Leave the Staaten — Half the horses away — Fresh troubles — Mule Lost — Sambo knocked up — Search for mule — Perplexity — “Lucifer” goes mad — Final attempt to recover him — Marine Plains — Search for Deceiver — Found dead — Salt Lagoon — Arbor Creek — Country improves — Good Camp — Eulah Creek — The Brothers attacked — Reach the Mitchell — Cow poisoned — Battle of the Mitchell — An ambush — Extent of flooded Country — Reach head of tide — Heavy rain — A “Blank run” — Leave the Mitchell — Good Coast Country — Balourgah Creek — Blue grass — Banksia — The Eugenia — Green Ant — Hearsey Creek — Holroyd — Creek Dunsmuir Creek — Thalia Creek — Black boy chased by natives — Another encounter — Cattle scattered by thunder-storm — Rainy Season — Macleod Creek — Kendall Creek.
‘December’ 5. — Turning their backs on the Ferguson or Staaten the party steered north, and at starting crossed the head of the sand-flats, described by Leichhardt. The rest of the day’s stage was over sandy ridges covered with tea-tree and pandanus, tolerably grassed, no creek or water-course of any description occurred along the line, and the party had to camp without water at about 13 miles: but as the Leader had not expected to find any at all for at least 40, this was not thought much of. The camp though waterless was well grassed, and by dint of searching a small pool of slimy green water was found before dark, about two-and-a-half miles to the N.N.W. in a small watercourse, and by starting off the black boys, enough was procured in the “billies” for the use of the party for supper. This is marked a red day in Frank Jardine’s diary, who closes his notes with this entry. “Distance 13 miles. Course North at last.” (Camp XXXVII.)
‘December’ 6. — The satisfaction of the party in getting away from the Staaten and travelling on the right course was destined to receive a check, and the Brothers to find they had not yet quite done with that river. This morning about half the horses were away, and a worse place for finding them, saving scrub, could hardly be imagined. It was fortunate that the pool of water mentioned yesterday had been found, as the cattle would have had to turn back to the river, but this they were saved from. They were started away for the water at day-break, in charge of two of the black boys, with instructions to stay and feed them there until the horses came up or they were relieved by Binney. No horses coming in, Binney was sent after them. The Brothers searching for the horses, followed an hour-and-a-half after, but on arriving at the pool found the cattle and boys but no Binney. Returning to the camp they instructed the party to shift the packs to the pool on the twelve horses that had been found. Binney here came into the camp along the yesterday’s tracks. He had missed the cattle and did not know where he had been to. He was started again on the cattle track by the Brothers, who then went in search of more water, sending two more black boys to look for the horses. At about four miles away they themselves came on to their tracks, which they ran for about eight miles towards the coast, when they found six. Continuing to follow the trail they were led to their 35th camp on the Staaten, when they found three more. Here, as the sun went down they were obliged to camp, and after short hobbling the horses laid down by their fire, supperless, and without blankets. They saw no water through the whole of the day, which was the cause of the restlessness of the horses the previous night, and of their straying, in spite of short hobbles. The myriads of mosquitoes too, which now annoyed them may possibly have contributed to that end.
‘December’ 7. — Leaving the nine horses hobbled to feed near the water the Brothers separated, one taking up and the other down the river to look for the others, in hopes that they might also have turned back, but met again in the afternoon, each without success. Starting back (with the nine recovered yesterday) at about two o’clock, they returned to the camp, where fresh troubles awaited them. Only two of the others had been found, and the party with the pack-horses had succeeded in losing the mule, together with his pack. Whilst preparing to start they had allowed him to poke away unperceived in the scrubby timber, and did not miss him till ready to start. Sambo had been at once despatched on his tracks but had not yet returned. Binney had lost himself a second time and only rejoined the camp at dark last night, after having ridden the whole day, probably in a circle, without finding either horses or water. The two black boys had been equally unsuccessful. Eulah and Barney were now despatched with orders to camp out until they found the missing horses, five of which, besides the mule, still were away. In the evening Sambo returned quite exhausted for want of water, not having seen or tasted any, or any food during the two days of his absence. For an hour after coming into camp he was quite delirious. When sufficiently recovered and collected to speak he stated that he had followed the tracks of the mule (who had evidently been galloping) through the tea-tree levels, at the back of camp 35, when he was obliged to turn back for want of water. This accident, the result of gross carelessness, together with frequent cases of less importance, induced in the Leader a want of confidence which caused him great anxiety when away from the party, to which indeed he never returned without a feeling of disquietude, which was not allayed until he learned that all was well — a harassing feeling, which few but those who have experienced the responsibility of the conduct and success of a similar expedition can fully appreciate. The water at this camp was very bad, but still under the circumstances, a great God-send. There were two holes equi-distant half-a-mile from the one they were on, up and down the creek. The upper one was the deepest, having many ducks, terns, and cranes on it. All three were surrounded with a fringe of green rushes. By digging wells and allowing the water to drain in, it was drinkable, although very brackish. (Camp XXXVIII.) Latitude 16° 13′ 45″.
