Narrative of the overland expedition of the, by F. and A. Jardine

Chapter IV

New Year’s Day — Sinclair Creek — New Year’s Creek — Kinloch Creek — Micketeeboomulgeiai — The River Archer — The Coen — Slough of Despond — River Batavia — Two Horses Drowned — Five Horses Poisoned — Symptoms — Abandon Baggage — Cache — Party commence Walking — Difficult Travelling — Two more Horses Die — Last Encounter with Natives — Pandanus Thorns — Another Horse Sickens — Urgency of Getting Forward — Dalhunty Creek — Another Horse Dies — “Creamy” and “Rocket” Die — Skardon’s Creek — Pitcher Plant — Two Saddles Abandoned — Nell Gwynne’s Foal Killed — Richardson’s Range.

‘January’ 1. — Kendall Creek was crossed early on the morning of this, New Year’s Day, and subsequently at distances of 10 and 14 miles, two small creeks of running water, coming from the eastward, named respectively Sinclair and New Year’s Creeks, in which lilies were abundant (’Blue Nympheas’), and on the last of which the party camped. The progress was rendered very tedious and difficult, by the large trunks and branches of trees, which had been blown down by the storm of the 30th December, over and amongst which the weak horses kept constantly falling. The country changed into red sandy ridges, shewing an outcrop of sandstone, timbered with tall straight saplings of stringy-bark and bloodwood, the larger timber having in all cases been blown down. Some grass-tree country was also passed, covered with quartz pebbles, white, or colored with oxide of iron. The distance accomplished was 14 miles on a course of N.E. by N. (Camp LVII. Nonda.) A heavy thunder-storm broke at night, followed by steady rain.

‘January’ 2. — The heavy rain, boggy soil, and recent long stages made it necessary to turn out the cattle during the last night, as the poor animals had so little chance of feeding during the day. They were, however, gathered by the time the horses were ready in the morning, having, probably, but little temptation to stray on the boggy ground. The country traversed was similar to that of yesterday, and very much encumbered with fallen timber. The grasses, though thin, are of the best quality. Altogether the interval between Kendall Creek and to-night’s camp, a distance of 30 miles, would make a fine cattle run, being watered at every six or seven miles by running creeks, besides a large swamp. It was found to be an extensive plateau, sloping away to the eastward, terminating abruptly in a perpendicular wall, overlooking the valley, on the head of which the party camped. The camp was one of the best of the whole journey, being pitched on a grassy rise, sloping gently to the eastward, and was a grateful relief after the barren and waterless camps of the journey. The latitude was 13° 47″. Distance 16 miles. (Camp LVIII.)

‘January’ 3. — This morning the creek was followed down to near its junction with a large sandy stream, coming from the north-east, which was named Kinloch Creek, in honor of John Kinloch, Esq., Mathematical Master of Sydney College. It was plentifully watered, and remarkable for presenting the only iron-bark trees that were seen since leaving the Einasleih. At 8 and 12 miles, two small very boggy creeks were crossed, the first of which had to be bridged. Their banks were very unsound and swampy, covered with tea-tree, pandanus, ferns, and all kinds of valueless underwood. They were full of lilies, and appeared to be constantly running, from which it was conjectured that they must take their rise from springs. On passing the last, the party emerged on to poorly grassed, desolate-looking sandstone ridges, covered with grass-tree and zamia. A pine-tree ridge was then passed, and a camp formed on a small water-course beyond, the total distance being 16y miles on a bearing of N.N.E. 1/2 N. The latitude was ascertained to be 13° 35′ 54″S. During the day red kangaroos were seen, also the Torres Straits pigeon, and two black cockatoos, with very large stiff crest, crimson cheeks, and large black bill, the rest of the body black. This was the (’Microglossus Aterrimus’), a species peculiar to Northern Australia. It is nearly one-third larger in size than the common black cockatoo, from which it is mainly distinguished by the color of the bill, which is black. (Camp LIX. Bloodwood.)

‘January’ 4. — A heavy storm of rain and thunder having been experienced last night, the party made a short day’s stage, and camped early to enable them to dry their meat, saddlery, bags, etc., which had been thoroughly soaked. The horses backs too, were getting sore from the use of wet saddles, and themselves tired. The course was north, over stringy-bark and bloodwood ridges for 5 miles, to a large running creek named Micketeeboomulgeiai,5 from the north-east, on which a crossing had to be cut; a mile-and-a-half further on, an ana-branch was crossed, and the party camped. (Camp LX. Bloodwood.)

