A. J. BARRINGTON
The New Zealand Alpine Club map of north-west Otago showing Barrington's track
A. J. BARRINGTON
THE search for gold has sent men exploring over half the world, it has led to heroism and to violence, to quick wealth and plodding toil. In New Zealand it led thousands into the mountains of Otago and Westland. Here there was certainly heroic effort, mostly undescribed, for very few miners kept diaries or wrote letters. Their fortitude is guessed at only from knowledge of the harsh country they invaded and of their methods of work--the pan-washing and the rough sluices for which they shovelled tons of gravel, often thigh deep in icy water. There was violence, comparatively little perhaps from the miners, but much from the rivers. There were lucky strikes, making some men rich in a few weeks, while others went from field to field getting only a bare living. And there was exploring. Many mountains and passes in Otago, many a river in Westland, were first traversed by diggers, though but a handful wrote any account of it.
It began in 1861, when Gabriel Read got £25 worth of alluvial gold for ten hours' work near Lawrence in Otago. Miners flooded up the Clutha Valley. The main river held its gold under water too swift and deep for mere men with shovels, but every tributary stream and river flat was prospected. There were rushes to the Lawrence, the Tuapeka, the Dunstan, and many rivers of names now almost forgotten. Men poured in from Australia, from America, and from Britain. Even half the settlers of Dunedin set out for the diggings, leaving the other half to win their gold with less danger and more certainty by freighting in goods on bullock drays and packhorses at £100 or more per ton.
By the end of 1862 they had reached Lake Wakatipu. Here, under the foothills of the Alps, on a lonely year-old sheep-station, a canvas town, Queenstown, sprang up. In the nearby rivers, the Arrow and the sullen Shotover with all its tributaries, miners washed pans of gravel, the poor man's method of working rich ground. They built the cradles and sluice-boxes that washed more dirt more quickly, they built water races that brought water from higher streams to break down banks of gravel. They made their way up the east side of the lake to its head, and into the shingle-lined valleys of the Rees and the Dart. A few bold spirits thrust into the mountains, doubling the search for gold with the search for a pass to the west coast low enough to be crossed by a road which would link the gold-fields
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directly with Australian trade. A few hired boats and approached the mountains from the west.
At this stage, in the last days of 1863, A. J. Barrington and his mates set out to prospect the country north of Wakatipu. They went up the Dart River, and over three passes to Lake Alabaster. After a double return to Wakatipu for more food they left Lake Alabaster in the middle of March 1864 and headed up the Pyke River. From its headwaters they crossed saddles into the Jerry, Gorge, and Cascade Rivers. Here they believed they had a new gold-field, but before they could give it more than a hasty trial hunger drove them out. Returning to Wakatipu they did not follow their rather roundabout outward track, but pushed due south over three high passes to Forgotten River and thence back to the Pyke a few miles above Lake Alabaster. This was tough mountaineering, by starving men with no mountaineering equipment. Then, on the home stretch, with three ranges between them and salvation, rain and snow held them up for three desperate weeks. Here Barrington's diary has some passages that are comparable to the last pages of Scott, or of Mawson's lonely home journey, in 1913. But on 11 June they saw the waters of Wakatipu, and were 'happy once more even under our circumstances'.
The Lake Wakatip Mail of 2-16 July 1864 published Barrington's journal, reprinted here. It also reported a public meeting on 20 July which Barrington addressed. To this meeting he explained, more fully than in his diary, how sure they were they had found a worthwhile field; adding that not for all the gold in New Zealand would he go through their past sufferings again. They intended to get a boat, approach the golden country from the coast, and give it a twelve months' trial; and anyone who liked could do the same. True, they brought back no gold, except for one coarse speck that Simonin had among his shot, but Barrington explained that when (on 14 May) he emptied his swag he was too weak and cold even to think about picking up the gold bag which dropped at his feet. The meeting 'cordially recognised the services rendered by Mr. Barrington and his party in prospecting a difficult and unknown part of this Province and that of Canterbury' and expressed heartfelt wishes for the future success of Mr. Barrington in developing the new field.
These hopes ended bleakly. In the spring of 1864 Barrington went in the cutter Nugget with the Thames and the Petrel in company, to Jackson's Bay. On 10 January 1865 the Nelson Colonist published a bitter little letter dated 21 December 1864 from a correspondent at the Grey River, where a new rush was beginning. The Petrel and the Nugget had just put in there, loaded with disappointed
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Diary of a West Coast Prospecting Party
diggers, who complained that Barrington had completely led them astray. His gold-field did not exist. They had prospected Jackson's Bay and the country inland for about forty miles and had barely got the colour of gold. Actually Barrington on his first journey had thought himself on the Jackson River, 'the right or western branch of that which empties itself into Jackson's Bay' (19 April), when in fact he was on the middle part of the Cascade River; but a gold-field has never been found in either place. With a final jibe at the dropped gold-bag, the newspapers leave him to silence. We hear no more of Barrington.
This is almost all that is known of these men. Charles Douglas, a remarkable and literary bushman-surveyor who spent thirty years exploring and mapping Westland, and who clearly had not read the Lake Wakatip Mail but knew of the journey by hearsay, wrote in 1899 that Barrington's mates were a Frenchman and a Welshman. Later mountaineers have given the names Barrington, Frenchman, and Welshman to three peaks in the range above Lake Alabaster. Simonin's name is also attached to a pass and a creek, which they probably did not follow, between the Cascade and Red Pyke rivers. These memorials, the Mail's few notes, the journal, half a chapter in W. G. McClymont's The Exploration of New Zealand, and the homage paid them in several articles by recent mountaineers, are all that remain of Barrington, Farrell, and Simonin. For the rest their lives are lost to us amongst the unnamed host of tough-fibred adventuring men who have wandered frontier lands. The journal tells nothing about Farrell and Simonin, except that the latter was French; about Barrington it reveals only that he had been gold-seeking for ten years and that he had been in Victoria. To the meeting of 20 July he said that he had worked in the silver-mines at St. Arnaud, Victoria. We do not even know for what names the initials 'A. J.' stand.
But the essential qualities of these men are visible in the journal--the hard bodies and brave minds that made them endure so long the rain, cold, hunger, and loneliness of those trackless mountains. Even Brunner, chewing a shred of fern root under his dripping beech bark, with a flooded river roaring in his ears, was companioned by Maoris who knew the way, more or less. Barrington's party had no guides, nor were there maps, except for the narrow coastal strip of the west coast charted by the Admiralty in the mid-1850's. The Otago Survey, under J. T. Thomson's lieutenant, James McKerrow, entered the Rees and Dart about the same time as Barrington. They did not cross the divide, nor was their work available to the public for a year or so yet. In several places, notably on 26 April, when he referred to Lake Hawea being north-east of
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Wanaka, Barrington shows how wide of the mark their geographical ideas were. A good deal of the southern hinterland had been explored by this time. McKerrow had just surveyed an arc of lakes, from Monowai to Hawea. Several men, including the government explorer-geologist Julius von Haast in 1862, had probed rather gingerly the mountains lying north-west of the more northern lakes Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau, searching for gold and passes; and north of Wanaka early in 1863 Haast had followed the pass and river named after him, leading to the west coast. James Hector, another government geologist, in February 1863 went up the Matukituki River west of Wanaka, over a difficult high pass, and down the Waipara and Arawata towards the coast. In that same summer Patrick Caples, a miner, and Hector, independently discovered passes from the head of the Hollyford River on the west coast to Lake Wakatipu. And about the same time other mining parties coming by boat had vainly tackled some of the steep-walled sounds and prospected the Hollyford River and its tributary the Pyke, finding and naming Lake Alabaster (Barrington's Poverty Lake). Reports had been published in the newspapers, but newspapers are perishable; and although maps embodying these discoveries would have been available at the Survey Department offices, few miners would have seen even rough tracings of them. As for the country between Lake Alabaster, the Cascade, and back to the Olivine River, it was perfectly unknown. Even to-day the official survey is very faulty here, and only the maps compiled by mountaineers make sense beside Barrington's journal.