‘December’ 8. — At 4 o’clock this morning Alexander Jardine started with Sambo after the mule. The Leader remained with the party employing the day in exploring ahead for about 18 miles, in the hope of finding water for a stage. This was a paramount necessity, for the weather was so hot and the country so dry that twenty-four hours without drinking drove the cattle nearly mad, their drivers suffering almost equally. Finding no water during this search Mr. Jardine was again in perplexity. Supposing the Mitchell to be 40 or 45 miles ahead, the cattle could not reach it without water. On the other hand if the coast were followed, it was probable that on reaching the Mitchell they would have to trace it up 40 or 50 miles before it could be crossed. The latter however seemed to be the best course, if not the only one. The intention of Alexander Jardine was to have got on to the mule’s tracks, and run them over again until he “pulled” him, but the ground being baked hard, stony, and grassless Sambo was unable again to pick them up. However, whilst looking for the mule’s tracks they found three more of the horses, on a small creek, fourteen miles from the camp, which ran into the river below the last camp on it. He now determined to look for the other two, and abandon the search after the mule for the present. One of them “Lucifer” was found at camp 35. He was out of hobbles, and immediately on being seen, started off at a gallop up the river. His tracks were followed up to the next camp, six miles, where night closing in Mr. Jardine was constrained to halt. The wretched animal had apparently gone mad, probably with drinking salt water.
‘December’ 9. — On resuming the search this morning Mr. A. Jardine met Eulah and Barney. They also, had seen “Lucifer” on the coast, but could do nothing with him. Detaching Sambo and Barney to continue the search after the mule, and giving them all the provision, he took Eulah with him to try once again to recover “Lucifer.” Picking up his trail at last night’s camp, where they left the three recovered horses, they ran it four miles up the river and came upon him in a patch of scrub; they headed him after a hard gallop and endeavoured to drive him down to the other horses, but all to no purpose, they knocked up their horses and were obliged to abandon the pursuit. He had evidently gone mad. Returning to the camp they got fresh horses, and returned with the three to the party of the main camp.
‘December’ 10. — The two lost horses (”Lucifer” and “Deceiver”) being Mr. Jardine’s best hacks and favourites, he determined to make one more effort to recover them. Starting with Eulah this morning, he travelled down the creek on which the cattle were camped for six miles west, when he reached some large marine plains and downs, so large, that though they ascended a high tree they could see nothing between them and the horizon; they were grassed only with spinifex “and other rubbish.” They came on to Lucifer’s tracks about 25 miles from the camp, and found the place where he had been drinking the salt water and lying down. From thence they followed his tracks for 15 miles through the tea-tree levels, and camped without water, after having travelled, walking and riding, over between 40 or 50 miles of the most miserable and desolate country imaginable, without finding any fit to drink. Meanwhile Alexander Jardine took another cast to find water and have a look at the coast. He also saw the Marine Plains, and found them utterly waterless. This decided the question of the coast-line route.
‘December’ 11. — At daylight Mr. Jardine and Eulah again got on to Lucifer’s tracks, but the ground was so hard that they had to run them on foot and lead their horses. At sun-down they hit camp 33 on the river, having made only about 20 miles in a straight line. Here they had a good drink. The water was rather brackish, but after two days travelling over a parched and arid country, almost anything would have been acceptable. They turned out and whilst trying to catch something for their suppers, they saw Lucifer standing within thirty yards of where their horses were feeding, but the moment he caught sight of them he again galloped away. Mr. Jardine immediately jumped on his horse and brought him back to Eulah’s, but to no purpose, for he galloped past without taking the least notice of him, and as it was now dark they had to let him go. Alexander Jardine spent the day in searching for water, and was fortunate enough to hit on a permanent water hole, in a small creek, eight miles N.N.W. from the camp. This discovery was like a ray of sunshine promising to help them on their way. At night Sambo and Barney returned, but without the mule.
