Successful Exploration Through the Interior of Australia
by William John Wills
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From Camp 1.

Wednesday, 24th April, 1861.—As we were about to start this morning, some blacks came by, from whom we were fortunate enough to get about twelve pounds of fish for a few pieces of straps and some matches, etc. This is a great treat for us, as well as a valuable addition to our rations. We started at 8.15 P.M., on our way down the creek, the blacks going in the opposite direction, little thinking that in a few miles they might be able to get lots of pieces for nothing, better than those they had obtained from us. —To Camp 2.

From Camp 2.

Thursday, 25th April, 1861.—Awoke at five o'clock after a most refreshing night's rest—the sky was beautifully clear, and the air rather chilly—the terrestrial radiation seems to have been considerable, and a slight dew had fallen. We had scarcely finished breakfast, when our friends the blacks, from whom we obtained the fish, made their appearance with a few more, and seemed inclined to go with us and keep up the supply. We gave them some sugar, with which they were greatly pleased—they are by far the most well-behaved blacks we have seen on Cooper's Creek. We did not get away from the camp until 9.30 A.M., continuing our course down the most southern branch of the creek which keeps a general south-west course. We passed across the stony point which abuts on one of the largest waterholes in the creek, and camped at 12.30 about a mile below the most dangerous part of the rocky path. At this latter place we had an accident that might have resulted badly for us: one of the camels fell while crossing the worst part, but we fortunately got him out with only a few cuts and bruises. To Camp 3.—The waterhole at this camp is a very fine one, being several miles long, and on an average about—chains broad. The water-fowl are numerous, but rather shy, not nearly so much so, however, as those on the creeks between here and Carpentaria; and I am convinced that the shyness of the latter, which was also remarked by Sturt on his trip to Eyre's Creek, arises entirely from the scarcity of animals, both human and otherwise, and not from any peculiar mode of catching them that the blacks may have.

From Camp 3.

Friday, 26th April, 1861.—Last night was beautifully calm and comparatively warm, although the sky was very clear. We loaded the camels by moonlight this morning, and started at a quarter to six: striking off to the south of the creek, we soon got on a native path which leaves the creek just below the stony ground and takes a course nearly west across a piece of open country, bounded on the south by sand ridges and on the north by the scrub by ground which flanks the bank of the creek at this part of its course. Leaving the path on our right at a distance of three miles, we turned up a small creek, which passes down between some sandhills, and finding a nice patch of feed for the camels at a waterhole, we halted at 7. 15 for breakfast. We started again at 9.50 A.M., continuing our westerly course along the path: we crossed to the south of the watercourse above the water, and proceeded over the most splendid salt-bush country that one could wish to see, bounded on the left by sandhills, whilst to the right the peculiar-looking flat-topped sandstone ranges form an extensive amphitheatre, through the far side of the arena of which may be traced the dark line of creek timber. At twelve o'clock we camped in the bed of the creek at camp—, our last camp on the road down from the Gulf, having taken four days to do what we then did in one. This comparative rest and the change in diet have also worked wonders, however; the leg-tied feeling is now entirely gone, and I believe that in less than a week we shall be fit to undergo any fatigue whatever. The camels are improving, and seem capable of doing all that we are likely to require of them.—To Camp 4.

From Camp 4.

Saturday, 27th April, 1861.—First part of night clear, with a light breeze from south. Temperature at midnight 10 degrees (Reaumur). Towards morning there were a few cirrocumulus clouds passing over north-east to south-west, but these disappeared before daylight. At five A.M. the temperature was 7.5 degrees (Reaumur). We started at six o'clock, and following the native path, which at about a mile from our camp takes a southerly direction, we soon came to the high sandy alluvial deposit which separates the creek at this point from the stony rises. Here we struck off from the path, keeping well to the south of the creek, in order that we might mess in a branch of it that took a southerly direction. At 9. 20 we came in on the creek again where it runs due south, and halted for breakfast at a fine waterhole with fine fresh feed for the camels. Here we remained until noon, when we moved on again, and camped at one o'clock on a general course, having been throughout the morning south-west eight miles. The weather is most agreeable and pleasant; nothing could be more favourable for us up to the present time. The temperature in the shade at 10.30 A.M. was 17.5 degrees (Reaumur), with a light breeze from south and a few small cirrocumulus clouds towards the north. I greatly feel the want of more instruments, the only things I have left being my watch, prism compass, pocket compass, and one thermometer (Reaumur).—To Camp 5.

From Camp 5.

Sunday, 28th April, 1861.—Morning fine and calm, but rather chilly. Started at 4.45 A.M., following down the bed of a creek in a westerly direction by moonlight. Our stage was, however, very short for about a mile—one of the camels (Landa) got bogged by the side of a waterhole, and although we tried every means in our power, we found it impossible to get him out. All the ground beneath the surface was a bottomless quicksand, through which the beast sank too rapidly for us to get bushes of timber fairly beneath him; and being of a very sluggish stupid nature he could never be got to make sufficiently strenuous efforts towards extricating himself. In the evening, as a last chance, we let the water in from the creek, so as to buoy him up and at the same time soften the ground about his legs; but it was of no avail. The brute lay quietly in it, as if he quite enjoyed his position.—To Camp 6.

Camp 6.

Monday, 29th April, 1861.—Finding Landa still in the hole, we made a few attempts at extricating him, and then shot him, and after breakfast commenced cutting off what flesh we could get at for jerking.

Tuesday, 30th April, 1861.—Remained here to-day for the purpose of drying the meat, for which process the weather is not very favourable. [Meteorological note follows.]

From Camp 6.

Wednesday, 1st May, 1861.—Started at 8.40, having loaded our only camel, Rajah, with the most necessary and useful articles, and packed up a small swag each, of bedding and clothing for our own shoulders. We kept on the right bank of the creek for about a mile, and then crossed over at a native camp to the left, where we got on a path running due west, the creek having turned to the north. Following the path we crossed an open plain, and then some sand ridges, whence we saw the creek straight ahead of us running nearly south again: the path took us to the southernmost point of the bend in a distance of about two and a-half miles from where we had crossed the creek, thereby saving us from three to four miles, as it cannot be less than six miles round by the creek.—To Camp 7.

From Camp 7.

Thursday, 2nd May, 1861.—Breakfasted by moonlight and started at 6.30. Following down the left bank of the creek in a westerly direction, we came at a distance of six miles on a lot of natives who were camped on the bed of a creek. They seemed to have just breakfasted, and were most liberal in their presentations of fish and cake. We could only return the compliment by some fishhooks and sugar. About a mile further on we came to a separation of the creek, where what looked like the main branch, turned towards the south. This channel we followed, not however without some misgivings as to its character, which were soon increased by the small and unfavourable appearance that the creek assumed. On our continuing along it a little further it began to improve and widened out with fine waterholes of considerable depth. The banks were very steep, and a belt of scrub lined it on either side. This made it very inconvenient for travelling, especially as the bed of the creek was full of water for a considerable distance. At eleven A.M., we halted, until 1.30 P.M., and then moved on again taking a south-south-westerly course for about two miles, when at the end of a very long waterhole it breaks into billibongs, which continue splitting into sandy channels until they are all lost in the earthy soil of a box forest. Seeing little chance of water ahead, we turned back to the end of the long waterhole and camped for the night. On our way back, Rajah showed signs of being done up. He had been trembling greatly all the morning. On this account his load was further lightened to the amount of a few pounds by the doing away with the sugar, ginger, tea, cocoa, and two or three tin plates.—To Camp 8.

From Camp 8.

Friday, 3rd May, 1861.—Started at seven A.M., striking off in a northerly direction for the main creek. At a mile and a-half came to a branch which—[Left unfinished].—To Camp 9.

Junction.—From Camp 9.

Saturday, 4th May, 1861.—Night and morning very cold. Sky clear, almost calm, occasionally a light breath of air from south. Rajah appears to feel the cold very much. He was so stiff this morning as to be scarcely able to get up with his load. Started to return down the creek at 6.45, and halted for breakfast at 9 A.M., at the same spot as we breakfasted at yesterday. Proceeding from there down the creek we soon found a repetition of the features that were exhibited by the creek examined on Thursday. At a mile and a-half we came to the last waterhole, and below that the channel became more sandy and shallow, and continued to send off billibongs to the south and west, slightly changing its course each time until it disappeared altogether in a north-westerly direction. Leaving King with the camel, we went on a mile or two to see if we could find water; and being unsuccessful we were obliged to return to where we had breakfasted as being the best place for feed and water.—To Camp 10.

Sunday, 5th May, 1861.—Started by myself, to reconnoitre the country in a southerly direction, leaving Mr. Burke and King with the camel at Camp 10. Travelled south-west by south for two hours, following the course of the most southerly billibongs; found the earthy soil becoming more loose and cracked up, and the box track gradually disappearing. Changed course to west for a high sand ridge, which I reached in one hour and a half, and continuing in the same direction to one still higher, obtained from it a good view of the surrounding country. To the north were the extensive box forests bounding the creek on either side. To the east earthy plains intersected by watercourses and lines of timber, and bounded in the distance by sand ridges. To the south the projection of the sand ridge partially intercepted the view; the rest was composed of earthy plains, apparently clothed with chrysanthemums. To the westward another but smaller plain was bounded also by high sand ridges running nearly parallel with the one on which I was standing. This dreary prospect offering no encouragement to proceed, I returned to Camp 10 by a more direct and better route than I had come, passing over some good salt-bush land which borders on the billibongs to the westward.—[Here follow some meteorological notes.]

From Camp 10 back to 9.

Monday, 6th May, 1861.—Moved up the creek again to Camp 9, at the junction, to breakfast, and remained the day there. The present state of things is not calculated to raise our spirits much; the rations are rapidly diminishing; our clothing, especially the boots, are all going to pieces, and we have not the materials for repairing them properly; the camel is completely done up and can scarcely get along, although he has the best of feed and is resting half his time. I suppose this will end in our having to live like the blacks for a few months.

