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John Gilbert diary entry

10 May 1845 - 11 May 1845

Page 96. Volume 2

[in left margin]


now admits the danger, and for a consolation to Roper told him that had the horse struck him a few inches lower, either the stomach or liver would have been so much in=jured as would in all probability of caused death. it is fortunate [in] so far that the horse had no shoes on, or he might not have escaped without several ribs being broken. At all events I trust it will for the future be a lesson and prevent a recurrence of such a dangerous and ridiculous mode of catching hold of a horse.

[in left margin]

Sunday 11th.

Whit-Sunday Camp.595

6 miles.


To days stage although but a short one, was very unsatisfactory, at first for a mile we kept in nearly a North course, then for two miles N E, the next mile East, the next mile a little South of East, and the last mile about N E, making about 6 miles, and even this was with cuts across the angles, the Range on the left bank in this distance came close upon the river, and gave our Bullocks some painful travelling over the stony sides, when about half the distance and where the river bends very much to the Southward, we crossed and travelled over a beautiful undulating country the re=mainder of the distance, and camped on an open forest flat, where the Burdikin runs slowly over a loose sand, its breadth of external banks near two hundred yards, it has here very little bank, and still cut up into many channels, the stream probably from the sand absorbing so much of it is very slight, but looking at it as a water course and still a running stream, it is not improbable it may continue for 60 to 80 miles upwards, and from its inclining of late so much to the East, it very probably like the Suttor α Isaacs, takes its rise from ranges near the East Coast, the Dr therefore has come to the conclusion, that it is now necessary to leave it and stretch off to the Westward, our regular reconnoitering parties will now have to recommence till we get upon a fall of water to the North α Westward. the Dr has commenced with to day596; As we anticipated the Natives soon made their appearance although there were a few of those we had before seen, the greater number were new faces, and they came in greater numbers, amounting to perhaps 50. some few of them were bold enough to cross the river and come up very close to us on the edge of the bank, but we succeeded in driving them back and making them understand they were to keep on the opposite side, where they remained till near dark, when they all left us very quietly, but we did not pass the night without keeping strict watch, in case they might be disposed to trouble us in the darkness.

Note 595

McLaren found it difficult to decide the position of this camp, as Leichhardt’s field sketch map shows Anthill Creek joining the Burdekin River from the north-west, when in fact it joins it from the east at GR 092 512. However, Alan Atkinson, who at that time ran the Valley of Lagoons Station, pointed out there was an anabranch of Anthill Creek which joined the Burdekin from the north. McLaren thought there were two anabranches, firstly at GR 099 505 (not shown on the Valley of Lagoons map) and secondly at GR 115 504. McLaren decided to place the campsite at GR “010 506” (which presumably should have been GR 101 506), near the junction of the first anabranch and the Burdekin River at GR 099 505, but I consider that Leichhardt’s field sketch map is more likely to show Whitsunday Camp being to the north-east of the second annabranch, which joins the Burdekin at GR 115 504. This would put the campsite at about GR 122 508, north-west of Lake Lucy and its periodic inundations. It might eventually be possible to pinpoint the campsite locality from Gilbert’s description (“… camped on an open forest flat, where the Burdikin runs slowly over a loose sand, its breadth of external banks near two hundred yards …”), but it is a long way from any road or track.

Note 596

On 11th May Leichhardt started to reconnoitre up “Big Ant-hill Creek” to its head, the creek which he had named after the “numerous gigantic strangely buttressed structures of the white ant, which I had never seen of such a form, and of so large a size”. He scouted for many miles to the north-west, passing between features he named Mount Razorback and Mount Lang. The latter Leichhardt had in fact named on 5th May, after “Dr Lang, the distinguished historiographer of New South Wales” (John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878) was a Scot who became the first Presbyterian minister in New South Wales). Leichhardt had lost touch with Charlie on the first day of scouting, but found him again on the 14th; they returned to Whitsunday Camp on the 15th May.