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John Gilbert diary entry

15 June 1845 - 16 June 1845

Page 121. Volume 2

[in left margin]

9 N W by N

10 miles [for the day]

First Cuculus

after camping691 Brown who had been out shooting Ducks as usual692, came in α reported at two miles lower the Lynd joins a very considerable water course693, the stream running strong, according to Brown it comes down from the N.E. this is exactly what the Dr from the geological features of the country has all along prognosticated, it is an excellent thing for us, as it at once takes us to the coast we have for so long been desirous of seeing and thus also puts a stop to our unsatisfactory progress Northward, To day I killed for the first time in the expedition the true Cuculus694, first killed by myself at Port Essington.

[in left margin]

Monday 16

W by N.

12 miles

14 miles [for the day].


We cut off the angle formed by the Junction of the Lynd with the ---- River695 --- and came upon the latter about a mile below the Junction, for two miles the river kept Southerly α Westerly, then for two miles made a great sweep to the N α Westward. from this the remaining days stage of about 8 miles, we mostly kept back from the river bank, to avoid deep gullies, which so frequently came into the river from small Creeks, several of which we could not avoid, and two of were as bad as any Gully we have had to cross from the first setting out of the expedition, the river presents a fine broad clear bed, with a tolerable supply of water running down in different parts of the bed. the immediate banks of it like the Lynd presents a fine grassy open Forest, of small Timber, but at a mile back, the whole country is as level as a table Cloth, very open scarcely any timber, the Gum trees being all miserably stunted, and here α there a forest of the Erythrina Creek Mimosa, which with its dark foliage presents a strong con=trast to the surrounding dry yellowish appearance of the grass. when at about 10 miles we came upon a fine Lagoon of very deep water, this the Dr imagined from its narrow and Creek like appearance that it was connected with the River, he therefore turned to head in in preference to making for the river, we followed it therefore a mile in about an E S E course, when we were enabled to round it, it was now our intention to follow it till we made the river, and we continued above two miles, when we seemed to be as far from our object as when first counting upon it. it being late in the day and very hot we brought up for the day696. the Lagoon for the whole distance we

Note 691

On his sketch map, next to the asterisk for this campsite, Leichhardt wrote: “15th June first news of the new river. John’s Poney’s death camp”. McLaren has listed this as “Johns Poney’s Death Camp” and estimated it to be at GR 465 760 on the 1: 100,000 Highbury map 7565, near a large permanent pool of water and about a mile south of the junction of the Lynd with the Mitchell River. When the expedition party left this camp on the 16th June, Murphy’s pony was missing, and subsequently Charlie went back to look for it. He found the pony dead in the bed of the Lynd, bleeding from the nostrils, and thought it has either been bitten by a snake or eaten a poisonous plant.

Note 692

According to Leichhardt (1847: 291) Brown had shot 2 Radjah Shelducks (Burdekin Ducks), 4 Pacific Black Ducks and 4 Chestnut Teal.

Note 693

On 16th June 1845 this was named the Mitchell River by Leichhardt after his erstwhile rival, Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell (1792-1855), Surveyor-General of New South Wales (which in those days included what is now Queensland). In 1845-1846 Mitchell himself explored as far as the Barcoo River district of central Queenland. The Major Mitchell Cockatoo is also named after him. A pencilled arrow points to this area of Gilbert’s diary, but this could equally be indicating the “Cuculus”. It was probably put there by Alec Chisholm.

Note 694

The only true species of Cuculus in Australia is the Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus. Two of Gilbert’s Port Essington birds of this species are in Philadelphia and the Natural History Museum’s Outstation at Tring, but the specimen he collected on the River Lynd on 16th June 1845 has not been found, unless it is one of two other Gould Collection specimens in Philadelphia, from “N.S. Wales” and “n. Coast”.

Note 695

As yet un-named river.

Note 696

McLaren placed the campsite of 16th-18th June at GR 296 825, on the west bank of Highbury Lagoon (and at the south-east end of what is now the landing strip for Highbury homestead). In order to avoid the worst of the gullies running into the Mitchell River, they kept back from the river and travelled along the lagoons which run parallel to the river, the longest of which (at about two miles) is Highbury Lagoon. The expedition party must have first seen the lagoons from their east bank, and turned south and east to make their way round to their less boggy and rough side. McLaren did not name this camp, but Leichhardt has written “Blue Rawsberry Steer killed” on his sketch map, so “Blue Raspberry Steer’s Last” might be appropriate. Presumably this “fine little steer” was a blue roan colour. What do the people at Highbury call the campsite?