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John Gilbert diary entry

8 May 1845

Page 93. Volume 2

[in left margin]

Thurs 8th.

Charlie with myself devoted the day to reconnoitering the River upwards, crossing it a little below our Camp I struck off in nearly a North course, keeping behind a range of low hills which runs along the left bank of the river, we had a fine flat to travel over occasionally over an undulating α beautiful country, in about four miles we came upon the Lakes, with the principal branch of the river running through them, in two miles more we came upon a large lake at least four miles in circumference588 on which were aquatic Birds of very many kinds in the greatest numbers we have hitherto seen collected, particularly Pelicans and Ducks α White Cranes, I also observed the spur winged Plover, the long legged Plover, the Pelidna, Mycteria - Grus - and many others which at the distance I could not readily distinguish, on all the dry parts too of the flats, were numbers of the Otis Australis, and Myrafra, and the large species of Cincloramphus589, there were in different directions for several miles round other Lakes, almost all very thickly decorated with the Blue Lotus, while the river with its even banks, and general average breadth of about 60 yards resembled a canal. following up the principal branch, which was easily made out from the Casuarina growing on its banks in about four miles it was fairly clear of the Lakes, and continued in a nar=row valley formed on the right bank by the edge of the Basaltic field, and on the opposite side by a range of hills, composed generally of Porphyritic formation, occasionally however a spur of Basalt came out close to the river bank, but the greater and principal portion was still kept on the right bank by the water course. as we ascended the river began to assume more of its original form, a sandy bed with many channels, and having large banks of Tea tree α the Oak, but as we ascended there was again a change in its character, being split into numerous annabranches all running one into the other, which at first I supposed were large creeks com=ing in from the adjoining range. When I had ridden as I supposed about 15 miles I returned590, but previous to doing so mounted one of the hills of the range but could only see to the Northward α Westward, to the north no distant hills or ranges could be seen, but from N W to W, some high domed Mountains appeared about 20 miles

Note 588

The more southerly of the two Pelican Lakes, which looks from the Valley of Lagoons map to not be quite four miles in circumference – perhaps about three. Gilbert and Charlie (and the main party of the expedition on the following day) must have passed through the site, just to the west of this lake, of the present-day Valley of Lagoons homestead.

Note 589

This bird list translates as: on the lake - Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus; a white egret, possibly the Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia; Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles; a plover, probably the Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus (which was described to science by John Gould from a Gilbert specimen from Port Essington (Cobourg Peninsula), but not until three years later); probably the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata; Jabiru Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus australis; Brolga Grus rubicundus. On the flats were Australian Bustards Ardeotis australis; Horsfield’s Bushlarks Mirafra javanica soderbergi and Brown Songlarks Cincloramphus cruralis.

Note 590

Judging by this mileage, Gilbert must have ridden a couple of miles north of their campsite of 10th May, and the hill he ascended might be one of those just south-west of Police Waterhole. Check with the Route Group.