Leichhardt’s track, as far as the Elsey, seems tolerably plain and entirely in accordance with the character of the man and his intentions. Forced to retreat from the dry country west of the Thomson, he probably followed that river to its head, and crossing the main watershed regained and re-pursued his track of 1845, as far as the Roper, of which river Elsey Creek is a tributary. When he left the camp seen by Gregory, he would, going either south-west or west, find himself in the driest of dry country, which is even now but sparsely settled. And there came the end.
Long before the last water they carried with them had been used, their beasts would have all died, left here and there wherever they fell. So too would the men. Differences of opinion would have arisen, and some would have been for turning back, and others for keeping on. Some would have persisted in changing the direction they were following, and, led on by some mad delirious fancy in seeing water indications in some rock or bush, would have separated and staggered on to die alone. Their baggage would have been left strewn over the desert where it had been abandoned, and the men, one by one, would have shared the same fate. Into such a waterless and barren region the blacks would seldom penetrate, and what with the sun, hot winds, bush fires, and sand-storms, all recognisable traces would soon have been effaced.
With regard to the notched tree to support a ridge-pole, which feature was noticed by Gregory in both camps, J.F. Mann, of whose companionship with Leichhardt mention has already been made, often stated that he would recognise Leichhardt’s camps anywhere by this singular device for supporting the ridge of a tent.
[Illustration. Edmund B. Kennedy.]
9.1. The Victoria and Cooper’s creek.
E.B. Kennedy, whose tragic death ineffaceably branded the Cape York blacks as remorselessly cruel, came to Australia early in life, and was appointed a Government surveyor in 1840. His first experience as an explorer was gained when as Assistant-Surveyor and second in command he accompanied his chief on the last expedition that Mitchell led into the interior. On this occasion he remained in charge of the camp formed at St. George’s Bridge, and then conducted part of the expedition on to the Maranoa, where he rejoined the Major, and remained in charge whilst Mitchell made his exploration westward.