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John Gilbert diary entry

19 April 1845 - 20 April 1845

Page 77. Volume 2

Robin α Honeysucker and a specimen of Monarcha535. Another feature in the country are the number of Turret formed Ant Hills, the first were observed on our march from 3 Rock Camp. they are now becoming more frequent on the flats, however none of them yet assume the gigantic proportions of those formerly observed by me at Port Essington. the highest we have yet seen would certainly be rather under five feet. numerous new fruits are now almost daily discovered, but very few of them at all suited to our palates, one tree however was found at this Camp, bearing a white berry very like the common Misletoe of England, it contains a glutinous thick juice resembling dissolved Gum, various kinds of Cucumber forms of Plants have within the last few days been found, but none of them eatable all being so exceedingly bitter, that even the handling only leaves its flavour on the fingers, and if any thing is afterwards eaten from the hand the taste is transferred to the mouth, one of these is in appearance a most tempting and beautiful fruit to the eye, being about the size of a large Orange and of similar form, the colour bright red, the tree is a creeper among the fig trees, and the fruit hangs gracefully down, it is thus ornamental if not useful, the birds however appear to eat the seeds, when cut open it very much resembles a pumpkin in colour, fleshy appearance and smell, the figs of various kinds still abundant and which offers a great attraction to Parrots, Cockatoos, and other fruit eating Birds.

[in left margin]

Sunday 20th

10 miles

8 W by N

Ash-tree Camp536

19=9=30

1132

To day was a regular mountain march, the ridges α Hills so constantly jutting out upon the river gave us a good deal of up and down hill work, they were all stony or very rugged, and our Bullocks α Horses were very tender in the feet, where the ridges receded a little from the river there were tolerably open flats, having fine timber of Box α Iron-bark, and well covered with fine grass. the river winding its way clear of so many hills was of course very devious in its course during the whole days route, but on the whole kept a good westerly course our medium course being N 80 W. about 8 miles direct, for the day fully ten miles. another excellent fruit was found to day a small spinous shrub having black berries about the size of large peas, it is very sweet and pleasant, the Dr found the first of it on the Gwyder537, and at the time considered it, the sweetest fruit he had found in Australia. A Hill nearly overhanging our Camp is composed of Quartz Porphyry.

Note 535

Another specimen of Gilbert’s new species, the White-browed Robin Poecilodryas superciliosa, and another Yellow Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavus. See the previous footnotes about specimens of these two species collected on 15th and 16th April 1845. As for the Monarch Flycatcher, Gilbert did refer to collecting at least one Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis (under the name Monarcha carinata) in his diary from the expedition (vol.2: 39) for 3rd March 1845, when the expedition was on the Isaac River. Could this have been another? Two specimens in Philadelphia, ANSP 1083 (female) & 1084 (imm. male), are both listed in the Verreaux Catalogue as coming from “Port Essington”, where they do not exist; they must both be from the Port Essington Expedition. Also check BMNH 1881.5.1.1321 (adult, “N.S.W.”).

Note 536

McLaren estimated Ash-tree Camp to be at GR 568 846 on the 1:100,000 Ewan map 8059, just west of the pinnacles in the river and the aptly named Hells’ Gates. The camp site was not named by Leichhardt and Gilbert did not explain his name. On the map the foothills of Mount Fullstop Range do seem to overhang this point, as Gilbert wrote. However, due to the rugged nature of the terrain McLaren could not reach the area, and agreed with Gilbert and Leichhardt about just how difficult the terrain was to move through – they had in effect climbed over a mountain before they camped. Leichhardt (1847: facing page 223) published a drawing he had made on the 20th April, entitled “Ranges from the camp at the Burdekin, 20th April”, which might help to pinpoint the campsite in future.

Note 537

Gwydir River of northern New South Wales, which Gilbert had himself visited.