5 In the Wellington Dialect “place where the lightning struck.”

‘January’ 5. — Still raining and wet to-day. A table-land of open sandy ridges was traversed to a high point, the edge of which was reached in five miles on a course N. by E. On reaching this point a range was seen in front, extending east and west about 10 miles off, between which and the party, a fine valley extended, traversed by a large sandy river, which was named the Archer, in honor of Messrs. Archer, of Gracemere. The river Archer flows from the north-east, through a valley of great richness and beauty, and considered by the explorers to be the best country for cattle seen north of Broadsound. The banks of the river are fringed by a thick belt of vine-scrub, containing very many Leichhardt and other handsome trees and shrubs of great luxuriance and growth. The valley is also described as being the first locality where any varieties of flowers were seen, some were of great beauty, particularly a bulb which bears a large flower, shaped like a larkspur, of every tinge of red, from a delicate pink to a rich purple. After crossing the Archer two ana-branches were passed, the route laying over loamy black and chocolate flats, and fine long sloping ridges, very thickly grassed, quite free from stones, well-watered, and despite the heavy rains that had fallen, perfectly sound. The range seen from the table-land was low, and of much the same description. Distance travelled 15 miles N. by E. (Camp LXI. Applegum.)

‘January’ 6. — The march to-day was very trying to the poor horses, being chiefly over rotten melon-hole country, of a yellow clayey soil, timbered with stunted bloodwood and pandanus, the rain pouring down all day. At two miles from camp a large creek was crossed containing a little rain water, and subsequently nine or ten small deep waterless creeks, their beds too sandy to be retentive. On one of these the wearied party camped at the end of 16 or 17 miles. A range 8 or 9 miles to the East, was sighted during the day. Notwithstanding the rain, barely sufficient water was found at the camp. Distance 17 miles. Course North. (Camp LXII. Poplar gum.)

‘January’ 7. — At rather more than a mile from camp, two branches of a large deep creek, were crossed just above its junction. It runs from W. by N., had a little water in it, and the usual fringe of dark green vine scrub, interspersed with Leichhardt trees. A hill on the north bank covered with large sandstone boulders, marks the crossing-place of the party. Numerous small water-courses similar to those of yesterday, were crossed to-day. The country slightly improved but was of the same character, waterless but for the showers of rain. I was strange to see the horses bogging leg deep during a thunder-storm, and in five minutes after unable to get a drink of water. Large red funnel-shaped ant-hills were seen, in some instances as high as 18 to 20 feet. The timber in addition to the usual varieties comprised zamias, iron bark, acacia, pandanus, mimosa, sterculia [(Currijong’), grevillia, coral, (’Erythrina’), and Nonda (’Walrothia’) trees. Scrub turkeys (’Talegalla Lathami’), wonga wongas, and Torres Straits pigeon were seen. The party camped at the end of 15 miles in a shallow tea-tree gulley, with a little water from last night’s rain in its sandy bed, supplying themselves with drinking water from the rain, caught by the tents. Course North. (Camp LXIII. Acacia.)

‘January’ 8. — The first 15 miles travelled over to-day were good undulating forest country, timbered chiefly with box and applegum, and a few iron-barks, and intersected with numerous canal-like creeks, running north-west, but without water; the last three miles was wretchedly bad, being similar to the tea-tree country of the Staaten. The whole country between the Archer and Staaten is without water, save immediately after rain, sufficiently heavy to set the creeks running. The party camped on a small tea-tree “Gilgai,” or shallow water pan, and experienced another night of heavy rain with high wind. Two more horses, Rasper and N’gress were found knocked up. Distance 18 miles. Course N. The latitude of the camp was ascertained to be 12° 38′ 2″. (Camp LXIV. Bloodwood.)

‘January’ 9. — The fact of high land being observed to the west of the course, and that the creeks all flowed eastward, induced the party to think that they were near on the eastern slope of the peninsula. This idea, however, was dispelled on their reaching at the end of ten miles, a large river which was supposed to be the Coen. It was running strongly W.N.W., and seemed distinctly to divide the good and bad country, that on the south side being richly grassed, open and lightly timbered, lucerne and other fine herbs occurring frequently, whilst on the north side it relapsed into the old barren tea-tree country of which so much had been traversed. Considerable time was lost by the party in cutting a road for the cattle through the thick scrub that fringes its banks, a kind of work which was now becoming familiar. The Coen is about sixty yards wide, sandy, and contains crocodiles. The country on it is described as being of excellent quality for a cattle run. The party camped on a tea-tree swamp with a few inches of water in it, 6 miles beyond the crossing place. During the day wongas and Torres Strait pigeons were observed, and scrub turkeys frequented the river scrubs. Distance 16 miles. Course North. (Camp LXV. Bloodwood.)

