so shallow that the cattle fed nearly a mile towards the middle. The party travelled out of the direct course to avoid the stones, keeping the narrow flats occurring between the river and ridges, which averaged about 200 yards in width; when intercepted by the ridges running into the river, they followed down its bed which is more clearly defined by oak (’Casuarinae’) and Leichhardt trees than up the stream. The improved travelling allowed them to make the stage of 9 miles in less than four hours, and turn out early. Several large flocks of galaas (’Cacatua Rosea,’) were seen, and Alexander Jardine shot a wallaby. Before starting, Barney, one of the black-boys had to be corrected by the Leader for misconduct, which had the effect of restoring discipline. On reaching Cawana Swamp, the fires of the natives were found quite fresh, from which it would seem that they had decamped on the approach of the party, leaving plenty of birrum-burrongs, or bee-eaters (’Merops Ornatus, Gould’) behind them. An observation taken at night gave the latitude 18° 1′ 59″, which gave about 41 miles of Northing.
‘October’ 16. — The cattle were started away at a quarter-to-four o’clock, this morning, and found an excellent passage through Jorgensen’s Range, by “Simon’s Gap.” The track from this point to the junction of Warroul and Parallel Creeks with the river (where the camp was pitched) was very winding, from having to avoid the basalt, which was laming some of the cattle, besides wrenching off the heads of the horse-shoe nails: it could not be altogether avoided, and made it past noon before the cattle reached the camp. A native companion, a rock wallaby, and a young red kangaroo were the result of the hunting in the afternoon, which saved the necessity of having to kill a beast: this would have been specially inconvenient, if not impossible here, for the natives had burnt all the grass, and there was not a bite of feed for either horses or cattle, had they halted. About 50 blacks, all men, followed the tracks of the party from Cawana Swamp: they were painted, and fully armed, which indicated a disposition for a “brush” with the white intruders; on being turned upon, however, they thought better of it, and ran away. The camp was formed under a red stony bluff, which received the name of “Cowderoy’s Bluff,” after one of the party; whilst a large round hill bearing E.N.E. from the camp was called “Barney’s Nob.” In the afternoon Mr. Binney and Eulah were sent to the river to fish, but as they ate all the caught, there was no gain to the party. For this their lines were taken from them by Mr. Jardine, and they got a “talking to,” the necessity for which was little creditable to the white man. The thermometer at 5 a.m. stood at 80°. The day’s stage about 10 miles N.N.W. Some banksias, currijong, and stringy-bark were noticed to-day, the latter is not a common timber in the northern districts.
‘October’ 17. — All the horses were away this morning: as might have been expected, the poor hungry creatures had strayed back towards the good feed on Cawana Swamp, and were found 5 miles from the camp. The day’s stage was the worst they had yet had. The country down Parallel Creek has already been described, and it took six of the party five hours to get the cattle over three-and-a-half miles of ground: the bed of the creek, by which alone they could travel was intersected every 300 or 400 yards by bars formed of granite boulders, some of which were from 25 to 30 feet high, and their interstices more like a quarry than anything else; over these the cattle had to be driven in two and sometimes three lots, and were only travelled 8 miles with great difficulty. There were several casualties; “Lucifer,” one of the best of the horses cut his foot so badly, as to make it uncertain whether he could be fetched on; and two unfortunate cows fell off the rocks, and were smashed to pieces. The cows were beginning to calve very fast, and when the calves were unable to travel, they had to be destroyed, which made the mothers stray from the camp to where they had missed them; one went back in this manner the previous night, but it was out of the question to ride thirty miles after her over the stones they had traversed. The camp was made in the bed of Parallel Creek, at a spot where there was a little grass, the whole stage having been almost without any. Here the basaltic wall was over 80 feet in height, hemming them in from the west; on some parts during the day it closed in on both sides. An observation at night made the latitude 17° 51′. A curious fish was caught to-day — it had the appearance of a cod, whose head and tail had been drawn out, leaving the body round. (Camp VIII.)
‘October’, 18. — Another severe stage, still down the bed of Parallel Creek, from which indeed there was no issue. Frank Jardine describes it as a “pass or gorge, through the range which abuts on each side through perpendicular cliffs, filling it up with great blocks of stone,” and adding that “a few more days of similar country would bring their horses to a standstill.” Their backs and the feet of the cattle were in a woeful plight from its effects: one horse was lost, and a bull and several head of cattle completely knocked up. Bad as yesterday’s journey was, this day’s beat it; they managed to travel ten miles over the most villanous country imaginable, with scarcely a vestige of grass, when the camp was again pitched in the bed of the creek. A large number of natives were seen to-day — one mob was disturbed at a waterhole, where they were cooking fish, which they left in their alarm, together with their arms. The spears were the first that had been observed made of reed, and a stone tomahawk was seen, as large as the largest-sized American axe. These blacks were puny wretched-looking creatures, and very thin. They had a great number of wild dogs with them — over thirty being counted by the party. 10 miles, N.W. by W. 1/2 W. (Camp IX.)
‘October’ 19. — The confluence of Parallel Creek with the Einasleih was reached in four miles, after which the country on the river slightly improved; the camp was pitched four miles further on, on a river flat, within sight of a large scrub, on the east side. Four of the cattle that had been knocked up yesterday were sent for before starting, and fetched — the cattle counted and found correct. The river at the camp was about 700 yards wide, with fine waterholes in it, containing plenty of fish. A strange discovery was made to-day. At a native fire the fresh remains of a negro were found ‘roasted’, the head and thigh bones were alone complete, all the rest of the body and limbs had been broken up, the skull was full of blood. Whether this was the body of an enemy cooked for food, or of a friend disposed of after the manner of their last rites, must remain a mystery, until the country and its denizens become better known. Some spears were found pointed with sharp pieces of flint, fastened on with kangaroo sinews, and the gum of the Xanthorea, or grass-tree. (Camp X.)
