Also in this section…?

John Gilbert diary entry

10 June 1845 - 11 June 1845

Page 118. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Lat 17=9=15

Sword Fish Camp.

the ground, never in one instance showing the slightest disposition to perch; we camped in the bed of the river beside a large and deep pool of water670, here we were tempted to try our lines, and although not successful enough in catching fish for an edible purpose, yet we were enabled to enrich our collection with an addition of 5 and perhaps 6 species not before observed671. but by far the most interesting circumstance of the day, was the appearance of the Swordfish Shark, an Ocean fish, we were I believe as much astonished at sight of this creature, as is related of Robinson Crusoe when he saw the impression of a mans foot in the sand, but perhaps our surprise was of a much more agreable nature, for it is the first positive indication of our approaching the coast, the fish was stranded and had apparantly been dead only two or three days, but how it could have got up thus far into fresh water, is a singular circumstance that is to say, if the Drs observations are correct, we are at least 100 miles from the nearest coast, and the presence of this fish so far would go a great way to prove to us that the fall of land from this must either be very slight, or very gradual for the whole distance. at all events it puts us all on the qui vive. The Doctor for some time past had been in one of his usual gloomy fits, and is very sparing in his idea's, or information on general subjects, what he concluded from this incident, he therefore keeps to himself, it is certainly very much to be regretted that we have such a leader, who never of late appears at all dis=posed to be cheerful, or even agreably civil to his companions. The Country we to day travelled over was in character like yesterday's but the ridges and hills were perhaps less frequent, and the flats α vallies more extensive, several Creeks came in on the left bank, and at about 3 miles we passed a small Lagoon very near the river bank, it bore the ap=pearance of being permanent water672. Charlie this morning in fetching in the horses came upon numerous small Lagoons on the right bank, nearly opposite the Camp673.

[in left margin]

Wed 11th.


9 miles

First Ptilotis unicolor674

The Lynd to day kept a worse course675 for us than on any day we have been travelling on it, we made about 9 miles and the whole course was about North. in three miles we left the singular sandstone hills α ridges, and from this we travelled on a very fine open forest flat; the river now becomes if any thing rather more clear in its bed, the banks more regularly formed, and high, several large Creeks came in on its left Bank. To day I killed Ptilotis unicolor, and several specimens of Binoe's [sic] species of

Note 670

McLaren placed the campsite of 10th June at GR 680 059, referring to Leichhardt’s sketch map (which shows the campsite on the left bank of the river, just north of a creek running into the Lynd from the west) rather than to Gilbert’s diary (where it was recorded that they camped in the bed of the river beside a large pool). Leichhardt first wrote the camp name “Swordfishcamp (the 16 ducks)” on his sketch map, but later “Sword” was altered to “Saw”. The “16 ducks” refers to Brown’s prowess at shooting up to 10 ducks with one shot. The “Sawfish” was a Queensland Sawfish Pristis clavata, a striking, streamlined fish frequently found far upstream. It is a ray rather than a shark and can grow to 1 ½ metres in length (Allen, GR 1989 Freshwater fishes of Australia. T.F.H. Publications). Leichhardt also described this fish in detail, saying it was “between three and four feet in length, and only recently, perhaps a few days, dead”. He thought it must have come up the river during a flood, as the water hole (on the edge of which it had been found by Harry Brown) had no connection with the tiny stream of the Lynd. In 1945 G.P. Whitley described Pristiopsis leichhardti, a name now considered to be a synonym of Pristis clavata, from a combination of Leichhardt and Gilbert's descriptions of this 1845 River Lynd specimen and from the details of one caught in the Lynd by Sergeant Bruce Shipway in October 1944, of which Whitley had a photograph. Leichhardt had published a note about the 1845 specimen in the "Australian" in Sydney on 26th March 1846, this was also published in the "Herald" the same day. Presumably neither the 1845 nor the 1944 fish were preserved. See Whitely, G.P. 1945. Leichhardt's sawfish. Australian Zoologist 11 (1); 43-45, figure 1.

