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Sunday, 7 December 2014

More "Mr Explorer" Douglas & His Gear:

- Some diary extracts from 1891.. Exploring up the Waiatoto River:

Friday 30 January: "Good weather at last and the River down to nearly its snow melting level. Started in the canoe - 'The Surveyor General' - with the remainder of load. Load consists of two Batwing Tents & two flys - can be pitched as a 6x5 tent or halved making two camps to stage tucker. A bill hook, half axe & pick, Field books Compass Drawing & writing material, a Pea rifle and 'Betsey Jane'* to catch birds, and about 100 lbs of assorted Tucker."

* Over time dogs were two 'Betsey Jane's and 'Topsy', and Poker later.

Charlie Douglas in his 'Batwing' Tent' (Fly Tent) in the bush Above The Franz Joseph Glacier.

Thursday 5 March 1891: "Weather clearing up but putting more snow on the hills. Hope to get away tomorrow, as I am on quarter rations flour, no tea or sugar, but fortunately plenty of birds and tobacco. I have got awfully stiff and lazy laying up cramped in a tent.."

Saturday 7 March 1891: "Today my swag would probably have sunk, as I had a rifle, axe & a lot of rocks & very little else. But I had two good billies, & I rolled them empty in the centre of the swag, with their lids tightened on with a strip of greased calico, & I am sure that swag would have kept me above water for half an hour. A bundle of flax sticks broken into small pieces & jammed into a bag will float a man easily, but the art of safe fording is to always select a place with the current running into a back. You are out & clawing up on the shore almost before you are aware that you have got washed off your feet."

Sunday 10 May: .. " I never expected the adventure I had after dark. The river was certainly high, within three foot of the camp, which I thought was sufficient, but at seven o'clock it commenced to rise fast and in a few minutes put out the fire. I just had time to hurry everything into a bag blanket and make for high ground when the river appeared to come down in one Big Wave. Hurrying back to the tent to get the fly off and secure some charred ends, I met Betsey Jane swimming ashore with the pup in her mouth.

I got the fly off and found one boot, but no trousers, coat or shirt; here was a fix to be in. It was pouring with rain, bitter cold, pitch dark and nothing on but flannel and drawers fortunately I had plenty of candles and matches safe. and having found the tomahawk I started an illumination and pitched the fly in a sort of a way. So far so good, but I must have a fire some way or other. Searching for dry wood in a dark bush was out of the question, so I had to go back to the tent and dive in three feet of water for charred ends and a junk or two of rata. I soon got a fire started, and made up mind to sit cramped before it till morning, but about 1 o'clock the rain knocked off and the river went down as fast as it rose. So I lighted two candles and fixed up the camp again, made a roaring fire of Rata, dryed and the blankets, and turned in about four o'clock."

- Fortunately 'Mr Explorer' the next day managed to find the missing boot, shirt & trousers buried in the mud and spent the day washing and drying them!

Hard times and hard men for sure.

Note: 'A Pea Rifle' used to refer to a small bore muzzle-loader - but rim-fire cartridges having been around since the 1850s suggests to me that Charlie might likely mean a .22" R.F rifle.

Marty K