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John Gilbert diary entry

27 February 1845 - 28 February 1845

Page 37. Volume 2

[in left margin]

12 miles N.E.

Skull Camp351

returned the Dr was very angry we did not proceed on yesterday. we had therefore to travel the two stages to day, Charlie by making a short cut saved us about 4 miles352 and although we made a late start got over our 12 miles353 tolerably well, one Bullock however was sadly knocked up. we camped on the right bank of the river, at the junction of a Scrub creek, two or three holes of rain water left in the bed of the creek was our only supply and this was quite yellow from the mixture of clay, in washing down from the scrub, during the afternoon it rained heavily and our Baggage as well as ourselves were all well saturated354. the country travelled over, was in general between the lines or spurs of Scrub, Box flats in general prevailing. A Natives skull was found near the camp lying exposed on the ground.

Friday 28


Stationary to enable the Dr to make observations for determining his Longitude, Charlie α myself left for the purpose of exploring up the Isaacs, about a mile from the Camp just as we were emerging from a patch of Scrub, we saw two Natives young men, who were approaching, the moment they saw us they stood gazing for a few seconds, and then at once took to their heels, and ran off very fast, I was so much amazed that I did not think to call to them till they had gone off too far, but we saw them still running half a mile away, as we progressed up the river we saw the recent tracks of Natives every where and in the trees marks of an iron Tomahawk, Charlie observed we must be near their Camp and about four miles farther we came upon a rocky part of the river bed in which we saw a long pool of water355, after examining this we again mounted the bank and then saw that we had just past [sic] the Natives Camp, but as I saw only an old women [sic] and as I thought we would again pass in returning I did not ride up, at this part of the river we saw mountains ahead of us356, the river apparantly coming from them and I was now in full hopes we should not only come upon a change of country but in all probability find a greater supply of water than we have yet met with on the Isaacs, the river too becoming much narrower, and more rocky α gravelly in its bed seemed to promise that my hopes would not be futile, but it did not at all come up to my expectations, from the Black fellows Camp, we followed up at least 10 miles without seeing more than a few puddles of rain water the last three or four miles was entirely through the mountains of a range running about N.N.E. α S.S.W.

Note 351

Also called “Blackfellow’s Skull Camp” by Murphy (Sprod 2006: 42). Leichhardt, Gilbert and Charlie had found this Aborigine skull on the 26th February, the first time they had seen the remains of a human body on the expedition. Leichhardt also noted that at the same spot the river bed was full of pebbles of concretions of limestone, and curious trunks of fossil trees, and with a loose sandstone cropping out on the river banks (Leichhardt 1847: 165). The party camped here on the nights of 27th-28th February. McLaren tentatively put this campsite at GR 051 939 on the Harrybrandt map, by a complex of small creeks which join just west of the Isaac, but at the point where they run into it. Nowadays the workings at the Goonyella Mine must obscure the origins of these creeks and the true course of the Isaac River.

Note 352

Although the western bend of the Isaac River takes it onto the Wyena 1:100,000 map 8454, the expedition probably travelled almost directly north along GR 04/05 because of Charlie’s short cuts (see Harrybrandt 1:100,000 map 8554). According to Murphy they met the Isaac again after about 8 miles, crossed it, and camped a further 4 miles north (Sprod 2006: 42).

Note 353

Is it a co-incidence that a creek which flows into the Isaac River along their route of 27th February is called “12 Mile Gully”? (Harrybrandt 1: 100,000 map 8554, the creek joining the Isaac at GR 055 911).

Note 354

Murphy commented that “coming to camp so late, we were obliged to sleep on the wet ground in wet things by way of a treat” (Sprod 2006: 42).

Note 355

On Google Earth can be seen a stretch of river in which this “rocky part” might be, just south of Red Hill station. Also note that a creek called “Skull Creek” flows into the Isaac River about two miles north of Red Hill, is this a co-incidence, or has the wrong creek been named after the Aboriginal skull?

Note 356

The Burton Range, through which (as Gilbert said) the Isaac River flows. The first peak the expedition would have come across, in the southern part of the Burton Range, is called “Camp Hill”.