Barrington's party, with their picks and shovels and tin dishes, walked into no ordinary range but a sprawling mountain mass, slashed by grim gorged rivers, much of it covered in heavy rain forest and vicious unyielding scrub, with a host of peaks rising to 6,000 feet and many much higher. Its loneliness would daunt all but true bushmen, its height would appal all but mountaineers. Barrington spent no words analysing its impact on him, but there is one revealing sentence, on 6 May, when he was alone, held up by rain and snow, fireless, foodless, his little duck stolen by rats--'This is the first day I have been heartily sick of the country'. In the last twenty years mountaineers have penetrated and mapped this area, skilled men, well-equipped, some even having supplies brought near by aircraft. They have read Barrington's journal with respect, almost with awe. Just where this party went, between the Cascade and Olivine rivers, one mountaineer may debate with another, but there is no way that does not make the journey home a miracle of toughness. That it was performed at the end of four months' sustained effort, by men weak from cold and hunger, makes it comparable, as
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I have already suggested, to some grim polar foot journeys. It might be added that the winter of 1864 was severe in Otago.
To attempt such country in autumn and winter may well seem strange. But Barrington and his companions were looking for gold, and in these months the rivers generally are lower than in spring and early summer, when swollen with melting snow. Of course, they flood with every rain, but it rains heavily all the year round in this area.
It may also be wondered why they struggled over the mountains back to Wakatipu when, from the Gorge River, they might quite easily have reached the coast, which would have led them northward in comparative ease. The few scattered Maoris living there would have helped them; some Canterbury surveyors were working on the middle part of the coast, north of Martin's Bay; and farther north again, about the Grey River, there were already a few prospectors. At the meeting of 20 July Barrington said had they known of the Canterbury survey and its stores being so close to their gold-field they would have stayed there longer and proved it more thoroughly. Otherwise it is probable that the coast did not appeal to them. It was a roundabout, long, and unfamiliar way back to civilization, while their purpose was to get tools and provisions and return as quickly as possible. It is possible, too, that they did not welcome the idea of meeting Maoris. Wild stories of wild tribes were told on the gold-fields. (Patrick Caples, a miner brave enough to cross the Ailsa Mountains and explore the Hollyford River on his own, saw a native hut near the beach and, though starving, hurried back into the bush, afraid even to light a fire.) Nor did their situation seem really dangerous to them until they were half-way back to Wakatipu, when it was too late to change the route. That the whole journey was reckless, a thing that only gold-fired men would attempt, is surely true. It remains for us to be thankful that one such man kept a diary, and that he did not drop it when in desperation he emptied his swag. For Barrington's journey cannot be matched in the history of New Zealand.
A 'Map of the Mountains of North-West Otago' compiled by the Otago branch of the New Zealand Alpine Club enables Barrington's route to be followed fairly convincingly. Also I have been greatly helped by Mr. John Pascoe, who lately climbed over a good deal of it.
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Diary of a West Coast Prospecting Party
About the 1st November, 1863, I left Arthur's Point, Shotover, after nine months' work, without a shilling compensation, repairing damages all the time on account of the floods. I and my mates left Queenstown in company with two more, with the intention to follow up the river Dart, and try to cross the dividing range towards the West Coast, for the purpose of prospecting the country due north from the Wakatip. We laid in a little stock of provisions and proceeded in the Pearl, which landed us on the west side of the river Dart, when we carried a portion of our provisions into the bush and buried it till some of the party should return to fetch it if we got any prospect. We proceeded up the river; for five days we tried up three creeks 1 running from the westward into the Dart, but without success. It then commenced raining and continued to rain for six days--night and day, when, with the roughness of the country and the bad weather, the boys jibbed on going any further. I did not fancy going alone, consequently returned to the Head of the Lake for a few weeks, both to await fine weather and to get more mates; went to work on the Bucklerburn creek 2 for a few weeks.
December 21st. Washed our clothes in the forenoon, packed up our swags and made a start to the Lake on our second trip, in company with Edward Dunmore and William Baylis; crossed the Lake in the afternoon, caught four young ducks, and proceeded up the Dart for two miles and camped for the night.
December 22nd. Up before sunrise and proceeded up the river. When we got up abreast of Pigeon Island, we were crossing a branch of the Dart, when William Baylis was carried away on account of keeping too far down off the ford or shallow ground. I being first, and a good distance off, thought he would be drowned before I could get to him. On hearing the first scream, I looked round and saw his feet over the water. I had not time to land my swag on the other side, but dropped it in the river; told Edward Dunmore to hold it, so as not to let the water take it away. I jumped in and swam away, just as I was, after him. I could see him rolling, sometimes his swag would be uppermost, sometimes himself; he was struggling
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hard to get it off, and succeeded just as I got to him, and at the same time got ashore. I swam ashore and ran down the beach a quarter of a mile, and went into the river and stood there about a quarter of an hour, when I saw the swag, and picked it up with the loss of two tin dishes, one long-handled shovel, tea, sugar, and soda, wetting our oatmeal and flour in both swags. As mine were wet too, we had to camp there. Left him there to dry the things, while I and Edward Dunmore returned to the store 3 to replace the things we had lost. A gentleman, called James Farrell, who was camped at the other side of the Dart, on a shooting tour, put us across the Lake and also fetched us back in the morning.
December 23rd. Started again and crossed the Lake; made the Island at 11 a.m., dried our blankets, and started at 1 p.m. Travelled up to Wild Dog Creek; 4 crossed it at a distance from the Lake, of twelve miles. Camped in our old camping place of the former occasion. Killed four woodhens. Beautiful weather.
December 24th. Packed up our swags as much as we could carry up the creek--it being a very bad road--leaving behind part of our swags, intending to return on the following day to fetch it, as we were too heavily laden to carry our swags up all at once. We got up about eight miles and camped at the junction of Stony and Wild Duck Creeks, 5 on a little flat with fine long grass, where we got four Maori hens, we having a good dog with us, which we borrowed from a storekeeper at the head of the Lake.
December 25th. Turned out at daylight, got breakfast and proceeded down the creek to fetch the remainder of our provisions. Arrived at the depot and packed up; got back again to the tent by 5 p.m., where we had a plum duff boiling; tapped a brandy bottle which we brought up for the occasion, made tea, cooked four Maori hens and had a jolly afternoon; that ended Christmas Day.
December 26th. We started up Stony Creek 6 prospecting the creek as we went till we reached its head, (about noon) but could find no gold. Returned and got dinner. Two of us followed up Wild Dog Creek 7 to explore and see if we could get our swags up it; got up about five miles, which is a fearful bad road. Arrived at a nice flat about one and a half miles long, covered with long grass, and any
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amount of spear-grass, which is our greatest torment, as its sharp points are like so many needles running into our legs. Reached the head of the flat; got no gold; left our pick, shovel and dish here till we returned on the following day.
December 27th. Camped all day, it being Sunday. About this time there is great talk of a man called M'Guirk, alias the 'Maori Hen', getting gold somewhere out towards the West Coast, who came in once in five weeks for provisions. He has been shepherded by a dozen men on several occasions, but always managed to give them the slip. This morning about 10 o'clock, our dog commenced barking and ran down to the river. We followed, and saw the famous 'Maori Hen', with his swag, proceeding up the creek. He came up to our tent and was quite surprised at finding us there. He told us it was his fifth trip up that road, and never saw a man before so far away from the Lake. We told him we were going up the creek to cross the dividing range and try the country to the N. E. When he found we were going in his direction, he spoke to us with more confidence, and said he would wait till the morrow and we could travel with him as far as he had been. He told us he had been out to a lake, where he had found old camps along the road, and several on the side of the lake; but that he could never cross the river either coming into or going out of the lake. I told him I would make a raft, swim across, and then pull the remainder of the party across on the raft--which plan we all agreed on. He said he knew there was a party working out there and doing first-rate: all he wanted was to cross the river.
