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Diary of John Gilbert, Leichhardt expedition

John Gilbert's diary entry for 1 January 1845

An excerpt of John Gilbert's diary from 1 January 1945. Copyright: The Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. 

Diary by month

  • October 1844From Jimbour House, on the Darling Downs, to Dried Beef Creek in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range (southeast of the future site of the town of Wandoan).
  • November 1844: From Dried Beef Creek in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range to Wallabi camp, at the junction between Spring and Ruined Castle Creeks (Glenhaughton area).
  • December 1844: From Wallaby camp, Ruined Castle Creek to New Year’s camp on the Comet River, north of the future site of Rolleston.
  • January 1845: From New Year’s camp on the Comet River to Crinum camp in the foothills of the Peak Range
  • February 1845: From Crinum camp in the foothills of the Peak Range to Skull camp on the Isaac River, south of Lake Elphinstone
  • March 1845: From Skull camp on the Isaac River, south of Lake Elphinstone, to the camp of Snowball’s Last, on the banks of the Suttor River and in the shadow of Mount McConnell.
  • April 1845: From the camp of Snowball’s Last on the banks of the Suttor River, to an unnamed campsite in the Valley of Lagoons, on the Burdekin River north of its junction with Porphyry Creek.
  • May 1845: From an unnamed campsite in the Valley of Lagoons, on the Burdekin River north of its junction with Porphyry Creek, to Brunonia camp, between Saltwater and Emu Creeks on the Lynd River.
  • June 1845: From Brunonia camp, between Saltwater and Emu Creeks on the Lynd River, to the site of Gilbert’s death on 28 June, near Tea Creek Creek in Cape York, west of the Mitchell River and on the headwaters of the Nassau River.

About the diary

The original of John Gilbert’s diary of the Port Essington Expedition, or First Leichhardt Expedition, is in two volumes and in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney (A2586). The eight members of the expedition were the first Europeans to cross Australia, predating Burke & Wills, and many of the geographical features along their route in Queensland bear their names or the names of their supporters. 

Gilbert’s diary was re-discovered by a Sydney-based journalist, Alec Chisholm, who had placed a request for information about John Gould and his assistant, John Gilbert, in the London Times in 1938. Chisholm was visiting England en route for Germany, where he was attending a bird conference in Berlin (from which he had to leave hurriedly as the clouds of war gathered). As a result of his Times request Chisholm was put in touch with a descendant of John Gould in Hampshire, Dr Geoffrey Edelsten, where Gilbert’s diary was produced for Chisholm amongst a wealth of Gouldiana.

Other manuscripts were given to Chisholm by another Gould descendant, Somerset resident Dr Alan Edelsten.  All are now in the Mitchell Library, which also holds Leichhardt’s manuscript diary from the expedition and the diaries of John Murphy and William Phillips. Leichhardt published his diary in 1847; Dan Sprod published the diaries of Murphy and Phillips in 2006. Presented here, not before time, is a critical edition of John Gilbert’s diary.

Further diary details

More notes about the diary and conventions used, including details of how the campsite co-ordinates have been recorded and how the Route Group has helped. 

Appendices