‘December’ 12. — Lucifer was again followed till mid-day. From the time that he had left their camp last night he had galloped for 13 miles without stopping, and when found he was quite white with sweat. It was quite evident that he was perfectly mad from the effects of the salt water, so that Mr. Jardine decided to abandon him without wasting more horse-flesh. He turned therefore to look for the other horse “Deceiver,” expecting to find him in the same state. His tracks being found shortly afterwards, they followed them for some distance, when they came on to his dead carcase. The poor brute had evidently died from want of water; the Leader therefore turned homewards, hoping, but little expecting to find that the mule had been found. These losses were a heavy blow, and sadly crippled the party. Lucifer and Deceiver were the two best riding horses, and the mule the best pack animal. His own loss was aggravated by his carrying his pack with him. This carried most of the odd articles that were hitherto deemed indispensible, but which henceforth they had per force to dispense with. One pack contained all that remained of the tea, currants, and raisins, which were saved from the fire, and two pairs of boots, the only ones the Brothers had; and the other was filled with oddments, such as files, gimlets, ragstone, steel, weighing machine, awls, tomahawks, American axes, shoeing tools, and a number of things “that they could not do without,” but perhaps the most important loss was that of the spade, to which they had many times been indebted for water. Up to this time, that is to the 37th camp, the number of the camp had always been cut in the wood of a tree at each, with a mallet and chissel, these having gone with the mule’s pack the numbers were from this point cut with a tomahawk, but as Mr. Jardine was expert and careful in its use it is probable that his marks are but little less legible. The recovery of the mule being now past all hope the Brothers determined to push on, thankful that they were certain of water for one stage. It was the more necessary, as two of the party, Scrutton and Cowderoy, were getting ill from the effects of the bad water. At this camp Mr. Richardson fixed the variation at 40 east. He had hitherto used a variation of 6° in his plotting.
‘December’ 13. — The Leader intended to have camped to-day on the creek, found by his brother on the 11th, but whilst ahead looking for a good camp for the morrow, he came at five miles further on, to what he took to be the “Rocky Creek” of Leichhardt. He turned back therefore and fetched the cattle on to it, making 13 instead of 8 miles. But on turning out it was found that the water was not drinkable, although the lagoon was covered with nympheas, generally supposed to grow only in fresh water. These were white instead of blue, which might be from the effect of the salt. However at a mile up the creek, a fine reach of good water was found, two miles long and sixty yards wide. The bed of the creek contained sandstone rock, was well grassed, and where crossed, ran about east and north. A fine barramundi was caught in it, and Alexander Jardine shot six whistling ducks in the first creek. The country traversed to-day alternated between extensive marine plains, covered with “pigs face,” (’Misembrianthemum Iriangularis’), and crusted with salt, and low undulating tea-tree, and banksia ridges. Birds were very plentiful, large flocks of native companions (’Gurus Antigen,’) stalked over the marine plains, and when seen at the distance had the appearance of a flock of sheep, gigantic cranes, pelicans, and ibis were numerous, whilst in the lagoons of the creek, nearly every kind of water-fowl common to Queensland, was found, except the coot and pigmy goose, plover and snipe were abundant, also the elegant Burdekin duck, and a small crane was noticed having a dark blue head and body, with white throat and neck. (Camp XXXIX.) Lat. 16° 3′ 38″. A tree was marked F. J. in heart on one side, and 39 in square on the other.
