MEMBERS AND EQUIPMENT OF EXPEDITION
The most important question in the organisation of an expedition of long
duration is the choice of one's companions. Many men are excellent fellows
in civilisation and exactly the reverse in the bush, and, similarly, some
of the best men for bush work are quite unfitted for civilised life. I was
therefore grievously disappointed when I heard the decision of my late
partners not to accompany me. Dave Wilson thought it unwise to come
because his health was poor and his blood completely out of order, as
evinced by the painful sores due to what is termed "the Barcoo Rot." This
disease is very common in the bush, where no vegetables or change of food
can be obtained, and must be something akin to scurvy. It is usually
accompanied by retching and vomiting following every attempt to eat. The
sufferer invariably has a voracious appetite, but what he eats is of
little benefit to him. The skin becomes very tender and soft, and the
slightest knock or scratch, even a touch sometimes, causes a wound which
gradually spreads in all directions. The back of the hand is the usual
spot to be first affected, then the arms, and in a bad case the legs also,
which become puffy at the joints, and before long the wretched victim
will be covered with sores and abrasions. No external application of
ointment or anything of that nature seems to do any good, though
the wounds are deep and leave but little scar. After a month or two
in the bush one is pretty sure to develop this complaint, which in
the dusty, hot weather is further aggravated by the swarms of flies,
whose poisonous nature is made evident to any one who has killed them.
In my own case I have found fine white wood-ashes, preferably of the
mulga, to have a healing and drying effect. Ashes are used by the natives
for healing wounds, and I found them very efficacious in cases of sore
backs amongst camels. Nothing but an entire change of diet and way of
living can cure the "Barcoo"; constant washing, an impossibility
"out-back," being essential. Dave, having had his sickness for some long
time, was physically unable to form one of the party, to my sorrow,
for he was a man in whom I had the greatest confidence, and one whose
pluck and endurance were unquestionable.
Alfred Morris joined his brother in a reef the latter had found, and
Charlie Stansmore was not at all well. Thus I was for the time stranded.
There was no difficulty in getting men--of a sort! but just the right kind
of man was not easily found. My old friend Benstead added one more to the
many good turns he has done me by recommending Joe Breaden, who had just
finished a prospecting journey with Mr. Carr-Boyd and was looking out for
a job. Benstead had known him from boyhood, in Central Australia, and
gave him the highest character--not higher than he merited, though,
as I hope these pages will make clear. Most of us have, I think, an
instinct that tells us at once whether to trust another or the reverse.
One can say on sight, "I have perfect confidence in that man." As soon as
I saw Breaden I felt a voice within me saying, "That's just the man you
were looking for." I told him my plans and the salary I could afford to
give him; he, in his silent way, turned me and my project over in his mind
for some few minutes before he said the one word "Right," which to him
was as binding as any agreement.
A fine specimen of Greater Britain was Joe Breaden, weighing fifteen stone
and standing over six feet, strong and hard, about thirty-five years of
age, though, like most back-blockers, prematurely grey, with the keen eye
of the hunter or bushman. His father had been through the Maori War, and
then settled in South Australia; Breaden was born and bred in the bush,
and had lived his life away up in Central Australia hundreds of miles from
a civilised town. And yet a finer gentleman, in the true sense of the
word, I have never met with. Such men as he make the backbone of the
country, and of them Australia may well be proud. Breaden had with him his
black-boy "Warri," an aboriginal from the McDonnell Ranges of Central
Australia, a fine, smart-looking lad of about sixteen years, whom Breaden
had trained, from the age of six, to ride and track and do the usual odd
jobs required of black-boys on cattle stations. I had intended getting a
discharged prisoner from the native jail at Rotnest. These make excellent
boys very often, though prison-life is apt to develop all their native
cunning and treachery. Warri, therefore, was a distinct acquisition.
Having made so successful a start in the choice of mates, I turned my
attention to the purchase of camels. My idea had been to have twelve,
for it seemed to me that a big number of camels was more a handicap than
an advantage in country where the chances of finding a large supply of
water were so small. Another excellent reason for cutting down the caravan
was the question of expense. Eventually I decided on nine as being the
least we could do with. Nine of the very best they must be, so I spared no
pains in the choosing of them. Mr. Stoddart, the manager of a large
Carrying Company, from whom I bought them, said that he had never come
across any one so hard to please! However, I meant to have none but the
best, and I got them--five splendid South Australian bulls, three of
mature years and two youngsters--all a proper match for my old train of
four. The best camels, unfortunately, are not the cheapest! The average
value of our caravan was 72 pounds 10 shillings--a tremendous amount when
compared with their cost in other countries. In Somaliland, for instance,
for the price I paid for my nine, I could get one hundred and sixty-three
camels! But the Somali camel from all accounts is a very poor performer,
compared to his kinsman in the Antipodes, his load being about 200 lbs.
against the Australian's 6 to 9 cwt.