‘January’ 10. — The journey to-day was one of unusual fatigue and hardship. The country for the first two miles was comparatively sound, but at this point the course was intercepted by a narrow boggy creek, running strongly through a tea-tree flat. Although care and time were taken in the selection of a proper spot, when the herd began to cross, the leading cattle, breaking through the crust, sank to their hips in the boggy spew below, and in a short time between 30 and 40 were stuck fast, the remainder ploughing through with great difficulty. Four beasts refused to face it altogether, and it was found necessary, after wasting considerable time and a deal of horse-flesh, to let them go. The greater part of the day was consumed in dragging out the bogged cattle with ropes. Even with this method and with all the exertions that could be used by the party, five had to be abandoned, nothing appearing above the ground but their backs and heads. The horses were more easily crossed, but their saddles, packs, and loads had to be carried over by the party. They then camped on the creek, and spent the remainder of the day in drying their arms, saddles, etc., and in jerking the beef of one of the beasts which they had been unable to pull out of the slough. Heavy rain again fell at night, which caused an apprehension that their progress would be altogether stopped if it continued. Distance 2 1/2 miles. Course North. (Camp LXVI. Pomegranite.)

‘January’ 11. — It is at this point that the heaviest troubles and hardships of the party appear to have commenced, ,troubles that might well appal hearts less stout than those of the Leader and his brother, and hardships bearing heavily on each member of the party, but doubly so on them who had to explore, mark, and clear the way for the cattle, in addition to the ordinary labor of the journey. After having travelled with the greatest difficulty for two miles over execrable country, so boggy as to be barely possible to traverse, their progress was stopped by a creek 25 yards wide, flooded “bank and bank,” and running like a mill sluice. This was the river Batavia. The usual formidable fringe of vine scrub covered the margin and approaches and had to be cut through before the cattle could cross. This was done by the Brothers by the time they came up, and in addition a large melaleuca which leant over the stream, was felled across it, by means of which (by tying a rope above it, as a leading line), they were enabled to carry over the packs, saddles, stores, etc., on their heads. The cattle accustomed to swimming, took the water in splendid style, one however getting entangled and drowned. With the horses they were not so fortunate, for though a head stall was put on each with a rope attached to the bit, to haul them across, the rapidity of the current swept away two of them into a tangle of vines in the middle of the stream, under which they were carried and drowned, despite the exertions of four or five of the party to pull them across by the rope. Their efforts to save them nearly cost their own lives, and A. Jardine chronicles receiving a “nasty crack” in the head from a log in attempting to disentangle his own horse “Jack” from the vines, one which might have closed his career, had it been a degree harder, the other, “Blokus,” was a Government horse, belonging to Mr Richardson; both were useful horses, and a great loss to the party, but only the forerunner of much greater ones. The creek at last crossed, the party attempted to push forward on the other side, but after travelling a mile leading the horses, slushing through bog and swamp under a heavy rain, they were obliged to turn back and encamp on some high ground on the banks of the creek, about half-a-mile above the crossing, where there was a little good grass. Several of their horses were left behind bogged, one mare in particular, “Nell Gwynne,” being too weak to travel. Distance 3 miles. Course N. (Camp LXVII.)

‘January’ 12. — It was determined to camp here to-day, both to spell the weak horses and dry many things that had got wet. The horses left bogged the previous night were got out, when on returning to the camp, it was found that a number of the others were poisoned, and one missing. The black-boys were immediately sent out in search of him, but were unsuccessful. Meanwhile the party being unable to shift camp that day, a yard was immediately formed, all herbs carefully pulled up in and about it, and the horses penned there. The precaution came too late, for before evening five of them besides the missing one (”Rasper”) were dead. It was supposed that “Rasper” must have got into the river and been drowned, as one of the effects of the poison is complete blindness. The symptoms are thus described. Profuse sweating, with a heaving of the flanks, the ears droop, the eyes glaze, set, and the animal finally turns stone blind. He then lies down, struggles fitfully for several hours, and never rises again. This was a heavy blow. Ten of their horses were now gone, eight of which were picked, and the best of the whole number, besides being the best conditioned, one peculiarity of the poison being that it appears to attack the fattest animals. A careful search was made to detect the plant that caused this fearful loss, but unsuccessfully. The number of horses being now reduced to twenty-one, and those the poorest and worst, it became necessary to take only what was actually wanted of their baggage, and to abandon the remainder. A cache was accordingly dug, and 25 sets of horse-shoes, a lot of nails and other miscellaneous articles were buried at the foot of an iron acacia on the top of the ridge and facing the creek, on which was marked in a shield F J over LXVII. over DIG in heart. The horses were kept in the yard all night, and the rest of the day and evening spent in disposing of the reduced loading, and making preparations for leaving this fatal camp. The rain continued to fall heavily throughout the day, which could not under the circumstances, have increased the cheerfulness of the party. The Leader, however, closes the entry in his Diary with “Nil Desperandum” merely marking the day of the week in parenthesis as (”Black Thursday.”)

