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John Gilbert diary entry

30 April 1845 - 1 May 1845

Page 83. Volume 2

[in left margin]

Petroica Goodenovii566


but a new species was seen to day for the first time, having the leaves of the Glaucous leaved Iron-bark with the bark and trunk of the rusty Gum. I was a little surprised too in shooting the Petroica goodenovii, on descending from the ridges we came upon a fine open flat, and steering North, we came upon the river but the banks so densely clothed in rank blady grass that we again chose the dry part of the bed of the river for our nights Camping567. In a ramble I saw nothing new or interesting, neither the new Petroica or the Ptilotis made its appearance, but I shot a second example of P. Goodenovii, I observed the Platycercus paliceps, as abundant as ever, the Chlamydera nuchalis, is now becoming frequent it has fairly taken the place of maculata. The Strepera ---- and Calyptorhynchus Banksii? were both observed, but from their shy α wary habits, I did not succeed in getting a shot at them, during the days march I observed Myzantha garrula? a species which has long been absent from us, I also observed Poephila cincta; and Estrelda annulosa, and Estrelda Phaeton568. Our days course is probably about west but the distance in a direct line cannot be more than 3 miles, the river keeps up its great breadth, but is much more choked in its bed by banks of Tea tree α Casuarina. the stream however keeps up its supply and runs tolerably strong. about a mile from our Camp is a very fine water fall, *See Sunday 18th May.

[In his diary entry for Sunday 18th May, on page 103, Gilbert inserted the following passage]:


Wed 30th April While we were travelling over the Ridges Calvert α Brown, remained behind to search for a Sword, which was lost off one of the Bullocks backs during yesterdays stage, they did not suc=ceed in their object, and in coming after us they kept the river bank, and reported to us the fact of our having committed an error in taking to the ridges, while there was really very good travelling ground by keeping as before to the river, the reason why Charlie should have so misled us is very difficult to understand, he went out last night with his gun and as usual followed up the river, when he returned he told us he had gone 2 miles, and that during the entire distance we could not keep either the river bed or its banks, and that there was a great water fall. this latter too was not seen by Brown α Calvert, what makes it more annoying is that through going over the ridges we gave our Cattle one of the severest days stages they have hitherto had independent of the little progress made for the day. when Brown came in and related with Calvert the above contradictions to Charlies account, the latter lost his temper on being discovered, and he α Brown had a very serious quarrel in consequence during which the secret came out respecting the affair at Spear horse Camp569 on Zamia Creek, instead of the poor horse having been speared by Natives, it now turns out that Charlie inflicted the wound on the poor horse with his Tomahawk, why or wherefore is yet a mystery to us all. They at night slept separately for the first time in the expedition, both threatening never again to speak to the other, but I doubt very much whether they will not soon forget it.


Page 83 [continued]

[in left margin]

Thurs 1st May

11 miles570

8 1/2 W by N.



We travelled to day rather longer than usual, making about 11 Miles, and probably about 8½ in a direct line our course about N 80 W. The days route was over fine grassy flats, α undulating country, occasionally ridges or hills came in our track near the rivers bank, when the country would be very much broken for a mile or so. a long range on the opposite side of the river was seen during our entire route at an average distance of 7 to 9 miles, running nearly parrallel with our course, on the same side as we are travelling the right bank moderately elevated hills were occasionally seen within 3 to 4 miles of the river, about 6 miles we crossed a very large tributary coming down from S.W. its breadth about 90 to 100 yards, water