The new camels were christened Kruger, Prepeh, Mahatma Billy (always known
as Billy), Redleap, and Stoddy. These, together with my old friends Czar,
Satan, and Shiddi, I put under Breaden's charge; and he and Warri camped
with them a few miles from the town whilst I completed preparations.
Rain was falling at the time, the wet weather lasting nearly a fortnight;
the whole country around Coolgardie was transformed from a sea of dust
into a "Slough of Despond," and, seeing that five out of the nine camels
were bulling, Breaden had anything but a pleasant time. Amongst camels,
it is the male which comes on season, when, for a period of about six
weeks annually, he is mad and unmanageable, and in some cases dangerous.
Once, however, a camel knows you as his friend, in whatever state of mind
he may be, he will not harm you, though a stranger would run
considerable risk. The duration of this bulling depends entirely on what
work they are doing; camels running in the bush without work will remain
perhaps three months on season, and a horrible nuisance they are too,
for they fight anything they come across, and will soon turn a peaceful
camp of unoffending camels into a pandemonium. When in this state they
will neither eat, drink, nor sleep, and unless tied down or carefully
watched will wander far away, and sometimes start off full gallop, in the
shortest of hobbles, and not stop under five or six miles. The
"scotch hobble" prevents this, for by having a chain from a hobble-strap
on the foreleg to another on the hind, the least attempt at galloping
will bring the beast down on to his knees. I used this arrangement on
Satan, but found that the fixing of the chain on the hind leg was a
matter of some danger, which could only be accomplished at the expense of
being sent flying by a kick in the stomach at least once; for a camel
hates anything touching his hind legs, and any attempt to handle them soon
affords ample evidence that he can let out with great vigour with any leg
in any direction. You have only to watch one flicking flies off his nose
with his toe to be convinced of that little point of natural history.
Before many weeks "on season" a bull becomes so thin and miserable, that
it is hardly credible that he can carry a burden of nearly twice the usual
weight; nevertheless it is a fact. I remember a caravan of "season camels"
arriving at Lake Darlot, carrying an average load of nine hundred pounds,
exclusive of the saddle. The extra load that they carry hardly compensates
for the trouble of looking after them, for when in that state they fight
like tigers, especially if they have not been long together. Once,
however, the bulls become friendly, they only fight in a more or less
half-hearted way amongst themselves; but woe betide any alien who finds
himself near them--they will then band themselves together and fall upon
that stranger until even his master would not recognise him. There is no
fun attached to travelling along a much-frequented track, on which mobs
of twenty to fifty camels may be met with; and there is no sleep to be got
at night, for if, following the practice of most white men, a man ties
down his camels at night, he may be certain that they will be attacked,
and from their defenceless position, perhaps seriously injured or killed
by the loose camels of some Afghan, who has neither the energy nor sense
of fair-play to restrain the bulls under his charge.
In this troublesome state were our camels, and poor Breaden, being a
stranger to them, was treated with neither politeness nor respect;
Kruger, especially, being so exceedingly ill-behaved as not only to knock
Breaden down, but to attempt to kneel on his chest and crush him.
This disaster was narrowly averted by the prompt action of Warri, who
first dragged his master out of danger, and then chastised Kruger with a
heavy stick, across the head and neck. Kruger was equally rough to his
fellows, for as in a pioneering party, so in a mob of bull camels, there
must be only one boss.
This knotty point was fought out with bitter vehemence, Czar, Shiddi,
and Misery being vanquished in turn by the redoubtable Kruger. The others
knew their places without fighting; for old Billy, the only one of them
not too young to compete, was far too good-tempered and easy-going to
dispute anything (except the passage of a salt-lake, as we afterwards
discovered). I was naturally sorry to see Misery deposed; but for his age
he fought a good fight, and it was gratifying to possess the champion who
could beat him. What a magnificent fellow was Kruger--a very tower of
strength, and (excepting of course when in the state above described)
with a nature like that of an old pet sheep.
