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Memento : Issue 21
4 memento september 2002 The journal of John Bradford, a telegraph line surveyor for the Queensland Post and Telegraphs Department, came to our attention while we were reviewing our collection in Queensland. The journal charts his harrowing journey in 1883 from Cooktown to Somerset on the tip of Cape York, and across the Torres Strait to Thursday Island, an expedition mostly on horseback and on foot that covered 644 kilometres in three months. Bradford and six others set out from Cooktown in June with 36 horses and supplies. At first the journey appeared to go to plan -- the horses were given a regular spell and the going was good. But just two weeks after the expedition left Cooktown, the horses began to die. Bradford later surmised that they had been poisoned by eating the young shoots of ironwood trees that were common to the area. By July, Bradford had come down with 'fever and ague' but struggled onward through increasingly treacherous country: Their lives on the line JR Bradford, Inspector of Lines and Mail Routes, 1885--86. NAA: J2879, QTH49 Tuesday August 21st ... Healy, Cook, Macnamara, Johnny and myself on foot ... Distance travelled today 3 3/4 miles ... I greatly fear that none of the horses will reach Somerset -- They are all done now -- I am certain that the poor feed and poison are the cause of so many horses having to be abandoned. I never saw a more wretched country anywhere I have been ... JR BRADFORD'S JOURNAL, CAPE YORK PENINSULA EXPEDITION, 1883 NAA: J1, Q366/1/28 ... we came on a narrow gully. Wilson, who was just in advance of me, tried to cross this gully, but Samson the horse he was riding got in a hole hidden by rushes and weeds, and full of water, but not much larger than his body, though apparently deep enough. There Samson was with no part of his body visible but his head. Wilson had a narrow escape as he was partly under the horse when he fell. We were detained here for two hours getting the horse out of the hole ... We now passed over rolling sandy ridges, in some places so undermined with ants as to be absolutely dangerous, the horses suddenly going down to the knees in the sand.