From Camp 9.

Tuesday, 7th May, 1861.—Breakfasted at daylight; but when about to start, found that the camel would not rise even without any load on his back. After making every attempt to get him up, we were obliged to leave him to himself.

Mr. Burke and I started down the creek to reconnoitre; at about eleven miles we came to some blacks fishing; they gave us some half-a-dozen fish each, for luncheon, and intimated that if we would go to their camp we should have some more and some bread. I tore in two a piece of macintosh stuff that I had, and Mr. Burke gave one piece and I the other. We then went on to their camp about three miles further. They had caught a considerable quantity of fish, but most of them were small. I noticed three different kinds; a small one that they call Cupi, from five to six inches long, and not broader than an eel; the common one, with large coarse scales, termed Peru; and a delicious fish, some of which run from a pound to two pounds weight; the natives call them Cawilchi. On our arrival at the camp they led us to a spot to camp on, and soon afterwards brought a lot of fish, and a kind of bread which they call nardoo. The lighting a fire with matches delights them, but they do not care about having them. In the evening various members of the tribe came down with lumps of nardoo and handfuls of fish, until we were positively unable to eat any more. They also gave us some stuff they call bedgery or pedgery; it has a highly intoxicating effect when chewed even in small quantities. It appears to be the dried stems and leaves of some shrub.

Wednesday, 8th May, 1861.—Left the blacks' camp at 7.30, Mr. Burke returning to the junction, whilst I proceeded to trace down the creek. This I found a shorter task than I had expected, for it soon showed signs of running out, and at the same time kept considerably to the north of west. There were several fine waterholes within about four miles of the camp I had left, but not a drop all the way beyond that, a distance of seven miles. Finding that the creek turned greatly towards the north, I returned to the blacks' encampment, and as I was about to pass they invited me to stay;—I did so, and was even more hospitably entertained than before, being, on this occasion, offered a share of a gunyah, and supplied with plenty of fish and nardoo, as well as a couple of nice fat rats—the latter found most delicious; they were baked in their skins.

Last night was clear and calm, but unusually warm. We slept by a fire just in front of the blacks' camp; they were very attentive in bringing us firewood and keeping the fire up during the night.

Thursday, 9th May, 1861.—Parted from my friends, the blacks, at 7. 30, and started for camp 9.

From Camp 9.

Friday, 10th May, 1861.—Mr. Burke and King employed in jerking the camel's flesh, whilst I went out to look for the nardoo seed for making bread: in this I was unsuccessful, not being able to find a single tree of it in the neighbourhood of the camp. I, however, tried boiling the large kind of bean which the blacks call padlu; they boil easily, and when shelled are very sweet, much resembling in taste the French chestnut; they are to be found in large quantities nearly everywhere.

Saturday, 11th May, 1861.—To-day Mr. Burke and King started down the creek to the blacks' camp, determined to ascertain all particulars about the nardoo. I have now my turn at the meat jerking, and must devise some means for trapping the birds and rats, which is a pleasant prospect after our dashing trip to Carpentaria, having to hang about Cooper's Creek, living like the blacks.

Sunday, 12th May, 1861.—Mr. Burke and King returned this morning, having been unsuccessful in their search for the blacks, who it seems have moved over to the other branch of the creek.

Decided on moving out on the main creek tomorrow, and then trying to find the natives of the creek.

Monday, 13th May, 1861.—Shifted some of the things, and brought them back again, Mr. Burke thinking it better for one to remain here with them for a few days, so as to eat the remains of the fresh meat, whilst the others went in search of the blacks and nardoo.

Tuesday, 14th May, 1861.—Mr. Burke and King gone up the creek to look for blacks with four days' provisions. Self employed in preparing for a final start on their return.

This evening Mr. Burke and King returned, having been some considerable distance up the creek and found no blacks. It is now settled that we plant the things, and all start together the day after to-morrow.

The weather continues very fine; the nights calm, clear and cold, and the days clear, with a breeze generally from south, but to-day from east, for a change; this makes the first part of the day rather cold. When clouds appear they invariably move from west to east.

Wednesday, 15th, 1861.—Planting the things and preparing to leave the creek for Mount Hopeless.

Thursday, 16th, 1861.—Having completed our planting, etc., started up the creek for the second blacks' camp, a distance of about eight miles: finding our loads rather too heavy we made a small plant here of such articles as could best be spared.—[Here follow a few meteorological notes.]

Nardoo, Friday, 17th May, 1861.—Started this morning on a blacks' path, leaving the creek on our left, our intention being to keep a south-easterly direction until we should cut some likely looking creek, and then to follow it down. On approaching the foot of the first sandhill, King caught sight in the flat of some nardoo seeds, and we soon found that the flat was covered with them. This discovery caused somewhat of a revolution in our feelings, for we considered that with the knowledge of this plant we were in a position to support ourselves, even if we were destined to remain on the creek and wait for assistance from town. Crossing some sand ridges, running north and south, we struck into a creek which runs out of Cooper's Creek, and followed it down; at about five miles we came to a large waterhole, beyond which the watercourse runs out on extensive flats and earthy plains.

Calm night; sky cleared towards morning, and it became very cold. A slight easterly breeze sprung up at sunrise but soon died away again. The sky again became overcast and remained so throughout the day. There was occasionally a light breeze from south, but during the greater portion of the day it was quite calm. Fine halo around the sun in the afternoon.

Camp 16.

Saturday, 18th May, 1861.—[No entry except the following meteorological entry on an opposite page, which may probably refer to this date.] Calm night; sky sometimes clear and sometimes partially overcast with veil clouds.

Sunday, 19th May, 1861.—[No entry beyond this citation of date.]

Monday, 20th May, 1861.—[No entry beyond this citation of date.]

Tuesday, 21st May.—Creek.—[No entry beyond this citation of date.]

Wednesday, 22nd May, 1861.—Cooper's Creek.—[No entry beyond this citation of date.]

Thursday, 23rd May, 1861.—[No entry beyond this citation of date.]

Friday, 24th May, 1861.—Started with King to celebrate the Queen's birthday by fetching from Nardoo Creek what is now to us the staff of life; returned at a little after two P.M. with a fair supply, but find the collecting of the seed a slower and more troublesome process than could be desired. Whilst picking the seed, about eleven A.M., both of us heard distinctly the noise of an explosion, as if of a gun, at some considerable distance. We supposed it to have been a shot fired by Mr. Burke, but on returning to the camp found that he had not fired, nor had heard the noise. The sky was partially overcast with high cumulostratus clouds, and a light breeze blew from the east, but nothing to indicate a thunderstorm in any direction.

Saturday, 25th May, 1861.—[No entry beyond this.]

Sunday, 26th May.—[No entry beyond this.]

Monday, 27th May, 1861.—Started up the creek this morning for the depot, in order to deposit journals and a record of the state of affairs here. On reaching the sandhills below where Landa was bogged, I passed some blacks on a flat collecting nardoo seed. Never saw such an abundance of the seed before. The ground in some parts was quite black with it. There were only two or three gins and children, and they directed me on, as if to their camp, in the direction I was before going; but I had not gone far over the first sandhill when I was overtaken by about twenty blacks, bent on taking me back to their camp, and promising any quantity of nardoo and fish. On my going with them, one carried the shovel, and another insisted on taking my swag in such a friendly manner that I could not refuse them. They were greatly amused with the various little things I had with me. In the evening they supplied me with abundance of nardoo and fish, and one of the old men, Poko Tinnamira, shared his gunyah with me. . .The night was very cold, but by the help of several fires—[The entry suddenly stops here; but in the margin of the opposite page is written the names of several natives, and certain native words with their meanings in English.]

Tuesday, 28th May, 1861:—Left the blacks' camp, and proceeded up the creek; obtained some mussels near where Landa died, and halted for breakfast. Still feel very unwell from the effects of constipation of the bowels. After breakfast travelled on to our third camp coming down.

Wednesday, 29th.—Started at seven A.M. and went on to the duck-holes, where we breakfasted coming down. Halted there at 9.30 A.M. for a feed, and then moved on. At the stones saw a lot of crows quarrelling about something near the water; found it to be a large fish, of which they had eaten a considerable portion. As it was quite fresh and good, I decided the quarrel by taking it with me. . .It proved a most valuable addition to my otherwise scanty supper of nardoo porridge. This evening I camped very comfortably in a mia-mia, about eleven miles from the depot. The night was very cold, although not entirely cloudless. A brisk easterly breeze sprang up in the morning, and blew freshly all day. In the evening the sky clouded in, and there were one or two slight showers, but nothing to wet the ground.

Thursday, 30th May, 1861.—Reached the depot this morning at eleven A.M.; no traces of any one except blacks having been here since we left. Deposited some journals and a notice of our present condition. Started back in the afternoon, and camped at the first waterhole. Last night, being cloudy, was unusually warm and pleasant.

[Footnote: The notice left in the cache ran as follows:—

Depot Camp, May 30th.

We have been unable to leave the creek. Both camels are dead, and our provisions are exhausted. Mr. Burke and King are down the lower part of the creek. I am about to return to them, when we shall probably come up this way. We are trying to live the best way we can, like the blacks, but find it hard work. Our clothes are going to pieces fast. Send provisions and clothes as soon as possible.


The depot party having left, contrary to instructions, has put us in this fix. I have deposited some of my journals here for fear of accident.


Friday, 31st May, 1861.—Decamped at 7.30 A.M., having first breakfasted; passed between the sandhills at nine A.M., and reached the blanket mia-mias at 10.40 A.M.; from there proceeded on to the rocks, where I arrived at 1.30 P.M., having delayed about half-an-hour on the road in gathering some portulac. It had been a fine morning, but the sky now became overcast, and threatened to set in for steady rain; and as I felt very weak and tired, I only moved on about a mile further, and camped in a sheltered gully under some bushes. Night clear and very cold; no wind; towards morning, sky became slightly overcast with cirrostratus clouds.