‘January’ 13. — The poor condition of the horses, and the wretchedly soft nature of the ground, making it impossible for them to be ridden, or do more than carry the diminished loads of baggage and stores, the party had no choice but to walk and in some cases even to carry the packs of the horses. Mr. A. Jardine describes their appearance this morning as “rather neat” at the starting from the camp, the two Brothers, Mr. Binney, Scrutton, and the four black-boys having doffed everything but their shirts and belts. It was well for the whites that their previous habits on the journey had hardened their feet and enabled them to travel without shoes, with but little less hardship than their black companions. This they had acquired by the custom on coming into camp, of going out with the boys opossum and “sugar bag” hunting. With stout hearts and naked legs, therefore they faced forward driving the horses and cattle before them, and by the end of the day placed ten miles between them and “Poison Creek,” as it was then named. This however was not accomplished without great toil, the country traversed being red soil ridges, with black soil tea-tree flats between them, which were so many bogs. In these the cattle floundered and bogged at every hundred yards, and even the spare unladen horses had to be pulled out. The latter were at length so completely knocked up that it was necessary to leave some of them at one side of a swamp, the party carrying their packs and loads about a quarter-of-a-mile on to a dry ridge on the other. Here they camped and tired as they were, were obliged to keep a vigilant watch, as, to add to their many annoyances the natives had been following them all day. Distance 10 miles N.E. by N. Box marked F.J. 68 cross.

‘January’ 14. — At daylight this morning the horses were got over the swamp, with less difficulty than was expected, being recruited by their night’s rest. The journey was resumed at 6.30. There had been no rain on the previous day and night, and the ground with only this twenty-four hours of dry weather had hardened sufficiently on the crust to allow the horses to walk without bogging. This crust, however, once broken through, they bogged hopelessly, until dragged out with ropes. In this the water and sludge oozing out from the tracks were great auxiliaries, as they formed a kind of batter, in which, by pulling the horses on their sides, they slid along like sledges. This process had continually to be repeated throughout the day, causing so much delay, that seven or eight miles were with difficulty accomplished. At each running stream the packs had to be taken off and carried over. The country traversed was similar to that of yesterday, undulating blood-wood red soil ridges, sufficiently well-grassed, with the everlasting black soil, tea-tree flats, and gullies running between them, some being very wide. Two more horses died during the day from the effects of the poison, and the Leader owns that he was beginning to be at his wits end as to how they were to get along. Every superfluity and been abandoned, and, with the exception of a few light things, such as clothes and blankets, of too trifling weight to make it worth while to leave, and only what was absolutely necessary, retained; yet there were barely sufficient horses left to carry that. He had therefore good cause for anxiety. The day kept tolerably fair until the party came into camp, when the rain came down in torrents. Whilst in the hurry and confusion of putting up the tents to protect the stores from the deluge that was pouring, the alarm of “blacks” was again given. They were fortunately unarmed, and the party easily chased them away. This was fortunate, and was caused by the native custom of making the gins carry their spears and shields on the march, themselves only carrying a nulla or two. They were soon back again however, with large bundles of spears, but not before the party had had time to prepare for them. The rifles were dry and loaded. Frank Jardine here owns to a feeling of savage delight at the prospect of having a “shine” with these wretched savages, who, without provocation, hung on their footsteps dogging them like hawks all through the thickest of their troubles, watching with cowardly patience, for a favourable moment to attack them at a disadvantage. Even then, however, he would not be the aggressor, but allowed them to come within sixty yards, and ship their spears in the woomerahs, before they were fired upon. The two foremost men fell to the only two shots that were discharged, and their companions at once broke and fled; nor was the advantage followed up, as the travellers were careful to husband their ammunition, and their caps were running short. This, however, was the last occasion on which the party was molested, their sable adversaries having, probably, at length learned that “they were worth letting alone,” and never again shewing themselves. The distance travelled was 8 miles. N.E. by N.