In the meantime I was under the sheltering roof of my old foster-mother
"Bayley's Reward Claim"--the guest of Tom and Gerald Browne.
Gerald had as his henchman a small boy whom he had taken from a tribe
away out to the eastward of Lake Darlot--a smart little chap, and very
intelligent, kept neat and clean by his master, whose pride in his "boy"
knew no bounds. He was wonderfully quick in picking up English and could
count up to twelve. No doubt by this time he is still more learned. It is
rather strange that so much intelligence and aptitude for learning should
be found in these children of the wilderness, who in their wild and
wandering habits are not far removed from animals--for neither "Wynyeri,"
the boy in question, nor any of his tribe, could by any possibility have
seen a white man before 1892. And yet this little chap in a few months is
as spruce and clever as any white boy of the same size, and, far from
showing any fear or respect, evinces a distinct inclination to boss any
white children with whom he comes in contact. The Australian aboriginal is
indeed a puzzle: he lives like a beast of the field, using neither clothes
nor house, and to the casual observer is a savage of the lowest type,
without brains, or any senses other than those possessed by animals;
yet he has his peculiar laws and customs--laws of which the Mosaic rule of
"an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is the foundation.
In some districts, and probably all over the continent, were inquiry made,
marriage laws of the most intricate kind are strictly adhered to; and
though his ceremonies and rites are unique in their barbarity, yet when
properly handled he is capable of becoming a useful and intelligent member
of the community. Great tact is necessary in the education of the
aboriginals. Neglect turns them into lazy, besotted brutes who are of no
use to anybody; too kind treatment makes them insolent and cunning; too
harsh treatment makes them treacherous; and yet without a certain amount
of bullying they lose all respect for their master, and when they deserve
a beating and do not get it, misconstrue tender-heartedness into fear.
The "happy medium" is the great thing; the most useful, contented,
and best-behaved boys that I have seen are those that receive treatment
similar to that a highly valued sporting dog gets from a just master;
"to pet" stands for "to spoil." Like most black races, the native soon
develops a love for liquor; but fortunately there exists a stringent law
which prohibits the giving of drink to a black-fellow, except at the
request of his master.
It is marvellous how soon a tame boy comes to despise his own people, when
he far outstrips any white man in his contemptuous manner of speaking
about a "---- black fella."
One visitor to Bayley's Reward Claim, brought with him from Victoria,
a highly educated aboriginal who had been born in civilisation, and who
afterwards married his master's parlourmaid. Jim was a tremendously smart
boy, could ride, shoot, box, bowl, or keep wicket against most white men,
and any reference to his colour or family was deeply resented. On his
first appearance the cook at Bayley's (the wife of one of the miners)
proceeded to converse with him in the sort of pigeon-English commonly
used, and handed him a plate of scraps for his dinner, calling out,
"Hi, Jacky-Jacky, this one your tucker," to which Jim replied with stern
dignity, "Who the h--- are you calling Jacky-Jacky? Do you think I'm
a ---- black-fellow?" The cook, a quiet and ladylike little woman, who
had been a schoolmistress "at home" was not less astounded by the
excellent English, than by the delicate way in which his disapprobation
was expressed. This story of Jim reminds me of one about his master.
He was a man who liked to have everything about him smart and showy, and
was quite willing that every one should look upon him as a tremendous
swell with the purse of a Croesus. I heard some diggers discussing him:
one said he had come to buy up all the mines in the place and must be a
man of importance. "Oh," said his mate, "any one could see 'e was a
toff--I seed him black 'is boots and brush his teeth." "Yes, and 'e wears
a ---- collar too." Thus was exemplified the old adage "Fine feathers make
Camped near Bayley's was Godfrey Massie, a cousin of Brownes and brother
of the once famous cricketer. He had taken a contract to sink a shaft on
the adjoining lease, but, owing to the death of one of his mates and his
own incapacity to work, due to a "jarred" hand, he was forced to throw up
the job, and quickly agreed to my proposal that he should form one of my
party. People get to a very casual way of doing things on the goldfields.