Saturday, 1st June, 1861.—Started at 7.45 A.M.; passed the duck-holes at ten A.M. and my second camp up, at two P.M., having rested in the meantime about forty-five minutes. Thought to have reached the blacks' camp, or at least where Landa was bogged, but found myself altogether too weak and exhausted; in fact, had extreme difficulty in getting across the numerous little gullies, and was at last obliged to camp from sheer fatigue. Night ultimately both clear and cloudy, with occasional showers.

Sunday, 2nd June, 1861.—Started at half-past six, thinking to breakfast at the blacks' camp below Landa's grave. Found myself very much fagged, and did not arrive at their camp until ten A.M., and then found myself disappointed as to a good breakfast, the camp being deserted. Having rested awhile and eaten a few fish-bones, I moved down the creek, hoping by a late march to be able to reach our own camp; but I soon found, from my extreme weakness, that that would be out of the question. A certain amount of good luck, however, still stuck to me, for on going along by a large waterhole I was so fortunate as to find a large fish, about a pound and a half in weight, which was just being choked by another which it had tried to swallow, but which had stuck in its throat. I soon had a fire lit, and both of the fish cooked and eaten: the large one was in good condition. Moving on again after my late breakfast, I passed Camp 67 of the journey to Carpentaria, and camped for the night under some polygonum bushes.

Monday, 3rd June, 1861.—Started at seven o'clock, and keeping on the south bank of the creek was rather encouraged at about three miles by the sound of numerous crows ahead; presently fancied I could see smoke, and was shortly afterwards set at my ease by hearing a cooey from Pitchery, who stood on the opposite bank, and directed me round the lower end of the waterhole, continually repeating his assurance of abundance of fish and bread. Having with some considerable difficulty managed to ascend the sandy path that led to the camp, I was conducted by the chief to a fire where a large pile of fish were just being cooked in the most approved style. These I imagined to be for the general consumption of the half-dozen natives gathered around, but it turned out that they had already had their breakfast. I was expected to dispose of this lot—a task which, to my own astonishment, I soon accomplished, keeping two or three blacks pretty steadily at work extracting the bones for me. The fish being disposed of, next came a supply of nardoo cake and water until I was so full as to be unable to eat any more; when Pitchery, allowing me a short time to recover myself, fetched a large bowl of the raw nardoo flour mixed to a thin paste, a most insinuating article, and one that they appear to esteem a great delicacy. I was then invited to stop the night there, but this I declined, and proceeded on my way home.

Tuesday, 4th June, 1861.—Started for the blacks' camp intending to test the practicability of living with them, and to see what I could learn as to their ways and manners.

Wednesday, 5th June, 1861.—Remained with the blacks. Light rain during the greater part of the night, and more or less throughout the day in showers. Wind blowing in squalls from south.

Thursday, 6th June, 1861.—Returned to our own camp: found that Mr. Burke and King had been well supplied with fish by the blacks. Made preparation for shifting our camp nearer theirs on the morrow.

. . .

During my son's absence, which lasted for eleven days, in which he travelled altogether above seventy miles, King mentions in his narrative that Mr. Burke, whilst frying some fish set fire to the mia-mia (a shelter made by the blacks with bushes of trees, so thickly laid that it serves to exclude the sun and a great deal of rain); thus destroying every remnant of clothing. King told me that nothing was saved but a gun, although his narrative says a pistol also; but Mr. Burke's pistol was burnt.

The incidents of the journal from the 27th of May to the 5th of June, show how well my son had established himself in the good graces of the natives. Had it been his fortune to have survived, we should probably have had an interesting account of these simple aborigines and their doings.

. . .

Friday, 7th June, 1861.—Started in the afternoon for the blacks' camp with such things as we could take; found ourselves all very weak in spite of the abundant supply of fish that we have lately had. I, myself, could scarcely get along, although carrying the lightest swag, only about thirty pounds. Found that the blacks had decamped, so determined on proceeding to-morrow up to the next camp, near the nardoo field.

Saturday, 8th June, 1861.—With the greatest fatigue and difficulty we reached the nardoo camp. No blacks, greatly to our disappointment; took possession of their best mia-mia and rested for the remainder of the day.

Sunday, 9th June, 1861.—King and I proceeded to collect nardoo, leaving Mr. Burke at home.

Monday, 10th June, 1861.—Mr. Burke and King collecting nardoo; self at home too weak to go out; was fortunate enough to shoot a crow.—[Here follow some meteorological notes which appear to relate to another period.]

Tuesday, 11th June, 1861.—King out for nardoo; Mr. Burke up the creek to look for the blacks.

Wednesday, 12th June, 1861.—King out collecting nardoo; Mr. Burke and I at home pounding and cleaning. I still feel myself, if anything, weaker in the legs, although the nardoo appears to be more thoroughly digested.

Thursday, 13th June, 1861.—Last night the sky was pretty clear, and the air rather cold, but nearly calm, a few cirrostratus hung about the north-east horizon during the first part of the night. Mr. Burke and King out for nardoo; self weaker than ever; scarcely able to go to the waterhole for water. Towards afternoon, cirrocumulus and cirrostratus began to appear moving northward. Scarcely any wind all day.

Friday, 14th June, 1861.—Night alternately clear and cloudy; cirrocumulus and cumulostratus moving northwards; no wind; beautifully mild for the time of year; in the morning some heavy clouds on the horizon. King out for nardoo; brought in a good supply. Mr. Burke and I at home, pounding and cleaning seed. I feel weaker than ever, and both Mr. B. and King are beginning to feel very unsteady in the legs.

Saturday, 15th June, 1861.—Night clear, calm, and cold; morning very fine, with a light breath of air from north-east. King out for nardoo; brought in a fine supply. Mr. Burke and I pounding and cleaning; he finds himself getting very weak, and I am not a bit stronger.

I have determined on beginning to chew tobacco and eat less nardoo, in hopes that it may induce some change in the system. I have never yet recovered from the constipation, the effect of which continues to be exceedingly painful.

Sunday, 16th June, 1861.—Wind shifted to north; clouds moving from west to east; thunder audible two or three times to the southward: sky becoming densely overcast, with an occasional shower about nine A.M.

We finished up the remains of the camel Rajah yesterday, for dinner; King was fortunate enough to shoot a crow this morning.

The rain kept all hands in, pounding and cleaning seed during the morning. The weather cleared up towards the middle of the day, and a brisk breeze sprang up in the south, lasting till near sunset, but rather irregular in its force. Distant thunder was audible to westward and southward frequently during the afternoon.

Monday, 17th June, 1861.—Night very boisterous and stormy; northerly wind blowing in squalls, and heavy showers of rain, with thunder in the north and west; heavy clouds moving rapidly from north to south; gradually clearing up during the morning; the wind continuing squally during the day from west and north-west.

King out in the afternoon for nardoo.

Tuesday, 18th June, 1861.—Exceedingly cold night; sky clear, slight breeze, very chilly and changeable; very heavy dew. After sunrise, cirrostratus clouds began to pass over from west to east, gradually becoming more dense, and assuming the form of cumulostratus. The sky cleared, and it became warmer towards noon.

Wednesday, 19th June, 1861.—Night calm; sky during first part overcast with cirrocumulus clouds, most of which cleared away towards morning, leaving the air much colder; but the sky remained more or less hazy all night, and it was not nearly as cold as last night.

About eight o'clock a strong southerly wind sprung up, which enabled King to blow the dust out of our nardoo seed, but made me too weak to render him any assistance.

Thursday, 20th June, 1861.—Night and morning very cold, sky clear. I am completely reduced by the effects of the cold and starvation. King gone out for nardoo; Mr. Burke at home pounding seed; he finds himself getting very weak in the legs. King holds out by far the best; the food seems to agree with him pretty well.

Finding the sun come out pretty warm towards noon, I took a sponging all over; but it seemed to do little good beyond the cleaning effects, for my weakness is so great that I could not do it with proper expedition.

I cannot understand this nardoo at all—it certainly will not agree with me in any form; we are now reduced to it alone, and we manage to consume from four to five pounds per day between us; it appears to be quite indigestible, and cannot possibly be sufficiently nutritious to sustain life by itself.

Friday, 21st June, 1861.—Last night was cold and clear, winding up with a strong wind from north-east in the morning. I feel much weaker than ever and can scarcely crawl out of the mia-mia. Unless relief comes in some form or other, I cannot possibly last more than a fortnight.

It is a great consolation, at least, in this position of ours, to know that we have done all we could, and that our deaths will rather be the result of the mismanagement of others than of any rash acts of our own. Had we come to grief elsewhere, we could only have blamed ourselves; but here we are returned to Cooper's Creek, where we had every reason to look for provisions and clothing; and yet we have to die of starvation, in spite of the explicit instructions given by Mr. Burke—"That the depot party should await our return;" and the strong recommendation to the Committee "that we should be followed up by a party from Menindie."

About noon a change of wind took place, and it blew almost as hard from the west as it did previously from the north-east. A few cirrocumulus continued to pass over towards east.

Saturday, 22nd June, 1861.—Night cloudy and warm; every appearance of rain; thunder once or twice during the night; clouds moving in an easterly direction; lower atmosphere perfectly calm. There were a few drops of rain during the night, and in the morning, about nine A.M., there was every prospect of more rain until towards noon, when the sky cleared up for a time.

Mr. Burke and King out for nardoo; the former returned much fatigued. I am so weak to-day as to be unable to get on my feet.

Sunday, 23rd June, 1861.—All hands at home. I am so weak as to be incapable of crawling out of the mia-mia. King holds out well, but Mr. Burke finds himself weaker every day.