‘October’ 20. — The last of the stony ground was travelled over to-day, and the foot-sore cattle were able to luxuriate in the soft sandy ground of the river flats. At about 6 miles Galaa Creek was crossed at Alexander Jardine’s marked tree (V in a square), and the Rocky Island at its junction, before mentioned, were seen. At this point the ranges come into the river on each side. The camp was pitched at about five miles further on, at a fine waterhole, where there was good grass — a welcome change for cattle and horses. It was not reached, however, till about 9 o’clock. The river afforded the party some fine fish — cod, perch, and peel, and a lobster weighing more than half-a-pound. Its channels were very numerous, making altogether nearly a mile in width. Scrub was in sight during the whole of the stage, the crests of the broken ridges being covered with garrawon. (Camp XI.)
‘October’ 21. — Mr. Jardine describes to-day’s stage as the best the cattle had experienced since taking delivery of them 230 miles back; the river banks along which they travelled were flat and soft, lightly timbered with box, poplar-gum and bloodwood. From a low table-topped range, which they occasionally sighted on the right, spurs of sandstone ran into the river at intervals, but were no obstruction. A cow had to be abandoned knocked up. A couple of blacks were surprised in the river spearing fish; they set up a howl, and took to the river. In the evening the whole of the party went fishing for the pot, there being no meat left. (Camp XII.) Distance 11 miles. The weather to-day was cloudy for the first time, shewing appearance of rain.
‘October’ 22. — The river was travelled down for 10 miles, through similar and better country than that of yesterday’s stage, and the camp established on a deep narrow well-watered creek, three-quarters-of-a-mile from its junction with the river. Here the Leader determined to halt for a few days to recruit the strength of the horses and cattle, the feed being good; many of the cattle were lame, two of the hacks were knocked up, and several of the pack-horses had very sore backs, so that a “spell” was a necessity. They were now 120 miles from Macdonald’s station, having averaged ten miles a-day since the start
‘October’ 23. — The camp was established at this point (Camp XIII.) pending a reconnaissance by the Leader and his brother to find the Lynd of Leichhardt, and determine the best line of road for the stock. A couple of calves were killed, cut up, and jerked, whilst some of the party employed themselves in the repairs to the saddlery, bags, etc., and Alexander Jardine took a look at the country back from the river. Mr. Richardson plotted up his course, when it was found that it differed from that of the brothers by only one mile in latitude, and two in longitude; he also furnished the Leader with his position on the chart, telling him that the Lynd must be about ten miles N.E. of them, their latitude being 17° 34′ 32″ S.3
3 In Mr. Richardson’s journal he mentions the distances as 18 to 20. He also explains that he had two maps, in which a difference of 30 miles in longitude existed in the position of their starting point. Not having a Chronometer to ascertain his longitude for himself, he adopted that assigned by the tracing furnished from the Surveyor-General’s Office.
‘October’ 24. — The brothers started this morning, taking with them Eulah, as the most reliable of the black-boys; they were provisioned for five days. The cattle were left in charge of Mr. Scrutton: the feed being good and water plentiful, the halt served the double purpose of recruiting their strength, and allowing the Leader to choose the best road for them. Steering N.E. by E. at a mile, they passed through a gap in the low range of table-topped hills of red and white sandstone which had been skirted on the way down: through this gap a small creek runs into the river, which they ran up, N.N.E., 3 miles further, on to a small shallow creek, with a little water in it. Travelling over lightly-timbered sandy ridges, barren and scrubby, but without stone, at 9 or 10 miles they crossed the head of a sandy creek, rising in a spring, about 60 yards wide, having about 5 or 6 inches of water in it. The creek runs through mimosa and garrawon scrub for 5 miles, and the spring occurs on the side of a scrubby ridge, running into the creek from the west. At 18 miles they struck an ana-branch having some fine lagoons in it, and half-a-mile further on a river 100 yards wide, waterless, and the channels filled up with melaleuca and grevillea; this, though not answering to Leichhardt’s description, they supposed to be an ana-branch of the Lynd; its course was north-west. They followed its left bank down for three miles, then crossing it, they bore N.N.E. for four miles, through level and sometimes flooded country, when their course was arrested by a line of high ridges, dispelling the idea that they were on the Lynd waters. Turning west they now travelled back to the river, and crossing it, camped on one of the same chain of lagoons which they first struck in the morning, and in which they were able to catch some fish for supper. The distance travelled was 28 miles.
‘October’ 25. — It was impossible to believe that the stream they were now camped on was the Lynd. Leichhardt’s description at the point where they had supposed that they should strike it, made it stony and timbered with iron-bark and box. Now, since leaving the Einasleih they had not seen a single box or iron-bark tree, or a stone. Frank Jardine therefore determined to push out to the north-east, and again seek this seemingly apocryphal stream. After travelling for eight miles through sandy ridges, scrubby and timbered with blood-wood, messmate, and melaleuca (upright-leaved) they struck a sandy creek, bearing north; this they followed for five miles, when it turned due west, as if a tributary of the stream they had left in the morning. Having seen no water since then, it was out of the question to attempt bringing the cattle across at this point. It was determined therefore that they should return and mark a line from the Einasleih to the lagoons they had camped on last night, along which cattle could travel slowly, whilst the brothers again went forward to look for a better road from that point, and ascertain definitely whether they were on the Lynd or not. Turning west they travelled 28 miles to the creek they had left in the morning, striking it more than 40 miles below their camp, when, to their surprise it was found running nearly due south and still dry. Here they camped and caught some fish and maramies (cray-fish) by puddling a hole in the creek, which, with three pigeons they shot, made a good supper. At night a heavy thunder-storm broke over them, which lasted from 9 till 12. Frank Jardine here states himself to have been exceedingly puzzled between Leichhardt and Mr. Richardson; one or the other of these he felt must be wrong. Leichhardt describes the stream in that latitude (page 283 Journal) as stony, and with conical hills of porphyry near the river banks, “Bergues” running into it on each side. They had not seen a rise even, in any direction for miles, whilst the creek presented only occasional rocks of flat water-worn sandstone, and the screw-palm ‘Pandanus Spiralis’ occurred in all the water-courses, a tree that from its peculiarity would scarcely have been unnoticed or undescribed. As it was quite unlikely that he should have misrepresented the country, the natural presumption was, that Mr. Richardson must have been in error as to their true position; this was in reality the case, the error in his assumed longitude at starting causing his reckoning to overlap the Lynd altogether. This is easily seen and explained now, but was at that time a source of great uncertainty and anxiety to the explorers.