‘December’ 14. — To-day the party started north-east, the Leader wishing, if possible, to hit the Mitchell at the head of the tide. Water was carried in case these should not find any, but the precaution was fortunately unnecessary. At five miles they crossed a small creek from the eastward, having one small hole of water in it. The country to that point was similar to that of yesterday, thence outward for about 9 miles they traversed box flats, intersected with low sandy rises, well grassed, and timbered with stringy-bark and acacia. Another watered creek was crossed at about 9 miles from the start, and the camp pitched at a round waterhole, in a well-watered creek at 14 miles. Many gullies were crossed filled with the screw-palm (’Pandanus Spirilas.’) The soil of the box flats was a stiff yellow clay. Hot winds had been prevalent for the last week from the south-east, which parched and baked everything and made the mosquitoes very numerous and annoying. (Camp XL.) Latitude 15° 56′ 31″.
‘December’ 15. — The grass was so coarse and dry at this camp, that the precaution was taken of watching the horses all last night, and the party started this morning by moonlight. For 5 miles they travelled over box and tea-tree flats, full of funnel ant-hills, melon and rat-holes, when they reached a narrow deep sandy creek, the course of which was defined by a line of dark green timber, presenting a strong and pleasing contrast with any previously crossed along the “Levels,” where they could never be distinguished from a distance, being fringed with the same kind of timber. It came from the eastward, was tolerably watered, and presented some bad broken sandstone country on its north bank. Its shady appearance suggested the appropriate name of “Arbor Creek.” For three miles the route lay over gullies, spurs, and walls of broken sandstone. The country beyond opened agreeably into flats, which might almost be called plains, but for the lightly-dotted timber. The grasses though dry, were finer and better than any seen, since leaving the Einnasleih. The timber generally was white box, applegum, bloodwood, and grevillea, and at 11 miles (from camp) the bauhinia, and Bidwill’s acacia commenced, and continued to the 42nd Camp. The flats towards the end of the stage sloped to the north-east. At 19 miles the party having accomplished a long stage, Mr. Jardine camped without water, sending old Eulah to try and find some. He soon returned with the welcome news that there was a well-watered creek on a-head, so saddling up again, they drove on and reached it in about three miles. It was well worth the extra fatigue to the stock. They were rewarded by an excellent camp, plenty of green grass, open country and water, which, after a drive of 23 long and dusty miles, was alike acceptable to men and beasts. The creek received the name of Eulah Creek, in honor of the discoverer. (Camp XLI.)
‘December’ 16. — Between two and three miles of travelling over flooded box country, having large melon holes in it, brought the party to a well-watered creek, with vine scrub banks running N. W. At three more, another and similar one was reached, where the scrubs on the banks were so thick that the Brothers who were a-head had to camp, to cut a road through them. This creek appeared to be an ana-branch. Whilst they were engaged in marking a line for a crossing place for the cattle, they saw some blacks, and tried to avoid them, these however ran in the direction of the cattle, and brandishing their spears laughingly, defied the horsemen, beckoning them to come on. With this they complied, and turned them back over the creek, and then sat down awaiting the arrival of the cattle. They were not allowed to remain long in peace, for the natives, having left their gins on the other side, swam over the creek and tried to surround them. Being thus forced into a “row,” the Brothers determined to let them have it, only regretting that some of the party were not with them, so as to make the lesson a more severe one. The assailants spread out in a circle to try and surround them, but seeing eight or nine of their companions drop, made them think better of it, and they were finally hunted back again across the river, leaving their friends behind them. The firing was heard by the cattle party, but before they could come up, the fray was over. In this case, as in all others, the collision was forced on the explorers, who, as a rule, always avoided making use of their superior arms. Leaving the cattle in camp, the Brothers spend the afternoon in exploring the country a-head for 7 miles. After crossing the river, the course lay through flooded country (the marks on the trees being in some cases five feet high, covered with box, and vine scrub, and the water, grasses, and rushes being matted together with mud and rubbish,) to a large stream with broad sandy bed, divided into three channels, altogether about 600 yards wide, but with little water in them. The banks and islands were covered with vine scrub, and lined with plum (’Owenia,’) chestnut (’Castanopermum,’) nonda, bauhinia, acacia, white cedar, the corypha or (fan-leaved palm,) flooded gum, melaleuca (drooping tea-tree,) and many creepers and shrubs. On the box flats travelled through, some gunyahs, dams, and weirs were noticed, all constructed of matted vines and palm leaves, which last grow almost everywhere. One of the largest of the palms measured 13 1/2 feet at the butt, which is the smallest end, as they here assume the shape of the bottle tree. This stream was correctly surmised to be the long desired Mitchell, the two last creeks being only its ana-branches. Although 10 miles higher up in latitude 15° 51′ 56″it is described by Leichhardt as being 1 1/2 miles wide. It here measured as before described only about 600 yards. A number of fish were caught at the camp. (Camp XLII.) Distance 6 miles.