Monday, 24th June, 1861.—A fearful night. At about an hour before sunset, a southerly gale sprung up and continued throughout the greater portion of the night; the cold was intense, and it seemed as if one would be shrivelled up. Towards morning it fortunately lulled a little, but a strong cold breeze continued till near sunset, after which it became perfectly calm.

King went out for nardoo in spite of the wind, and came in with a good load; but he himself terribly cut up. He says that he can no longer keep up the work, and as he and Mr. Burke are both getting rapidly weaker, we have but a slight chance of anything but starvation, unless we can get hold of some blacks.

Tuesday, 25th June, 1861.—Night calm, clear and intensely cold, especially towards morning. Near daybreak, King reported seeing a moon in the east, with a haze of light stretching up from it; he declared it to be quite as large as the moon, and not dim at the edges. I am so weak that any attempt to get a sight of it was out of the question; but I think it must have been Venus in the Zodiacal Light that he saw, with a corona around her.

26th.—Mr. Burke and King remain at home cleaning and pounding seed; they are both getting weaker every day; the cold plays the deuce with us, from the small amount of clothing we have: my wardrobe consists of a wide-awake, a merino shirt, a regatta shirt without sleeves, the remains of a pair of flannel trousers, two pairs of socks in rags, and a waistcoat, of which I have managed to keep the pockets together. The others are no better off. Besides these, we have between us, for bedding, two small camel pads, some horse-hair, two or three little bits of rag, and pieces of oil-cloth saved from the fire.

The day turned out nice and warm.

Wednesday, 27th June, 1861.—Calm night; sky overcast with hazy cumulostratus clouds; an easterly breeze sprung up towards morning, making the air much colder. After sunrise there were indications of a clearing up of the sky, but it soon clouded in again, the upper current continuing to move in an easterly direction, whilst a breeze from the north and north-east blew pretty regularly throughout the day. Mr. Burke and King are preparing to go up the creek in search of the blacks; they will leave me some nardoo, wood, and water, with which I must do the best I can until they return. I THINK THIS IS ALMOST OUR ONLY CHANCE. I feel myself, if anything, rather better, but I cannot say stronger: the nardoo is beginning to agree better with me; but without some change I see little chance for any of us. They have both shown great hesitation and reluctance with regard to leaving me, and have repeatedly desired my candid opinion in the matter. I could only repeat, however, that I considered it our only chance, for I could not last long on the nardoo, even if a supply could be kept up.

Thursday, 28th June, 1861.—Cloudy, calm, and comparatively warm night, clouds almost stationary; in the morning a gentle breeze from east. Sky partially cleared up during the day, making it pleasantly warm and bright; it remained clear during the afternoon and evening, offering every prospect of a clear cold night.

Friday, 29th June, 1861.—Clear cold night, slight breeze from the east, day beautifully warm and pleasant. Mr. Burke suffers greatly from the cold and is getting extremely weak; he and King start to-morrow up the creek to look for the blacks; it is the only chance we have of being saved from starvation. I am weaker than ever, although I have a good appetite and relish the nardoo much; but it seems to give us no nutriment, and the birds here are so shy as not to be got at. Even if we got a good supply of fish, I doubt whether we could do much work on them and the nardoo alone. Nothing now but the greatest good luck can save any of us; and as for myself I may live four or five days if the weather continues warm. My pulse is at forty-eight, and very weak, and my legs and arms are nearly skin and bone. I can only look out, like Mr. Micawber, 'for SOMETHING TO TURN up;' starvation on nardoo is by no means very unpleasant, but for the weakness one feels, and the utter inability to move one's self; for as far as appetite is concerned, it gives the greatest satisfaction. Certainly fat and sugar would be more to one's taste; in fact those seem to me to be the great stand-by for one in this extraordinary continent: not that I mean to depreciate the farinaceous food; but the want of sugar and fat in all substances obtainable here is so great that they become almost valueless to us as articles of food, without the addition of something else.

(Signed) W.J. WILLS.


King's Narrative. Mr. Burke and King go in search of the Natives, as a last resource. Death of Mr. Burke. King returns and finds Mr. Wills dead in the Gunyah. He falls in with the Natives and wanders about with them until delivered by Mr. Howitt's party. Extract from Mr. Howitt's Diary. Extract from Mr. McKinlay's Diary. My Son's last Letter to me, dated June 27th, 1861. Strong Attachment between Mr. Burke and my Son. King delivers the Letter and Watch intrusted to him. With some difficulty I recover the Pistol. King's Reception in Melbourne. Sir H. Barkly's Letter to Sir Roderick Murchison. Summary of Events and their Causes.

THE latter portion of my poor son's journal was transcribed by Mr. Archer, Registrar-General of Victoria. We may believe that after writing the last paragraph to which he subscribed his name, he did not survive for many hours. The sequel, as far as any of its details can ever be made known to us, is best told in the unaffected language of



Mr. Burke, Mr. Wills, and I, reached the depot at Cooper's Creek, on April 21st, about half-past seven in the evening, with two camels; all that remained of the six Mr. Burke took with him. All the provisions we then had consisted of one-and-a-half pound of dried meat. We found the party had gone the same day; and looking about for any mark they might have left, found the tree with 'DIG, Ap. 21.' Mr. Wills said the party had left for the Darling. We dug and found the plant of stores. Mr. Burke took the papers out of the bottle, and then asked each of us whether we were able to proceed up the creek in pursuit of the party; we said not, and he then said that he thought it his duty to ask us, but that he himself was unable to do so, but that he had decided upon trying to make Mount Hopeless, as he had been assured by the Committee in Melbourne, that there was a cattle station within 150 miles of Cooper's Creek. Mr. Wills was not inclined to follow this plan, and wished to go down our old track; but at last gave in to Mr. Burke's wishes. I also wished to go down by our old track. We remained four or five days to recruit, making preparations to go down the creek by stages of four or five miles a day, and Mr. Burke placed a paper in the plant stating what were our plans. Travelling down the creek, we got some fish from the natives; and some distance down, one of the camels (Landa) got bogged, and although we remained there that day and part of the next, trying to dig him out, we found our strength insufficient to do so. The evening of the second day we shot him as he lay, and having cut off as much meat as we could, we lived on it while we stayed to dry the remainder. Throwing all the least necessary things away, we made one load for the remaining camel (Rajah), and each of us carried a swag of about twenty-five pounds. We were then tracing down the branches of the creek running south, and found that they ran out into earthy plains. We had understood that the creek along Gregory's track was continuous; and finding that all these creeks ran out into plains, Mr. Burke returned, our camel being completely knocked up. We then intended to give the camel a spell for a few days, and to make a new attempt to push on forty or fifty miles to the south, in the hope of striking the creek. During the time that the camel was being rested, Mr. Burke and Mr. Wills went in search of the natives, to endeavour to find out how the nardoo grew. Having found their camp, they obtained as much nardoo cake and fish as they could eat, but could not explain that they wished to be shown how to find the seed themselves: they returned on the third day bringing some fish and nardoo cake with them. On the following day the camel Rajah seemed very ill, and I told Mr. Burke I thought he could not linger out more than four days, and as on the same evening the poor brute was on the point of dying, Mr. Burke ordered him to be shot; I did so, and we cut him up with two broken knives and a lancet: we cured the meat and planted it, and Mr. Burke then made another attempt to find the nardoo, taking me with him: we went down the creek expecting to find the natives at the camp where they had been last seen, but found that they had left; and not knowing whether they had gone up or down the creek, we slept in their gunyahs that night, and on the following morning returned to Mr. Wills. The next day, Mr. Burke and I started up the creek, but could see nothing of them, and were three days away, when we returned and remained three days in our camp with Mr. Wills. We then made a plant of all the articles we could not carry with us, leaving five pounds of rice and a quantity of meat, and then followed up the creek to where there were some good native huts. We remained at that place a few days; and finding that our provisions were beginning to run short, Mr. Burke said, that we ought to do something, and that if we did not find the nardoo, we should starve, and that he intended to save a little dried meat and rice to carry us to Mount Hopeless. The three of us then came to the conclusion that it would be better to make a second attempt to reach Mount Hopeless, as we were then as strong as we were likely to be, our daily allowance being then reduced. Mr. Burke asked each of us whether we were willing to make another attempt to reach the South Australian settlements, and we decided on going; we took with us what remained of the provisions we had planted—two-and-a-half pounds of oatmeal, a small quantity of flour, and the dried meat: this, with powder and shot, and other small articles, made up our swags to thirty pounds each, and Mr. Burke carried one billy of water; and I another. We had not gone far before we came on a flat, where I saw a plant growing which I took to be clover, and on looking closer saw the seed, and called out that I had found the nardoo; they were very glad when I found it. We travelled three days, and struck a watercourse coming south from Cooper's Creek; we traced this as it branched out and re-formed in the plains, until we at last lost it in flat country; sandhills were in front of us, for which we made, and travelled all day but found no water. We were all greatly fatigued, as our rations now consisted of only one small Johnny cake and three sticks of dried meat daily. We camped that evening about four o'clock, intending to push next day until two o'clock P.M., and then, should we not find water, to return. We travelled and found no water, and the three of us sat down and rested for one hour, and then turned back. We all felt satisfied that had there been a few days' rain we could have got through: we were then, according to Mr. Wills's calculation, forty-five miles from the creek. We travelled, on the day we turned back, very late, and the following evening reached the nearest water at the creek. We gathered some nardoo and boiled the seeds, as we were unable to pound them. The following day we reached the main creek; and knowing where there was a fine waterhole and native gunyahs, we went there intending to save what remained of our flour and dried meat for the purpose of making another attempt to reach Mount Hopeless. On the following day Mr. Wills and I went out to gather nardoo, of which we obtained a supply sufficient for three days, and finding a pounding stone at the gunyahs, Mr. Burke and I pounded the seed, which was such slow work that we were compelled to use half flour and half nardoo. Mr. Burke and Mr. Wills then went down the creek for the remainder of the dried meat which we had planted; and we had now all our things with us, gathering nardoo and living the best way we could. Mr. Burke requested Mr. Wills to go up the creek as far as the depot, and to place a note in the plant there, stating that we were then living on the creek, the former note having stated that we were on our road to South Australia. He also was to bury there the field-books of the journey to the Gulf. Before starting he got three pounds of flour and four pounds of pounded nardoo, and about a pound of meat, as he expected to be absent about eight days. During his absence I gathered nardoo and pounded it, as Mr. Burke wished to lay in a supply in case of rain.