‘October’ 26. — Crossing over to the west bank of the river, the brothers followed it up the whole day along its windings, the general course being from South-east to East for above 36 miles. They saw none of the porphyry cliffs described by Leichhardt, or stone of any kind. The country traversed, consisted of scrubby flats, and low sandy ridges, timbered with bloodwood, messmate, mimosa, melaleuca, grevillea, and two or three species of the sterculia or curriijong, then in full blossom. Thick patches of a kind of tree, much resembling brigalow in its appearance and grain, were seen on the river banks; but the box, apple-gum, and iron-bark, mentioned by Leichhardt as growing in this latitude were altogether wanting. Large ant-hills, as much as 15 feet in height, which were frequent, gave a remarkable appearance to the country. During their stage the party came on to a black’s camp, where they found some matters of interest. The natives, who were puddling a waterhole for fish, had, as was most frequent, decamped at their appearance, leaving them leisure to examine some very neatly made reed spears, tipped variously with jagged hardwood, flint, fish-bones, and iron; pieces of ship’s iron were also found, and a piece of saddle girth, which caused some speculation as to how or where it had been obtained, and proving that they must at some time have been on the tracks of white men. Their nets excited some admiration, being differently worked to any yet seen, and very handsome; a sort of chain without knots. The camp was made on an ana-branch of the river, were the travellers caught a couple of cod-fish. Their expertness as fishermen was a great stand-by, for they had started without any ration of meat. They experienced some heavy wind and a thunderstorm at night.
‘October’ 27. — Still travelling up the river, the party in about 9 miles reached the lagoons where they were first struck, and turned out for a couple of hours. There was good feed round them, in which the horses solaced themselves, whilst their riders caught some fish and shot some pigeons for dinner, after which they commenced blazing the line for the cattle. They reached the main camp at 9 o’clock at night, having in eight hours marked a line through the best of the sandy tea-tree ridges, between 18 and 20 miles in length; no despicable work for three tomahawks. Mr. Jardine communicated the result of his trip to Mr. Richardson, but that gentleman could or would not acquiesce in the opinion arrived at by the brothers, despite the very conclusive arguments with which it was supported. This opposition occasioned a feeling of want of confidence, which caused them to cease consulting Mr. Richardson on their course, leaving him merely to carry out the duty of his appointment.
‘October’ 28. — The following day was spent in camp, preparatory to a fresh start ahead of the cattle, which, it was decided should leave this camp on the 31st. Some of them could scarcely move, but their number were found correct on counting.
‘October’ 29. — Again taking old Eulah with them, the brothers started on another quest for the Lynd, which, like the mirage of the desert, seemed to recede from them as they approached; setting out late in the day, they camped at night once more on the lagoon, at the end of their marked-tree line, a distance of about 18 miles. They took with them four days’ rations of flour, tea, and sugar, trusting to their guns and fishing lines for their supply of meat.
‘October’ 30. — Starting at half-past 6 in the morning the little party steered N. by W. about 36 miles. At about three-quarters of-a-mile from the river they passed a fine lagoon, and at four miles further on a rocky creek running west with some water in it. Their way lay over soft, barren, sandy ridges, timbered with tea-tree. Eight miles more brought them to a creek where water could be obtained by digging, and at 24 miles further they camped on a large well-watered creek, running N.W.; the whole of the distance was over the same soft, barren, monotonous country. On their way they killed an iguana (’Monitor Gouldii’), which made them a good supper, and breakfast next morning. The cattle party at No. 13 Camp were left with instructions to follow slowly along the marked-tree line, to camp at the lagoon, and there await the return of the advance party.
‘October’ 31. — An early start was made this morning at a quarter after 6, and 20 or 22 miles were accomplished on the same bearing as that of yesterday, N. by W., over the same heavy barren stringy-bark country. Three small creeks were crossed, but not a hill or rise was to be seen, or any indication of a river to the northward. At this point the heavy travelling beginning to tell on their jaded horses, the Leader determined on abandoning the idea of bringing the cattle by the line they had traversed, and turning south and by west made for the river they had left in the morning, intending to ascertain if it would be the better route for the cattle, and if not, to let them travel down the supposed Lynd (which now received the name of Byerley Creek), on which they were to rendezvous. After travelling 16 miles further on the new bearing, they camped without water, being unable to reach the large creek they had camped on the previous night. The country along the last course was of the same description, low, sandy, string-bark, and tea-tree ridges, without a vestige of water; total distance 38 miles.
‘November’ 1. — Making another early start, and steering S.W. by S., the party reached the creek in four miles, and getting a copious drink for themselves and their thirsty horses, breakfasted off some “opossums and rubbish” they got out of a black’s camp. The stream was 100 yards wide, and well-watered, a great relief after their arid journey of yesterday: large rocks of sandstone occurred in its bed in different places. Crossing it, they followed down its left bank for 8 miles, its trend being N.W., then turning their back on it, they steered due south to strike Byerley Creek. Sixteen miles of weary travelling over wretched barren country brought them to a small sandy creek, on which they camped, procuring water for their horses by digging in its bed. Here they made a supper of the lightest, their rations being exhausted, and “turned in” somewhat disgusted with the gloomy prospect for the progress of the cattle. They again met with the nonda of Leichhardt, and ate of its ripe fruit, which is best when found dry under the trees. Its taste is described as like that of a boiled mealy potato.
‘November’ 2. — Continuing on the same course, due south for 18 miles, over the same useless country, the party reached Byerley Creek, striking it at a point 32 miles below the Rendezvous Camp, then turning up its course they followed it for 16 miles, to their hunting camp of the 26th October. Here they camped and made what they deemed a splendid supper off an opossum, an iguana, and four cod-fish, the result of their day’s sport. Total distance travelled 28 miles.