Note 566

Red-capped Robin Petrocia goodenovii. Gilbert had not mentioned this species in his Port Essington Expedition diary before, although here in the Valley of Lagoons it must have been at the northerly extent of its range. Gilbert shot another individual on the same day. The importance of these specimens is indicated by two arrows pencilled in over the text, probably by Alec Chisholm. The arrowheads appear to point at the left and right ends of Gilbert’s first use of the words “Petroica goodenovii”. This theory is supported by the fact that another pencilled arrowhead points to Gilbert’s sight record of Petroica goodenovii being “rather abundant” in his diary on the following day. Chisholm did refer to Gilbert “unexpectedly” finding the Red-capped Robin on the Burdekin (Chisholm’s Birds of the Gilbert diary” 1945: 188, under “Robins”). The two birds Gilbert shot are probably the two Murphy Collection Red-capped Robins from the expedition, an adult male and an immature female, which are now in RAMM Exeter. Both are labelled "Port Essington Expedition 1844", but this is a blanket date written on all Murphy’s bird collection labels, whether they were collected in 1844 or 1845. Another possibility is Petrocia goodenovii BMNH 1881.5.1.6229, which has no data but looks like a classic Gilbert specimen from the Leichhardt Expedition.

Note 567

Again, neither Leichhardt nor Gilbert named this camp. The difficulties of moving through the area must have exhausted their imagination. Perhaps it should be called “Red-capped Robin Camp”? This is both the old English name as used by Gould and Gilbert and the one currently used for this pretty little songbird. McLaren put this campsite at GR 023 021 on the 1: 100,000 Valley of Lagoons map 7960, north of the junction with Porphyry Creek (Leichhardt’s “big oaktree creek from the west with a broad sandy but dry bed”), but at the southern end of where a mile-long broad stream of water in the Burdekin is marked on the map. Check with Route Group as to where the waterfall is. It must run off the west side of Pelican Lake Range - or was this the waterfall which was “invented” by Charlie?

Note 568

The other birds Gilbert listed on 30th April 1845 were Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus palliceps, Great Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis, Pied Currawong Strepera graculina, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii, Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala, Black-throated Finch Poephila cincta, Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii and Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton.

Note 569

Spear Horse Camp was their campsite of 7th December 1844.

Note 570

Again, neither Leichhardt nor Gilbert named this camp, which is now known as Lucky Downs Camp. McLaren placed this camp at GR 904 078 on the Valley of Lagoons 1: 100,000 map 7960, south of present-day Lucky Downs Station. The camp site name was established in 2006, when a monument was erected during the Dalrymple Shire Council Leichhardt Rally in 2006. This was sponsored by the Atkinson family of Lucky Downs Station and the plaque on the top reads as follows: “Lucky Downs. 1st May 1845, this unnamed Leichhardt camp site was set up in the sand of the Burdekin River about 1.6 kilometers below the [present day] Lucky Downs Homestead. It is the 27th camp site on the Burdekin River and is clearly defined in Leichhardt’s field notes as being opposite an existing ridge on the left hand bank of the river”. From this passage Henry Atkinson was able to pinpoint the exact locality of their camp of 1st May. In fact, so well do the Atkinson family know the route of the Leichhardt Expedition through their property that they were able to erect a sign reading “Ludwig Leichhardt passed here with his men approx 11.45am 1st May 1845. Darling Downs – Darwin Expedition”, with a big arrow pointing left, for the benefit of Leichhardt Expedition Rally members attending the monument dedication event and Sunday service at Lucky Downs on 10th October 2006. It was at this campsite that Leichhardt wrote his long and lyrical description of the general routines followed on the expedition, and the characters and jobs of each expedition member. Calvert appears to have been in charge of food supplies and cooking, Brown to fetch water and make the tea, Charlie and Murphy to round up the horses and bullocks in the morning. Gilbert “Takes his gun to shoot birds”. Leichhardt also wrote “Mr. Gilbert has travelled much, and consequently has a rich store of impressions de voyage: his conversation is generally very pleasing and instructive, in describing the character of the countries he has see, and the manners and customs of the people he has known. He is well informed in Australian Ornithology”. As far as is known, Gilbert only lived in England and only visited Tenerife, Ascension Island, Cape Town, Timor, Singapore and Australia, most of those very briefly.