A few days after Mr. Wills left, some natives came down the creek to fish at some waterholes near our camp. They were very civil to us at first and offered us some fish. On the second day they came again to fish, and Mr. Burke took down two bags, which they filled for him. On the third day they gave us one bag of fish, and afterwards all came to our camp. We used to keep our ammunition and other articles in one gunyah, and all three of us lived together in another. One of the natives took an oilcloth out of this gunyah, and Mr. Burke seeing him run away with it followed him with his revolver and fired over his head, and upon this the native dropt the oilcloth; while he was away, the other blacks invited me away to a waterhole to eat fish, but I declined to do so as Mr. Burke was absent, and a number of natives were about who would have taken all our things. When I refused, one took his boomerang and laid it over my shoulder, and then told me by signs that if I called out for Mr. Burke (as I was doing) that he would strike me; upon this I got them all in front of the gunyah and fired a revolver over their heads, but they did not seem at all afraid until I got out the gun, when they all ran away. Mr. Burke hearing the report came back, and we saw no more of them until late that night, when they came with some cooked fish and called out "white fellow." Mr. Burke then went out with his revolver, and found a whole tribe coming down, all painted, and with fish in small nets carried by two men. Mr. Burke went to meet them, and they wished to surround him; but he knocked as many of the nets of fish out of their hands as he could, and shouted out to me to fire. I did so, and they ran off. We collected five small nets of cooked fish. The reason he would not accept the fish from them was, that he was afraid of being too friendly lest they should be always at our camp. We then lived on fish until Mr. Wills returned. He told us that he had met the natives soon after leaving us, and that they were very kind to him, and had given him plenty to eat both on going up and returning. He seemed to consider that he should have very little difficulty in living with them, and as their camp was close to ours he returned to them the same day and found them very hospitable and friendly, keeping him with them two days. They then made signs to him to be off: he came to us and narrated what had happened, but went back to them the following day, when they gave him his breakfast, but made signs for him to go away; he pretended not to understand them, and would not go, upon which they made signs that they were going up the creek, and that he had better go down: they packed up and left the camp, giving Mr. Wills a little nardoo to take to us.

During his absence, while Mr. Burke was cooking some fish during a strong wind, the flames caught the gunyah and burned so rapidly that we were unable not only to put it out but to save any of our things, excepting one revolver and a gun. Mr. Wills having returned, it was decided to go up the creek and live with the natives if possible, as Mr. Wills thought we should have but little difficulty in obtaining provisions from them if we camped on the opposite side of the creek to them. He said he knew where they were gone, so we packed up and started. Coming to the gunyahs where we expected to have found them, we were disappointed, and seeing a nardoo field close by halted, intending to make it our camp. For some time we were employed gathering nardoo, and laying up a supply. Mr. Wills and I used to collect and carry home a bag each day, and Mr. Burke generally pounded sufficient for our dinner during our absence; but Mr. Wills found himself getting very weak, and was shortly unable to go out to gather nardoo as before, or even strong enough to pound it, so that in a few days he became almost helpless. I still continued gathering, and Mr. Burke now also began to feel very weak, and said he could be of very little use in pounding; I had now to gather and pound for all three of us. I continued to do this for a few days; but finding my strength rapidly failing, my legs being very weak and painful, I was unable to go out for several days, and we were compelled to consume six days' stock which we had laid by. Mr. Burke now proposed that I should gather as much as possible in three days, and that with this supply we should go in search of the natives—a plan which had been urged upon us by Mr. Wills as the only chance of saving him and ourselves as well, as he clearly saw that I was no longer able to collect sufficient for our wants. Having collected the seed as proposed, and having pounded sufficient to last Mr. Wills for eight days, and two days for ourselves, we placed water and firewood within his reach and started; before leaving him, however, Mr. Burke asked him whether he still wished it, as under no other circumstance would he leave him, and Mr. Wills again said that he looked on it as our only chance. He then gave Mr. Burke a letter and his watch for his father, and we buried the remainder of the field-books near the gunyah. Mr. Wills said that, in case of my surviving Mr. Burke, he hoped that I would carry out his last wishes, in giving the watch and letter to his father.

In travelling the first day, Mr. Burke seemed very weak, and complained of great pain in his legs and back. On the second day he seemed to be better, and said that he thought he was getting stronger, but on starting, did not go two miles before he said he could go no further. I persisted in his trying to go on, and managed to get him along several times, until I saw that he was almost knocked up, when he said he could not carry his swag, and threw all he had away. I also reduced mine, taking nothing but a gun and some powder and shot, and a small pouch and some matches. In starting again, we did not go far before Mr. Burke said we should halt for the night; but as the place was close to a large sheet of water, and exposed to the wind, I prevailed on him to go a little further, to the next reach of water, where we camped. We searched about and found a few small patches of nardoo, which I collected and pounded, and with a crow, which I shot, made a good evening's meal. From the time we halted Mr. Burke seemed to be getting worse, although he ate his supper; he said he felt convinced he could not last many hours, and gave me his watch, which he said belonged to the committee, and a pocket-book to give to Sir William Stawell, and in which he wrote some notes. He then said to me, "I hope you will remain with me here till I am quite dead—it is a comfort to know that some one is by; but, when I am dying, it is my wish that you should place the pistol in my right hand, and that you leave me unburied as I lie." That night he spoke very little, and the following morning I found him speechless, or nearly so, and about eight o'clock he expired. I remained a few hours there, but as I saw there was no use remaining longer I went up the creek in search of the natives. I felt very lonely, and at night usually slept in deserted wurleys belonging to the natives. Two days after leaving the spot where Mr. Burke died, I found some gunyahs where the natives had deposited a bag of nardoo, sufficient to last me a fortnight, and three bundles containing various articles. I also shot a crow that evening; but was in great dread that the natives would come and deprive me of the nardoo.

I remained there two days to recover my strength, and then returned to Mr. Wills. I took back three crows; but found him lying dead in his gunyah, and the natives had been there and had taken away some of his clothes. I buried the corpse with sand, and remained there some days, but finding that my stock of nardoo was running short, and as I was unable to gather it, I tracked the natives who had been to the camp by their footprints in the sand, and went some distance down the creek shooting crows and hawks on the road. The natives, hearing the report of the gun, came to meet me, and took me with them to their camp, giving me nardoo and fish: they took the birds I had shot and cooked them for me, and afterwards showed me a gunyah where I was to sleep with three of the single men. The following morning they commenced talking to me, and putting one finger on the ground and covering it with sand, at the same time pointing up the creek saying "white fellow," which I understood to mean that one white man was dead. From this I knew that they were the tribe who had taken Mr. Wills's clothes. They then asked me where the third white man was, and I also made the sign of putting two fingers on the ground and covering them with sand, at the same time pointing up the creek. They appeared to feel great compassion for me when they understood that I was alone on the creek, and gave me plenty to eat. After being four days with them, I saw that they were becoming tired of me, and they made signs that they were going up the creek and that I had better go downwards; but I pretended not to understand them. The same day they shifted camp, and I followed them, and on reaching their camp I shot some crows, which pleased them so much that they made me a breakwind in the centre of their camp, and came and sat round me until such time as the crows were cooked, when they assisted me to eat them. The same day one of the women, to whom I had given part of a crow, came and gave me a ball of nardoo, saying that she would give me more only she had such a sore arm that she was unable to pound. She showed me a sore on her arm, and the thought struck me that I would boil some water in the billy and wash her arm with a sponge. During the operation, the whole tribe sat round and were muttering one to another. Her husband sat down by her side, and she was crying all the time. After I had washed it, I touched it with some nitrate of silver, when she began to yell, and ran off, crying out "Mokow! Mokow!" (Fire! Fire!). From this time, she and her husband used to give me a small quantity of nardoo both night and morning, and whenever the tribe was about going on a fishing excursion he used to give me notice to go with them. They also used to assist me in making a wurley or breakwind whenever they shifted camp. I generally shot a crow or a hawk, and gave it to them in return for these little services. Every four or five days the tribe would surround me and ask whether I intended going up or down the creek; at last I made them understand that if they went up I should go up the creek, and if they went down I should also go down; and from this time they seemed to look upon me as one of themselves, and supplied me with fish and nardoo regularly: they were very anxious, however, to know where Mr. Burke lay, and one day when we were fishing in the waterholes close by, I took them to the spot. On seeing his remains, the whole party wept bitterly, and covered them with bushes. After this, they were much kinder to me than before, and I always told them that the white men would be here before two moons; and in the evening when they came with nardoo and fish they used to talk about the "white-fellows" coming, at the same time pointing to the moon. I also told them they would receive many presents, and they constantly asked me for tomahawks, called by them "Bomay Ko." From this time to when the relief party arrived, a period of about a month, they treated me with uniform kindness, and looked upon me as one of themselves. The day on which I was released, one of the tribe who had been fishing came and told me that the "white fellows," were coming, and the whole of the tribe who were then in camp sallied out in every direction to meet the party, while the man who had brought the news took me over the creek, where I shortly saw the party coming down.

. . .

