"A Haunt of the Jinkarras (A Fearsome Story of Central Australia)" by Ernest Favenc (first published in the Sydney Bulletin, April 5, 1890; reprinted in Favnec's short story collection The Last of Six: Tales of the Austral Topics, 1893)
In May 1889 the body some months old of a man was discovered on one of the tributraries of the Finke River in the northern part of south Australia. On the body was a journal, stained and waterlogged, but, with some effort, was deciphered by the mannin charge of the survey party that found the body. The story continues with the diary with the first entry, dated March 10, 1888.
The writer states that he is on a trek with Jackson, the lone survivor of a party which had perished whie exploring the country. Jackson had been found and brought back to health by aborigines (called blacks throughout the tale) and had been brought back to civilization where the writer found employment for him. Jackson told the writer about a large ruby field his party had found before disaster struck and it there that Jackson and the writer are heading. After nine days, they came across what the writer named "Ruby Gorge," where the pair found about twenty large rubies and many smaller ones. The pair decided to camp there for a couple of days before heading back.
They find many caves, including one that seem to be very extensive, and decide to explore it. They found some bats and some evidence of fire, indicating that natives had camped there on occasion. Jackson then discovers an opening that leads to a steep incline, which they follow. As they descend, they come across a sudden draft of air by an opening to a large chamber. In the candlelight they spy a dark, monkey-like figure that rushes away. Jackson thinks that this was a jinkarra, a legendary creature -- perhaps human, perhaps monkey -- that is said to inhabit undeground dwellings. The aborigines wold use the spectre of jinkarras to frighten their children.
They then followed an underground river which led to a larger cavern where there were a number of these creatures about small fires. The jinkarra, naked and unadorned, were frightened and scattered. Jackson managed to grab one and it was human-like, under five feet tall, although with no forehead, a heavy mat of hair going from skull down the back, and a tail. They then captured a female and determined she had a tail, as did all the others. Suddenly, Jackson disappeared. The writer edged to where he last saw his partner; the slippery rocks led to a deep cliff and Jackson met his doom at the bottom of an abyss.
But now the water was rising and the entry to the cavern was covered with water. The writer had to wait until it subsided. It took sixty hours, cowering in the pitch black as the jinkarra kept creeping up to him, poking him, and trying to push him over the cliff. Finally, hungry and weak, he emerges from the cave, only to find that his horses had run off. The last entry in his journal states that he must try to walk back to civilization and he will carry his journal with him, along with the rubies, so that if he does not make it, others will know about the ruby field and the jinkarra.
A postscript notes that no rubies were found on the body and that the supposed ruby field has not been found. Neither, it seems, were the jinkarra.
Ernest Favenc (1845-1908) contributed over fifty stories and sketches and two poems to the Sydney Bulletin, from 1890 to 1893, as well as to other Australian publications. Favenc's stories, which offer "accute if often unconscious insights into the fears and aspirations of Australians in the seminel period of the 1890s," fit well with the Bulletin's policy of offering stories "to appeal to the bush as well as the urbn population, and to support a nationalist cause." Favenc's stories often appeared alongside contributions by some of Australia's most popular authors of the time -- Banjo Paterson, Louis Becke, Randolph Bedford, Edward Dyson, and Henry LaFavenc was born in England and moved to Australia when he was nineteen. He was best known as an explorer. A six-month exploration of the borders of Queensland in 1878 proved the feasibilty of extending the Queensland Railways to Port Darwin (which, alas, was never built). In the early 1880s he led expeditions exploring Western Australia. Among his books were The History of Australian Explorarion from 1788 to 1888 (1888) and The Explorers of Australia and Their Life-Work (1808). Favenc used his experiences to further his other writing. He was a master of the bush tale and helped shape Australian readership habits.
Favenc suffered from ill health and alcoholism during his last years. In 1905 he nearly died following a fall that broke his thigh; it was reported then that he had kidney, heart, and liver diseases. His death, in November 1907, was reported in many of the australian newspapers and magazines.
The Last of Six, which contains this story, is avaiable to read online, as is a retrospective collection, 1997's Tales of the Austral Tropics, which also has this story.