CHAPTER 10. LATER EXPLORATION IN THE NORTH-EAST.
10.1. WALKER IN SEARCH OF BURKE AND WILLS.
Frederick Walker commenced his bush career as a pioneer squatter in the districts of Southern Queensland, but afterwards made his residence near the centre, where he joined the Native Police. He had long bush experience, was a firm believer in the training of the natives in quasi-military duty, and had taken a prominent part in the formation of the Queensland Native Police. On this relief expedition, the party was composed almost entirely of Native Police troopers under his leadership.
On receiving his commission, he pushed rapidly out to the Barcoo, and, near the Thomson River, came upon another tree marked L. This might have been made by Leichhardt. He ascended the main watershed, and crossed it coming down on to the head of the Flinders River. Here he experienced many hindrances arising from the rough basaltic nature of the country that borders the northern head-waters of that river. When he finally debouched upon the wide western plains, he crossed the Flinders, without recognising it as the main branch, in the search for which he went on northward. Approaching the Gulf of Carpentaria, he had several encounters with the aboriginals. As he neared the coast, the bend of the Flinders brought that river again across his route, and it was then that he came on some camel tracks, which assured him that the missing party, the object of his search, had at any rate reached the Gulf safely. On his outward way Walker may be said to have pursued a course parallel with that of the Flinders, a little further to the northward.
He pushed on to the Albert River, to replenish his provisions at the depot provided for the use of the various relief parties. He arrived there safely, after having had two more skirmishes with the blacks on the way. He reported the finding of the camel tracks, and having come to the conclusion that Burke and Wills had probably made for the Queensland settlements, he decided to follow them thither. He traced out a tributary of the Flinders, the Saxby, on his homeward route, but saw no more of the camel tracks, and finally crossed the water-shed on to the rough basaltic country at the head of the Burdekin. Here his horses suffered so severely from the rugged nature of the country, that by the time they reached Strathalbyn, a station on the lower Burdekin, the whole of the party were well-nigh horseless, as well as almost out of provisions.
Walker was afterwards engaged by the Queensland Government to mark out a course for a telegraph line between Rockingham Bay and the mouth of the Norman River in Carpentaria. This work he carried out successfully; but when at the Gulf, he was attacked by the prevalent malarial fever, and died there.
10.2. BURDEKIN AND CAPE YORK EXPEDITIONS.
The main portion of eastern Australia was now fairly well known; it had been crossed from south to north, and from east to west, and it was only the elongated spur of the Cape York peninsula that stood in urgent need of detailed exploration.
Amongst what may be called the minor pastoral expeditions of that period, was one conducted by G.E. Dalrymple, who penetrated the coastal country north of Rockhampton as far north as the Burdekin. In 1859 he followed that river down to the sea, and found that the mouth had been located further to the south than was really the case. His party then struck inland, examined the head of that river, and found the Valley of Lagoons. The following year another party, consisting of Messrs. Cunningham, Somer, and three others, explored the tributaries of the Upper Burdekin, and opened up several good tracts of pastoral country. The permanent running stream which flows through a rugged wall of basalt into an ana-branch of the Burdekin, was first noticed by this party, and called Fletcher's Creek.
Frank and Alec Jardine jointly led up the Cape York Peninsula an expedition that in its hardships and dangers emulated that of Kennedy's, but fortunately without a tragic ending. The year 1863 was one of great activity in the northern part of eastern Australia. At Cape York, the Imperial Government had, on the recommendation of Sir George Bowen, the first governor of Queensland, decided to form a settlement. John Jardine, the police magistrate of the central town of Rockhampton, was selected to take charge, and a detachment of marines was sent out to be stationed there. Somerset, the new settlement, was formed on the Albany Pass, opposite to the island of the same name. Jardine was to proceed by sea to his new sphere of office, but, anticipating the want of fresh meat at the proposed station, he entered into an arrangement with the Government whereby his two sons were to take a small herd of cattle thither overland, and on the way make careful observations of the land through which they were to pass. Somerset was situated near the scene of Kennedy's death, and knowing what tremendous difficulties that explorer had met with on the eastern shore, it was decided that the expedition should attempt to follow the western shore through the unknown country that faced the Gulf of Carpentaria. Both the Jardine brothers were quite young men at the time when they started on their exceedingly adventurous trip, which combined cattle-droving with exploration: Frank, the accepted leader, being only twenty-two years old, and his brother Alexander but twenty. Their father had come from Applegarth, in Dumfriesshire; they had both been born near Sydney, and had been educated by private tutors and at the Sydney Grammar School.