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John Gilbert diary entry

13 March 1845 - 14 March 1845

Page 51. Volume 2

[in left margin]

Ruellia Camp

7 miles



party were looking out for a Camping place, while on our route we came upon an Emu with a number of young ones, all the horses that were free, immediately gave chace [sic], and the result was we killed three, a very acceptable addition to our usual larder. From the ridges the Dr α I had a fine view over an immense extent of country and we both feel more strengthened in our opinions regarding the course of this river Suttor, besides this we examined the formation of the rocks α detritus of the water courses and found we are for the first time enter=ing a Granitic country. several large Blocks of it were afterwards seen in the bed of the Suttor. to make sure however of finding water tomorrow Calvert α Brown rode down and returned in the evening α reported that the river kept still southerly.

[in left margin]

Friday 14th

7½ miles S.S.W.

Gilberts Birth=day Camp407.

822 1/2

To day we moved down the Suttor, but instead of 12 miles as we were prepared for, we cut off so many angles that we made the distance in about 7½. in a S.S.W. course, we camped at the end of a long water hole, the river keeps up the appearance we first observed as regards its bed and general supply of water, but the banks α vegetation are changing and in many parts reminding us very much of the Mackenzie, the banks are now well lined with Casuarina, and where the bed is dry and sandy the bean like plant is frequent. the whole distance on the right bank the scrub runs parrallel with the river, and in places comes very near the bank, the ridges in many places jutting out upon the river seems to turn the river off so much to the South, these ridges have the granitic rock so near the surface that the glaucous leaved Iron Bark is more stunted than we have before observed, on one part of the right bank about 2 miles before we camped we passed a chain of Lagoons408, all dry however except one, which had the appearance of being permanent water, it was about 200 yards long with an average breadth of about 50, and on which were numbers of Ducks. the pool we are camped on is nearly half a mile in length, and Ducks very numerous, Cormorants Snake Birds α Straw necked Ibis were observed on it. Roper α Charlie reconnoitering for tomorrows stage. Last night there appeared like a change of weather the whole night being perfectly clear α cloudless, and to day we had clear weather and rather warm, but towards the close of the day the heavens again became cloudy. We tried our lines again but caught only a few Cristus409. This was a species of fish we did not see at all in the Mackenzie, which again gives us hopes of this river being a Northern and Western stream. Roper α Charlie returned late having ridden

Note 407

From the fact that Leichhardt named their campsite of 14th March “Gilbert’s Birthday Camp”, much information on Gilbert – his year of birth (1812, the same year as Edward Lear, Charles Dickens and Canada were born), his parents’ names (William and Ann), their birthplaces (nearby villages in Kent), his birthplace (Newington Butts in south London) and his brothers’ names (William and Thomas) – was obtained from the Mormon Church’s invaluable genealogical database. Gilbert’s Birthday Camp was estimated by McLaren to be at about GR 687 238 on the Byerwen 1: 100,000 map, but he could not pinpoint the camp, as the exact spot is obscured by an inkblot on Leichhardt’s sketch map. Both Gilbert and Murphy record the site as being by a fine sheet of water about half a mile long, and Gilbert wrote that they camped at the end of it, i.e. at the southern end. The campsite might therefore have been about a mile further south, at about GR 675 225 (see previous footnote under 11th March). There was obviously much bird life on the stretch of water they camped on. During the day Leichhardt also saw an Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus, two “native companions” (Brolgas Grus rubicundus: Leichhardt - and Gilbert - always referred to these cranes by their colonial name), and an ibis (he did not say which species). Sadly no-one – Gilbert, Murphy, Phillips or Leichhardt - made any mention of Gilbert’s 33rd birthday in their diaries, or whether they celebrated it in any way, apart from recording it in the name of the camp.

Note 408

There are two small lagoons marked on the Byerwen map between GR 697 243 and 701 244. These are only a mile, not two, from where McLaren estimated Gilbert’s Birthday Camp to be. There are two buildings marked here but without a name – is this “Terrang Homestead” of McLaren’s thesis (page 210)? If so, the buildings are next to the homestead, rather than half a mile upstream as McLaren records.

Note 409

James Maclaine of the Fish Section at the Natural History Museum in London worked out that “Cristus” should be “Gristes”. Thomas Mitchell described Acerina (Gristes) peelii in 1838, this is now Maccullochella peelii, the Murray Cod. However, this species is mainly found in New South Wales and in southern Queensland. The “Cristus” they caught in the Suttor River were probably Golden Perch Macquaria ambigua. Both species are from the family Percichthyidae.