Skip to content

Welcome back. See Plan your visit for health and safety information including mandatory check in and wearing of face masks.

Frank Feast expeditions audio visuals and transcripts

Frank Feast was a young man who accompanied Dr Herbert Basedow on four expeditions in central and northern Australia in the 1920s. In an interview recorded in 1986, Frank Feast reminisces on expeditions with Herbert Basedow in 1920, 1922, 1926 and 1928.

Third medical relief expedition, 1920

Basedow undertook three medical surveys of Aboriginal people in South Australia and the southern Northern Territory in 1919 and 1920. Feast, who was 17 at the time, was one of Basedow's assistants on the third expeditions, the others being Basedow's wife Nell and an Arrernte Aboriginal man, Arrerika or Punch. They travelled with a camel-drawn buggy.

1919, Uncle Hugh Hudson brought Dr Basedow to the old Green Point homestead in his capacity as a geologist. This was where I first met Dr Basedow who subsequently I accompanied on four different expeditions to central and northern Australia.

On departure on the medical survey expedition in 1920 with Dr and Mrs Basedow, I was made a presentation of a Kodak camera. I was only given the camera a few days before departure. And the only instruction I received was from the Kodak people from whom I took possession of the camera in Rundle Street, Adelaide. So the effort was only an amateur effort.

That particular year, 1920, happened to be an outstanding year from the point of view that there was copious rain. We struck a very, very severe rain storm on Bloods Creek Plain, and it was a matter of waiting on the plain for two days for the track to dry up before we could proceed with the camels. Good travelling with driving camels is to accomplish in eight hours or thereabouts 20 miles per day. And that would depend partly on the nature of the country over which we traversed.

Then we come to Stuarts Creek. From Stuarts Creek we come on to Blanche Cup. From Blanche Cup there's Coward Springs and the lake of freshwater then Beresford would be a small settlement along the railway line. Then the Strangways Springs, Two Sister Springs, Frances Springs then we come to the station of Anna Creek.

On the track we just slept out. There would be a fire. Punch would be on one side of the fire, and I would be the other side. Oh well he'd just walk along beside the buggy, the same I did myself for hundreds of miles. Then we come to Allandale that was north of Oodnadatta. From Oodnadatta we would go south-west to Todmorden head station. Then we come to old Macumba and Stevensons Creek bore. Somewhere along that line there is the Ten Mile bore.

We went from the South Australian-Northern Territory border to Horseshoe Bend then north-west from there we went to Idracowra station and then to Henbury station. And then we go to Hells Gate and from then you're practically in the sandy bed of the Finke River right until you get to Hermannsburg. From Hermannsburg we went to Gosse's Bluff. Then from Gosse's Bluff we came back and we went up in the bed of the Finke River to Glen Helen Gorge.

Then from Alice Springs after a stay of some days we with the camel buggy drove back to Horseshoe Bend. From Horseshoe Bend we proceeded to Oodnadatta and then finally boarded the train to Adelaide. And that was the end of the expedition.

Third medical relief expedition, 1920 05:08

Feast's recollections and photos of the third medical relief expedition, 1920.

Mararoa geological expedition, 1922

In 1922 Basedow was commissioned by Mararoa Gold Mining Company to prospect for oil on a block of land in the Victoria River district of the Northern Territory. Feast assisted Basedow on this expedition, as camp assistant and cook. This time the party travelled by car and horse-drawn buggy.

I was offered a further expedition with Dr Basedow in 1922 to northern Australia. We took ship on the expedition from Sydney to Port Darwin, and from Port Darwin the horses were hired at Shadforth small station four miles from Katherine. We proceeded both by motor car and four-in-hand on the south-west direction through varying stations to Victoria River Downs and the Pigeon Hole. My main work was the harnessing of the four-in-hand and driving the horses, also looking after the food angle, the cooking and the serving of the meals throughout the trip.

The first station visited was Manbullo. The next station was Willeroo, where in previous years Mr Tom Pearce, who we met on the 1920 trip, was manager at Crown Point. Mr Pearce is one of the characters in Mrs Aeneas Gunn's book We of the Never Never. The next station we passed was Delamere and then there was some very, very rough track.

Finally we arrived at Victoria River Downs station and, after a day or so there, then we proceeded to the Humbert River. It was from the Humbert River where Dr Basedow and the prospector, Mr Billy Williams, took riding horses and pack horses out to inspect the big tract of territory on the land to prospect for the likelihood and to do a geological survey of the possibilities of finding any oil.

