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John Gilbert diary entry

21 April 1845 - 22 April 1845

Page 78. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Monday 21st.

10 miles

9 S. West


Big Hill Camp538

To days whole stage a rapid succession of Hills α dales, we appear to be getting near the source of the Burdikin, the river becoming more narrowed and rocky, during the days stage we past over Talechist Porphyry. Quartz Porphyry - Quartzite, Clay chiste α c: The course of the river to day was about South west, and from many conspicuous land marks we have passed, we cannot have made less than 9 miles in a straight line, very good work when we consider the rocky gullies α Hills we have had to climb over, the last two days travelling has shown us how deceptive the probable course of a river is in a mountainous country, when on some of the more elevated Hills which lay near our track we could frequently see a great distance around us, and following up the river with valleys, conjectured one to the other the valley we should have to follow, but in almost every instance we were very far out; the river frequently following round a mountain, seemed as if it was going direct to the middle of a range, but as we progressed we invariably found it turned off to the Southward α Westward by bluff Ridges or Sugar loaf hills. to day particularly, in looking from the hill at our last camp, any one would have supposed from the general features of the valleys - that the regular fall of the water was from the long range to the Northward, but to day we find it going fairly to the South α West of it, there is however another range to the Southward α Westward probably the Burdikin takes its head from it539. To day I observed Donacola α Megalurus; species which I have not observed with us for some time. I shot Ptilotis flavigula, α the common Rhipidura albiscapa, the Aegialitis nigrifrons is still common540.

[in left margin]

Tues 22nd.


10 miles


Blue-mountain bird Camp541

At one mile we crossed the Burdikin at the junction of a creek coming in from the S α Westward542, continuing on the left bank for four miles over fine flats we arrived at a division of the river one coming from the S.W543. the other continuing nearly west the latter we followed, for about 2 miles, when we crossed it at the junction of a Casuarina Creek; coming in from the Northward544, we travelled over a fine flat for about 3 miles when we again camped on the right bank. this branch if it be the principal one is certainly changed in its appearance, being very much choked in every part of its bed with Casuarina, Tea tree, α c. α c. while the Southerly branch preserved the same open cha=racter as we have remarked for the last four or five stages, Mountains α ranges still sur=round us on every side, but the river so far from appearing as if near its sourse [sic] now it has reached something like open country, is nearly equal in magnitude to that a hundred miles lower down. The Dr α Charlie reconnoitred for the purpose of ascertaining the course of the Southern branch, but it proved to be a tributary if any thing even

Note 538

Big Hill Camp (Leichhardt’s Big Mt. Camp) was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 477 772 on the Ewan 1: 100,000 map 8059, but again he could not reach the area. He thought it would have been just west of Mount Fullstop (height 479m). The presumption has been that Mount Fullstop was the “Big Mountain”, but from Gilbert’s diary for the next day, 23rd April, when he described the “Big Mountain” as being almost due east when they had travelled about 4 miles, then the “Big Mountain” must have been in the Blue Range, perhaps the highest peak thereof. 762m is the highest point in the Blue Range marked on the Ewan map 8059, at GR 472 905. This is directly north of where McLaren estimated their campsite of 21st April to be. Perhaps Leichhardt’s drawing of the mountains seen from Ash Tree Camp (20th April) was of this range. Check with the Route Group.

Note 539

Actually the Clarke River runs through this south-western range; the Burdekin began to bend back towards the north-west during their travels the next day.

Note 540

Gilbert saw Chestnut-breasted Mannikins Lonchura castaneothorax and Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis alisteri. “Ptilotis flavigula” translates as the Yellow-throated Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavicollis, which is only found in Tasmania. Did Gilbert mean he had shot another specimen of Ptilotis flava, now Lichenostomus flavus - the Yellow Honeyeater? As noted before, there are at least seven specimens of Yellow Honeyeaters collected by Gilbert and Murphy from the Burdekin River in various museum collections. The Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa alisteri does occur in the Burdekin River area but this specimen has not yet been found, unless it is ANSP 914, from “E. coast of Australia”. Aegialitis nigrifrons is the Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops, which is found on watercourses throughout most of Australia.

Note 541

This camp, called Blue Mountain Parrot Camp by Leichhardt as they were “very frequent near our camp”, was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 310 825 on the Clarke River 1: 100,000 map 7959. The “blue” parrots were Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus, which have deep blue heads; “Blue Mountain Parrot” is an old colonial name.

Note 542

Black Gin Creek, where they crossed to the north bank, presumably to cut off a southern bend in the Burdekin and a basaltic outcrop on the southern bank.

Note 543

The Clarke River, which Leichhardt named after the Reverend W.B. Clarke of Paramatta, who had been “most arduously labouring to elucidate the meteorology and the geology of this part of the world”.

Note 544

This may have been the creek, unnamed on the Clarke River map, which runs into the Burdekin from the north at GR 367 797, near the eastern end of the present runway of Blue Range.