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John Gilbert diary entry

20 May 1845

Page 104. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Tues 20th.


20 Miles

15 N.N.W.

To day we accomplished the longest stage we have hitherto made, the Dr when he came in yesterday calculated the distance at 15 miles, but in travelling over it to day we found it upwards of 20 miles. the first four miles was over Granitic ridges, open forest α rich grassy land, with numerous gigantic Ant=hills; at least gigantic as compared with those we have been accustomed to see hitherto but still falling far short of those I have before observed at Port Essington609; at this dis=tance we came upon a large Lake, the principal portion of the bed of which was dry, the Northern part having a large extent of reed bed, and where the greatest portion had water, large flocks of the White Heron, were here assembled610, and the Native Companion very numerous, keeping around the Southern α Western side of the lake to avoid the Whinstone, we again left the lake, after travelling fully 6 miles around it, and entered a tolerably open forest, having a few groves of Pandanus; in a mile we came upon ridges of Granite, crossing which, we came upon another Lake, the whole bed of which was perfectly dry, this was about 2 miles across, and lay in our track611, we crossed the centre of it, here also the Native Companions were very numerous. on the left side the Basalt came from the Table land close around the edge of this Lake on its South side, while on the opposite side were hills of Granite, around the edge of the Lake grows a very beautiful new species of Grevillea, having Glaucous leaves, with a bright orange Blossom612. leaving this lake, and again entering a forest coun=try we in a mile came upon the regular table of Basalt, which continued, with intervals of small plains or swamps, the remainder of the distance, when we arrived at the Casuarina Creek613, running N α S. having a sandy bed, in many parts however the Granitic rock is seen in its bed, the Creek here as we have seen in others forming the separation of the two formations. Although this was the longest stage our Bullocks have yet tra=velled in a day, they accomplished it very well; our medium course for the day was about N.N.W., at first very much north till we came upon the largest Lake - following round the edge of which we came round very much more to the Westward, after this we kept a tolerably straight course; of about N.N.W. The Creek, has small detached pools. during the days route we killed a young Emu, and a young Native dog, the latter the Dr cooked and ate, but could not prevail upon any one to

Note 609

Gilbert collected many important specimens during his stay between July 1840 and March 1841 at the British Naval Colony of Port Essington, on the Cobourg Peninsula on the north coast of Australia.

Note 610

As Glen McLaren recorded, this lake must have been “G.W. Swamp”, a large area now with Minnamoolka station on its northern bank. By skirting the lake around the western side the expedition would have passed near what is now the airstrip for this property. The “White Heron” were probably Great Egrets Ardea alba modesta, but could also have been other white heron species such as Little or Intermediate Egrets, or a mixture of these species.

Note 611

Native Wells Swamp. They must have passed between Mount Saltern and another peak to its east marked at 759m on the Cashmere 1: 100,000 map 7961.

Note 612

Leichhardt had mentioned this Grevillea plant on the 16th May, naming it as “Grevillea chrysodendron (R. Br[own]); he wrote that it “formed a wreath, a pale silver-colour, round the swamps, but grew on sandy soil”. On May 20th Leichhardt recorded that “John Murphy found Grevillea chrysodendron in blossom, the rich orange colour of which excited general admiration”. According to Rod Fensham et al (2006: 480) this plant would have been Grevillea pteridifolia.

Note 613

After consultation with Alan Atkinson, then of the Valley of Lagoons station, Glen McLaren put the campsite of 20th – 22nd May 1845, “Camp on Separation Creek”, at GR 850 100 on the 1: 100,000 Bullock Creek map 7862. Mr Atkinson had suggested that Rudd Creek is on a geological division, therefore McLaren decided that this watercourse must have been the expedition’s Separation Creek (Leichhardt’s name “Separation Creek” refers to a watercourse with geological separation between “primitive” and basaltic rocks). On the Bullock Creek map Rudd Creek also has “small, detached pools” as noted by Gilbert. McLaren placed the campsite at this particular spot on Rudd Creek as it agreed with the configuration of the two branches of Minnemore Creek to the north, as shown on Leichhardt’s sketch map, and also aligned with their onward route on 23rd May.