‘December’ 17. — After some little trouble the cattle were crossed over this branch, a road having to be cut for them through the scrub. At 5 miles they crossed another main branch about 450 yards wide, and camped two miles on the other side of it, on a waterhole in a Leichhardt-tree flat (’Nauclea Leichhardtii.’) The country was the same as described yesterday. One of the fattest of the cows died from the effects of some poisonous herb, not detected. Some turkey’s eggs were found, and a wallaby, with which the vine scrubs were swarming, was shot. The Torres Straits pigeon (’Carpophaga Luctuosa,’) was here met with for the first time on the trip, and attracted the interest and admiration of the travellers. It is a handsome bird, about the size of a wonga, the head and body pure white, the primaries of the wings and edge of the tail feathers black, and the vent feathers and under tail coverts tinged with a delicate salmon color. Distance 7 or 8 miles. Course N.N.E. (Camp XLIII.)
‘December’ 18. — The river was followed down to-day for 9 miles through a complete net-work of ana-branches, gullies, and vine scrubs to another branch, which may be called the true stream. It was 30 yards wide, deep, and running strongly. Here the party had to camp for about 3 hours, whilst the Brothers searched for a good crossing. The cattle and pack-horses were crossed in safety, but some of the pack-bags got wetted in the passage. They were travelled another mile over to a sandstone bar, crossing another deep sheet of water, that had been previously found. This stream had been explored in search of a ford for four miles further up but without success. It continued of the same width and appeared to do so much further. This day, Sunday, was marked by the severest conflict the travellers had yet had with the natives, one which may well be dignified by the name of the “battle of the Mitchell.” On arriving at the running stream before mentioned, whilst the cattle halted, the Brothers and Eulah, taking axes with them, to clear the scrub, went down to find a safe crossing. At about a-mile-and-a-half they came on to a number of blacks fishing, these immediately crossed to the other side, but on their return, swam across again in numbers, armed with large bundles of spears and some nullahs and met them. The horsemen seeing they were in for another row, now cantered forward towards the camp, determined this time to give their assailants a severe lesson. This was interpreted into a flight by the savages, who set up a yell, and re-doubled their pursuit, sending in their spears thick and fast. These now coming much too close to be pleasant (for some of them were thrown a hundred yards), the three turned suddenly on their pursuers, and galloping up to them, poured in a volley, the report of which brought down their companions from the camp, when the skirmish became general. The natives at first stood up courageously, but either by accident or through fear, despair or stupidity, they got huddled in a heap, in, and at the margin of the water, when ten carbines poured volley after volley into them from all directions, killing and wounding with every shot with very little return, nearly all of their spears having been expended in the pursuit of the horsemen. About thirty being killed, the Leader thought it prudent to hold his hand, and let the rest escape. Many more must have been wounded and probably drowned, for fifty nine rounds were counted as discharged. On the return of the party to the cattle an incident occurred which nearly cost one of them his life. One of the routed natives, probably burning with revengeful and impotent hate, got into the water under the river bank, and waited for the returning party, and as they passed threw a spear at Scrutton, before any one was aware of his proximity. The audacious savage had much better have left it alone, for he paid for his temerity with his life. Although the travellers came off providentially without hurt, there were many narrow escapes, for which some of them might thank their good fortune. At the commencement of the fight as Alexander Jardine was levelling his carbine, a spear struck the ground between his feet, causing him to drop his muzzle, and lodge the bullet in the ground a few yards in front of him. His next shot told more successfully. There were other equally close shaves, but providentially not a scratch. This is one of the few instances in which the savages of Queensland have been known to stand up in fight with white men, and on this occasion they shewed no sign of surprise or fear at the report and effect of fire-arms. But it is probable that they will long remember the “Battle of the Mitchell.” (Camp LXIV.) Course N.N.W. Distance 7 miles.
