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John Gilbert diary entry

3 June 1845 - 4 June 1845

Page 114. Volume 2

[in left margin]


side which enabled us to bring up for the day645, the Dr α Brown rode out to find if possible a passable route over the hills, which now crowd before us without end, and which promises almost the immediate probability of our descending to the low flat land in the vicinity of the Gulf.

[in left margin]

Wed 4th646


6 miles

Last Damper Camp647

Six miles only was accomplished to day five of which was over the most dreadful stony country, crossing vallies [sic] α hills in rapid succession to get clear of the gorge, the whole bed of the river this entire distance presenting as the latter part of yesterday's route one mass of rock, from the highest of the hills we crossed, we frequently obtained fine mountain views, and just previous to descending into a flat, we saw a good stretch of country before us to the Northward α Westward, a fine range bearing about N.W. and distant about 5 miles is the most conspicuous, more to the Westward, at a farther dis=tance is another range of Peaked mountains. the river as soon as it clears the gorge divides into 3 large branches; on the most western one we camped. just before we brought up for the day, we saw Natives, who as usual displayed the greatest alarm possible, running away and uttering their pitiful cries of alarm. to day the last of our stock of Flour was eaten, our fare now is becoming thus very scanty; there is perhaps one mess more of Sugar, which is reserved for the 18th. Inst. then we shall have neither Sugar, Salt, or Flour; our Tea will probably with the utmost economy last us between two α three months, and then our fare will be as humble as it can well be, viz, Dried Beef, and water. I must confess I am rather curious to see what effect the loss of Damper and Salt will have upon the party generally, at the present time we are all in excellent health, but some are already losing a portion of their former buoyant spirits. Every succeeding days stage during the last weeks travelling produces a change in the temperature of both day α night. we are evidently descending, and probably may soon hope to be in the low level country648 we have for so long looked forward to.

Note 645

They passed along the gorge which runs from about GR 040 485 to GR 987 554, a distance of about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles). According to Leichhardt (1847: 278) “We crept like snails over these rocky hills, and through their gullies filled with boulders and shingles, until I found it necessary to halt, and allow my poor beast to recover”. Their campsite of 3rd June, Melaleuca Gum Camp, was placed by McAllan at GR 020 516, about halfway along this gorge, on the right (east) bank, which fitted with Leichhardt’s sketch map. However, after taking local advice about the extremely rocky nature of the area, McAllan’s party did not attempt to reach this campsite.

Note 646

Someone, probably Alec Chisholm, has written "now cheerful" in pencil in the margin next to Gilbert’s account for 4th June. However, Chisholm does not mention this lift in spirits in “Strange New World” or in “Birds of the Gilbert diary (An Explorer and his birds)”, although he thought Gilbert was finding importance in “the indications of an approach to the western fall of the Dividing Range” (SNW new edition 1955: 191).

Note 647

This campsite was at the end of the gorge, about a mile north of where the river bed begins to widen. McLaren placed Last Damper Camp at GR 976 578, which is in the bed of the river. This may have been a compromise: Gilbert wrote that the camp was on the most western of three channels in the bed of the Lynd, but according to Leichhardt’s sketch map, this camp was on the right (eastern) bank, “near a fine pool of water in [the Lynd’s] sandy bed”. On their route that day they had passed the junction of the River Lynd and Desert Creek.

Note 648

The low level country of Cape York and the Gulf country, already broadly mapped by ship’s crews.