Also in this section…?

John Gilbert diary entry

14 June 1845 - 15 June 1845

Page 120. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Sat 14th.

N by W.

10 miles

11 miles for the day687


An addition of 11 miles down the river, without any change, although every additional mile brings us so much nearer the coast, still each days stage gives us certain indication of approach. from the Latitude we are in and the general course of the river, it would seem probable that it will turn out to be the Nassau688, it is very much to be regretted that we have not been enabled to make the Gulf coast nearer its apex, for every mile we now travel on the Lynd with such a course, is an addition twice over to our distance to travel over. our object however being to follow down the river till meeting with the tide so as to make certain of our approximate position, obliges us to continue although in an unfavorable course. unfortunately, the afternoon's for several days past have been so cloudy, the Dr has been unable to take sights for his Longitude, but from the general course we have of late steered, we imagine ourselves to be within 50 miles of the coast, if we are correct, it is singular we do not meet with a corresponding change in the river, and surrounding country. the most remarkable incident met with to day, were some singular constructions689 of the Natives, at first sight we all imagined they betrayed something of the Malay, but on thinking and examining them more I have little doubt they are in some way connected with the Natives ceremony of burying their dead, the Dr however does not agree with me, but as I have seen something assimilating to it at Port Essington, I do not feel inclined to give way to him. the first and most conspicuous was formed of several upright forks driven firmly in the ground, across which were placed horizontal poles, and across these others, and on the top a few sheets of the paper bark of the Melaleuca, over this was an arched covering of strong bark bent over from side to side, the platform was about 4 feet 6 high 5 feet long and about 3 feet in breadth. beneath this was another large piece of bark bent round, in a circular manner, behind this platform, was a lengthened piece of ground of about 5 feet in length over which were bent small cane like sticks; there were two other platforms, about 3 feet high and nearly 5 feet square, but these had neither the covering of strong bark, or the bent piece beneath. On the higher and narrow covered platform therefore I conclude is where the dead body has been laid, and the ground at the back of it, where it has afterwards been buried. that it is not the work of Malays is evident from all the sticks α forks having been cut with a stone hatchet; and the whole construction in my opinion is far too fragile to be used as a sleeping place, and I think no Natives of Australia, with their rude implements would take so much trouble as to make a regular bedstead690, at a camp, where there [their] peculiar wandering habits, precludes the necessity of their remaining at a Camp more than two or three days together.

[in left margin]

Sun 15.

10 miles of the Lynd traced down to day without any change, but very soon

Note 687

McLaren estimated that on the 14th June they camped at GR 538 609, on the left bank of the River Lynd. He thought this was north of Four Hour Lagoon, which runs from GR 553 549 to GR 549 559, which was probably the lagoon described by Leichhardt on his sketch map as “a fine little lake a mile from the [River]”. It is only about half a mile from the river, however. McLaren did not record a name for this campsite, but Leichhardt has written “Blackfellows two storied humpies” next to the date on his sketch map, so “Aborigine humpies” seems an appropriate title.

Note 688

The Lynd actually joins the Mitchell River, which runs into the Gulf of Carpentaria about 40 miles north of the estuary of the Nassau River.

Note 689

“creations” is crossed out and “constuctions” substituted.

Note 690

“in the bush” after “bedstead” has been crossed out. Leichhardt obviously thought these structures were for sleeping, Gilbert for laying out dead bodies. Chisholm (1955: 195) thought they were a device for driving off mosquitoes, by lighting a fire close by (or underneath) which could be tended by a woman in the bottom bunk, while her man was enabled to “rest in peace” away from insects and smoke on the top bunk. This agrees with Leichhardt’s account, as he ended his description by writing that to one side of the platforms were the remains of a large fire, with many mussel shells scattered about (Leichhardt 1847: 291).