Note 671

Apart from the sawfish, Leichhardt recorded on 10th June that “Two new fishes were caught; both were very small; the one malacopterygious, and resembling the pike, would remain at time motionless at the bottom, or dart at its prey; the other belonged to the perches, and had an oblong compressed body and three dark stripes perpendicular to its length; this would hover through the water, and nibble at the bait. Silurus and Gristes were also caught” (Leichhardt 1847:287). On the following page Leichhardt recorded that “Charley also found and brought me the large scales of the fish of the Mackenzie, and the head-bones of a guard fish”.

The pike-like fish: “malacopterygious” means belonging or pertaining to the Malacopterygii (Malacopteri), a group of soft-finned, teleost fishes such as herrings and salmon. Could these pike-like fish have been Sleepy Cod or Striped Sleepy Cod Oxyeleotris lineolata / O. selheimi, or Mouth Almighty Glossamia aprion? All are aggressive hunters who hide under vegetation or fallen timber at the bottom of waterbodies.

The perch-like fish were probably Banded Archerfish Toxtotes jaculator. Archerfish have strongly compressed bodies and take insects from the water surface, often squirting water at their prey to knock it into the water. A specimen of the Banded Archerfish in the collection of the Natural History Museum, BMNH 1846.8.27.10, has a Register entry which reads: "Toxotes. Collected by Mr Gilbert in Dr Leichardt's Expedition for Port Essington. Purchased of Mr Gould with shells". It is a dried skin, right hand side.

“Silurus” is a catfish and “Gristes” probably Spangled Perch Leiopotherapon unicolor.

The scales from the “fish of the Mackenzie” were presumably from Scleropages jardinii, the Northern Saratoga of northern Queensland, rather than their new fish of the Mackenzie River, the Southern Saratoga (or Spotted Barramundi) Scleropages leichardti.

The “head-bones of a guard fish” – “guard fish” is a term used for fish that guard their eggs, but also seems to be an alternative name to gar-fish. The Snub-nosed Garfish Arramphus s. sclerolepis and its relative the Freshwater Longtom Strongylura krefftii occur in the River Lynd area. There are no specimens from Australia of the Snub-nosed Garfish listed in Albert Gunther’s Catalogue of the fishes in the British Museum (the usual repository for Gould and Leichhardt’s fish specimens); Strongylura krefftii was first described by Gunther but although the type specimen is in the NHM collection (Gunther 1866. Catalogue of the fishes in the British Museum vol.6: 250-251), it was from Krefft’s own collection, and not collected by the Leichhardt Expedition. Check all this with James Maclaine.

Note 672

Was this the lagoon shown on the Blackdown 1: 100, 000 map 7663 as being tucked up against the left (west) bank, at GR 714 989?

Note 673

See footnote for 9th June.

Note 674

McLaren tentatively estimated that on 11th June they camped at about GR 674 179, which shows as being on the left bank of the Lynd on the Blackdown map. This campsite had no name – “First Ptilotis unicolor” was Gilbert’s title for the day, so perhaps “White-gaped Honeyeater Camp” would be appropriate? This species, now Lichenostomus unicolor, was named to science by John Gould in 1843 from specimens Gilbert collected at Port Essington (on the Cobourg Peninsula of the Northern Territory) in 1840-1841 (type specimens have been identified in Liverpool and Philadelphia), but there is also a Gilbert specimen of a White-gaped Honeyeater in National Museums Liverpool with an original Gilbert label: "Port Essington Expedition. Female. June 1845. River Lynd" - "Irides Brown" (LIV D1000s). This may have been the bird Gilbert killed on the 11th June 1845, although he also listed this species on 18th June, and may have collected a specimen on that day too. A specimen from “Australia” in Gould’s collection at the Natural History Museum (BMNH 1881.5.1.5589) might also be from the Leichhardt Expedition, or could be one of Gilbert’s original types from the Cobourg Peninsula.

Note 675

Gilbert was referring to the fact that the Lynd had turned north, when they hoped it would run more to the west, rather than meaning that the route that day was difficult to travel over.