‘November’ 3. — Following up the creek for 16 miles, the party reached the main camp on the lagoons early in the day. Here they found all right, with the exception that most of the party were suffering from different stages of sandy-blight, or ophthalmia. A calf was killed, and the hungry vanguard were solaced with a good feed of veal. Byerley Creek having been found utterly destitute of grass, badly watered, and moreover trending ultimately to the S. of W., the Leader determined to take the cattle on to the next, which was well watered, having some feed on it, and being on the right course. There were, however, two long stages without water; but it was, on the whole, the best and almost only course open to him. The cattle had made this camp in two stages from the Einasleih. It was, consequently, No. LI. The latitude was found to be 17° 23′ 24″: a tree was marked with these numbers, in addition to the usual initial and numbers. The Thermometer at daylight marked 90°, and at noon 103°, in the ‘shade!’
‘November’ 4. — A late start was made to-day, a number of the horses having strayed, and not having been got in. The Brothers went ahead, and marked a line for five miles out to the creek mentioned on the 30th October: it contained sufficient water for the horses and cattle, and was the best watercourse they would get until they reached the next river, a distance of 30 miles. It received the name of “Belle Creek,” in remembrance of “Belle,” one of their best horses, who died at this camp, apparently from a snake bite, the symptoms being the same as in the case of “Dora,” but the time shorter. Belle Creek is rocky and tolerably well watered, and remarkable for the number of nonda trees on it. Whilst waiting for the cattle the Brothers caught some fish and a fine lot of maramies.
‘November’ 5. — This day appears to have been one of disasters. It opened with the intelligence that sixteen of the horses were missing. Leaving one party to seek and bring on the stray horses, the Brothers started the cattle forward: they left instructions at the camp for the horses to start, if recovered before 3 o’clock; if not, to be watched all night, and brought on the next day. They then started, and preceding the cattle, marked a line for 15 miles to “Maroon Creek.” Here they camped without water, waiting with some anxiety for the arrival of the pack-horses. Hour after hour passed but none appeared, and as night closed in, the Brothers were forced to the conclusion that something must have gone wrong at the camp. They could not however turn back, as they had to mark the next day’s stage for the cattle to water, there being none for them to-night, and only a little for the party, obtained by digging, however, they were relieved by the appearance of a blackboy with rations, who reported that some of the horses had not been found when he left the camp. The night was spent in watching the thirsty cattle.
‘November’ 6. — The cattle were started at dawn and driven on to the watered creek, where they got feed and water at some fine waterholes, it received the name of “Cockburn Creek;” the Brothers as usual preceded them and marked a line further ahead. Arrived there, they spent the rest of the day in fishing whilst uneasily waiting the arrival of the pack-horses. They luckily caught some fish for supper, for night fell without the appearance of the remainder of the party, and they had nothing to eat since the preceding night. The country has already been described.
‘November’ 7. — To-day was spent in camp by the party whilst anxiously awaiting the arrival of the pack-horses, but night fell without their making their appearance. They had nothing to eat, and as there was no game to be got, they decided on killing a calf, but in this they were disappointed, as the little animal eluded them, and bolted into the scrub. They therefore had to go “opossuming,” and succeeding in catching three, which, with a few small fish, formed their supper.
‘November’ 8. — At daylight this morning, Alexander Jardine succeeded in “potting” the calf that had eluded them yesterday, which gave the party a satisfactory meal. Another anxious day was passed without the arrival of the pack-horses, and the Leader had the annoyance of finding on counting the cattle, that between twenty or thirty were missing. Being now seriously anxious about the pack-horses, he determined if they did not arrive that night, to despatch his brother to look after them.
‘November’ 9. — The horses not having arrived, Alexander Jardine started to see what had happened: he met the party with them half way, and learned some heavy news. In the afternoon of the 5th (the day on which the Brothers started with the cattle), the grass around the camp had, by some culpable carelessness, been allowed to catch fire, by which half their food and nearly all their equipment were burnt. The negligence was the more inexcusable, as before starting, Alexander Jardine had pulled up the long grass around the tents at the camp, which should have put them on their guard against such a contingency, one for which even less experienced bushmen are supposed to be watchful during the dry season. The consequences were most disastrous: resulting in the destruction of 6 bags of flour, or 70 lbs. each, or 420 lbs., all the tea save 10 lbs., the mule’s pack, carrying about 100 lbs. of rice and jam, apples, and currants, 5 lbs. gun-powder, 12 lbs. of shot, the ammunition box, containing cartridges and caps, two tents, one packsaddle, twenty-two pack-bags, 14 surcingles, 12 leather girths, 6 breechings, about 30 ring pack-straps, 2 bridles, 2 pairs blankets, 2 pairs of boots, nearly all the black boys’ clothes, many of the brothers’, and 2 bags containing nicknacks, awls, needles, twine, etc., for repairs. It was providential the whole was not burnt, and but for the exertions of Mr. Scrutton, all the powder would have gone. He is described as having snatched some of the canisters from the fire with the solder melting on the outside. They had succeeded in rescuing the little that was saved by carrying it to a large ant-hill to, windward. Their exertions were no doubt great and praise-worthy, but a little common prudence would have saved their necessity, and a heavy and irreparable loss to the whole party, one which might have jeopardized the safety of the expedition. Besides this, they had a less important but still serious loss; “Maroon,” a valuable grey sire horse, that Mr. Jardine hoped to take to the new settlement, died from the effects of poison, or of a snake bite, but more probably the former. The pack-horses joined the cattle in the evening. Stock was taken of the articles destroyed, and the best disposition made of what remained. The latitude of this camp (XVIII.) was 16° 55′ 6″.
‘November’ 10. — Leaving instructions with the cattle party to follow down Cockburn Creek, and halt at the spots marked for them, the Brothers, accompanied by Eulah, started ahead, to mark the camps and examine the country. By this means no time was lost. The first three camps were marked at about seven-mile intervals; and at about 25 miles, opposite two small lagoons on the west bank, the Leader marked trees STOP (in heart), on either side the creek, leaving directions for the party to halt till he returned, and a mile further down camped for the night. The banks of the creek were scrubby and poorly grassed, the country sandy, and thickly timbered with tea-tree, stringy-bark, and bloodwood, and a few patches of silver-leaved iron-bark, the nondas being very plentiful along its course. Large flocks of cockatoo parrots (’Nymphicus Nov. Holl.’) and galaas were seen during the day.