December 28th. Very wet morning. Had a hard job to light a fire, but succeeded after a long time. Noon--a fine day. Dried our tent and made a start up the creek in company with the 'Maori Hen'. Camped for the night, and killed two ducks, baked some bread and turned in for the night. Weather inclined to be wild.
December 29th. Snow squalls flying about. Made another start to run up to the head of Wild Duck Creek, 8 alongside the dividing range. Got up by sundown. A fearful road. Camped just under the snow. Killed two Maori hens. Weather fine but cold; beautiful scenery. The cotton plant 9 grows profusely here and of a splendid quality.
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December 30th. Started by sunrise for a heavy day's march, wending our way up the Backbone Range 10 over a low saddle, 11 walking over from one to forty feet of snow. Crossed the saddle by noon. Killed two Maori hens. Started over the other side down precipices fearful to contemplate: life in jeopardy every five minutes. When we got down to a beautiful river, 12 we all said we would not come down the same track again for £20.Killed four ducks. This river is a portion of the right hand branch of the Awarua. 13
December 31st. Up by daylight to run this creek up. Reached its sources that afternoon. There are here some small flats; some quartz boulders in the creek, and a larger flat at its head. Crossed it, 14 where another creek formed, the water running the other way, forming a river which winds round to the west, and runs into the large river 15 at the west side of this range. Made two miles down this creek and camped. Edward Dunmore and William Baylis completely knocked up.
January 1st, 1864. Foggy weather. Got down the creek four miles, and crossed over a low saddle to the westward. 16 Heavy rain set in on top of the mountain. Travelled down the other side till we found wood and water, when we camped. Cut down a lot of black pine, made a good fire and dried our clothes. Bed of wet moss, but slept well, as we were all fatigued.
January 2nd. Rained till noon, when we made a start with the bush all wet. We were wet to the skin in five minutes. Very rough road down the side of this mountain; a precipice every few minutes, fearful, even to look at. We got down by sunset to the edge of a beautiful little lake, 17 about six miles long, and two wide, surrounded on either side with precipices and a very heavy thick scrub. Any amount of supplejack. A large river 18 coming down the flat from the north, empties itself into the lake. Caught an eel about twelve pounds weight, and also a kakapo. Provisions getting low, we put ourselves on short allowance twice a day.
January 3rd. Cooked our eel for breakfast, and started down the
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lake. A fearful road, with supplejack, bush lawyers, and all sorts of thick scrub. Got down to the other end of the lake by sundown. Camped alongside the river 19 which runs out of the lake. Tried to cross, but failed, as there is a heavy current running out of the lake. Dried our clothes. There are three or four old camping places, where some parties have been some time.
January 4th. Tried hard to cross the river, but failed. Found a whole host of camps, and a broken oar, so that there must have been a boat on the lake some day. 20 Cannot cross but in a boat, or five days walk round the lake, and over three rivers and a mountain. Preferred building a boat, as we could get no timber that would float, and no tools but a tomahawk. Went to work, felled a large white pine and are getting on well. Provisions getting very short. Thunder and lightning which continued all night.
January 5th. Turned out at daylight to work at the boat; got her completed at 3 p.m., and cut her name on the quarter, the 'Maori Hen'. Same evening we launched and towed her one mile up the river to smooth water; up to our middles over rapids. Shifted our tents up, and made preparations for crossing in the morning early. Two of us were to cross and prospect the country, the other two returning to the Wakatip Lake for provisions; which lot fell to me and William Baylis. We are to bring no flour but all oatmeal, as it will last us much longer.
January 6th. Turned out early; packed up our swags; M'Guirk and Dunmore taking all the provisions, with the exception of six pannikins of oatmeal, which we brought with us, as we thought we could get in in three days. I crossed the boys one at a time with their swags, and then we packed up a few things, consisting of a single blanket each and six pounds of oatmeal. We made tracks over the mountains 21 and got five miles up, when it commenced raining, and in ten minutes we were wet to the skin, the bush being so thick. We travelled on till we came to an old blind creek, and there camped. Rigged one of our blankets for a tent, as we had neither tent or tomahawk. Caught some water off the blanket, with which we made a little pottage for supper. Could not dry our clothes, and so turned in with them wet on the wet ground. Spent a miserable night; rain and sleet the whole time; could not go to sleep all night.
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Diary of a West Coast Prospecting Party
January 7th. Turned out early, our teeth chattering together with cold. Managed to light a fire in an old hollow tree, and cooked a little more oatmeal. Rain and hail all day, and fearfully cold, upon the side of a high mountain. No sign of a change. Our dog caught a kakapo, which we cooked for supper with a little oatmeal. Turned in again in our wet clothes and blankets. Fearful weather.
January 8th. Bitterly cold. Rain and no appearance of being fine. A little pottage for breakfast. As our oatmeal is short, we cannot have any but once a day, and very little then. Noon--weather looking better. 2 p.m. --packed up to try and get over the mountain. Any amount of snow. Just as we got on the top it came on a fearful snow storm, so that we could not see six feet any way; and as the snow on the other side was almost perpendicular, we could not see where to go, and consequently had to retreat again down the mountain as far as the timber, when we camped on the snow. Fearfully cold. Got a fire and warmed ourselves. Went to bed without supper with wet clothes and wet blanket.
January 9th. Beautiful cold morning. Cooked a kakapo the dog caught in the night, and made some soup. Started at 6 a.m., and made the top of the mountain again. Got over and down the other side quietly, as we sat down and slid about five miles in a very few minutes. Soon made the creek, and down to our old camping place of the 30th December. 22 Caught a hawk which we cooked with a little anniss. 23 Fearful tough eating. Made the next saddle, south of where we crossed coming out about four miles. 24 Camped for the night. Went to bed without supper.
January 10th. Turned out early. Got a pannikin of tea for breakfast, without either sugar or bread, and made a start. Got up to the top of the saddle by 10 o'clock, but took the wrong route, which threw us back two hours, climbing up perpendicular precipices, till at length we gained the peak or highest point. Could see the sea from here, and all the country between. Came down a precipice of snow at the rate of an express train, sliding as before. Got down to our old camp, on the head of Wild Duck Creek, very weak with hunger. Caught two Maori hens 25 and had a good supper. Fine weather.
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January 11th. Turned out early, and proceeded down the creek. Passed our old camp of Christmas day, and saw the empty bottle and tins. What a contrast in the inner man since we left here a few days ago! Killed four Maori hens, cooked them, and had the only good feed for a fortnight. Started again; made the island in the Dart, in sight of the Lake, and had a pot of tea for supper.
January 12th. Travelled down the Dart, and tried to cross, but failed. Made the Lake at 11 a.m.; signalised for a boat but none came. Travelled down through the bush to the saw mill; got a boat there, and crossed over to the station, 26 but could not get any oatmeal at the store. Must go to Queenstown for it.
January 13th. Rain all day; could not get a boat; made a small tent five by six, and made what preparation we could.
January 14th. Got a boat at 1 p.m., sailed, and reached Queenstown at 4 p.m. Brought two hundredweight of oatmeal and other things required. Head winds; cannot sail.
January 15th and 16th. Head winds, and blowing a hurricane.
January 17th. Started, and got up to the Twelve-Mile; 27 pulled her up to the Twenty-five-Mile 28 the same evening, but could not get any further.
January 18th. Head wind-blowing hard; cannot get up.
