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John Gilbert diary entry

7 June 1845 - 8 June 1845

Page 116. Volume 2

[in left margin]


N W by W.

8 miles

up to this the river kept a tolerably western course, but here at the junction of the running stream a ridge of Sandstone running N α South turned the river for a mile to the North, here we were obliged to take [to] the river bed, which was loose heavy sand on each side the Sandstone hills and ridges formed cliffs α walls for at least four miles, at this distance flats on the river bank commenced, and here we camped662, although the river may be now said to form a running stream yet the supply is at present so little, and the sand so absorbent, that frequently in the river bed a mile in extent is seen without any water on the surface, but at every low part pools are met with, and occasionally the water is seen slowly trickling from one pool to the other, as yet the Dr has not applied any tittle [sic] to this river, being anxious to ascertain first if it be the main drainage of the country or but a tributary, probably we may not be many days before we may solve the problem, although the river for the last 7 or 8 miles may be said to run through Sandstone yet in many parts of its bed was observed Porphyry, and even Talcchiste; In a ramble with my Gun, I was surprised to again observe Malurus Lambertii, a species we had lost sight of some considerable time past, with the Sandstone too another species reappears, the Struthidea cinerea; and the Merops again is very common, the yellow Ptilotis is now very abundant, as well as the Eopsaltria. the Glyciphila ocularis the whole time we have been on this river is particularly abun=dant, and is a constant songster, uttering his pleasing notes around us continually whether when moving or stationary; the Ptilotis sonorus is still abundant and a constant compan=ion with us, and so is the Ptilotis fusca663.

[in left margin]

Sunday 8th.

9 W.N.W.

12 miles

To day we travelled on an additional distance of about 12 miles, or about 9 in a direct course of about W.N.W. the whole days route most excellent travelling on the flats near the bank of the river, the greater portion of the 12 miles a beautiful grassy country with open forest, and extending a considerable distance back, the Sandstone hills α Ridges however, occasionally come upon the river, at one mile we crossed the junction of a small creek, with water running slowly into the river, at a mile beyond a second creek having a good supply of water but not presenting a running stream, at five miles a third creek of large size, and at 9 miles a fourth Creek all these come in from the S α Westward. the river as yesterday in many places is without water on the surface, and it begins to assume more the character of banks than hitherto, and there are too a greater extent of the long banks which divide the bed into different channels, on these banks too

Note 662

Their campsite of 7th June 1845, Running River Camp (Arrowroot Camp), was also difficult for McLaren to pinpoint due to the very rocky nature of the area, and because Leichhardt did not “appear to have attended to the maps of this section with his usual diligence” (McLaren, typed mss notes, page 326). McLaren placed it at GR 941 755. Gilbert wrote that they camped just as the “flats on the river bank commenced”, which may be somewhat south-east of this co-ordinate. From Gilbert’s diary it seems they only travelled four miles after the junction with Pillar Creek, which would have taken them to about GR 958 740, where a lagoon is shown in the bed of the Lynd. The names of the campsite refer to the expedition’s relief on finding the Lynd began to show a running stream, and to Leichhardt’s experiments with some “potatoes” he had found in an Aboriginal camp. He tried to roast and boil them but failed to destroy their bitterness. Pounding and washing the vegetable produced starch, which thickened in hot water like Arrowroot does. This they found very agreeable to eat, at least according to Leichhardt (1847: 284-285).

Note 663

These birds were Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti, Apostlebird Struthidea cinerea, Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus, Yellow Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavus, White-browed Robin Poecilodryas superciliosa, Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta ocularis, Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens and Fuscous Honeyeater Lichenostomus fuscus. As concerns the Variegated Fairy-wren, a specimen possibly from the Leichhardt Expedition is in the collections at the NHM in Tring (BMNH 1881.5.1.685, an adult from “Australia”). Yellow Honeyeaters: see my previous remarks in a footnote to the entry for 15th April 1845; at least seven specimens of the Yellow Honeyeater collected in 1845 by Gilbert and Murphy from the Burdekin and Lynd Rivers exist; they are in museums in Exeter, Tring (the Natural History Museum’s ornithological outstation), New York, Philadelphia and Liverpool. White-browed Robin: see also my remarks in a footnote under the entry for 14th April 1845 about the type specimens of the new robin, Poecilodryas superciliosa, collected on the expedition and described by John Gould in 1847. These birds are now scattered between museums in Exeter, Melbourne, Leiden, Philadelphia and Liverpool. Most were collected by Gilbert and Murphy on the Burdekin River area in April and May but it is also possible one or more of these type specimens were collected on the Lynd River in June 1845. Fuscous Honeyeater: Gilbert may have collected a specimen on 7th June but definitely collected one on 4th December 1844 on Zamia Creek. Neither specimen has been located, but the Natural History Museum (Tring Outstation) has an adult bird which is labelled “New South Wales” (BMNH 1881.5.1.4244); this may be from the Leichhardt Expedition.