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John Gilbert diary entry

6 May 1845

Page 89. Volume 2

[in left margin]

Tues 6.

This morning I killed the Calamoherpe585 for the first time in the expedition. The Natives made their appearance rather earlier than we expected, and assumed a much bolder front than yesterday, they had left all their women α children back in the little scrub, - from 9 to 12 O'clock they remained on the opposite bank of the rivulet, and were very urgent to cross the water to our camp, which of course I resisted as much as possible, and it required all our forbearance and caution to avoid coming to an open rupture with them, for as the day advanced they seemed to gain more confidence, and courage probably from our small number of only four, at each time of their endeavouring to cross to us, I fetched a horse towards them or endeavoured to amuse them as much as possible with a succession of something that was novel, wishing to gain time till the Drs and Ropers return, during one part of which I succeeded in keeping them amused by showing them different parts of my arms legs or Body, as they seemed very an=xious to know if we were white all over, and whether we were men or women however they grew tired of the show and eventually became so anxious to satisfy their curiosity to visit our camp that I loaded my gun with Ball to fairly stop them in their impatience to cross over to us, they did not throw their spears but two of them threw stones as if in defiance, but I rather chose not to observe it than come to open hostilities with them, our object being to keep them from seeing our camp, for if a tribe of natives were to once set foot among our tents, the number of attractive things lying about would inevitably tempt the cupidity of a savage and would in all pro=bability lead to blood-shed on either side, it would therefore always be the most prudent plan to check an attempt in its infancy, for as soon as they saw the superiority of our weapons they would in all probability soon beat a retreat. this was my plan of proceeding, should they attempt to cross to us - but at this juncture Roper came riding in, in a canter, at sight of his approach they retreated back about a hundred yards; and seemed quite

Note 585

Australian Reed-warbler Acrocephalus australis. Gilbert was only once more to record this bird, in a sightings list he made on 15th May 1845. The Natural History Museum now has what is almost certainly the bird Gilbert collected on 6th May, BMNH 1881.5.1.1035. It has been labelled "Port Essington" in error, this should read "Port Essington Expedition" (= First Leichhardt Expedition). There is only one record of the Australian Reed-Warbler from Port Essington (Northern Territory), so a Queensland location is much more likely. It is also labelled (although this has been deleted) "Gilbert's last collection, interior of Aust" in what looks like Gould's writing. As with all Gilbert’s Leichhardt Expedition skins, it is very flat, but in fair condition.