‘January’ 15. — This being Sunday and horses, cattle, and men, being in want of rest after the work of the last two days, it was determined to make a rest day. The party employed part of the time in spreading out the contents of the pack bags to dry, everything having become mouldy with the constant wetting. The day was marked too, by a grant feast of “stodge,” doughboys, and jam, stodge being a delicacy extemporised for the occasion, consisting of “flour boiled with water to the consistency of paste, with some small pieces of raw meat thrown into it”!! The Brothers spent part of the afternoon in the mutual good offices of picking the pandanus thorns out of each others feet and legs, the blackboys following their example. These thorns were a constant source of small torture to the party. The necessity of trying the ground in advance of the cattle prevented them wearing boots, and thus feet and legs were left without any protection, and exposed them day after day to the same annoyance. Another horse, “Creamy,” sickened from the effects of the poison. It was thought that he had not taken enough to kill him, and that the day’s rest would set him to rights. A cow was also left bogged in the swamp. The ground on which the party encamped was supposed at first to be dry, being on a bloodwood ridge, with six or eight inches of gravel on the surface, but the heavy rain of the previous night caused the water to run through the tents to a depth of three inches. It was only necessary to scratch a handful of gravel off the crust to get clear running water for drinking. A heavy rain again fell during the night, dispelling all hopes of sound travelling for the morrow. (Camp LXIX. Bloodwood.)

‘January’ 16. — The absolute necessity of getting at or near their destination before the setting in of the periodical rains, stimulated the Leader to urge the party to long stages, which was not at all relished by some of the number, two of whom at starting made repeated requests to camp for another day, alleging that they could not walk any further. To this Mr. Jardine could not listen, and being further importuned, disposed of the request summarily by packing their rifles on the horses, and telling them that they might remain or come on as they might elect. He heard no more grumbling, and a good stage was accomplished. The country for the first two miles was similar to that of the last two stages. It then suddenly changed into red sandy stringy-bark ridges, with a dense under-growth of vines, zamias, and pandanus, which made the walking difficult and painful. Several creeks were crossed, the largest of which was at ten miles from the camp, and running W. by N., and the party halted at another six miles further on, which received the name of Dalhunty Creek. Its course was west, and it was remarkable for the palms (’Seaforthia Elegans’) growing in its bed. All these creeks were supposed to be tributaries of the Batavia River. The party had only to unpack the horses twice during the day, and made a capital stage, but not without paying for it, for even the Black-boys shewed signs of fatigue. Their legs and feet, as well as those of most of the party were in a frightful state, cut in pieces by the thorny vines which covered the line of march. They were now completely out of meat, but it would have been unwise to halt to kill a beast for three reasons: first, the weather; next, the fact that they could not pack the meat without leaving behind something to make place for it, another of their horses, Combo, having died to-day from the effects of the poison; and lastly, the urgency of getting forward whilst the weather would admit of it. The morning had been rainy, but in the afternoon it cleared up and gave promised of a few fair days, of which it was expedient to take advantage. In addition to the horse that died (Combo), two more of their best horses (Rocket and Creamy) were fast sinking. It was a fearful thing to see them dwindling away day by day, without power to help or time to halt for them; but to press forward was a paramount necessity. Distance 16 miles North. (Camp LXX. Applegum.)

‘January’ 17. — The country traversed to-day was similar to that of yesterday, save that the ridges were higher and more stony. Creeks were crossed at two and ten miles, running strongly westward, which appeared to be permanent. Five miles further on, the party camped on a smaller one of the same character, having vine scrub and seaforthia palms on its banks, which was named Skardon’s Creek. The horse Creamy died during the day, and Rocket through the night. These losses reduced their horses from forty-two, with which they started, to fifteen of the culls. They were in latitude 11° 51′ 50″, and by their dead reckoning, just about the track of Kennedy, supposing it to have been correctly charted, and therefore on the western slope of the dividing range. The Torres Strait pigeon (’Carpophaga Luctuosa’) was again seen, and the bitcher plant(’Nepenthes Kennedya’) first noticed. Two of the police saddles had to be left at this camp in consequence of the loss of the horses. Distance 15 1/2 miles. North. (Camp LXXI.)