January 19th. Head winds all the day till sundown; then made a start and pulled the boat up by 10 o'clock at night to the Head of the Lake. Found my mate had not done as I had told him, viz., to bake some bread, and get our other provisions all ready, so as to make a start directly I arrived, but had been on the spree ever since I left, and had also been blowing about the country we had been to, and that he would not take £300 for his share, and a whole host of nonsense. Was shepherded all night by parties who believed the 'Maori Hen' to be getting gold.
January 20th. Parted with my mate William Baylis, and got another in his room--James Farrell, the same that put us across the Lake in his boat on a former occasion. Got everything ready for a start. Still shepherded closely. I being bad with dysentery, did not start to-day.
January 21st. Made a start an hour before daylight, crossed the Lake, and proceeded up the river as far as the Island. Slow walking,
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with 107 lbs. each of a swag. Got up to the Island and camped, weary and bad with dysentery.
January 22nd. Did not feel well; diarrhoea and headache. Camped all day and shot three ducks. Fine but cold weather.
January 23rd. Made a start at 4 a.m. and had a good day's tramp. Buried 50 lbs. flour at the Island, so that we could get on quick, as our mates must be getting short of provisions by this time. Got a good way up Wild Duck Creek and camped.
January 24th. Turned out early; all ready for a start when it commenced raining and rained all day, so that we could not get out of the tent.
January 25th. Raining till noon, then cleared up. Started and made the head of the flat, about seven miles, and camped. Raining again.
January 26th. Raining in torrents, which is snow on the mountains. Continued to rain all day. Flooded out, and had to shift our tent early in the day. It continued to rain till midnight.
January 27th. Started by daylight to run the Wild Duck Creek up; did so by sundown. Camped at the foot of the saddle. Ten times as much snow as when we came down; I hope we shall be able to cross the divide to-morrow, or our mates will be starved out.
January 28th. Raining in torrents. Cleared up a little at 9 a.m., packed up and made a start, but had not got 200 yards from the camp when it recommenced raining in style. We had to return; fearful weather all day.
January 29th. Rain and snow all day; cannot light a fire. Cannot imagine what my mates will do for provisions, as we are far beyond the time agreed on to rejoin them.
January 30th. Rain all day; no fire. Had some raw oatmeal and raw bacon for dinner.
January 31st. Cleared up a little. Got over the snow, and down to the other creek 29 (which we called Mineral Creek, from the different kinds of minerals to be seen there), when it commenced raining again.
February 1st. Creek very high this morning. Raining very heavily. If it continues much longer we shall not have provisions worth going any farther with.
February 2nd. Thunder and lightning all night. Fearful rain, continued so all day. Had to turn out, and turn the water by cutting
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a race round the tent, leaving it on an island. Fearful heavy weather. Six p.m.--No sign of a change. I pity the boys, who must be starving, and I cannot get to them. The creek is a fearful height. Two days more I shall be a month away.
February 3rd. Beautiful morning. Turned out early and dried our clothes and tent. Felled a large tree across the river, which formed a bridge part of the way; reached the other side on a pole; felled another tree from the other side, which made a complete bridge across the river. Eleven a.m.--Got dinner, when James Farrell started back to Pigeon Island for the 50 lbs. oatmeal we left there, I taking what provisions we had to the depot on the Lake. 30 I travelled through a very thick bush around the foot of the mountain, to try and get a shorter road.
February 4th. Raining again very hard.
February 5th. Made a start at daylight, but it commenced raining again at 8 o'clock, and continued off and on all day, but kept on through it. Wet to the skin till dark, when I camped within five miles of the depot. About half an hour afterwards I was rejoined by Farrell, who said he tried to cross the dividing range twice on the previous day, but failed, on account of the snow.
February 6th. Beautiful morning. Made the depot at 2 p.m., and went down to the tent. Saw Edward Dunmore sitting on a stone by the river side. Crossed the river, and got down to where he was--but what a sight! a complete living skeleton; I never saw anything like him alive. Took him over to the tent, put him in bed and made him a little gruel. He had not eaten any food for twelve days, and for seven previous to that he had only 1 1/2 lb. oatmeal. He said as soon as the provisions were done, the 'Maori Hen' left for the Lake, saying he would make for Fox's. 31
February 7th and 8th. Hunting all day.
February 9th. Packed up 6 lbs. oatmeal, a blanket, and a tomahawk, to return to the Wakatip for more provisions and mates, if any person wished to come. Crossed over the mountain that day, and got down Mineral Creek to the camp at the foot of the divide.
February 10th. Raining heavily; could not travel.
February 11th. Raining still, but not so heavily. Got over the snow with much difficulty, as it was all on the move on account of
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the late rain. About 5 p.m. met my old mate with eleven more men coming out to see what they could do, or if we were getting gold. Told them where we were, and just how matters stood, but they still would go and prospect.
February 12th. Rain again. Got down to the Island, wet to the skin all day.
February 13th. Made the Lake; raining still.
February 14th. Wet again. Crossed the Lake with three others- one of them a Frenchman, Farrell's mate, named Antoine Simonin--all heavily laden with provisions; we were also accompanied by four of another party. We proceeded up the Dart three miles, when it commenced raining, and continued for the remainder of the day.
February 15th. Could not get up the flat as on former occasions, on account of the heavy flood in the Dart; were consequently forced to take to the bush and fight our way through it for miles, almost up to the Island. Made Wild Duck Creek. About an hour after we camped, four men came up who had been out prospecting, and had nothing or little to eat for the past three days.
Feb. 16th. Made the head of the flat by sundown.
Feb. 17th. Reached the head of Wild Duck Creek.
Feb. 18th. Crossed over the snow and down the other side by sundown.
Feb. 19th. Made three parts of the way up Mineral Creek; heavy road and heavy swags.
Feb. 20th. Made the head of the creek; crossed the flat and down the creek which runs the other way, 32 and camped at the foot of the mountain which divides from Poverty Lake, where my mates are (for so I have named it since their starvation there).
Feb. 21st. Crossed the mountain and down to the Lake late in the afternoon. Slow travelling, as it rained all the time. Found Dunmore and Farrell, the former recovering fast.
Feb. 22nd. Camped all day to have a spell.
Feb. 23rd. Rained all the forenoon. The boys I brought with me have had quite enough of the country, and would neither return for provisions nor go prospecting; so Farrell, Simonin, and I resolved to go back and fetch powder and shot, as it was impossible to carry provisions to prospect the country north from here, where we believe the gold to exist. The other party had been here and gone up the river.
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Feb. 24th to March 9th. Farrell and I started in company with the other two. Next day we met ten more diggers on the western foot of the dividing range, coming out after us--some of them with hardly as much provisions as would carry them back again. I advised some of them to return, as we had not got even the colour of gold yet, but they would not believe it, saying we must be getting gold, or we should not persevere so long. Having obtained what we required at Queenstown, we started back again on the 1st of March. On the 6th we found the whole of the parties camped up Mineral Creek, with the exception of three, who had more faith in the country than the others. We arrived at Poverty Lake on the 9th at 3 p.m., and found our mate all well. He was alone, as Dunmore had gone in to the Wakatip with the others, entirely recovered.
March 10th to 14th. Camped, to wash and mend our clothes, and spell.
March 15th. Packed up our swags, moored the boat to a tree, and started up the river, 33 N., about five miles; fearfully thick scrub. Lost the Frenchman for several hours. Camped on the beach, and fired two guns, one of which he heard, and came to us just at dark, leaving his swag two miles up the river.
March 16th. Rained all last night: the river rose nearly up to our tent. Simonin gathered a handkerchief full of the tutu berries, beat them up, squeezed them, and got a pint of wine, which was first-rate drink. The refuse, or seed, he threw on the beach, which the dog ate. In an hour afterwards he showed every symptom of being poisoned, foamed at the mouth, and lay down in fits; I believe he would have died but for a good supply of salt and water we managed to pour down his throat. The native currant 34 also makes first-rate wine, and grows very profusely.