Brahe having quitted Cooper's Creek, as we have seen, on the 21st of April, retraced his steps, towards the Darling. On the 28th or 29th (there is a doubt about the exact date), he fell in with Wright's party at Bulloo, and placed himself under his orders. On the 29th, Dr. Becker died. On the 1st of May they left Bulloo, on their return to Menindie. On the 3rd, Wright makes the following entry in his diary:—

Friday, Koorliatto.—As I was anxious to ascertain, before finally leaving the country, whether Mr. Burke had visited the old depot at Cooper's Creek, between the present date and that on which he left on his advance northward, or whether the stores cached there had been disturbed by the natives, I started with Mr. Brahe and three horses for Cooper's Creek and reached the head waters of that creek on Sunday, the 5th May, in about seventy miles, steering about west-north-west. I did not find any water throughout the distance, but crossed several fine large gum creeks, and saw an immense number of native dogs.

Thursday, May 9th.—This morning I reached Cooper's Creek depot, and found no sign of Mr. Burke having visited the creek, or of the natives having disturbed the stores. I therefore retraced my steps to the depot that remained at Koorliatto.

. . .

On the examination of Wright and Brahe before the Royal Commission, it came out that they did not remain more than a quarter of an hour at Cooper's Creek depot, casting only a hurried glance around; and believing that no one had been there, never thought of opening the cache to identify the fact. Had they done so, they would have found the papers and letters deposited by Mr. Burke, and all would yet have been well. It is much to be regretted, and may excite some surprise, that Burke and my son, after opening and closing up the cache, affixed no EXTERNAL token of their having been there. But the apathy, stupidity, and carelessness of Wright and Brahe are really beyond comprehension. The effect of their miserably evasive and contradictory evidence, when under examination, can never be forgotten by those who were present. They, too, left no indications of their useless visit. It will be remembered that twenty-two days after, on the 30th of May, my son returned to Cooper's Creek for the last time, and deposited his journals and letters in the cache.

The following extracts from Mr. Howitt's diary relate the discovery of King, with the finding and interment of the remains of Mr. Burke and my son.

September 14th, 1861.—Latitude, 27 degrees 4 minutes; longitude 140 degrees 4 minutes.—Camped on a large waterhole, about a quarter of a mile below Mr. Burke's first camp, after leaving the depot at Cooper's Creek. We could see where the camels had been tied up, but found no marked tree. To-day I noticed in two or three places old camel-droppings and tracks, where Mr. Brahe informed me he was certain their camels had never been, as they were watched every day near the depot and tied up at night. Mr. Burke's camels were led on the way down. It looked very much as if stray camels had been about during the last four months. The tracks seemed to me to be going up the creek, but the ground was too strong to be able to make sure.

September 15th.—Camp 32.—Latitude, 27 degrees 44 minuts; longitude, 140 degrees 40 minutes.—On leaving this morning I went ahead with Sandy, to try and pick up Mr. Burke's track. At the lower end of a large waterhole, from which one or two horses had been feeding for some months, the tracks ran in all directions to and from the water, and even as recent as a week. At the same place I found the handle of a clasp-knife. From here struck out south for a short distance from the creek, and found a distinct camel's track and droppings on a native path: the footprint was about four months old and going east. I then sent the black boy to follow the creek, and struck across some sandy country in a bend on the north side. No tracks here; and coming on a native path leading my way, I followed it, as the most likely place to see any signs. In about four miles this led me to the lower end of a very large reach of water, and on the opposite side were numbers of native wurleys. I crossed at a neck of sand, and at a little distance again came on the track of a camel going up the creek; at the same time I found a native, who began to gesticulate in a very excited manner, and to point down the creek, bawling out, "Gow, gow!" as loud as he could. When I went towards him he ran away, and finding it impossible to get him to come to me, I turned back to follow a camel track, and to look after my party. The track was visible in sandy places, and was evidently the same I had seen for the last two days. I also found horse traces in places, but very old. Crossing the creek, I cut our track, and rode after the party. In doing so I came upon three pounds of tobacco, which had lain where I saw it for some time. This, together with a knife-handle, fresh horse tracks, and the camel track going eastward, puzzled me extremely, and led me into a hundred conjectures. At the lower end of the large reach of water before mentioned, I met Sandy and Frank looking for me, with the intelligence that King, the only survivor of Mr. Burke's party, had been found. A little further on I found the party halted, and immediately went across to the blacks' wurleys, where I found King sitting in a hut which the natives had made for him. He presented a melancholy appearance—wasted to a shadow, and hardly to be distinguished as a civilized being but by the remnants of clothes upon him. He seemed exceedingly weak, and I found it occasionally difficult to follow what he said. The natives were all gathered round, seated on the ground, looking with a most gratified and delighted expression.

September 18th.—Left camp this morning with Messrs. Brahe, Welsh, Wheeler, and King, to perform a melancholy duty, which has weighed on my mind ever since we have encamped here, and which I have only put off until King should be well enough to accompany us. We proceeded down the creek for seven miles, crossing a branch running to the southward, and followed a native track leading to that part of the creek where Mr. Burke, Mr. Wills, and King encamped after their unsuccessful attempt to reach Mount Hopeless and the northern settlements of South Australia, and where poor Wills died. We found the two gunyahs situated on a sand-bank between two waterholes and about a mile from the flat where they procured nardoo seed, on which they managed to exist so long. Poor Wills's remains we found lying in the wurley in which he died, and where King, after his return from seeking for the natives, had buried him with sand and rushes. We carefully collected the remains and interred them where they lay; and, not having a prayer-book, I read chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, that we might at least feel a melancholy satisfaction in having shown the last respect to his remains. We heaped sand over the grave, and laid branches upon it, that the natives might understand by their own tokens not to disturb the last repose of a fellow-being. I cut the following inscription on a tree close by, to mark the spot:—


(W. J. WILLS, 45 yards, west-north-west. A.H.)

The field-books, a note-book belonging to Mr. Burke, various small articles lying about, of no value in themselves, but now invested with a deep interest, from the circumstances connected with them, and some of the nardoo seed on which they had subsisted, with the small wooden trough in which it had been cleaned, I have now in my possession.

September 21st.—Finding that it would not be prudent for King to go out for two or three days, I could no longer defer making a search for the spot where Mr. Burke died, and with such directions as King could give, I went up to the creek this morning with Messrs. Brahe, Welsh, Wheeler, and Aitkin. We searched the creek upwards for eight miles, and at length, strange to say, found the remains of Mr. Burke lying among tall plants under a clump of box-trees, within two hundred yards of our last camp, and not thirty paces from our track. It was still more extraordinary that three or four of the party and the two black boys had been close to the spot without noticing it. The bones were entire, with the exception of the hands and feet; and the body had been removed from the spot where it first lay, and where the natives had placed branches over it, to about five paces' distance. I found the revolver which Mr. Burke held in his hand when he expired partly covered with leaves and earth, and corroded with rust. It was loaded and capped. We dug a grave close to the spot, and interred the remains wrapped in the union jack—the most fitting covering in which the bones of a brave but unfortunate man could take their last rest. On a box-tree, at the head of the grave, the following inscription is cut in a similar manner to the above:—

R.O'H.B. 21/9/61 A.H.

September 23rd.—Went down the creek to-day in search of the natives . . .I could not think of leaving without showing them that we could appreciate and reward the kindness they had shown to Burke's party and particularly to King. . .Passed the first feeder of Strleczki's Creek, going to the southward, and at a large reach of water below, found the natives camped. They made a great commotion when we rode up, but seemed very friendly. I unpacked my blanket, and took out specimens of the things I intended giving them,—a tomahawk, a knife, beads, a looking-glass, comb, and flour and sugar. The tomahawk was the great object of attraction, after that the knife, but I think the looking-glass surprised them most. On seeing their faces reflected, some seemed dazzled, others opened their eyes like saucers, and made a rattling noise with their tongues expressive of wonder. We had quite a friendly palaver, and my watch amused them immensely. I made them understand that they were to bring the whole tribe up next morning to our camp to receive their presents, and we parted the best of friends.

September 24th.—This morning, about ten o'clock, our black friends appeared in a long procession, men, women, and children, or, as they here also call them, piccaninnies; and at a mile distance they commenced bawling at the top of their voices as usual. When collected altogether on a little flat, just below our camp, they must have numbered between thirty and forty, and the uproar was deafening. With the aid of King, I at last got them all seated before me, and distributed the presents—tomahawks, knives, necklaces, looking-glasses, combs—amongst them. I think no people were ever so happy before, and it was very interesting to see how they pointed out one or another whom they thought might be overlooked. The piccaninnies were brought forward by their parents to have red ribbon tied round their dirty little heads. An old woman, Carrawaw, who had been particularly kind to King, was loaded with things. I then divided fifty pounds of sugar between them, each one taking his share in a union-jack pocket-handkerchief, which they were very proud of. The sugar soon found its way into their mouths; the flour, fifty pounds of which I gave them, they at once called "white-fellow nardoo," and explained that they understood that these things were given to them for having fed King. Some old clothes were then put on some of the men and women, and the affair ended in several of our party and several of the black fellows having an impromptu "corroboree," to the intense delight of the natives, and I must say, very much to our amusement. They left, making signs expressive of friendship, carrying their presents with them. The men all wore a net girdle; and of the women some wore one of leaves, others of feathers. I feel confident that we have left the best impression behind us, and that the "white fellows," as they have already learned to call us, will be looked on henceforth as friends, and that, in case of emergency, any one will receive the kindest treatment at their hands.

. . .

The South Australian Register, of the 26th of November, 1861, published at Adelaide, contained the following statement, which excited universal attention:—

The Government have just received from Mr. McKinlay, leader of the expedition sent from this colony in search of Burke, a diary of his proceedings up to the 26th of October last. This document contains a most singular narrative, being nothing less than an account of McKinlay's discovery of what he believes to be the remains of Burke's party, who he considers were some time since not only murdered, but partly eaten by the natives in the neighbourhood of Cooper's Creek. He, of course, had heard nothing of the result of Mr. Howitt's expedition, or of Mr. King having been found alive by that expedition. When, therefore, he came to a spot where there were graves containing the bones of white men, and where there were indications of a conflict having taken place with the natives, some of whom spoke of those white men having been killed and partly eaten, he came to the conclusion that he had ascertained all that was possible of Mr. Burke and his companions. He accordingly buried a letter, containing a statement to this effect, at a place near where the remains were found, and then after forwarding to Adelaide the despatch which has now reached us, proceeded westward upon some other business intrusted to him by the Government.