‘November’ 11. — Still continuing down the creek the party made a short stage of 13 miles, one of their horses having become too sick to travel. The early halt gave them an opportunity to go hunting, the more necessary as they were again out of meat. The result was an iguana, a bandicoot, three opossums, and some “sugar bags” or wild honey nests.
‘November’ 12. — Crossing Cockburn Creek the Brothers bore away N.N.W. for 9 or 10 miles, over sandy bloodwood ridges, intersected with broad tea-tree gullies, to two sandy water courses half-a-mile apart, the first 100 and the second 50 yards in width, running west. These they supposed to be heads of the Mitchell. Crossing them and continuing N. by W., they traversed over barren tea-tree levels (showing flood marks from three to four feet high), without a blade of grass, for about 16 miles, when they reached the extreme head of a small rocky creek, where they camped at a waterhole, and caught a great number of maramies, which suggested the name of “Maramie Creek.” It was quite evident that the cattle could not follow by this route, as there was nothing for them to eat for nearly the whole distance. The stage travelled was 26 1/2 miles.
‘November’ 13. — Maramie Creek was followed down for 25 miles: its general course is west. At three miles from the start a small creek runs in from the north-east. The Brothers had hoped that the character of the country would improve as they went down, but were disappointed. Nothing but the same waste of tea-tree and spinifex could be seen on either side, the bank of the main creek alone producing bloodwood, stringy-bark, acacia, and nonda. Though shallow it was well watered, and increased rapidly in size as they proceeded. The natives had poisoned all the fish in the different waterholes with the bark of a small green acacia that grew along the banks, but the party succeeded in getting a few mussels and maramies.
‘November’ 14. — Being satisfied that the cattle could not be brought on by the course they had traversed, Frank Jardine determined to leave Maramie Creek, and make for the large stream crossed on the 12th, so as to strike it below the junction of Cockburn Creek. Turning due south the party passed a swamp at eight miles, and at seventeen miles a lagoon, on which were blue lilies (’Nymphoea gigantea.’) A mile farther on they reached what they supposed to be the Mitchell, which was afterwards ascertained to be the Staaten, of the Dutch navigators, or one of its heads. At the point where they struck it (about 18 miles below the junction of Cockburn Creek), it is nearly a quarter-of-a-mile in width, sandy, with long waterholes. A dense black tea-tree scrub occupies its south bank. It was here that the party experienced the first decided show of hostility from the natives. They had seen and passed a number at the lily lagoon unmolested, but when arrived at the river whilst the leader was dismounted in its bed, fixing the girths of his saddle, he was surprised to find himself within 30 yards of a party carrying large bundles of reed spears, who had come upon him unperceived. They talked and gesticulated a great deal but made no overt hostility, contenting themselves with following the party for about three miles through scrub, as they proceeded along the river. Getting tired of this noisy pursuit, which might at any moment end in a shower of spears, the Brothers turned on reaching a patch of open ground, determined that some of their pursuers should not pass it. This movement caused them to pause and seeming to think better of their original intention they ceased to annoy or follow the little party, which pursued its way for five miles further, when they camped in the bed of the stream. Its character for the 8 miles they had followed it up was scrubby and sandy: its course nearly west — long gullies joined it from each side walled with sandstone. They caught two turtles for supper. Total distance travelled 26 miles.
‘November 15. — Making an early start, the party followed up the Staaten for eight miles, the general course being about N.E. Here it was jointed by Cockburn creek, which they ran up until they reached the cattle party encamped at the lagoons, where the Leader had marked trees STOP. They had reached this place on the 13th inst., without further accident or disaster, and seeing the trees, camped as instructed. It was nearly 30 miles from the junction of the Staaten, the country scrubby, thickly timbered, and very broken. Total distance 38 miles.
‘November’ 16. — The whole party was moved down Cockburn Creek, that being the only practicable route. It was the alternative of poor grass or no grass. The trend of the creek was about N.W. by W. At twelve miles they encamped on its bed. A red steer and a cow were left behind poisoned; and another horse, “Marion” was suffering severely from the same cause. They were unable to detect the plant which was doing so much mischief, which must be somewhat plentiful in this part of the country. Leichhardt mentions (page 293) the loss of Murphy’s pony on the Lynd, which was found on the sands, “with its body blown up, and bleeding from the nostrils.” Similar symptoms showed themselves in the case of the horses of this expedition, proving pretty clearly that the deaths were caused by some noxious plant. (Camp XXIII.)
‘November’ 17. — The course was continued down Cockburn Creek. At six miles a large stream runs in from the S.E. which was supposed to be Byerley Creek. This however is only an assumption, and not very probable, as it will be remembered that when the brothers struck it on the 1st November, 40 miles below camp 15, they were surprised to find it trending toward the south. It is not improbable that it may run into the sea between the Staaten and Gilbert. This problem can only be solved when the country gets more occupied, or some explorer traces the Staaten in its whole length. Below this junction Cockburn Creek is from 200 to 300 yards wide, running in many channels, but under the surface. The country is flat and poorly grassed, a low sandy ridge occasionally running into the creek. The timber is bloodwood, string-bark, tea-tree, nonda, and acacia. The party camped 5 miles further down; poor “Marion” being now past all hope of recovery had to be abandoned. Three cows that calved at camp 22 were sent for and brought up. They were kept safely all night, but during the morning watch, were allowed to escape by Barney. At this camp (XXIV.) Scrutton was bitten in two or three places by a scorpion, without however any very severe effects.
‘November’ 18. — Cockburn Creek, now an important stream was followed down for four miles, when it formed a junction with the Staaten. The width of the main stream is about 400 yards, in many channels sandy and dry. It now runs generally west and very winding. The country and timber were much as before described, with the exception that a mile back from the river, (a chain of lagoons) generally occurs, some of them being large and deep and covered with lilies. Beyond, a waste of sandy tea-tree levels, thickly covered with triodia or spinifex, and other desert grasses. The green tree ant was very numerous, particularly in the nonda trees, where they form their nests. The birds were also very numerous, large flocks of black cockatoos, cockatoo parrots, galaas, budgerygars or grass parrots (’Melopsittacus Undulatus, Gould’), and some grey quail were frequently seen, and on one of the lagoons a solitary snipe was found. Another cow was abandoned to-day. The total day’s stage was 8 miles. The party camped in the sandy bed of the river. A little rain was experienced at night. (Camp XXV.) Latitude 16° 32′ 14″.