‘December’ 19. — The horses had to be watched last night, for the grass was so dry and course that the stock would not look at it, but kept rambling about. The river was followed down about 13 miles. The whole country travelled to-day and yesterday shewed flood marks from 5 to 15 feet high. The rushes, nardoo, thatch, and water-grass, dried and parched by the hot winds, were matted together with mud and rubbish. At the camp the stream was 150 yards wide, the running water being 30 yards across. The banks were of clay and sandstone, from 20 to 30 feet high, the water was discolored to a kind of yellowish white. During the floods the stream must be eight or ten miles wide, for, two miles back from it, a fish weir was seen in a small gully.
Altogether it would have been a frightful place for the party to have been detained at. (Camp XLV.) Latitude 15° 26′ 5″.
‘December’ 20. — The river was still followed down to-day, the party keeping about four miles from it, to avoid its scrubs and ana-branches. At between 7 or 8 miles, a stream about 100 yards wide, coming from the eastward, caused them to halt until a road was cut through the thick vine scrub that fringed its banks. Four miles further on they camped at a small lagoon close to the bank of the river, at which point it is about 100 yards wide, deep, and too salt for drinking, being affected by the tide. The country travelled over was box, and tea-tree, melon-hole flats, shewing very high flood marks. The ground had become very boggy from a heavy rain that fell during the day. The night was very stormy, rain and wind falling and blowing pretty equally. Two more head of cattle were dropped. The total distance was 11 miles. Course W.N.W. (Camp XLVI.)
‘December’ 21. — The rain of last night continuing through the morning, the party had to start in the down-pour. They crossed another large shallow sandy creek at four miles, coming from the eastward running south-east. The camp was formed on a lagoon about a mile from the river bank. The country traversed was sandy, growing only coarse wirey grasses and spinifex, sandstone rock cropping out occasionally above the surface. The river was here a quarter-of-a-mile wide, salt, and running strongly. Before the pack-horses came up, a mob of blacks approached the camp, and getting up in the trees, took a good survey of the white intruders, but on one of the party going towards them they scampered off over the open ground towards the river. The recollection of the affair at the crossing place probably quickening their movements. Just at sun-down, however, the sharp eyes of the black-boys detected some of them actually trying to stalk the whites, using green boughs for screens. So the Brothers taking with them Scrutton and the four black-boys, started in chase. They were in camp costume, that is to say, shirt and belt, and all in excellent condition and wind, and now a hunt commenced, which perhaps stands alone in the annals of nature warfare. On being detected the natives again decamped, but this time closely pursued. The party could at any time overtake or outstep the fugitives, but they contented themselves with pressing steadily on them, in open order, without firing a shot, occasionally making a spurt, which had the effect of causing the blacks to drop nearly all their spears. They fairly hunted them for two miles into the scrub, when, as darkness was coming on, they left their dingy assailants to recover their wind, and returned to camp laughing heartily at their “blank run,” and taking with them as many of the abandoned spears as they could carry. (Camp XLVII.) Distance 9 1/2 miles. Course W.N.W.
‘December’ 22. — The Mitchell was left finally to-day, Mr. Jardine determining on beginning the “straight running” for Cape York. The first 8 miles was to a broad rocky creek, over tea-tree and box flats, and small plains, fairly grassed, the best coast country that had been seen. The creek appeared to be permanent, although there was no water where it was crossed. From thence to camp, 7 miles, was over saline plains, intersected by belts of bloodwood, tea-tree, mangrove, nuptle, grevillea, dogwood, applegum, silky oak, and pandanus. A second creek was crossed at 11 miles, similar to the first. The camp was pitched at a puddle, without a blade of grass, although its appearance was beautifully green, caused by a small sort of tea-tree growing in great abundance, about 10 inches high, with seven or eight large leaves on it. A steer was killed in the evening, giving the party a very acceptable meal of meat, the first they had tasted for three days, the weather being too hot to kill, and there being no game to shoot. Course N. by W. Distance 15 miles. (Camp XLVIII.) Latitude 15° 2′ 10″.