There was no formality about my arrangements; Godfrey helping me pack at
a store, and during our work I said without preface, "You'd better come
too;" "Right," said he, and the matter was settled. Godfrey, a son of one
of the leading Sydney families, had started life in an insurance office,
but soon finding that he was not cut out for city life, went on to a
Queensland cattle-station, where he gained as varied a knowledge of bush
life as any could wish for; tiring of breeding and fattening cattle for
somebody else's benefit, he joined the rush to the Tasmanian silver-fields
and there he had the usual ups and downs--now a man of wealth, and now
carrying his load of bacon and oatmeal through the jungle on the steep
Tasmanian mountains. While a field continues to boom, the up-and-down
business does not so much signify, but when the "slump" comes it is
distinctly awkward to be in a state of "down." It is then that the average
speculator bemoans his hard fate, can't think how he is to live; and yet
manages to do so by borrowing from any more fortunate fellow, and almost
invariably omitting to pay him back. A most lively and entertaining class
of men when shares are up, but a miserable, chicken-hearted lot when the
Some, however, of these wandering speculators, who follow from "boom" to
"boom," are of very different mettle and face their luck like men. Such a
one was Godfrey, who, when he found himself "broke" in Tasmania, set to
work and burned charcoal until he had saved enough money to pay his
passage to Perth; and from there he "humped his bluey" to Coolgardie,
and took a job as a miner on his uncle's mine until brighter times should
come. The Australian can set us a good example in some matters, and I must
confess with sorrow that nine out of every ten young Englishmen on the
goldfields, of the same class, would not only be too haughty to work, but
would more readily take to billiards, cards, and borrowing when they
found themselves in low water--and no man sinks lower than an English
"gentlemen" who has gone to the bad, and no one despises him more than an
Australian miner, or is more ready to help him when he shows signs of
trying to help himself by honest work. I had known Godfrey long enough to
be sure that, in the bush, he was as good a man as I could get, hard as
nails, and willing to work for other people, as energetically as he would
for himself, so long as they treated him fairly.
My party was now complete, and included a little fox terrier, "Val" by
name, whose parents belong to Tom and Gerald Browne, and come of the best
stock in Australia. I had intended to take another man, but, since I could
not get one of the right sort, I had no idea of handicapping the party
with one of the wrong. At the last minute, however, Charlie Stansmore
changed his mind, greatly to my delight, for I knew him to be as sterling
a fellow as one could hope to find. Charlie, too, had knocked about from
Queensland to West Australia, now on a station, now a miner, and now
engine-driver. His people were amongst the earliest settlers on the Swan
River, and could well remember the great massacre of whites by the blacks;
subsequently they moved to Victoria, where they have farming land at the
present time. A very quiet, reserved man was Charlie, who took a great
interest in mechanical work and astronomy, a strong man physically and
mentally. Thus at last we were ready to tackle whatever the "great
unknown" had in store for us.
With hearty wishes for success from the few friends who knew where we were
bound for, we shook the mud of Coolgardie from our feet and took the
northern road to Menzies on July 9, 1896. Breaden, Stansmore, Massie,
Warri, nine heavily laden camels, and a dog made a fine show, and I
confess I was near bursting from pride as I watched them.
Who could foresee that one of us was destined never to return?
Acting on the principle of making mention of matters which I have noticed
excite an amount of interest in "Home" people, though to us, who are used
to them, their importance hardly seems to warrant it, I subjoin a list of
the articles and provisions with which we started:--
8 pack-camels. Bulls. South Australian bred. Of ages varying from five
to fifteen years.
1 riding-camel. Bull. S.A. bred. Age five years.
Average value of camels; 72 pounds 10 shillings each.
8 pack saddles of Afghan make.
1 riding saddle, made to order by Hardwick, Coolgardie, specially light,
and stuffed with chaff. A very excellent saddle.
1 camel brand. D.W.C.
1 doz. nose pegs.
6 coils of clothes line.
3 coils of wallaby line (like window-blind cord) for nose lines.
5 hanks of twine.
2 long iron needles for saddle mending (also used as cleaning-rod
2 iron packers for arranging stuffing of saddle.
Spare leather, for hobbles and neck-straps.
Spare buckles for same.
6 lbs. of sulphur.
2 gallons kerosene, to check vermin in camels.
2 gallons tar and oil, for mange in camels.
2 galvanised-iron water casks (15 gallons each).
2 galvanised-iron water casks (17 gallons each), made with bung
on top side, without taps, for these are easily broken off.
1 India-rubber pipe for drawing water from tanks.
3 three-gallon buckets.
1 tin canteen (2 gallons).
2 canvas water tanks, to be erected on poles to hold water
baled from soak, &c.
4 canvas water-bags (10 gallons each.)
4 canvas water-bags (1 1/2 gallons each) slung on camels' necks.
