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John Gilbert diary entry

24 February 1845 - 25 February 1845

Page 34. Volume 2

[in left margin]

7 miles W.N.W.

Crimson-wing Parrot Camp

[of the river, where the river] narrowed considerably and where [the sides] are broken, and in many places having rocky and gravelly bottoms. in several places [at the] junction [of] creeks I saw small natives wells with water, at about 7 miles the Dr descended into the [bed] of the River to some green Reeds, here we found a number of little wells, all having water very near the surface, this the Dr proposed for us to camp for the next stage if we could not find more water in the vicinity, about half a mile above this a sudden bend of the river takes place towards the Southward, at this place our attention was drawn to the great number of Cockatoos, making towards the spot I came upon numerous tracks of Natives crossing the river towards a small creek coming in just at the elbow from the N α Eastward, following up this I soon came upon a good supply of good water in small pools, here the Dr at once proposed my returning α conducting the party on to this place for a camp, while he α Brown continued exploring upwards for a further days stage. Returning therefore to the party, we made our preparations and left the Camp by 12 o'clock, the morning was excessively hot α sultry, and our cattle felt the full effects of it, one of them was so uneasy that he threw off his load four times, instead of conducting the party on the right bank as the Dr proposed, I in returning along the left bank found a much better travelling ground for our bullocks, on arriving at Camp we were in full expectation of a Thunder-storm, but it passed over us with only a few sprinklings, during the evening we were very successful in killing Cockat[oos]. at Midnight the Dr α Brown returned, they had travelled up the river 16 miles without finding water at this distance they came suddenly upon a camp of Natives who in the immediate surprise as usual all ran off as fast as poss=ible, the Dr trying to come to a parley with them, but they would not stop, near their camp the Dr found small wells in the bed of the river340, almost immediately after they were caught in the Thunder storm which passed us, with them however it rained very heavily, and the water holes, and creeks were in a very short time filled to the brim. The Dr thinking this offered us a sufficient supply for all our purposes returned to enable us to travel on tomorrow, during the whole evening the water hole was visited by very many Birds particularly the Bronze necked Dove - Crimson Wing Parrots - Blue Mountain birds each species in countless numbers, all the species of Honey-suckers, which I have from time to time remarked were all gathered here in tolerable numbers341, and I obtained a second example of the little Porzana342, I first killed on Crinum Creek. during the whole of this days route in place of the extensive flats, the country on each side was slightly undulating.

[in left margin]

Tues 25.

16 miles

W.N.W.

To day we moved on the 16 miles the extent of the Drs yesterday's reconnoitre, the day as yesterday was intensely hot, and so long a stage told very severely upon our Bullocks one in particular was so far knocked up, that it was a question at one time whether we should be enabled to get him on, he certainly could not have gone another mile, The River to day made some extraordinary bends, the first two miles it ran nearly as far as S.W. then it again turned up very considerably to the Northward, here we crossed the river343 and by keeping in a N W course travelled on in nearly a straight line for 8 miles here we again recrossed the river, it taking many bends to the

Note 340

Leichhardt’s manuscript sketch map for this area appears to put these “wells of the natives” at the apex of the most westerly bend of the Isaac. This must be at GR 816 999 on the Wyena 1: 100,000 map 8454, where Cecil and Platypus Creeks join the Isaac River from the west. Murphy and Leichhardt’s diaries add the information that Leichhardt took two calabashes from the Aborigines’ camp and left a “bright penny” in return. Leichhardt also listed a number of items he saw at the camp, including an iron tomahawk made from the head of a hammer, which he thought indicated the Aborigines had had previous communication with the coast (Leichhardt 1847: 162, Sprod 2006: 40).

Note 341

Leichhardt also recorded on 24th February (1847: 161) that “Mr Gilbert observed the female of the Regent-bird (the Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus, which would here have been close to the northern extent of its modern distribution), and several other interesting birds, which made him regret to leave this spot so favourable to his pursuit”.

Note 342

See footnote from when the expedition was at Crinum Camp on 30th January 1845. There is a specimen of Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla palustris in LIVM (D5482s), a male which is labelled as having been collected on the 23rd of February 1845 at the “Isaacs River”, this must be the specimen Gilbert recorded under 24th February 1845. This hints that the female Baillon’s Crake now at ANSP, no. 6241 from “Port Essington” (= “Port Essington Expedition”), might have been the bird that was collected at Crinum Camp.

Note 343

They must have crossed the Isaac River from east to west at the point where the Peak Downs Highway now crosses the Isaac River (at GR 165 611).There is a Leichhardt Expedition memorial here - according to McLaren (typescript p.194) “it carries a simple but moving message and the members’ names are listed”.