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Memento : Issue 21
5 september 2002 memento An extract from one of a series of large format maps hand-drawn by JR Bradford, circa 1884. NAA: J2364, 2912/3 NAA: J3080, Bradford map 2 Bradford's journal is a remarkable story of determination. In search of related records, we also discovered a cache of Australia Post records about the expedition and the construction of the Cape York Extension telegraph line. This rich collection includes survey maps, reports and correspondence as well as photographs of Bradford's route, telegraph stations along the Cape York Extension and the staff who lived and worked at the stations. If these excerpts of Bradford's diary have whetted your appetite, you can dig even deeper into this fascinating collection by visiting our Brisbane office. As the expedition continued to move north, conditions became more inhospitable. The men lived on a diet of damper, cured meat and the occasional sweet potato, and struggled with limited water rations. They battled bushfires, dense scrub and shifting sand as they travelled across some of the most rugged country in Australia. At every point Bradford considered the practicalities of building the telegraph line and marked the bloodwood trees he thought suitable for telegraph poles. He noted the areas that were well timberered, well watered and suitable for setting up camp along the route. As time went on, he began feeding the horses flour to keep them alive, and threw away horse shoes and other items to lighten the packs. By August, the expedition had run into serious trouble. Bradford expressed heartache at the prospect of leaving behind sick and injured horses, and concern at dwindling rations. Friday August 17th. I do not know what the end will be, but it looks like finishing on foot, with as much of the necessities of life as we can carry on our backs ... Saturday August 18th. Several of the horses now gave signs of distress ... either grass must be found or all the horses would have to be abandoned, as another night on the Spinifex would finish them all. Finally, after three gruelling months the expedition reached the beach and then Somerset. Most of Bradford's expedition returned to Cooktown on the steamer ship Gympie, while Bradford and Healy continued on to Thursday Island aboard the SS Corea. Packhorses passing anthills on the route of the Cape York Expedition, 1925.