‘January’ 18. — The march to-day is described as being through the most abominable country that can well be imagined, being a continuation of loose white sandy ranges, thickly covered with low bush from three to eight feet in height, broom, fern, grass-tree (’Xanthoraea’), pandanus, and “five-corner” bushes, being thickly matted together with prickly vine. Not a tree relieved the monotony of this waste, and what was worse, not a blade of grass was seen for miles. Several deep creeks were crossed, all running strongly with clear pelluced water to W. and N.W. The timber when it occurred was bloodwood, stringy and iron-bark on the ridges, banksia, grevillia, and several kinds of tea-trees in the gullies, which were honey-combed and boggy. Two new kinds of palm were seen. The bush which seems to be what Kennedy alluded to as “heath,” could only be got through by leading a horse ahead, the others following slowly behind him, the cattle then following in their track. A straight course was impossible, as all the boggy creeks and gullies had to be run up to their heads before they could be crossed. A general course, however, was kept of N. by E. The packs were continually being knocked off the horses, occasioning great delay, so that only 12 miles were accomplished. Some black perch were caught in one of the creeks, and scrub turkeys were seen. Poor “Nell Gwynne’s” foal knocked up to-day, after having kept up bravely since the mare’s death. Nothing remained therefore but to kill him. The party being without meat, and it being impossible to stop in such a country to kill a beast, part of his flesh was dressed and carried on, which was a grateful addition to the food, and although two or three at first refused to eat of it, the craving of hunger soon made them forget their repugnance to horse-flesh. At night the horses had to be short hobbled and a watch kept over them. The weather kept fine, raising the hopes of the Leader of getting in before the rains.

‘January’ 19. — Despite the watch kept over the horses, they got away during the night, and a late start was the consequence. Several hours were also lost at the first mile on the journey, in consequence of some of the horses getting “upside down” in one of the deep narrow creeks, which were constantly recurring, and having to be extricated. These creeks run N.W., and take their rise from springs. They are so boggy that in some cases, though perhaps only eighteen inches wide, they had to be headed before the cattle could pass. The summit of the range was reached in seven miles of similar country to that of yesterday, resembling (identical in fact) in appearance and botanical character, to the worst country of Botany Bay, the Surry Hills, and coast about Sydney. A thick vine scrub was then passed, when the party emerged on to some open ridges of red sandy soil, timbered with bloodwood, stringy-bark, and nonda. They were now satisfied that they were on eastern waters, as, whilst out sugar-bag hunting in the evening, the Brothers saw the blue waters of the ocean about twelve or fifteen miles to the eastward, a small arm of which was supposed to be a bay to the northward of Cape Grenville. Their latitude was 11° 46′ 36″. The camp was pitched at the head of a small creek running eastward.

‘January’ 20. — After 4 miles of brushwood and scrubby range had been accomplished this morning, further progress was stopped by a dense pine and vine scrub stretching across the course. The cattle were halted outside, whilst the Brothers made search for an opening for them to get through, in doing which they came on to a narrow track cut by the blacks. This they followed for more than two miles, but were obliged to return at last, the vine ropes, tangle, and dense scrub, making it hopeless to attempt taking the cattle along it. A further search proved equally unsuccessful. The whole party had therefore to turn back along their tracks for a couple of miles, then turning east they travelled on that bearing. At about half-a-mile they reached the eastern slope, from which the sea was distinctly visible. A spur of the range was followed for about four miles into rather better country, where the party camped, being well-grassed and slightly timbered, though stoney. Although about 9 miles were travelled over, the distance in latitude from the last camp could not have been more than one-and-a-half miles. From a bluff on the range a fine view of the low country and sea was obtained, and a bearing taken to Cape Grenville of 117 deg. Blacks’ tracks were very numerous to-day, and it was evident by the neat cutting of the marks on the trees that they were provided with good iron tomahawks. Many turkeys’ nests were found, but the eggs only benefitted the stronger stomachs of the party, having young ones in them in most cases. In crossing one of the boggy creeks, one of the horses jumped on to a pack-saddle, and a hook entering his skin lacerated it dreadfully.

‘January’ 21. — The course to-day was N.E. by N., along the eastern slope of the Richardson Range, through a fearfully difficult country. Seven deep scrubby creeks had to be crossed running strongly to the westward, whose banks were invariably fringed with a thick scrub, which had in each case to be cut through before the cattle could pass: one in particular was so dense that it alone occupied three hours in cutting. The cattle occasionally got their horns entangled in the vines, and had to be cut loose. One cow got fearfully furious at being thus arrested, and when extricated, galloped straight away, and was no more seen. Over seven hours were occupied in making a distance of about 8 miles, only 3 of which were spent in actual travelling. A great variety of palms were seen in the scrubs, which were covered with fruit and berries, but only the “Seaforthia,” the most graceful of the family, the ‘Caryota Urens’, remarkable for its star-shaped fronds and the more common ‘Corypha’, of which the colonial straw-hats are made, were known to the travellers. Latitude 11° 37′ 46″.