March 17th. Bush very wet; river going down fast; the mountains round here being very steep, the water rushes down as fast as it falls, the river thus rising and falling quickly. Left about noon, and got two miles up the river, when it commenced raining again.
March 18th. Atmosphere very close and sultry--raining all day.
March 19th. Raining continually all day. At night the river commenced rising, and overflowed its banks. About 9 o'clock at night we were forced to clear out of the tent, pack up our provisions and
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swags, and put them up in a tree, covering them over with a couple of blankets so as to keep them dry, we taking to the bush for our lives. Fortunately we found a piece of dry ground, where we walked about all night expecting every hour to have to take to the trees. The river commenced going down at daylight, when we pitched our tent and turned in again.
March 20th. Still raining; flat all covered with water. Went out shooting; there is plenty of game here, but we cannot get it for water.
March 21st. Rained again till noon, then cleared up. Went shooting.
March 22nd. Beautiful morning. Travelled all day up the river N. by W.; patches of fearfully thick scrub; had to cut our way through it; our hands and faces all torn to pieces by briars, or what is termed in this country bush-lawyers. Game very scarce here, owing to the quantity of wild dogs.
March 23rd. Started early and made a good day's tramp. Got up to another lake 35 about five miles long and four wide; fearful travelling. Up the east side, the west being impassable; got to the head of it by 5 p.m., and saw a river 36 coming into the lake one hundred feet wide and eighteen inches deep at its mouth. Shot a white crane 37 four feet high, five feet from tip to tip of its wings, also shot an eel ten pounds weight, and saw hundreds of them. This lake is six miles from Poverty Lake, and we call it Plenty Lake from the abundance of game--both fish and fowl.
March 24th. Turned out to have a good day's hunting and shooting. There is, I find, another river 38 coming into this lake in the west corner, which I went up myself; my mate went up the east or large river. I travelled about five miles up this river, when it turned into a large lagoon or swamp, and such a sight of ducks I have not seen in this country. I did not shoot any more as I could not get them. Went fishing at night and caught eight eels--thirty-five pounds--in a few minutes; could have loaded a whale boat before morning, but did not want any more.
March 25th. Started early this morning, following up the large river, which we called Wild Dog River, N. N. W. about ten miles; very bad road.
March 26th. Made a few miles more up Wild Dog River, cutting
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our road as we went. After the first mile we changed our course from N. N. W. to N. N. E., leaving the river and keeping close along the range, which runs in that direction. We cannot, I think, be far from the sea. Here there is a splendid forest of large extent, but the land is of no value, being composed of gravel and boulders--chiefly of red granite and hard rock; very little quartz.
March 27th. Continued through the forest, alongside the kakapo range till we came to a swamp close to the river, which we forded, and camped, distance from Plenty Lake ten miles N by W. This place forms a basin 39 with low ranges and made hills. 40 Some fine looking creeks, quartz boulders, and a fine wash here. The river 41 winds round to the eastward, and receives the water from the dividing range.
March 28th. The country looks well for gold. Made up our mind to give it a trial for a day.
March 29th. Started prospecting this morning. The creeks look very well for gold; splendid quartz boulders, and a fine wash, but could not get bottom 42 anywhere, as it is too deep. Saw the bottom high up the creek, but very hard and no gold. Saw several quartz reefs which, when viewed through the microscope, appear to contain silver. Caught a bird of the Maori hen species, with a bill six inches long, black and white feathers; we called them white hens, or long-bills. 43
March 30th. Left this flat and crossed over a saddle, N. N. E. Found a large creek, 44 which runs over and through immense boulders; all up this creek you are in danger of breaking your neck every moment, the boulders are so slippery. Got up well towards the saddle, and saw a white crane.
March 31st. Followed a branch creek over the saddle, and down the other side N. N. E. about eight miles. Made another creek 45 running W. by N., and down to the sea. Prospected up and down but could find no gold; very hard bottom.
April 1st. Travelled about seven miles down the creek, which for
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that distance runs N. N. W., then camped. Beautiful soft sandy bottom; can get no gold; can see a low country lying along the coast. Remained on the next day.
April 3rd. Followed down the creek three miles, then took to the bush and crossed over N. E. to another creek, 46 distant five miles. Prospected that creek, but without success. Can see the sea, distance given about miles [sic] to the westward. A low, bushy country--no timber here.
April 4th. Followed on our course N. E. by N. eight miles, at sundown arrived at a small river 47 running S. W., distance from the sea ten miles. This country is composed of granite of a soft nature, with a thick growth of small black pine and tea-tree, which together forms an almost impenetrable scrub. By the river side there are some small flats and some fine beaches, with any amount of boulders, which looks well for gold. Went to bed after a hard day's toil, with a pannikin of tea for supper, hoping to get some game in the morning.
April 5th. Turned out early and went shooting. Simonin saw two reefs a few miles down the river. Rained all the afternoon.
April 6th. Rain again; continued all day. Farrell went down to the gorge to see the reefs; found any amount of specks to a shovel of dirt in several places, also found gold in the reef. Secured two very handsome specimens with a few specks of gold, beautifully ornamented with other minerals, mundic, iron pyrites, &c.
April 7th. Went down the river to prospect. Could get gold almost anywhere. Some fine looking beaches; soft bottom. We did not get gold enough to entice us to stop, as we believed there was better gold farther to the N. E.
April 8th. Turned out early. The ground covered with white frost, which soon disappeared before the sun. Got up the river five miles due east, when we arrived at a nice flat; found one Maori hen, three kakapo, where the wild dogs had killed them the night before. This flat is deep; could not bottom. Got a few specks in the gravel. Called it Welcome Flat.
April 9th. Got five miles further up the flat, or creek, which here forms a great many branches, forming a very rugged surface the higher we got up. In this place we are down in a low valley, with
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high mountains on either side. The sun does not shine here, consequently the bush is always wet, and being thick we are wet to the skin in five minutes. There is some very good timber, chiefly birch and totara. This creek runs due east from last camp.
April 10th. Commenced raining, with thick foggy weather, and continued so all day.
April 11th. Still continued raining.
April 12th. Rained in torrents all night. At daybreak we were forced to turn out in the rain and shift our tent further into the bush. Had we not awoke, both we and the tent would have been hurled down the creek in ten minutes more. So rapid did it rise that before we could get the things shifted the river was running over the ground where we had our tent pitched. A creek, where yesterday evening there was only a few inches of water trickling through the boulders, this morning was a large foaming river, with water enough to launch a good sized schooner in, and running at the rate of twenty knots. Continued to rain all day; no game, consequently nothing to eat. Here was the first place our dog turned traitor to our cause. When we took him in the bush to hunt for kakapo--which is our chief food--he would go and catch one, stop and eat it, and then he would not hunt any more for us.
April 13th. Turned out early, still raining. Killed a robin and three wrens; roasted them: the smallest joints I ever saw; then went hunting again with Farrell. Very lucky this day. Still raining.
April 14th. Raining in torrents; we have had a hard matter to light a fire these three mornings, as everything is completely saturated with water.
April 15th. Dried our clothes in a hurry and made a start, very glad to make a move out of this condemned cell once more. Travelled up the side of the range in the bush; wet to the skin in half an hour, in which state we remained all day, on several occasions taking off our shirts or coats, and wringing them; we could not keep the creek on account of the precipices and waterfalls. Made about five miles N. E. up a fearful road; camped on the side of a mountain. This creek is surrounded by five low sugarloaf mountains, completely covered with timber up to the top, forming several creeks, all of which run into the little river below in which we got the gold; we have taken the N. E. branch, which we mean to follow up, and go over the saddle opposite. 48
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April 16th. Beautiful morning. Proceeded up the mountain with the bush still wet as the wind or sun has no power on it, from the surrounding high mountains. Made the top of the high saddle at 1 p.m.; started to make a river we could see off the top of a tree--the largest river 49 we have seen yet. We can also see a small lake 50 about a mile the other side of the river, on the flat due east from here. The down hill was very steep and bad travelling, as the bush was very thick on this side the mountain, with many precipices. We tried hard to reach the river, but could not although we travelled, or rolled rather, till 10 o'clock at night and then camped on the only piece of level ground we saw all the afternoon and that about six feet square with precipices on either side. Could not light a fire, went to bed with wet clothes and blankets and no supper. We have had only one kakapo for the last forty-eight hours.
