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» Burke's despatch to the Exploration Committee: Cooper's Creek

Burke's despatch to the Exploration Committee: Cooper's Creek

Cooper's Creek
December 13th 1860


I have the honor to report that the expedition under my command left Torowoto on the 31st of October and arrived at Cooper's Creek on the 11th November. Men, horses and camels well. The road from Torowoto to Wright's Creek is good but from Wright's Creek to the point where we struck Cooper's Creek it is in some places very stony, although not by any means impracticable.

From the 11th of November we travelled slowly down the Creek until the 20th of November in order to recruit the strength of the animals. On the 20th we arrived at what I considered to be an eligible spot for the Depot and we remained there (Camp 63) until the 5th when we were driven out by the rats and obliged to remove lower down to the place from whence I now write (Camp 65) and where I have permanently established the Depot.

The feed upon the Creek is good and the horses and camels have greatly improved in condition but the flies, mosquitoes and rats which abound here render it a very disagreeable summer residence.

From Camp 63 we made frequent excursions in order to endeavour in accordance with instructions to find a practicable route northward between Gregory's and Sturt's track, but without success. Mr. Wills on one occasion travelled 90 miles to the north without finding water when his camels escaped and he and the man who accompanied him were obliged to return on foot which they accomplished in 48 hours. Fortunately upon this return they found a pool of water.

I am satisfied that a practicable route cannot be established in that direction except during the rainy season or by sinking wells as the natives have evidently lately abandoned that part of the country for want of water, which is shown by their having sunk for water in all directions in the beds of the creeks.

I also think that it would be very desirable to establish the route to Cooper's Creek, and from Cooper's Creek to the north, further to the westward as the eastern or upper part of the Creek up to Camp 63 runs through earthy plains which even now in fine weather are very difficult to travel over but in winter or during wet weather they must be quite impassable for horses and cattle.

I have therefore left instructions for the officer in charge of the party which I expect will shortly arrive here to endeavour during my absence to find a better and shorter route between the Depot (Camp 65) and Wright's Creek, or between the Depot and the Darling. I proceed on tomorrow with the party as per the margin (see below) to Eyre's Creek and from thence I shall endeavour to explore the country to the north of it in the direction of Carpentaria and it is my intention to return here within the next 3 months at latest.

I shall leave the party which remains here under the command of Mr. Brahe in whom I have every confidence. The feed is very good. There is no danger to be apprehended from the natives if they are properly managed and there is therefore nothing to prevent the party remaining here until our return or until their provisions are short.

I did not intend to start so soon but we have had some severe thunderstorms lately with every appearance of a heavy fall of rain to the north and as I have given the other route a fair trial I do not wish to lose so favourable an opportunity.

We are all in good health and the conduct of the men has been admirable. Mr. Wills cooperates cordially with me: he is a most zealous and efficient officer. I have promoted Mr. Brahe to the rank of officer: the position he is now placed in rendered it absolutely necessary that I should do so. He is well qualified for the post and I hope the committee will confirm the appointment.

I have given instructions to Mr. Brahe to forward this letter by the first opportunity.

I have the honor to be Sir, your most obdt. servant

R. O'Hara Burke Leader

in margin:

Burke, Wills, King, Gray, 6 camels, 1 horse. Party to remain at the Depot: Brahe, Patten, McDonagh, Dost Mahomet; 6 camels, 12 horses.

Australian Manuscripts Collection MS 13071