6 Ballarat picks and handles.
1 axe (7 lbs.).
1 hammer (7 lbs.).
1 engineer's hammer.
1 small flat iron anvil.
1 small pair of bellows.
1 iron windlass-handle and fittings.
1 1-inch chisel.
1 brace and bits.
1 3/4 inch auger bit.
1 emery stone.
4 iron dishes.
1 iron dolly.
1 soldering iron for mending water casks.
2 sticks solder for mending water casks.
1 bottle spirits of salts for mending water casks.
1 case of tools. Screwdriver, small saw, hammer, chisel, file, gimlet,
leather-punch, wire nipper, screw wrench, large scissors, &c.
1 case of tools for canvas work (sewing needles, &c.).
2 lbs. of copper rivets.
1 box copper wire.
1 1/2 lbs. 3-inch nails.
1 lb. 2-inch nails.
50 feet of rope.
1 duck tent, 6 ft. x 8 ft.
4 flies, 10 ft. x 12 ft., for covering packs.
4 mosquito nets.
3 quart pots.
6 plates, enamelled tin.
6 knives, forks, and spoons.
1 frying pan,
1 small medicine case (in tabloid form).
7 lbs. Epsom salts.
6 bottles of Elliman's embrocation.
3 bottles of carbolic oil.
3 bottles of eye lotion.
3 bottles of eucalyptus oil.
2 galvanised-iron concertina-made boxes for perishable goods,
e.g., ammunition, journals, &c.
2 twelve-bore shot-guns.
4 colt revolvers, .380 calibre.
4 Winchester repeaters, .44 calibre.
200 twelve-bore cartridges.
300 Winchester do.
200 revolver do.
1 bicycle lamp (for night observations).
1 5-inch theodolite and tripod.
2 prismatic compasses.
2 steering compasses (Gregory's pattern).
1 pair field-glasses.
1 map case.
Drawing materials, note-books, &c.
1 binocular camera, with films. (N.B. Not good in hot climate.)
1 tape measure.
14 50-lb. bags of flour (700 lbs.).
35 doz. 1-lb. tins of meat (420 lbs.).
5 doz. 1-lb. tins of fish (60 lbs.).
(N.B.--Not fit for consumption--thrown away.)
200 lbs. rice.
70 lbs. oatmeal.
6 doz. tins of milk (condensed).
8 doz. tins baking powder.
4 doz. 1-lb tins of jam.
140 lbs. sugar,
40 lbs. salt (for salting down meat--kangaroo, &c.).
30 lbs. tea.
2 doz. tinned fruit.
2 doz. tinned vegetables.
10 lbs. currants.
10 lbs. raisins
40 lbs. dried apricots.
6 doz. 1-lb. tins butter.
4 doz. Liebig's Extract.
1 1/2 doz. pepper (1/4-lb. tins).
1/2 doz. curry-powder (1/4-lb. tins).
9 packets Sunlight soap.
1 box of candles.
6 lbs. cornflour.
28 doz. matches.
50 lbs. tobacco.
100 lbs. preserved potatoes.
4 bottles good brandy.
1 bottle good rum.
1 hair clipper.
Blankets, boots, flannel shirts, trousers (Dungaree and moleskin); &c.
The stores were calculated to last six months with care and longer should
we encounter good country where game could be shot. Everything that could
be was packed in large leather bags, made to order. Other expeditions have
carried wooden brass-bound boxes; I do not approve of these--first on
account of their own weight and bulk; second, when empty they are equally
bulky and awkward; third, unless articles are of certain shapes and
dimensions they cannot be packed in the boxes, which do not "give" like
bags. Wooden water casks are generally used--my objections to them are
that they weigh more than the iron ones, are harder to mend, and when
empty are liable to spring or warp from the hot sun.
It will be seen that a great part of our load consisted of tools which,
though weighty, were necessary, should we come on auriferous country, or
be forced to sink to any depth for water: a great many of these tools were
left in the desert.
The average load with which each camel started, counting the water casks
(the four large ones) full, was 531 lbs., exclusive of saddle. Kruger and
Shiddi carried over 750 lbs. including top loading and saddle.
These loads, though excessive had the season been summer, were not too
great to start with in the cooler weather; and every day made some
difference in their weight.
The brandy was for medicinal purposes only. Even had we been able to
afford the room I should not have carried more; for I am convinced that
in the bush a man can keep his health better, and do more work, when he
leaves liquor entirely alone.