‘November’ 19. — The party followed down parallel with the Staaten, so as to avoid the scrub and broken sandstone gullies on the banks. They travelled for 11 miles, and camped on one of the lagoons above mentioned. Their course was somewhat to the south of west, so that they were no nearer to their destination — an annoying reflection. In the afternoon some of the party went over to the river to fish. At this spot it had narrowed to a width of 100 yards, was clear of fallen trees and snags, the water occupying the whole width, but only 5 feet deep. Up to this time, Frank Jardine had supposed the stream they were on to be the Mitchell, but finding its course so little agreeing with Leichhardt’s description of it, below the junction of the Lynd, which is there said to run N.W., he was inclined to the conclusion that they had not yet reached that river. Mr. Richardson, on the contrary, remained firm in his opinion that Byerley Creek was the river Lynd, and consequently, that this stream was the Mitchell, nor was it till they reached the head of the tide that he was fully convinced of his error. (See his journal November 18, and December 2.)
‘November’ 20. — To-day the Leader went forward and chose a good camp, 12 miles on, at some fine lagoons. The cattle followed, keeping, as usual, back from the river, the interval to which was all scrubby flooded ground, thickly covered with brush and underwood. They were however unable to reach the camp that night, for when within three miles of it a heavy deluge of rain compelled them to halt, and pitch the tents to protect the rations, all the oilskin coverings that had been provided for the packs having been destroyed in the bonfire, on Guy-Faux Day, at camp No. 16. They could hardly have been caught in a worse place, being on the side of a scrubby ridge, close to one of the ana-branches of the river. It would seem that the natives calculated on taking them at a disadvantage, for they chose this spot for an attack, being the first instance in which they attempted open hostility. Whilst the Brothers were busily engaged in cutting out a “sugar bag,” a little before sundown, they heard an alarm in the camp, and a cry of “here come the niggers.” Leaving their ‘sweet’ occupation, they re-joined the party, in front of which about 20 blacks were corroboreeing, probably to screw up their courage. They had craft enough to keep the sun, which was now low, at their backs, and taking advantage of this position sent in a shower of spears, without any of the party — not even the black-boys — being aware of it, until they saw them sticking in the ground about them. No one was hit, but several had very narrow shaves. The compliment was returned, and as Alexander Jardine describes “’exeunt’ warriors,” who did not again molest them, although they were heard all around the camp throughout the night. (Camp XXVII.) Course W. Distance 9 miles. A heavy thunderstorm in the evening.
‘November’ 21. — The cattle were started as usual, but as ill-luck would have it, 13 of the horses were not to be found. After waiting for them till four o’clock, all the packs and riding-saddles were packed on the remaining horses, and the party drove them on foot before them to the camp, at the lagoons, three miles on. It was dark before they got there, and well into the second watch before the tents were pitched, and everything put straight. The country continued the same as before described, a barren waste of tea-tree levels to the north, obliging them to keep along the river, although at right angles to their proper course. (Camp XXVIII.) Distance 3 miles W.
‘November 22. — The troubles and adventures of the party seemed to thicken at this point, where the cattle were detained, whilst the missing horses were being sought for. Old Eulah had come in late the preceding night empty-handed, he had seen their tracks, but night coming on he was unable to follow them. He was started away this morning in company with Peter to pick up and run the trail. At two o’clock he returned with two, and reported that Peter was on the trail of the others. They had evidently been disturbed by their friends the natives, for their tracks were split up, and those brought on had their hobbles broken. At dusk Peter brought home three more, without being able to say where the others had got to. During this time, Frank Jardine had a little adventure to himself; wishing to find a better run for the cattle, he started about noon, and rode down the river for about six miles. There was no choice, the country was all of the same description, so he turned back in disgust, when, in crossing the head of a sandstone gully, he heard a yell, and looked round just in time to see a half a dozen spears come at him, and about a dozen natives around and painted, jumping about in great excitement. Going forward a little, he got time to clear the lock of his rifle, from the oil rag which usually protected it. He turned on his assailants, and sent a bullet amongst them; it hit a tree instead of a blackfellow, but as they still menaced him, his next shot was more successful, when seeing one of their number fall, the rest decamped. It was now their turn to run, but before they could cross the bed of the river, which was dry, clear, and about 300 yards wide, he was able to get two good shots at short range. They did not trouble him again that afternoon. They dropped all their spears in the “stampede,” some of which, reed and jagged, were taken home as trophies. They used no “wommerahs.” Peter came in to camp at dark, with 3 horses, having no idea where the others had got to; there were 8 still away.
‘November’ 23. — Sambo, the best tracker among the black-boys, was despatched at sunrise, with Peter, to look for the missing horses. He returned at sundown with the mule, which he had found on the opposite side of the river, but he had seen no traces of the rest. Peter came in after dark, without any, he had seen the tracks of the natives on the horse tracks, and related in his own jargon, that “blackfella bin run’em horses all about” and “that bin brok’em hobble.” He had also seen two or three of the blacks themselves, at the lagoon where the brothers met them on the 14th, and had some parley with them — he described them as “cawbawn saucy” “that tell’im come on, me trong fella, you little fella,” and after chaffing him in their own way, sent as many spears at him as he would stand for. The detention caused by the loss of the horses, was a serious matter, whilst the hostility of the natives was very annoying, keeping the party constantly on the alert. The interval was occupied in patching up the ration tent, with portions of the other two, so that they had now one water-proof to protect their stores. Some good snipe and duck shooting might have been got round these lagoons, but as nearly all their caps had been destroyed by the fire, it was not to be thought of. The scarcity of these and of horse-flesh alone prevented the Brothers from turning out and giving their troublesome enemies a good drilling, which, indeed, they richly deserved, for they had in every case been the aggressors, and hung about the party, treacherously waiting for an opportunity to take them by surprise. The detention also was due to them, which was a matter of some anxiety to the Leader, when it is considered that the party was in a level flooded country, without a rise that they knew of within fifty miles, and that the rains of the last ten days portended the breaking up the dry season.
