A Difficult Journey Through the Murchison

Travelling in a 1913 Buick from Byro Station to Perth, Mr D’Arcy and Mr Nicholls found themselves in various predicaments in 1917. When they left, it had been raining heavily. The night before, 80 points fell, which greatly altered the dirt roads. Twenty miles out from the station, it began raining again.

Refusing to turn around, the men continued onwards. They reached Narryer and stopped to have some lunch. While there, they were told that 136 points had fallen during the day. After leaving, they found that statement to be true. The road was covered with water. There was no way of knowing where it was exactly, so they had to judge where they were going by the trees.

At one point, they became bogged up to the axles of the car. Getting themselves out “after the expenditure of a great deal of energy,” they finally reached Meeberrie as the sun was setting. They slept at Meeberrie and, during the night, two inches of rain fell. They left in the morning amidst continuing rain as well as hail.

Mr D’Arcy noted that “So fierce were these storms that holes were made in the hood [of the car] where the hailstones tore their way through.”

Their aim was to reach Billabalong. After only travelling seven miles from Meeberrie, they faced a creek that was too deep to cross. For the rest of the day, they walked around trying to find another road to travel on. Without going into detail, Mr D’Arcy simply said: “But extreme circumstances necessitate extreme measure, and we eventually managed to get across.

Six miles on from the creek, they became bogged. The only option was to dig themselves out until “they found something solid for the car to rest on.” During that part of the trip, it took them six hours to drive 160 yards (about 146 metres). It was a time of near constant digging that rendered them exhausted.

Finally, they had some smooth travelling, and for twenty miles, there were no issues. Nearing Billabalong, they found the river much swollen. They drove through the bush looking for another place to cross. Unfortunately, that drive resulted in them becoming bogged again. After two hours of digging, they gave up and walked to Billabalong Station.

Angus Campbell was there and loaned them a horse. Back to the car they went, using the horse to pull it out. With the help of the horse, they arrived at the station, where they stayed for the night.

In the morning, they awoke to the Murchison River being 200 yards wide and about ten feet deep at the main channel. Crossing was impossible. Having travelled so far, it began to look as though they would have to abandon the trip. Angus, however, came to the rescue. He came up with the idea of constructing a raft to place the car on and floating it across the river.

For future reference, in case anyone else found themselves in similar spots of bother, Mr D’Arcy described the materials used, which were found on most stations. “Four 100-gallon tanks were used for the four corners, and the framework consisted of three long pieces of 5 x 3 jarrah, while the cross members were five pieces of 3 x 2 kauri.” In addition, two planks of 9 x 2 jarrah held the wheels of the car, while six more empty eight-gallon drums were attached to provide extra buoyancy.

The Raft

Before they used the invention (and not wanting to risk completely losing their car) they tested it out with 25 men on top of the vehicle. Not having collapsed, they deemed it ‘sea-worthy’. With the help of the men on the station, they pulled and floated the Buick across the Murchison River.

One of the cars crossing the Murchison

Once again on their way, they arrived at Urella Station (near Mingenew) without incident. Resting for two days, they were back on the road, travelling to Perth via Wongan Hills.

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