April 17th. Turned out this morning very stiff and sore from last night's rolling down precipices in the dark; made a fire and dried our clothes and had a snack--just enough to say we had something to eat, or rather to drink, as our oatmeal is now getting short. Made down to the river, which we followed up two miles and camped. Distance from Little River eight miles E. N. E. Beautiful large beaches here, and any amount of quartz boulders--in fact all the stones just here are quartz, with any amount of mica in them.
April 18th. Proceeded up the river S. W. about three miles. Saw a likely place for gold; prospected and found gold in two places. Camped on the flat and dried our blankets and clothes, which have been wet now for a fortnight. Got more gold.
April 19th. Went prospecting and got gold in sufficient quantity to give it a week's trial. I believe there is plenty of gold on this river, but I also believe that there must be pumps to work the ground, as they are all heavy beaches. What gold we have got is in the gravel about a foot below the water level. The river is high just now on account of the late rains. I should like to have a pump and some of the tools which I left on the Shotover. This river I believe to be the right or western branch of that which empties itself into Jackson's Bay, 51 and is nearly as large as the Shotover.
April 20th. Crossed the river where there are two islands dividing
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it into three parts, and went in search of the lake we saw off the top of the mountain, hoping to be able to obtain fish and fowl there for the next week or two; one of the party to keep always hunting and fishing, while the other two keep working and try to get some gold. Found the lake about one mile east of the river; a very fine one, one mile square, with a beautiful grassy mound all round it, with a creek running into it at the mountain side, and another running out on the river side. There was not many ducks on it--only six, of which we shot three; the remainder flew away to the river. Simonin saw a fine eel; he cut a forked piece of wood and held it to the bottom, but while getting his knife out of his pocket to stab it, it broke away, as he was not able to hold it down with one hand. Started raining again before we got the tent up, and continued so all day. Went five miles up the river duck shooting; the other boys went down to the river and got some more gold, and of a coarser nature than any we saw before. Returned at dark wet to the skin with three ducks.
April 21st. Very heavy rain has now set in and every appearance of its continuing. This is the heaviest rain I have seen since I left Victoria. The lake has risen four feet to-day, and the rivers are at a fearful height. Nothing to eat since a small snack this morning. There is nothing at all that we can find here eatable--no fern root, no spear-grass, no annis, or any vegetable whatever; nothing but stones, timber and water. I am certain we can get payable gold here if we can only get to work. It continued to rain at a fearful rate during the four following days, and flooded the lake and river, entirely precluding any work. Obtained just sufficient game to keep life in us, only after great hardships and difficulties.
April 26th. Foggy morning; cleared up about 12; put our blankets out to dry. One of the boys started early this morning to look after some game, but returned without any. Have but about 4 lbs. oatmeal now, and are 80 miles 52 from the Wakatip in a straight line, but it will take us twice 80 to get there. My two mates made up their minds to start back again the first fine day we get, but I do not fancy going back the same route. I have tried all I know to induce them to continue east with me, as we cannot be more than 30 miles from the west river running into Lake Hawea, which lies N. E. from the Wanaka Lake, 53 and which I believe to be the centre of the golden
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line of country, as the farther we get eastward the better we find the gold, and it is not half the distance that it is to the Wakatip. They however refused, and I then said I should go alone, which I was afterwards sorry I did not do, as I believe we had got almost to the end of the chain of mountains which runs north to Jackson's Bay from the Wakatip. If I had had a dog nothing should have prevented me from going alone, as I know it cannot be a worse road than we have had coming here.
April 27th. Turned out early and tore up one of my blankets to make shirts, as my clothes were worn out in the bush. The river and creeks so high that we cannot cross any of them; the smallest stream a few days since is now impassable.
April 28th. Rained till night, when it cleared up. Made a good fire and dried our clothes, ready for a start back in the morning, should it be fine. We are all very weak for the want of sufficient food. If we could travel we could always get sufficient food, but it is having to camp in wet weather that kills us.
April 29th. Packed up a few things which we cannot do well without, leaving behind picks, shovels, tin dishes, gimlets, nails, spokeshave, chisels, and several other things, which made our swags much lighter, but they felt just as heavy, on account of our weak state. We got a few miles up the river south, and had a good feed on some paradise ducks that we shot, turned in and felt much refreshed. The place we left this morning is situated about half a mile east of the river, lies due south from Jackson's Bay, and 30 miles east of the coast. 54
April 30th. Continued on our course up the river--a very bushy sideling of a steep mountain gorge, with the white foam of the river some hundreds of feet below us--jumping from one precipice to another, which under any other circumstances would have looked pretty. We did not, however, stop long to admire it, as then it looked hideous. Toiled away till night, when we had a hard matter to find a piece of ground 6 ft. square on which to pitch the tent, and harder still to light a fire and cook four magpies 55 we had shot on the road.
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May 1st. Got up the river a few miles and came to a precipice and a very large and deep waterfall. 56 It took us a long time to ascend, but we succeeded after many difficulties and dangers, our lives many times depending on a few blades of grass, which grow out of the face of the rocks. After a few miles further we came to a nice flat, where we could see there was any amount of game. Camped here the following day, hunting.
May 3rd. Crossed the river and up the saddle, 57 which leads up the side of a large burnt mountain; 58 in gaining the top of which we had a few hours of fearful danger. The stones are so soft or rotten that we could not tell the moment our feet would give way and down we should go several hundred feet. At one time we were two hours getting twenty yards. Reached the top at one p.m. Ran it along south, which way our course lay, till near dark, then camped at the side of a little creek running down the side of the mountain higher up. There are three small lakes on this mountain nearly of the same size, with a few ducks on them.
May 4th. Made an early start, but it commenced raining about 10 a.m. and continued so all day. I lost the run of my mates all of a sudden, I having kept a little lower down on the side of the mountain. I thought nothing of it at the time, as we had often parted and met together again, but this time I cooeyed and got no answer. Thinking they were ahead I hurried on, but left them behind. Cooeyed all the way as I went, but got no answer. Could see the river 59 down under me in the flat; got down, waited for an hour, but no sign of them; fired two guns hoping they would hear them, but no answer; so I gave them up, thinking that they had crossed along the side and over the mountain more to the eastward. I proceeded to follow up the river all the afternoon and shot one blue mountain duck, which I may say is all the provisions I have. I am very badly fitted for the road before me, having no dog and every appearance of a week or two's rain, as at every change of the moon we have had a week's rain lately, sometimes more. I have about three-quarters of
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a pound of oatmeal and a long weary road to travel. Travelled all the afternoon up the river; saw several creeks coming in, with quartz reefs showing and quartz boulders, and every indication of gold, but did not stop, as I had nothing to try a bit of dirt with. Still continued walking. Camped.
May 5th. I am camped on the side of a mountain by the side of a foaming creek, the rain coming down in torrents; cannot light a fire. Got two little ducks, but cannot cook them; had raw oatmeal for breakfast; have had nothing since yesterday morning, and walked all day, then pitched the tent and turned in with wet clothes and blankets. Got a fire at night, cooked one of my little ducks and ate it.