It seems fated that every chapter of the unfortunate Burke exploration shall be marked with unusual interest. The failures at the beginning of the enterprise, the tragedy of the explorers' deaths, and the remarkable rescue of the survivor King, are now followed by a subject of interest altogether new and mysterious. Certain as it is that McKinlay cannot have discovered the remains of Burke's party, as he so firmly believed he had, it is equally clear that some other white men must have met their deaths at the spot reached by him, and that those deaths were, to all appearance, the result of foul play. That the remains found by McKinlay cannot have been those of Burke and Wills, disinterred, removed, and mangled after death, may be inferred from a number of circumstances detailed by him in the extracts which we have given from his diary. It will be seen that marks of violence were found on the remains, that there were indications of white men having camped in the neighbourhood (which was far distant from any camp of Burke's), that one of the natives bore marks of having been engaged in a conflict where pistols were used, and that, lastly, the natives themselves said the bones were those of white men who had been murdered and eaten. All this would probably appear conclusive to Mr. McKinlay that he had ascertained the fate of the explorers whom he had been in search of. He was prepared for such a result, and there were many circumstances favourable to its probability. He saw even, as he believed, positive indications of camels having been at the place where he found the graves; and yet, it will be seen, he speaks of appearances indicating that the remains were buried a long time ago, and states that some of the human hair discovered was in a state of decay. This certainly would not accord with the supposition of the remains being those of Burke. But it is useless to seek an explanation of this strange matter from the facts at present before us. It is a mystery which will have further to be inquired into, and which Mr. McKinlay himself will perhaps be able to throw some light upon when he reviews all the particulars of the discovery, with the knowledge before him that Burke and his companions were not killed by the natives, but died from starvation, and were buried at places far distant from the spot where these new remains were discovered.

. . .

The following extract from McKinlay's diary details the incidents here spoken of more minutely.

October 21st.—Up in good time. Before starting for the grave went round the lake, taking Mr. Hodgkinson with me, to see if natives were really on the lake, as I did not intend saddling the camels to-day if there were no natives here, intending to leave our camp unprotected—rather unwise, but being so short of hands could not help it, the grave being much out of sight. Found no natives round the lake, nor any very recent traces, saving that some of the trees were still burning that they (when here last) had lighted. We started at once for the grave, taking a canteen of water with us and all the arms. On arrival removed the ground carefully, and close to the top of the earth found the body of a European enveloped in a flannel shirt with short sleeves—a piece of the breast of which I have taken—the flesh, I may say, completely cleared from the bones, and very little hair but what must have been decomposed; what little there was, I have taken. Description of body: Skull marked with slight sabre cuts, apparently two in number—one immediately over the left eye, the other on the right temple, inclining over right ear, more deep than the left; decayed teeth existed in both sides of lower jaw and right of upper; the other teeth were entire and sound. In the lower jaw were two teeth—one on each side (four between in front) rather projecting, as is sometimes called in the upper jaw "back teeth." I have measured the bones of the thigh and leg as well as the arm with a cord, not having any other method of doing it; gathered all the bones together and buried them again, cutting a lot of boughs and other wood and putting over top of the earth. Body lies head south, feet north, lying on face, head severed from body. On a small tree immediately south we marked "MK, 21st Oct., 61." Immediately this was over we questioned the native further on the subject of his death. He says he was killed by a stroke from what the natives call a sword (an instrument of semicircular form, five to eight feet long, and very formidable). He showed us where the whites had been attacked when encamped. We saw lots of fish-bones, but no evidence there on the trees to suppose whites had been there. They had certainly chosen a very bad camp, in the centre of a box scrub, with native huts within 150 to 200 yards of them. On further examination we found the dung of camels and horse or horses evidently tied up a long time ago. Between that and the grave we found another grave, evidently dug with a spade or shovel, and a lot of human hair of two colours, that had become decomposed in the skin of the skull and fallen off in flakes, some of which I have also taken. I fancy they must all have been murdered here. Dug out the new-found grave with a stick, the only instrument we had, but found no remains of bodies, save one little bone. The black accounted for this in this manner—he says they had eaten them. Found in an old fireplace immediately adjoining what appeared to be bones very well burnt, but not in any quantity. In and about the last grave named, a piece of light blue tweed and fragments of paper, and small pieces of a Nautical Almanac were found, and an exploded Eley's cartridge; no appearance on any of the trees of bullet marks as if a struggle had taken place. On a further examination of the blacks' camp where the pint pot was found, there was also found a tin canteen similar to what is used for keeping naphtha in, or some such stuff, both of which we keep. The natives say that any memos the whites had are back on the last camp we were at on the lake with the natives, as well as the iron-work of saddles, etc., which on our return we mean to endeavour to recover, if the blacks can be found. It may be rash, but there is necessity for it. Intend before returning to have a further search.

. . .

The next day they dug up a quantity of baked horsehair, which had apparently been used for saddle stuffing. The hostility displayed by the blacks compelled Mr. McKinlay and his party to fire upon them. The mystery attached to the remains here spoken of has yet to be cleared up. The idea at first entertained that they were those of Gray is not tenable. A glance at the map will show that Gray died and was buried far away to the north-east of McKinlay's track.

On the day of King's arrival in Melbourne, my son's watch, a gold chronometer, which he had used to calculate the longitudes by, was duly delivered to me in presence of the Governor; also his last letter, distinctly traced in a firm hand on a ruled page torn from some book. It was not sealed, but neatly wrapped in a loose cover. The relic is invaluable.


Cooper's Creek, 27 June, 1861.


These are probably the last lines you will ever get from me. We are on the point of starvation, not so much from absolute want of food, but from the want of nutriment in what we can get.

Our position, although more provoking, is probably not near so disagreeable as that of poor Harry* and his companions.

[* Footnote: Harry, his cousin, Lieutenant Le Vescompte, who perished with Sir John Franklin.]

We have had very good luck, and made a most successful trip to Carpentaria, and back to where we had every right to consider ourselves safe, having left a depot here consisting of four men, twelve horses, and six camels. They had provisions enough to have lasted them twelve months with proper economy, and we had also every right to expect that we should have been immediately followed up from Menindie by another party with additional provisions and every necessary for forming a permanent depot at Cooper's Creek. The party we left here had special instructions not to leave until our return, UNLESS FROM ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. We left the creek with nominally three months' supply, but they were reckoned at little over the rate of half rations. We calculated on having to eat some of the camels. By the greatest good luck, at every turn, we crossed to the gulf, through a good deal of fine country, almost in a straight line from here. On the other side the camels suffered considerably from wet; we had to kill and jerk one soon after starting back. We had now been out a little more than two months, and found it necessary to reduce the rations considerably; and this began to tell on all hands, but I felt it by far less than any of the others. The great scarcity and shyness of game, and our forced marches, prevented our supplying the deficiency from external sources to any great extent; but we never could have held out but for the crows and hawks, and the portulac. The latter is an excellent vegetable, and I believe secured our return to this place. We got back here in four months and four days, and found the party had left the Creek the same day, and we were not in a fit state to follow them.

I find I must close this, that it may be planted; but I will write some more, although it has not so good a chance of reaching you as this. You have great claims on the committee for their neglect. I leave you in sole charge of what is coming to me. The whole of my money I desire to leave to my sisters; other matters I pass over for the present. Adieu, my dear Father. Love to Tom. [Footnote: Tom, his brother in Melbourne.]


I think to live about four or five days. My spirits are excellent.

. . .

The remark that I had great claims on the committee was inserted in the letter, as King informed me, in consequence of Mr. Burke observing, "Wills, be sure to say something to that effect." The letter was read to Burke and King by my son, as soon as he had concluded it. On King's examination, he was questioned as follows, on this point:

Question 1068. Do you see that letter—[pointing to the letter written by Mr. Wills to his father]?—That is the letter Mr. Wills read.

1069. Did he read it out for the purpose of being corrected if there was any statement in it that was not quite correct?—I believe the reason was, in case the letter should be found, that he should not say anything to our disadvantage, mine or Mr. Burke's; he thought that we would see it was the truth and nothing but the truth.—[Watch produced]—That is the watch Mr. Wills desired the survivor to give to his father, which I have done.

1070. There was a pocket-book, was there not?—Yes, which Mr. Burke gave me on the evening before his death, requesting me to deliver it to Sir William Stawell, but under any circumstances I was not to deliver it to any other gentleman of the committee. I delivered it to Sir William Stawell this morning.

1071. Did you know anything of the nature of the contents of it? —No, except what Mr. Burke read to me affecting myself, and which Sir William Stawell has read to me this morning. The same book I showed to Mr. Howitt, telling him that it was Mr. Burke's desire that I should deliver it to Sir William Stawell himself. Mr. Burke also gave me his watch, and told me it was the property of the committee; the same I delivered to Mr. Howitt.

1072. You kept possession of the book?—Yes, and gave it over to Sir William Stawell this morning.

1073. How did you preserve all those things while with the blacks? —I had a small canvas pouch, which I always carried about with me on my person.

1074. Did they ever covet anything?—Yes, they used often to make me show them the contents of it.

. . .

The letter and watch being handed to Mr. Burke, my son then lent him his pistol, the only defence he could have retained against hostile attack, and lying on the bare ground, resigned to his fate, urgently requested them to leave him. Imagination, with all the aid of poetical fancy, can conceive no position to exceed this in utter desolation. It has been said, and many may think, they ought not to have separated. No consideration, or argument, should have induced his two companions to abandon him. It was indeed a trying alternative, but falling in with the blacks appeared to be the only chance of rescue for the whole party; and had this fortunately happened before the sudden and total prostration of Burke, there can be no doubt they would have hastened immediately to bring the same succour to my son. King informed me that Mr. Burke was dreadfully distressed, and that he had great difficulty in persuading him to go on. At times he would stop and exclaim, "How can I leave him, that dear, good fellow?" He was usually in the habit of addressing him as "My dear boy," for although twenty-seven, and wearing a beard, he had such a youthful appearance that few would have taken him for more than twenty when he left Melbourne.