‘November’ 24. — This morning Frank Jardine went out with Eulah, and succeeded in finding 5 more of the horses, scattered all over the country, their hobbles broken, and as wild as hawks. He sent Eulah along the tracks of the last two, who were evidently not far ahead, and brought the others in himself. These two “Cerebus” and “Creamy,” were the best and fattest of the pack-horses. Their loss would have made a serious addition to the loads of the remainder, who had already to share 400lbs. Extra in consequence of the poisoning of the three already lost. Whilst waiting for and expecting their arrival every hour, the different members of the party amused themselves as best they might by fishing, opossum, sugar-bag hunting, and nonda gathering. The monotony of the camp was also broken by a little grumbling, consequent on an order from the Leader against the opening of the next week’s ration bag. The party had, during the halt consumed a week’s rations a day and a-half too soon, hence the order, which was a wise precaution. The rations were calculated with care to last through the journey, but, unless a restriction had been placed on the consumption, this could not be hoped for. But it is difficult to reason with hungry men.
‘November’ 25. — Another day passed without finding the two missing horses. Sambo and Eulah were sent out in quest of them, but returned unsuccessful, giving it, as their opinion that “blackfella bin ‘perim ‘longa ‘crub.” Peter and Barney were then despatched with orders to camp out that night and look for them all next day. A steer having been killed last night, the day was passed in jerking him. The day was very unpropitious as there had been a shower of rain in the morning, and there was no sun, so it had to be smoked with manure in one of the tents. What with the mosquitoes and sand-flies, men, horses, and cattle were kept in a continual fever. The horses would not leave the smoke of the fires, the cattle would not remain on the camp, and the men could get no rest at night for the mosquitoes, whilst during the day the flies were in myriads, and a small species of gad-fly, particularly savage and troublesome. Another source of annoyance was from the flocks of crows and kites, the latter (’Milvus Affinis’) are described by Leichhardt as being extraordinarily audacious, during his journey through this part of the country, and they certainly manifested their reputation now. Not content with the offal about the camp, they would actually, unless sharply watched, take the meat that was cooking on the fire. The black-boys killed a great many with “paddimelon” sticks, and reed spears, (the spoils of war) but with little effect. “When one was killed, twenty came to the funeral.” Old Eulah was a great proficient in this exercise, and when in action with his countrymen, was always anxious to throw their own spears back at them.
‘November’ 26. — One of the party went to sleep during his watch last night, by which fifteen head of cattle were allowed to stray away from the camp. It was not the first time that this very grave fault had occurred, the mischief caused by which, can sometimes, hardly be estimated. In this case, however, it verified the proverb, it is an ill wind, etc., for whilst looking for the stragglers Frank Jardine luckily “happened” on the missing horses “Cerebus” and “Creamy” about 7 miles down the river. They had evidently been frightened by the blacks. Seven of the cattle only were found, leaving eight missing which was very provoking as it was necessary to shift the camp (on which they had now been detained six days) for all the stock were looking miserable. Neither horses nor cattle would eat the grass, which had ceased to have a trace of green in it, but rambled about looking for burnt stubble. The day was close and sultry with loud thunder and bright lightning, which very much frightened the horses. The natives were heard cooeying all round the camp during the night, but made no attack, remembering probably the result of the Sunday and Tuesday previous.
‘November’ 27 — Everything was ready to pack on the horses before daylight this morning, but most provokingly “Cerebus” was again missing. Leaving orders for the party to start if he was not recovered before noon, the Leader pushed on to mark a camp for them. At about three miles he came on to a chain of fine lagoons, running parallel to and about four miles from the river. The intervening country was one tea-tree level all flooded, but a narrow strip of soft sandy flat occurred on the banks of each, timbered with blood-wood, stringy-bark, and box. Following these down he marked a camp at about nine miles, then crossed over to the river to look for the cattle. He had not followed it far when he saw a mob of blacks. They did not molest him, so he passed them quietly, as he thought, but about two miles further on, in some scrubby sandstone gullies, as he was riding along looking for tracks, a spear whistled past, within six inches of his face. Pulling up, he saw seven natives, all standing quietly looking on at the effect of the missile: the fellow who threw it never threw another. Pursuing his way, pondering on the fatality that had brought about collisions on two Sundays running, he met the cattle, and found the party in some excitement; they too had had a shindy. The natives had attacked them in force, but no one was hurt, whilst some of their assailants were left on the ground, and others carried away wounded. It was found that they would not stand after the first charge — and a few were hit. (Camp XXIX.) Distance 9 miles. Course W. by N.
‘November’ 28. — All hopes of finding the eight missing head of cattle, lost from camp 28, had to be abandoned, for the reason that the horse-flesh could not hold out in looking for them. The cattle were moved down along the lagoons, which in about two miles narrowed into a defined creek, sandy, with occasional lagoons. This was explored ten miles by the Leader, and the question as to whether he should choose that route, or follow the river was decided for him. The banks were either utterly barren or clothed with spinifex, and the country on either side the same worthless tea-tree levels. He was therefore determined to take the cattle back on to the river, which was not much better, and led them away from their course. The prospects of the Brothers were rather dispiriting. To attempt striking north was out of the question, whilst every mile down the river took them further away from their destination, and their horses were falling away daily, so much so, that if the feed did not soon improve, there would not be one capable of carrying an empty saddle. The rainy season too was at hand, and the level and flooded nature of the country they were in, would, were they caught there by the floods, endanger the safety of the party. It was therefore with no little anxiety that they watched the weather, and searched for a practicable line which would allow of their steering north. (Camp XXX.) Latitude 16° 26′ 53″. Distance 10 miles, W. by N.
‘November’ 29. — Keeping a south-west course, so as to strike it lower down, the cattle were again taken on to the river, which they reached in about nine miles; then travelling about another mile down its banks, encamped. These were now decidedly more open, and the country generally improved. The same strip of soft sandy flat about half-a-mile wide continued, but better grassed, although the spear grass was far too common. Bloodwood, stringy-bark, applegum and acacia timbered the north bank; whilst on the south, tea-tree flats, covered with spinifex, ran close down to the bed, the bank itself being of red clay. Two channels, together making a width of about 300 yards, formed the bed, which was sandy, and held very little water on the surface. No large trees occurred, save now and then a vagrant nonda. Another cow was lost to-day, and “Lottie,” a favorite terrier, was missing. The latitude of Camp 31 was supposed to be 16° 31′ 53″, but doubtful.