‘December’ 23. — All hands were up almost the whole of last night, some engaged in watching the cattle and horses, and others in cutting up and jerking the beast. The rain came down heavily, and a cold bitter wind was blowing; all the tents, save the ration tent, being like sieves, the outside was rather preferable to their shelter; so each passed the night as best they could. The cattle were started away in the morning, leaving Scrutton and Binney to finish jerking the meat, there being some sunshine, which was beginning to be a rarity, for the wet season had now fairly set in. Twelve miles of wretched country were traversed, white sandy undulating ground, clothed with shrubs and underwood, in the place of grass, and the camp pitched on a low stringy-bark ridge, without water, for in this flat sandy country the ground absorbs the rain as soon as it falls. The horses had to be watched again to-night, for there was not a blade of grass to be got. A small quantity of water was found in a creek about a mile-and-a-half ahead. Late in the evening the horses and water-bags were taken to it, and sufficient water brought back for the use of the camp. Two small unimportant creeks were crossed to-day, sandy and dry, trending west. Distance 12 miles N.W. by N. (Camp XLIX.)
‘December’ 24. — The cattle were watched at a small lagoon beyond the creek before mentioned, which was deep and rocky. The country continued of the same miserable character as yesterday, till at 7 miles, the party came to a belt of bloodwood and stringy-bark, where, by good luck, there was a little coarse grass, but as the stock had had none for two days, they were not particular. (Camp L.) Distance 7 miles. Course N.N.W.
‘December’ 25. — The rain came down all last night, and continuing throughout the day (for the first time continually), did not suggest a merry Christmas. However the Leader wished his companions the compliments of the season, and pushed on. The country decidedly improved if the weather did not. The tail end of some scrubs were passed in the first five miles, chiefly tea-tree and oak, and half-a-mile further on, a fine creek of sandstone rock, permanently watered; at 7 miles another similar, but larger, was named Christmas Creek. Here whilst Mr. Jardine was halting in wait for the cattle, he marked a tree XMAS, 1864, in square. In it the swamp mahogany was seen for the first time since leaving Bowen. Its native name is Belourgah. The creek was therefore christened by that name. At 15 miles the party reached and camped on a fine, well-watered, rocky creek, where the blue grass was plentiful, the first that had been seen for many weeks. The country travelled over was very soft, and though driven loose, three of the horses could scarcely travel over it. The packs also were getting into a very dirty state, consequent on the amount of mud and water they had been dragged through. The timber noticed to-day was very varied, comprising all the kinds that have already been mentioned, with the addition of the banksia, which was observed for the first time, and a kind of pomegranate, which was quite new to the Brothers. The trees grow large with soft white bark, and large round leaves. The fruit as large as an hen’s egg, in shape like the common pomegranate. Unripe it is of a transparent white, but when mature, has a dark pink color and slightly acid taste. It is probably the euginia mentioned by Leichhardt. They were much annoyed by the green-tree ant, all the trees and shrubs being covered with them, in riding along they got about their persons, and down their backs, where they stuck like ticks. They are of a transparent green, nearly half-an-inch long, soft, and sticky. On coming to the green feed and good water at the camp, it was felt that this Christmas Day, if not the most cheerful, might have been much worse. (Camp LI.) Distance 13 miles N.N.W.
‘December’ 26, — The party travelled to-day on a course N.N.W. for about 14 miles over very similar country to that of yesterday, save that they crossed no creek, and saw no water during the whole of the stage. Some of the ground was very scrubby and boggy, and better, though not well grassed, too much spear grass occurring. The camp was pitched on a splendid sheet of water, in a rocky creek, 80 yards wide, and very long, in which some of the party caught some fine fish. Waterfowl of all kinds were also numerous. It received the name of Hearsey Creek, after a particular friend, Mr. W. Hearsey Salmon. The blacks were hanging about, but did not make their appearance. (Camp LII.)
‘December’ 27. — The course to-day lay over similar country, a little to the west of north, for 16 miles to a small creek, which contained in a puddle, just sufficient water for the use of the party and the horses. The cattle had to go without. (Camp LIII.)