May 6th. Still raining, with snow mixed. I am certain this is snow on the mountains; if so I shall have a hard matter to get over. Very cold; could not sleep last night, my teeth cracking together all night with cold, and cramp in my legs. I do not feel at all well. The rats stole my little duck, which I intended for this day's food. This is the first day I have been heartily sick of the country. Nothing to eat; cannot light a fire; all my clothes and blankets wet. I am indeed miserable.
May 7th. Turned out and had a look; any amount of snow on the surrounding hills, and still snowing fast and freezing. Turned in again; slept all day, or rather stopped in bed.
May 8th. Still snowing and no sign of a change; no food.
May 9th. Turned out early; any amount of snow in the night. I do not know what to do now. I intended to have started this morning, wet or dry, snow or rain, but I am completely jammed in. I cannot move; snow falling thick and fast. Whether to go back and follow the river round to Plenty Lake, or to try and get over the mountains to Mineral Creek is a consideration which I cannot decide on. Night coming on again; nothing to eat, and fearfully cold.
May 10th. Turned out early; wrung the tent and clothes as well as I could, packed up and tried to go right up the mountain to the eastward, 60 in hopes of seeing a smoke from my mates' fire, knowing they cannot be far off; but after toiling hard for half a day and falling in the snow head-first some hundreds of times, found it impossible to get up. Had to start away for the river again, and try and get up to its head and over the saddle. I have not eaten anything now for
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several days. There is a little spear-grass here; if I could get a fire to boil, or rather roast it, I think I could pass a day or two, but even that is forbidden. It is now snowing; two feet six inches solid snow by my tent, and I believe there is a deal more on the mountain. Turned into my wet blankets again for another night's misery.
May 11th. Could not sleep a minute all night; had to keep my legs and feet constantly in motion to keep the blood in circulation, and if I stopped a minute my feet felt dead with cold, and I should have the cramp in my legs. My clothes are still wet; there can be very little heat in me, or my clothes would dry sleeping in them all night; I must try and get a fire before I leave here if possible, to dry my blankets and flannels or another night like last will cook me. Rain, snow, and sleet, very heavy all day. Tried hard to get a fire, but could not; turned in again to my wet blankets.
May 12th. Rain and sleet very heavy; looks very bad; cannot get out of the tent; I do not know what is to be done, so turn into my wet blankets again to keep me warm, for it is fearful cold, thinking of Edward Dunmore and the 'Maori Hen'. If I have to stop here a few days more I shall be just as bad. (By the bye, I forgot to mention that I made every enquiry possible about the 'Maori Hen', but could not hear whether he got to Fox's or not.) I have had one little duck to eat for the last six days, yet strange to say I do not feel hungry. This will not do much longer, but on the side of a mountain covered with three or four feet of snow it is a hard matter to get food of any description. Went out in the afternoon to try and shoot something, but could not see anything to shoot--not even a robin. Found a root of spear-grass, ate some of it but could not enjoy it raw; then turned in for another night's rocking about.
May 13th. Turned out this morning with the intention of making a start, but the weather is so bad I am afraid to stir, it is raining heavily and the snow is thawing a little.
May 14th. Turned out early; wrung the tent and other things, which were very wet, packed up once more, and made a start. Got on very well for about half a mile, when my legs began to fail me, and I found I could not get more than twenty yards at a spell. Toiled away till I saw by the sun it was nearly noon, and I had not got one mile away from the timber where I was camped, and was completely done, so there was nothing for it but desert my swag or die here. The former idea I carried into effect. I threw away everything but my blankets, gun, and a little powder and shot,
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which was my only dependence. Amongst the things I abandoned was a couple of specimens which we got in the Little River, and a small parcel of gold, 61 which we found in prospecting, with maps, books, etc., all of which I have before mentioned. After throwing away my swag I had a very hard task to get up the hill, as there was over two feet snow and very soft. I kept slipping and falling, till at length I arrived at the top of the saddle62 and saw a creek at the other side, and a grassy flat about a mile long and half a mile wide. I got to the river by sundown, and was going to the west end of the flat to camp, and try to get a duck or something to eat; but on looking up the creek I saw a smoke, which I went to and found my mates camped there. They were surprised to see me. I was greatly reduced since they saw me, and was very weak--just able to put one foot before another. I asked them if they had anything to eat; they said they had had nothing that day, but they started hunting, and got two Maori hens which they gave me, and with the heat of the fire I was much refreshed.
May 15th. Rained all day till noon. Miserable living; we are just alive and very weak.
May 16th. Turned out and started up the creek with nothing to eat; walked all day up right-hand branch 63 of Wild Dog Creek; shot two magpies at noon and ate them raw, which refreshed us much at the time. We reached a long way up by night and camped under an overhanging rock, just under the snow. Nothing to eat but a little grass root: fearfully cold.
May 17th. Started early to try and get over the snow and down the other side. Had a fearful hard day's toil. Here is about a mile long of pure ice, as clear as crystal; you can see down into it several fathoms, just like looking down into the blue ocean, and no such thing as walking on it. 64 We had to go round several times to where there was a little fresh snow lying on it, to be able to get along. At length made the foot of the saddle, 65 and then we had some climbing to do to get up the mountain, which was covered with frost and snow, at an angle of 75 degrees. I was so weak that I thought I must give in, but I ate plenty of the little snow-berries 66 which grow under
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the snow. They helped us on a good deal, and we reached the top about 2 p.m. What a sight then met our eyes! Nothing but mountains of snow as far as we could see, in every direction but west. We got down by powerful exertion. At one time Simonin was behind me; I heard him sing out 'Look out'; I turned round and he was coming down the snow at a fearful rate, head first, on his back. He held the gun in one hand, but had to let it go, when both he and the gun passed me at the rate of a swallow, and did not stop till they reached a little flat about two miles down, with a fall of 1,000 feet. I thought he was killed, but he was all right, with the exception of being a little frightened. We got down to the head of the flat and camped. Such a day I hope never to see again.
May 18th. Snow and sleet all day. Tried to get away, but had to camp again about six miles down the gorge. Had to camp under a rock, in a foot of snow. No fire, wet clothes, and nothing to eat. Hard times.
May 19th. Turned out early and started down the gorge, which took us all day. Snow and rain all day. Reached the flat at dark and camped in the bush with two feet of snow. Had a fearful job to light a fire. Fearfully cold night; our feet frost-bitten and very sore.
May 20th. Rain and snow. Could not stir out before the evening, when it turned out fine and we went hunting. Night very cold; snowing hard again and freezing.
May 21st. Travelled down a large flat and entered into the heaviest and steepest gorge 67 I ever saw. Here we were very near losing Farrell. He volunteered to be lowered down by a flax rope on to a rock about 14 feet over the water, and thus pass our swags across; but when he got half way down the rope broke and away he went into a fearful boiling eddy in the creek. I looked but could not see him anywhere for over a minute and a half, when I saw him rise just at the top of the precipice and seize at another rock, which he succeeded in catching hold of and getting upon. If he had gone 4 ft. farther, he would have been dashed down a precipice 200 ft. so that he would never have been seen any more. Camped that night on the bare stones by the side of the creek. Nothing for a bed and nothing to eat. Very cold.
May 22nd. Made a start early. Saw the Plenty Lake. Could not make out where we were till we got near the flat; then could see the Wild Dog River, and knew we were about half way between the two
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lakes. 68 Just able to walk, but very weak. Caught two kakapo and two magpies, and had a better supper than we had had for many a day.
May 23rd. Went out early to shoot something for breakfast, but could get nothing. Kept close to the left hand range, going down towards Poverty Lake.
May 24th. Kept on down the side of the range, hunting as we went along.
May 25th. Turned out before daylight to try and shoot some kakas, which were over us in the high trees, as the pine is an immense height; these birds come here to roost at night, and fly away to the mountains at daylight. Could not see them; got to our old camp on Poverty Lake by sundown. Camped and had a good supper. Feel much refreshed but our feet are very sore; all our toes are covered with running sores; Simonin's feet are not bad; I believe mine are far the worst. I do hope we shall get a few days fine weather, so as to enable us to get into the Wakatip once more.
