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John Gilbert diary entry

19 June 1845 - 22 June 1845

Page 124. Volume 2

Page 124704

[that they were] in the vicinity of the haunts of some evil. [From the] description, the animal is doubtless the Aligator705 [sic] [which seems] to point out to us the probability of our being near [the Coast].

[Fri 20th. W by N]706

[We] again travelled on 12 miles, over precisely the same [form of] country as yesterday, an entire level flat varying from a mile [to a half] of a mile from the River, between the river and our line of route [was a chai]n of fine Lagoons, parrallel with the river at a mile before camping [at the] Lagoons, and the Dr being desirous of camping in the river [beside] our fine travelling ground and as at first observed when we made [our way up] river on the 16th, the beds α banks of the river was very much broken [so that] instead of excellent travelling, we as usual in such places had very dis=[agreable] gullies α hollows to cross, the banks of the river being very steep we [could find] but a very indifferent camping place707. great numbers of Peristera, [Cacatua e]os, Melopsittacus, Platycercus (New), Poephila cincta and the new species708 [were] observed during the whole of our route, but by far the most abundant species was the Nymp[hicus] Novae-Hollandiae, during the entire route, this bird was passing in flocks with scarcely five minutes cessation, I also observed the Oreica gutturalis. At night cloudy with a few drops of rain occasionally.

[in left margin]

Sat 21st.

[direction unreadable, probably W by N]

10 miles

Ten miles over the same description of flat low country without any change in the river unless we except the reappearance of Palm's, on the river banks, We came upon two par=ties of Natives while en route, contrary to our expectations, they displayed as much alarm at our approach as any formerly met with, at their camps various things were observed of interest. the presence of a large Conch shell proves them to be Natives of the Coast or the immediate vicinity, great quantities of edible roots and a new fruit were found in abundance. at the second Camp we found great quantities of the Lotus seed, which had just been collected from the Lagoon on which they were camped. in their fire was roasting a very fine Diamond Snake, here were observed small net bags of exquisite workmanship, some few of them were taken for which we left them in return pieces of Iron α c α c. At our Camp709 we had a great collection of the Finches viz Poephila cincta - Poephila (new) - Estrelda phaeton - Estrelda temporalis - Estrelda [?]710,

Fragment 5:

[Es]trelda annulosa. We tried the experiment of Boiling [roots but the taste] was not I thought equal to it when roasted, the manner [that we had previously applied to a fe]w of the white potato like root, the Dr extracted the [amount of about a] pint each of a thick mess, in this manner it is [quite palatable but] when roasted or boiled is exceedingly bitter, it [must be true that] the Natives prepare it, for one can hardly suppose [otherwise from the camp's] state. At night the Clouds as usual gathered up from [the South and it rained for the] greater part of the night. It continued raining in light [showers during the day].

[in left hand margin]

Sunday 22.

N.W. by W.

12 miles



The whole day cloudy and cool, and we made a very good stage of about 12 miles but still no greater indication of the coast, the general style of the country however changes very much with the whole stage, instead of the low level flat bare country as observed so much on the latter part of the Lynd α first of the -----711 River we to day travelled over the richest description of grassy forest land, the trees not so stunted either, although nothing large in the Timber still there are numbers of trees of sufficient magnitude for almost any purpose required by a settler, the River, preserves its broad open bed, and vine brush banks, and the Palms become more frequent, Of birds I observed the Peristera in countless num=bers, some of the flocks when ris=

Fragment 6, other side of fragment 5:

=ing resemble the roar of distant thunder so great was their numbers. Nymphicus, [C. e]os α Melopsittacus were also observed in large and numerous flocks. Vast flocks too of Artamus superciliosus α cinerea, were constantly flying over us712. instead of the clouds gathering as usual in the evening, they to night cleared off α we had a fine clear cloudless night713.

At this point Gilbert ran out of paper and so returned to the beginning of the bound section of his diary (volume 1) and began to write over his pencilled notes.

Note 704

This page is fragmentary in the top left area.

Note 705

Not an alligator, which do not occur in Australia, but a crocodile, probably the Estuarine (or Salt-water) Crocodile Crocodylus porosus rather than the less aggressive Freshwater Crocodile Crocodylus johnstoni.

Note 706

Inferred to have been in the left hand margin

Note 707

The three groups of lagoons they passed would have been what is now called Ten-mile Lagoon, Twenty-mile Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon. Leichhardt for some reason wanted to camp on the river bank, so they left the flat and had to stumble up and down gullies [for the last mile]. McLaren placed the campsite of 20th June 1845 at GR 022 085 on the 1: 100,000 Kingfish Lagoon map, as Leichhardt’s sketch map shows them camping just north-west of the junction of a creek which runs into the Mitchell from Mosquito Lagoon. Again, this campsite was not named by Leichhardt or Gilbert. Leichhardt mentioned that “A pretty yellow Ipomoea formed dense festoons between the trees that fringed the waters” of the river. Fensham et al (2006: 484) thought this might be Merremia hederacea, Ivy Woodrose (a convulvulus). “Ipomoea Camp”?

Note 708

I.e. the new species of Poephila, the “white-eared” race of the Masked Finch - Poephila personata leucotis of the Cape York Peninsula area. Nymp[hicus] Novae-Hollandiae are Cockatiels.

Note 709

McLaren placed the campsite of 21st June at GR 919 138, on a southern tributary of the Mitchell River, although he could not be sure which of two small creeks in the area were the one the expedition camped on. Judging from Leichhardt’s sketch map it may have been on a smaller creek to the west. Again this campsite is unnamed. Leichhardt mentions palm trees on his sketch map, but also “Lotus and starch meal”, could this name be used for the campsite?

Note 710

At this point the bottom of the last but one page of the diary disappears into the conservation binding. The last page, which is only a fragment, is kept separately (Z A2586 Item 3), with other loose fragments. It has a piece missing on the left hand side. Again, I have inserted words I think Gilbert might have used.

Note 711

I.e the as yet unnamed river (the Mitchell).

Note 712

Interesting observations, not only concerning vast numbers of Flock Bronzewings, but also Galahs, Budgerigars (well to the north-east of their usual distribution according to The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, vol.4: 506) and White-browed and Black-faced Woodswallows.

Note 713

McLaren estimated that their campsite of 22nd June 1845 was at GR 730 264, by a lagoon on a creek south of the Mitchell River. The “fine lagoon” they had passed en route was the narrow lagoon which runs for over two miles north-west from Marborough Yard. Again this campsite is unnamed. They had camped at a “sedgy lagoon” according to Leichhardt (1847: 300), would this be an appropriate name?