‘November’ 30. — The river was followed down to-day for 11 miles. It was very winding and irregular in its width. At the camp it was only 60 yards wide and running in one channel, whilst a mile above, it measured nearly 400. Its general course was nearly west. The creek which is formed by the lagoons, on which the party were so long detained was crossed at about nine-and-a-half miles. The country at its junction is flooded for a long distance back, and the river bed sandy and thickly timbered. Although the country generally had decidedly improved, inasmuch as that it was more open, devoid of scrub, and the box flats on the river extending further back on each side, it was by no means good. The flats were very scantily grassed, chiefly with sour water grasses and spinifex, and shewed by the flood marks that they must be quite impassable during floods or wet weather. The dreary tea-tree levels might be seen in glimpses through the white box of the flats extending far beyond. Several small swamps were passed during the day, on which ducks and other water-fowl were very numerous, the stately native companion stalking near the margins. The large funnel ant-hills occurred from 2 to 15 feet high. The Fitzroy wallaby was plentiful, and the Leader shot an emeu. Some large flights of white ibis, and slate-colored pigeons passed high overhead, flying north, which might be a good indication. Peter was sent back to seek for Lottie, but returned in the evening unsuccessful.
‘December’ 1. — Maramie Creek was crossed this morning at its junction with the river, into which it flows in two channels, about 60 or 70 miles from the point where the brothers first struck it on the 12th of November, while searching for a road to the northward. Its total width is about 120 yards. The general course of the river was slightly to the north of west, but very winding, some of its reaches extended for nearly four miles. Numerous ana-branches occurred, the flats separating them, being three miles in breadth, timbered with flooded box and tea-tree, their banks well grassed. It would be a dangerous country to be caught in by the floods. Two parties of blacks were passed fishing on the river, but they took no notice of the party, and were of course not interfered with. They used reed spears pointed with four jagged prongs, and also hooks and lines. Their hooks are made with wood barbed with bone, and the lines of twisted currejong bark. Distance travelled to-day 10 miles. The Camp XXXIII. in latitude 16° 27′ 30″.
‘December’ 2. — The river was travelled down through similar country for eleven miles, when the party reached the head of the tide, and camped on a rocky water hole in an ana-branch, the river water not being drinkable. The course was to the southward of west. It was now beyond a doubt, even to Mr. Richardson, that this river was not the Mitchell, for neither its latitude, direction, or description corresponded with Leichhardt’s account. It was also perceived that the longitude of the starting point must have been incorrect, and very considerably to the westward, as their reckoning, carefully checked, brought them much too near the coast. The Brothers therefore became satisfied of what they had long believed, that they had never been on the Lynd at all, or even on its watershed, and that what they were on was an independent stream. They therefore named it the ‘Ferguson,’ in honor of Sir George Ferguson Bowen, Governor of Queensland, but there is little doubt that it is the Staaten of the Dutch navigators, or at least its southern branch. Should a northern branch eventually be discovered, which the delta and numerous ana-branches make a probable hypothesis, the stream explored by the brothers might with propriety retain the name they gave it. At eight miles from the start the character of the country changed from the prevailing flats, to a kind of barren sandstone and spinifex ridges. On pitching the camp the fishing-lines were put into requisition, but without success. It is remarkable, that on reaching the salt water, not far from this spot, Leichhardt was similarly disappointed, after having counted on catching and curing a good quantity of fish, the whole day’s work of Brown and Murphy being “a small siluus, one mullet, and some guard-fish,” ‘qu.’ gar-fish.
‘December’ 3. — To-day’s stage was a short one, and was hoped to have been the last on this miserable river, which was now looked upon as undoubtedly the Staaten. It had in some measure improved. The timber was much larger and finer, and the lagoons extensive and deep. But a heavy storm which came down, and compelled them to camp early, soon proved what the country would be in the wet season. With this one heavy fall of rain it became so boggy that the horses sank in up to their girths. Hitherto the grass had been so scanty that the party could not halt for a day to kill. They had consequently been four days without meat. It was determined, therefore, to stop and kill a beast, preparatory to a start north, the feed having slightly improved in common with the timber. In addition to the steer that was slaughtered, a shovel-nosed shark was caught and jerked in like manner with the beef. In the afternoon Alexander Jardine explored down the river for seven miles, seeking for a good spot for turning off. The country still improved: the river was completely salt, and in one continuous sheet of running water, in two channels 300 or 400 yards in width, and together about half-a-mile at the spot where he turned back. Here it was flat and shallow, and fordable at low water. Mangroves and salt-water creeks commenced as described by Leichhardt,4 and alligator tracks were seen. (Camp XXXV.) Latitude 16° 26′ 39″.
4 See Journal, page 320. It was at this point that he threw away his horse-shoes and other heavy articles.
‘December’ 4. — The beef, shark, and a few cat-fish were jerked, and all the stores and loading spread out and re-distributed on the packs, and as this put the camp into some confusion, the Leader thought it well to shift it for a few miles, to let the packs shake into place before the final start. They therefore moved down three miles to the commencement of the mangroves, into a patch of the best feed they had seen since they left the Einasleih. At this point the banks were very soft and sandy, growing spinifex; the stream in numerous channels, altogether half-a-mile across, and the tide rose and fell about twenty-two inches. Here they camped, intending to make an early start on the following morning. Time was now an object of the utmost importance to the progress, if not to the safety of the party: Frank Jardine was aware that the Mitchell, which he had hoped long ere this to have left behind him, was still ahead, at least 40 miles away, without certainty of water until it was reached, whilst if caught by the floods he would probably be stopped by this important stream. It was with some anxiety therefore that he hastened preparations for the start. How his hopes were deferred and how fortune seemed to laugh at his endeavours to push forward on his course will now be narrated, and it will be seen how good bushmen with high hearts can overcome obstacles, and meet difficulties that would appal and baffle ordinary travellers.
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