May 26th. Another change in the weather. Rain again. Cannot get out of the tent. Nothing to eat all day.
May 27th. Rain again all day. We shall be worse off than ever if this weather continues. We are very weak and no chance of any fish or game here as we are now on an island, on account of the lake rising all round us and running back into the lagoons. Got a little fern root.
May 28th. Rain in torrents again. I do not know what we shall do. This is the third day again and nothing to eat but a bit of fern root. We cannot get out of the tent; the water is rising slowly but surely.
May 29th. This is the most miserable day of my existence. We had to turn out last night at 10 o'clock, and the water rose so fast that we could not get anything away but our blankets. Had to wade to the side of the range up to our middles in water. We tied the powder and guns and a few other things up to the ridge pole, afraid to carry them away in case of getting them wet. The night was very dark and before [we rea]ched the hill I got up to my arms in water. [I thought] I should never get across, but we reached the land safe about a quarter of a mile distant. Had to walk up and down all night, the rain still pouring down. If this night does not kill us we shall never die. Daylight broke upon us, each looking for the other and
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wondering that we are all alive. Got a fire this morning: kept it going all day, but could not get back to our tent, as there is ten feet of water to go through, so we shall have another night, which I hope will be fine or we shall perish.
May 30th. Fine morning. Did not rain much all night. I cut my blanket in two, to make a tent of one half of it, and slept by the fire very comfortably, considering our situation. Farrell crossed to the tent up to his middle in water this morning, and brought the two guns and some powder, and shot a duck, which came up swimming in the lake. We also shot a little kaka, which we boiled with some fern root, for the first meal we have had in four days.
May 31st. Whilst in the act of packing up, I saw a rat which the dog had killed in the night. I never picked up a nugget of gold during the last ten years with more satisfaction than I picked him up, put him in the fire, and roasted him just as he was, then cut him in three parts, which we pronounced the sweetest bit of meat we ever ate. Proceeded up the side of the range, very weak and tired, and the bush wet. Camped about one-third of the way up the range with clothes wet. Could not get a fire.
June 1st. Started early, to try and get over to-day. Camped about two miles from the saddle. 69 Raining, very weak, and our feet awfully painful.
June 2nd. Got over the saddle through the snow and down to Kakapo Flat, 70 where we expected to stop a day or two and get plenty of game; but the flat was covered with snow, and consequently the birds do not come down out of the range at night, but stop under the rocks and in the timber in the warmest place. Caught one kakapo and one Maori hen, which we cooked for supper under a rock, where we camped about 10 o'clock. It rained all the remainder of the day. Went hunting, but the dog would not work, as he had had a bird that morning and eaten it.
June 3rd. Continued on our road (feet getting worse) through the snow up the creek. Crossed over the flat 71 and down to our old camp at the head of Mineral Creek. Caught one Maori hen and cooked it for supper, or rather for thirty-six hours' food for three men. Went to bed very weak and bad.
June 4th. Continued our course down the creek, made the old camp at the west foot of the dividing range, so tired that we would
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give all the world to be at the other side of it. Weather likely to be wet. Got three Maori hens, which is indeed a treat. Went to bed in good spirits, hoping we shall have good weather to get over the range, as that is all that troubles us. We know if we were over the divide we can get to the Wakatip if we do not get anything more to eat, as it is all down hill afterwards.
June 5th. Got down to the edge of the bush, when it commenced raining, with a heavy thick fog on the mountain. We consulted as to whether we should go on or not, the weather looking so bad. Camped. Rained all day. Caught one kakapo; very poor store to carry us over the divide. My feet are in an awful mess, and nothing to put on them but Maori hen fat. I do not think we shall be able to get over; we are three skeletons just alive.
June 6th. Packed up once more to cross the divide if possible. If we cannot cross, we shall have to follow the creek down to the Awarua River, from thence to the Kakapo Lake, down to the sea, and stop there all the winter if possible. 72 We are now six days coming from Poverty Lake, which I have done in one day before now. Got up to the head of the timber by night, and camped under a rock.
June 7th. Raining very heavy this morning. This is the worst of all to be caught here, where we cannot get anything to eat. Commenced to snow at noon, and has every appearance of a heavy fall; so we must start. Did not get up a mile when we were up to our knees in soft snow; the higher we ascended the deeper it got, and we could scarcely see each other ten yards off. However we managed it after a long time, and when we got on top 73 the snow was first-rate to walk on--just hard enough to keep us up, and down this side was beautiful, till we came within a mile of the bottom, when the snow became very soft, and we were till eight o'clock at night before we got down to our old camp, where we camped on three feet of snow. Our blankets and clothes all wet.
June 8th. Snowed all night. Made a start down the creek, tumbling and rolling over rocks and stones, sometimes wholly disappearing in the snow, till we got down a few miles. Saw some kakas in a tree; my gun was too wet to be used, so Simonin got one of his barrels in the humour and shot seven of them, which saved our dog, as we had agreed to kill and eat him this afternoon. Still snowing. We here
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camped and cooked six of them. Had a good dinner and dried our clothes a little. Commenced to rain very hard again.
June 9th. Rained heavily all day. Cooked our remaining bird. I went up the creek in the afternoon but could not see anything. Our feet are breaking out in fresh places, and are very sore.
June 10th. Rain again. I wonder if we shall ever reach the Wakatip--only two and a half days' tramp even in our state, and yet we cannot get a fine day, or anything to eat. If fasting and praying is of any value to sinners, we ought soon to become saints, for we have had enough of it lately. Cleared up about noon, when we made a start and got down a few miles further to our old camp.
June 11th. Got nearly to the Dart and in sight of the Wakatip, which was indeed a welcome sight to us. We caught plenty of Maori hens and had a good feast--happy once more, even under our circumstances. Nearly skeletons, and can scarcely put one foot before the other.
June 12th. Turned out in good spirits, hoping this will be the last day of our hardships. Started down the Dart. Feet bad, and the gravel hurt them very much. Got down to the Island and heard some person shooting; crossed over to see who it was, and found the captain of Mr. Rees' 74 yacht and his mate, who were up pigeon shooting. We asked them to send a boat across to the other side of the Dart to fetch us when they returned, as they would be down before we should. They said they would either send a boat for us or come and fetch us themselves. We arrived at the Lake just at sundown; made a fire and commenced firing guns, which were answered from the township. In the course of an hour five of the boys came across for us in Mr. Barrett's whale boat. We were invited by Mr. Reid, 75 at the station, to come up and stop there for a while till we got better. From thence we went to Frankton Hospital where, with the constant care and attention we receive, we hope to be soon recovered.
p. 413, 1. When he got back to Queenstown, Barrington, who claimed to have found a payable new gold-field, could produce almost no gold. This was viewed suspiciously by many diggers. At the public meeting of 20 July Barrington explained how he undid his
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wet swag and threw nearly everything away. 'He remembered seeing the goldbag at his feet but he was so cold and worn out that he never even thought of picking it up. Had he thought of it his hands were so cold it was not likely he would have done so--but for his diary being inside some blankets which he did not untie that would have been dropped and he should not have attempted to pick it up... he was thinking more of saving his life than of gold.... Some had remarked on their keeping powder and shot and not gold... but powder and shot was their food.' One may also compare Colenso's remarks in the extracts reprinted here (pages 33-34)--'I have often been surprised at the great carelessness which I have shown towards rare natural productions when either over-fatigued or ravenously hungry; at such times, botanical, geological and other specimens--which I had eagerly and with much pleasure collected, and carefully carried for many a weary mile--have become quite a burden, and have been one by one abandoned, to be however invariably regretted afterwards.'