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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 3, September 2015


Anne Benjamin
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Mapping the Journey

Thomas Baines, Cartographer, Artist & Storekeeper, North-West Australian Expedition, 1855-1857

Wednesday 6th February 1856

Our expedition reached Victoria River one week past. “Tom Tough” ran aground at the river mouth and we lost most of the sheep. Six horses crushed. Gregory has taken an exploring party leaving 23 with me. I have set up a Depot Camp with the rest of the party. The noon temperatures reach nearly 100 degrees. There are tall gums that give scant shade. We make bark-covered huts. Rats are already eating through the canvas that protects our provisions.

where the river spills its tales
into the sea
we set out to find its past
. . . enter the unknown

Saturday 8th March 1856

The horses continue to wander off. We find two poor beasts stuck in mud in a drying watercourse, their eyes swollen with fly blight. The men suffer this affliction also. I treat the horses’ leg wounds with alum and the men’s bad stomachs with ginger. I shot some cockatoo and hawk to supplement our diet. They were better than feared. The rats we’ve trapped prove delicious. The rains help our pumpkins and melons, but leak into the scarce measures of flour and sugar. We’ve noticed human footprints close to our own tracks. The local inhabitants have begun to set fire to the bush near our camp.

how can I map
a way for others
when I am lost
within the darkness
of my own shadow

Easter Day, 23rd March 1856

The horses have broken down the makeshift fence again. We catch them some miles from camp near a water hole with blue lilies. The local warriors have been following us. They surround us with fires. The horses fret in the smoke so we remove their hobbles. We take a wide roundabout way back to the camp, watching carefully.

to intrude
into this alien place
and live
is to do much more
than just survive

Author's Note: The journal entries are a loose adaptation based on details in the original journal of Thomas Baines 1856-1857.

The painting by John Thomas Baines, The artist and members of the North Australian Expedition loading horses, April 1856, is held in the National Library of Australia.



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