During the whole journey, and through all their trials, King said that not an approach to altercation, or a word of difference, ever took place between my poor boy and his leader. When I claimed the pistol above alluded to, it was considered of too much consequence to be surrendered without minute investigation. To my first application I received the following diplomatic reply:


Royal Society of Victoria,

Victoria Street, Melbourne, January 28th, 1862.


I have the honour to inform you that, at a committee meeting held 27th instant, the Honourable Dr. Wilkie in the chair, the subject of delivering the "Burke" pistol to you, which you claim as your late son's property, was discussed. The report of the Assistant-Secretary was to the effect that, as the tradesmen who supplied the fire-arms did not register the numbers, the identity of this particular pistol could not be traced as one supplied to the expedition; but that as there were several "Colt's" revolvers furnished, there is room for doubt as to whether this may not be one of them.

As the committee merely wishes to be fully satisfied of the validity of your claim before parting with such a melancholy and interesting relic, instructions have been given to apply to Mr. King for any information he may be able to supply, to guide the committee to a right decision.

I have the honour to be, sir,

Your most obedient servant,


Hon. Secretary.


. . .

Finally, and with much trouble, after I know not how many meetings, and what amount of discussion, the pistol was handed over to me, and is now in my possession. So much for my claims on the Committee, who are the only parties acquainted with the merits of my poor son from whom I have received anything like coldness or offence. On the day of King's arrival, as the mail was leaving for England, I was anxious to obtain at once the letter which I knew was in his possession. My earnestness interrupted an arrangement they had made for receiving him, and my unseasonable importunity, as it was considered, drew on me something bearing a close resemblance to a vote of censure.

King, who although only a common soldier, has a heart and feelings which would do no dishonour to a gentleman of education, would have preferred coming into Melbourne, after the loss of his officers, at least unostentatiously, if not in sackcloth and ashes. But he was greeted with a howling and shouting more suitable to the reception of some notorious bush-ranger recently captured. Many, in common with myself, considered the ovation out of place and character; while others, and apparently the more numerous party, were of a different opinion. Perhaps it was well meant, and chacun a son gout. Public enthusiasm is not always gaugeable by the standard of reason or good taste. The following account was printed:—

From about five o'clock, groups of persons anxious to welcome back the first who had crossed and re-crossed the Australian continent began to pour into the station, and its vicinity was so crowded with cars and spectators that it was impossible to reach the entrance. The arrival of the train was hailed with vociferous cheering. The carriage in which King was a passenger was at once recognized by its being decorated with flags. Such was the "rush" to see King that it was some time before the porters could reach the carriage door, and when they had reached it they experienced considerable difficulty in getting the door opened. Dr. Gilbee, who was accompanied by Dr. Macadam, was in attendance with his private carriage to convey King as quietly as possible to the Royal Institute, where the Exploration Committee and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen were in waiting to see him. Those gentlemen, however, were unable to reach the carriage; and Dr. Wills, who was fortunately opposite the door, seeing that it was impossible for the arrangements to be carried out, immediately conveyed King to an open car and drove off. Dr. Gillbee and Dr. Macadam, with King's sister, immediately followed. The cars were then rushed; and cars, buggies, horses, and pedestrians raced along Collins Street to William Street, and thence to Government House. A great many were, of course, disappointed by this alteration, as it was generally expected that King would be received by His Excellency and the Committee at the Royal Institute, and therefore drove along the streets that were likely to facilitate their reaching the institution before King's arrival. On reaching Government House, King was assisted up stairs, for though he looked very healthy and robust; he was scarcely able to stand. He was taken into the room adjoining the Chief Secretary's office, where he was shortly afterwards joined by his sister. Their meeting was, of course, strictly private. In a few minutes the approaches to Government House, the lobbies, stairs, and landing were impassably crowded, so that it was necessary for the police to clear a passage for His Excellency from his own office to that of the Chief Secretary. His Excellency, accompanied by Captain Timins, entered the Chief Secretary's office, and after a short conversation with Welch, who accompanied King to town, went into the anteroom; accompanied by Captain Timins, and followed by Dr. Wills, Welch, and Brahe. When His Excellency entered the room, King and his sister respectfully stood up, but His Excellency requested them to be seated, as King was evidently unable to stand on his feet. The excitement was almost too much for the poor fellow, and it was thought advisable to get him away as speedily and as privately as possible to St. Kilda, where his sister resides.

A few days afterwards, at a meeting of the Exploration Committee, a series of questions, more or less pertinent to the circumstances under which he appeared before them, were personally put to him by members of the committee, and which he answered calmly, displaying considerable intelligence and precision of mind in his replies to the rather discursive examination he was subjected to. The Herald, in reference to the interview, had the following observations: —John King was an object of great and curious interest. Having come out of such great tribulation—having fasted for so many days in the desert—having been wasted by privations till he became so near death that for Death to have overcome him would have been no triumph—he was regarded with feelings similar to those which made the people say of Dante, "There goes the man who has been in Hades." Though only a subordinate, he is a man possessing, we should say—or, indeed, as we know—good leading qualities, the attributes of a hero; and though his intellectual powers have not been highly cultivated, he evidently possesses no small share of intelligence. A man who would mind his own business, and not given to ask very many questions, which as things have turned out is to be regretted; but with a memory capable of retaining everything that came within his knowledge. His coolness rather took aback those members of the committee, yesterday, who seemed to have come loaded to the muzzle with questions, which they proceeded to fire off indiscriminately. He seemed to know better than those inquisitors the way in which his examination should be conducted; that the inquiry had a more important object than gratifying sheer curiosity; and when he goes before the Royal Commission next Thursday they will find him a very good witness. The deepest sympathy was expressed by the meeting, and it will be most sincerely felt by every soul to whom his extraordinary history will become known.

The Exploration Committee held a private meeting on the 29th, at which King was present. He there stated that the tide rose and fell six inches at the part of the river where he was left by Messrs. Burke and Wills when they proceeded on foot with the object of discovering the sea. The gallantry of King is amply testified to by some memoranda in the handwriting of poor Burke—the last he ever wrote. The documents were contained in a pocket-book which the dying explorer committed to the care of the survivor, charging him to deliver it into the hands of Sir William Stawell. This last desire of his unfortunate commander was most scrupulously observed by King. The manuscript ran as follows:—

I hope that we shall be done justice to. We have fulfilled our task, but we have been abandoned. We have not been followed up as we expected, and the depot party abandoned their post.


Cooper's Creek, June 26th.

King has behaved nobly. I hope that he will be properly cared for. He comes up the creek in accordance with my request.


Cooper's Creek, June 28th.

Again, the next entry says:—

King has behaved nobly. He has stayed with me to the last, and placed the pistol in my hand, leaving me lying on the surface as I wished.


Cooper's Creek, June 28th.

. . .

The following sketch of the journey across the continent of Australia, by Messrs. Burke and Wills, in a letter from the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Barclay, to Sir Roderick Murchison, was read before the Royal Geographical Society in London on the 15th of January, 1862, and was ordered to be printed in their proceedings. The letter also appeared in the Times of the 15th of January:—


Knowing the interest you have ever taken in the exploration of the interior of Australia, and that you still occupy the post of Vice-President of the Royal Geographical Society, it was my intention to address you fully by the present mail-steamer respecting the Victorian expedition under Burke and Wills, which you will learn has achieved the honour of first crossing from sea to sea, by a route far distant and utterly distinct from that of McDouall Stuart, from whose great fame as an explorer I have not the least desire to detract.

I wished, indeed, as the expedition had cost the gallant leaders of it their lives, to narrate in a connected form its design and history from the very commencement, in order that it might serve the Geographical Society as a record, and prevent any misconception of the causes which have marred its triumphant result.

I find, however, that the pressure of other business will prevent my carrying out this design, and I must content myself therefore with forwarding the newspapers which contain the best report of what has recently come to light, together with the diaries of Burke and Wills, as published in a pamphlet form, and lastly with a map of Australia, on which our Surveyor-General has added to other recent explorations, a reduced tracing of the track of the expedition, from the depot on Cooper's Creek to the Gulf of Carpentaria, where it struck, as would appear, the Flinders River, and not the Albert, as the explorers supposed.

I would refer you, at the same time, for precise details of the whole enterprise to my several despatches of 21st of August, 1860; 20th of July, and 20th of November, 1861; which I am confident the Duke of Newcastle will put at your disposal for the information of the Geographical Society, if applied to.

On one account I am not sorry to be obliged to postpone a detailed communication on the subject, for it would be difficult to tell the sad story of the sufferings and death of the brave men who returned to the spot where they expected to find friends and ample store of provisions and clothing, only to find the depot abandoned, and to perish miserably in default of assistance, without at least implying blame in some quarter or other; and, as a good deal is still enveloped in mystery, and I have appointed a commission of inquiry to take evidence and report thereupon, it would obviously be improper in me to anticipate their conclusion.

The sole survivor of the party who crossed the continent, John King, once, I believe, a soldier in India, is expected to reach Melbourne to-night; and with the aid of his recollections of the journey, the Surveyor-General hopes to be enabled to add to the chart on a large scale, which he is constructing from Mr. Wills's field books, fuller particulars as to the nature of the country; as well as to supply some blanks which were evidently left to be filled in afterwards, especially in regard to the route back, which, from the determination at our observatory of one of his earlier camps, from an observation of one of the planets which is recorded, seems to have been considerably to the eastward of the course pursued in going, though this is not expressly so stated.

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