‘December’ 18. — At five miles from starting this morning, the thirsty cattle were able to get abundance of water in a long sandy creek, running in several channels, and having a rocky sandstone bed. It was named Holroyd Creek. Two miles further on another stream was crossed of similar size and character, which received the name of Dunsmuir Creek. Here the country suddenly changed into lightly timbered box flats, poorly grassed, and flooded. Four miles more brought them to a salt-water creek, which had to be run up a-mile-and-a-half before drinkable water was found. The camp was pitched on a lotus lagoon, the water of which was slightly brackish. It received the name of Thalia Creek. About two hours after camping, whilst the party were engaged in digging trenches round them, and otherwise preparing for an impending thunder-storm, the black-boy that was tailing the cattle, came running into the camp in great excitement, with the news that the natives that had been seen in the morning, had hunted him and were now running the horses, so half the party immediately turned out in pursuit. To protect the carbines from the coming storm, Alexander Jardine and Scrutton arrayed themselves the one in a black and the other a white mackintosh, which reached to their heels, whilst the Leader having a short coat on, a revolver in each pocket, jumped on to the bare-back of one of the horses. This time it was not a “blank run.” The horses were scuttling about in all directions, and the natives waited for the whites, close to a mangrove scrub, till they got within sixty yards of them, when they began throwing spears. They were answered with Terry’s breech-loaders, but whether fascinated by the strange attire of the three whites, or frightened by the report of the fire-arms, or charge of the horse, they stood for some time unable to fight or run. At last they slowly retired in the scrub, having paid for their gratuitous attack by the loss of some of their companions. Some of them were of very large stature. The storm broke with great violence accompanied with thunder and lightning and scattered the cattle off the camp in spite of the efforts of the party to keep them. The thunder caused them to rush about, whilst darkness caused the watchers to run against them, and add to their fright. So they were let go. (Camp LIV.) Distance 11 or 12 miles north.
‘December’ 29. — The cattle were all gathered this morning, save 10, for which Frank Jardine left two of the black-boys to seek and then follow the party. To his great annoyance they came on at night without them. The course to-day was N.N.E. over boggy tea-tree flats, and low stringy-bark ridges. At three miles a large running creek, one hundred yards wide, was struck, and had to be followed up for four miles before a crossing was found. Four miles further brought them to a small creek, well supplied with water from the recent rains, and what was even more acceptable, plenty of green feed, of which the cattle and horses stood in great need. The Leader determined to halt here one day, to try and recover the lost cattle, but felt anything but easy in doing so, for the flood-marks were six feet high on the camp, which was high ground compared to the level waste around them, and the rains seemed fairly to have set in. Another heavy storm poured down on them at night. (Camp LV.)
‘December’ 30. — The cattle remained here to-day, whilst Scrutton and Eulah were sent back for the lost cattle. The Brothers went forward a day’s stage to try and find some high ground. In this they did not succeed. The country was all alike, and they were satisfied beyond doubt that it must be one sea during the rains; not a very comforting discovery. They found a creek four miles on, which received the name of Macleod Creek. It was large and deep, with a strong current running, and chose a place at which they would have to cross, between two high banks of red sandstone. They then returned to camp, and spent the rest of the day in “sugar bag” hunting, in which they were very successful, bringing in as much as made a feed for the whole camp, which was no small quantity. Scrutton and Eulah returned at dark, without having seen any traces of the missing cattle, so it was determined to go on without them, as it would have been madness to have remained longer in such dangerous country. At night they experienced a heavy storm, which is thus described in Frank Jardine’s journal:— “We had one of most severe wind and thunder storms this evening that I ever saw. The largest trees bent like whip-sticks, and the din caused by the wind, rain, thunder, and trees falling, beyond description. People looking at it from under a snug roof would have called it ‘grand,’ but we rhymed it with a very different word.” This may be called a “joke under difficulties.”
‘December’ 31. — Macleod Creek was reached by half-past eight o’clock this morning, and cattle, horses, and packs were all safely crossed by 9.15. The journey was then continued over, or rather, through very boggy tea-tree flats, and undulating stringy-bark, nonda, and bloodwood country, to a large flooded creek, coming from the eastward, which received the name of “Kendall Creek,” after a friend of Mr. Richardson’s. There was a little rising ground on its banks, on which the party camped. Frank Jardine went up it for a few miles, and found a spot at which to cross the next day, in the same manner as at the last. At this camp some capital barramundi and perch were caught, one of the former weighing no less than 14 pounds. They were a great treat, as the party had been without meat for some days, the heavy rains allowing them no chance of killing. The distance travelled to-day was 12 miles, and course generally N.N.W., but the track was winding in consequence of having to lead the horses, and thread the way through the soundest looking places. (Camp LVI.)
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10