‘January’ 22. — The country traversed to-day was of the same description as that of yesterday, utterly without grass, and the same tedium and toil were experienced in cutting through the vine scrubs which bordered the running creeks. These were very numerous, and quite uniform in their difficulty, a lane for the cattle having to be cut through each. Some very large pines were noticed to-day (most probably ‘Araucaria Cunninghamii’), which, forming large and dense scrubs, twice forced the party out of their course. The camp to-night was a very miserable one, surrounded by scrub and brushwood, without a blade of grass for the stock, or even a tree that could be marked, and to add to their wretchedness, a heavy rain came down which lasted till near midnight. Course N.W., 10 miles. (Camp LXXVI.)

‘January’ 23. — A steady rain poured down all to-day, and as yesterday, the route alternated over and through desert wastes of brush and tangled scrubs, the former telling with great severity on the lacerated feet of the travellers. Their legs had the appearance of having been curried by a machine. At the end of 9 miles they luckily came on to a creek comparatively well-grassed on the banks. This being the first that had been seen for three days, they joyfully encamped on an open ridge. The timber comprised nonda, grevillea, banksia, tea-tree, mahogany, and many other tropical trees not known. The total distance travelled was 10 miles. N. by W. (Camp LXXVII.)

‘January’ 24. — For the first three miles to-day, the country remained similar to the generality, that is, scrub and heath, after this it slightly improved, opening into coarse sandstone ridges, in some parts strewed with quartz pebbles, either white or tinted with oxide of iron. At two miles from the start a stream was struck, running north, having a clear sandy bed thirty yards wide, which was immediately concluded to be a head of the Escape River, and a continuation of that crossed on the 22nd. Into this, numerous short steep scrubby creeks discharge themselves from the range or ridge to the eastward. These had, as usual, all to have passages cut through them for the stock. At the end of about six miles, a heavy thunder-storm coming on whilst the party were engaged in clearing, the creek they were upon was sent up bank and bank by the storm water, and barred their further progress. They were therefore compelled to camp. At sundown it was again nearly dry, but the rain continued at intervals till midnight. During the day a large low table-topped mountain was passed about 4 miles to the eastward. It was either bare of timber or heath clad, and received the name of Mount Bourcicault. (LXXVIII.) Distance 6 miles. N. by W.

‘January’ 25. — A ten-mile journey was accomplished to-day, the country for the first seven having slightly improved into red soil ridges coarsely grassed, having patches of scrub along their summits. The remaining three were of the usual character, heath and brushwood, in the midst of which, in a miserable hole as it is described, they were obliged to camp. A delay of a couple of hours occurred in consequence of a thunder-storm flooding a narrow gutter that might be hopped over. It was not until this subsided that the horses and cattle could be made to face it, the poor brutes having been so frightened with bogs and water, that the horses had to be led over the smallest of them. The rain still continued to pour heavily at intervals during the day. (Camp LXXIX.) No trees to mark. The course was N. by W.

‘January’ 26. — After two miles of travelling, the party again struck the supposed Escape River. The stream was flooded, and at this point fifty yards wide, and the bed clear of fallen timber. A bloodwood tree was marked on both sides, on the S. bank. The country on either side is of a red and white sandy soil, timbered with bloodwood, mahogany, melaleuca and black and white tea-tree, coarsely grassed, with heath and scrub running down to the banks in many places. The river was followed down for 7 or 8 miles, its general course being N.W., the party having to cut roads for the cattle through the thick scrubs which lined the tributary creeks and gullies, in four instances. At this distance a large branch nearly equal in size, joins it from the south-east, to which the name of the “McHenry”6 was given. It being flooded and deep, the party traced it upwards for about a mile from its junction and encamped. The tents being pitched and everything made secure for the night, the Brothers explored up the stream in search of a good crossing place for the morrow. After several trials were made, a spot was finally decided upon, about three-quarters-of-a-mile from the camp, and they returned with the pleasing prospect of having to swim the cattle and horses over next day, and carry the packs on their heads. Black and white cockatoos, some parrots, scrub turkeys (’Talegalla Lathami’), and white pigeons (Torres Straits), were seen on the march, throughout which the rain still continued to fall, as it did also during the night. At this camp (80) the last of the sugar was finished, but this was not thought much of, as from the latitude being ascertained to be 11° 10′, it was supposed that Somerset could not be more than 20 or 30 miles distant. How they were undeceived in their conjecture, and had their hopes disappointed, will be seen.