When the prospecting was completed, we all journeyed back to Victoria River Downs. I drove the buggy as far south as the Pigeon Hole, while Johnny Roden and Dr Basedow went as far south as the Wave Hill station. In due course, passing through Delamere, Willeroo and Manbullo stations, we arrived at Katherine. Train from Katherine to Pine Creek, Adelaide River, Darwin. There in Darwin remaining to await the Montoro on her return visit from Singapore to Sydney.

Mararoa geological expedition, 1922 03:58

Feast’s recollections and photos of the Mararoa geological expedition, 1922.

Mackay expedition in Central Australia, 1926

This expedition was funded by Donald Mackay, a wealthy grazier, who was keen to explore the economic potential of western central Australia. He engaged Basedow as surveyor and geologist, and Feast as camp assistant and cook. Transport was provided by 25 camels and a camel-drawn buggy.

I'd had special leave from the railway to accompany the expedition to the Petermann Ranges financed by Donald Mackay and with Dr Herbert Basedow, the third trip to the Petermann Ranges and Ayers Rock. We took the train to Oodnadatta. From Oodnadatta in a dodge truck loaded with our provisions we journeyed to the South Australian-Northern Territory border to Charlotte Waters from where we picked up a string of 26 camels.

From Charlotte Waters we proceeded through some very, very heavy mulga scrubs direct to the northern extremity of the Musgrave Ranges. Finally, after the long road stage, we got to Ayers Rock. Dr Basedow spent some time in photographing the various cave drawings in the various caves. After some days there, then we proceeded west to Mount Olga.

One particular camp I well remember it was difficult to get sufficient sticks to even boil the billy, let alone enough ashes or coals to cook a damper. Notably there would be the lack of wood, and then all quite suddenly the next camp might be a water course and there would be lovely white gums – quite a big contrast.

Dr Basedow done all the observations. He done the 12 o'clock observations, and also when we built a trig he would do observations from some distance through the theodolite. From the furthest point reached on the expedition, we then turned around and proceeded back down in the proximity of the Petermann Ranges. From that western extremity of the Petermann Ranges we proceed adjacent to the ranges in a south-easterly direction.

Rather remarkable scenery in the Petermann Ranges. Several very good waterholes. And also we were fortunate to discover two Myall boys, Midergerinya was one and I can't remember the other. They accompanied us for some considerable distance. Dr Basedow frequently interrogated them in the words of their language (karpula karpulyka) meaning 'where was the water, where did the water sit down'. Finally we get to the Alberga. We cross the Alberga and then finally the terminus, the rail head at Oodnadatta.

Mackay expedition in Central Australia, 1926 04:00

Feast’s recollections and photos of the Mackay expedition in Central Australia, 1926.

Mackay expedition in Arnhem Land, 1928

Mackay, Basedow and Feast teamed up again in 1928 on a four-month exploration of Arnhem Land. This time they travelled with horses and mules, looking for grazing land and mineral deposits.

On arrival in Darwin we assembled the necessary foodstuffs and some of the equipment and took the train from Darwin to Katherine via Adelaide River and Pine Creek. The party consisted of Dr Basedow, Donald Mackay, Charlie Lovell, Walter Sully and myself. On arrival at Katherine we offloaded the stores for the trip and we took possession of 33 hired horses. And we proceeded from there to Mataranka and then on to the Elsey station.

Arriving at the Roper River bar, we crossed the Roper River and proceeded north to the Wilton, Goyder Rivers and then finally we come to the Liverpool. As we got further north the country opened out to some considerable extent, and we rode past many beautiful billabongs consisting of both white-coloured lilies and also the pink-coloured lilies. On the itinerary or on the trip, I calculated I shot over 50 turkeys.

As we proceeded further north we would come up against immense sandstone escarpments. Also on some of these escarpments there was some wonderful caves with Aboriginal drawings in which the doctor was very, very interested.

Then finally we come to the Anglican mission station on the East Alligator, in very beautiful surroundings, with very good soil, at Oenpelli Anglican Mission. On arrival at Oenpelli we were quite short of food due to the fact of those two horses floundering through that creek where several of the pack bags that contained the rice and sago were immersed.

Finally we arrive at Pine Creek. Pine Creek into Darwin by train and, after several days wait in Darwin, we again voyaged south from Darwin to Sydney. That was the last expedition of note in the outback that I accompanied Dr Basedow.

Mackay expedition in Arnhem Land, 1928 03:50

Feast’s recollections and photos of the Mackay expedition in Arnhem Land, 1928.

Audio visual credits

  • Stills by Frank Feast. National Museum of Australia
  • Film footage of Basedow and party in Oodnadatta, 1926. Cinematographer: Clarence William Judd. State Library of South Australia
Return to Top