6 After Captain J. McHenry, of Arthur Downs, Isaac River.

‘January’ 27. — Early this morning the party addressed themselves to the task of crossing the McHenry. This was accomplished in safety, cattle and horses taking the water like dogs, the greater difficulty being in getting over the packs, saddles, and stores, which had to be carried on the heads of the swimmers of the party, and this necessary part of a bushman’s education was not common to all, or at least sufficiently to be of use. The course was then continued on the other side to the junction of the two streams. The rain continued to fall steadily during most of the day, filling up every little creek and gutter. Some of the former had to be swum over, whilst the latter occurred at every mile. Just below the junction there is a large dense vine-scrub, which had to be skirted, after which, the party continued their course down the supposed Escape, which had now increased its width to a hundred yards. Its width when first struck, was only twenty, increasing to forty or fifty at its junction with the McHenry, when the united streams form an imposing river. Its course is extremely winding, whilst the numberless creeks and gulleys which join it, all with scrubby banks, make travelling along its banks, a work of great labor and difficulty. The country on this day’s march slightly improved, being more open and better grassed, the best being on the river banks, but coarse and sparse at best. The timber chiefly bloodwood and black tea-tree. Several trees were marked with a cross at the crossing place of the McHenry, and one similarly at the point of the scrub below the junction. In consequence of the many delays to-day the total distance travelled was only 5 miles. Course N. by W. (Camp LXXXI.)

‘January’ 28. — The course of the river was followed down to-day for about two-and-a-half miles, but the endlessly recurring water courses, each with its eternal fringe of thick vine scrub, at last compelled the party to turn to the west in order to avoid them, there being no time to cut roads for the cattle. They were constantly getting entangled by the horns in the hanging vines of the ‘Calamus Australis’ and ‘Flagetlaria’, so often referred to. The effect of this on some was to work them into such a perfect fury, that when released by the party cutting them clear, they would in some instances rush blindly away from the herd and be lost, as described before. The intention on starting was to run the river down to the head of the tide, and then establish a camp, where the cattle could stay, whilst the Brothers went on to find Somerset, now supposed to be not far distant. On leaving the river the course was shaped west, to head the scrubs on the tributaries, but this, far from improving the travelling, made it worse as they got into a maze of scrub, heath, and swamps, through which they had to thread their course. They, had therefore, to make their way back to the river, which was again struck in about 7 miles. It was here running north, the bed free from fallen timber, and about 150 yards wide, and so full and flooded as to make it impossible to discover whether it was within the tidal influence or not. Following the river for 4 miles, making a total journey of 12, the rain pouring the whole day, the party camped on the bank, where alone grass was to be found, and that even very poor and thin. Two of the horses “Tabinga,” and “Pussey,” had to be left about three miles back from the camp with their saddles, utterly knocked up. A lame heifer was killed and cut up for jerking, on the morrow. Course N.W. by N. Distance 12 miles. (Camp LXXXII.)

‘January’ 29. — This day was devoted to rest, with the exception of the necessary duties of jerking the beef of the heifer, and preparing for the start of the Brothers to find Somerset. The horses left behind were sent for and brought into camp, and dispositions made for a halt, until the return of the Leader. The packs, saddles, and stores were “overhauled,” and found for the most part to be completely rotted, from the constant rain and severe duckings they had undergone, making the party congratulate themselves that they were near their destination. At the request of Frank Jardine, Mr. Richardson plotted up the route, as far as this camp, and gave him his position on the chart, with a note “that camp 82 was on the Escape River, eight miles in a direct line from where it joins the sea, and sixteen miles from Somerset.” In this, as in the case of the position of the Lynd, he was mistaken, the reason for which, he states to be that his sextant was out of order. This was much to be regretted, as failing the correctness of the surveyor’s observations, Mr. Jardine might just as well trust to his own dead reckoning. It might be supposed that Mr. Richardson having had an opportunity of checking his position by the bearing to Cape Grenville, when he sighted the sea on the 20th inst, at camp 74, should have been able more accurately to have determined his present position, but he excuses himself on the score of the difficulty of estimating the daily distance whilst walking.7 This is a very admissible explanation, considering the tedium and slowness of their progress in winding through scrubs, and being delayed by crossings, the tortuousness of their route making it difficult to keep the course. It was the more unfortunate, therefore, that the sextant, which was naturally depended upon for keeping them informed of their progress, should have been allowed to become so deranged, as to be less reliable than the result of mere dead reckoning.

7 See his Journal.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56