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John Gilbert diary entry

24 June 1845

Page 3. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Tuesday 24th.

W by N

10 miles.

Lat 15=59=0

1565 [presumably total mileage at end of day]

The whole day cloudy, our day's stage was about 10 miles, and a much more favorable course, being for the medium about W by North, but still no nearer in=dication of the coast than yesterday, soon after starting the river took a bend to the S.W. and kept in this course for about 2 miles, then again bent gradually round to the Northward, we kept on travelling in about a N.W. course for several miles in expectation of again coming upon the river, when about 8 miles we were separated from the river by a creek with deep banks719, between which and the river a distance of at least of four miles, is a fine plain, we ultimately crossed the creek and camped on one of its water holes720. The river being about one and half a mile to the N.W. of us. the whole of to days route was over a fine grassy open country, and well watered, with Lagoons, and small creeks. the Natives appear to be moving on ahead of us but a very short distance, for everywhere as we proceeded we came upon fresh burning grass721. The new species of Elanus first observed on Darling Downs, was remarked to day, and a greater number of Tadorna than we have hitherto seen, these birds were constantly started in large flocks from the trees overhanging the water722. In a ramble with my Gun, I again saw Dicrurus bracteatus723 a species, I have not seen from the time of leaving the Burdekin [and] several camps before coming to the Burdekin Lakes. in no part of the intermediate country have I seen it till now, the new Platycercus I saw in great numbers724, α Brown α Charlie, who went into the brush of the river say they saw the Talegalla725. this too is a species we have not seen since leaving the Suttor but this is explained, [by] the want of brush α scrub. the black fellows shot two spec. of a Wallaby, the same species as I killed at Crinum Camp726.

Note 719

Dunbar Creek.

Note 720

McLaren estimated the campsite of 24th June 1845 to be at GR 408 358, on a waterhole on Fourteen Mile Creek, just north of Dunbar Creek (which Leichhardt thought might lead directly to the sea coast by running into the Nassau River (Leichhardt 1847: 301-302 & notation on his sketch map p.36)). Leichhardt noted that this waterhole was “covered with Nymphaeas”, so “Nymphaea Camp” may be a suitable title for this unnamed camp. At about this time Leichhardt must have decided the Mitchell River was swinging too much to the north, so decided to strike off to the west. He went into detail about his decision in his Journal entry for 25th June 1845 (Leichhardt 1847: 303-304).

Note 721

A sum of Gilbert’s can be seen [over] this passage:

2 330



4 660



6 925 [or should it be 990?].

Note 722

The kite which Gilbert had first seen on the 4th April 1844 on Galathera Creek (north of Gundermain, in northern New South Wales) is thought to have been a Letter-winged Kite Elanus scriptus, but this sighting on the Mitchell River is far outside the present range of that species. It was possibly an individual of the very similar Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris. The “Tadorna” were large flocks of Radjah Sheduck Tadorna radjah rufiterigum.

Note 723

Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus.

Note 724

Were these Golden-shouldered Parrots Psephotus chrysopterygius, as opposed to Gilbert’s new parrot of the Darling Downs, the now-extinct Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus, which was what he thought he was seeing? The Golden-shouldered Parrot was once widespread in Cape York Peninsula, but is now endangered.

Note 725

Talegalla: Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami, which is found along the eastern part of Australia and in Cape York.

Note 726

Again, were these Agile Wallabies Macropus agilis? A skull labelled as having been collected on the Leichhardt Expedition and now in the NHM (BMNH 1846.8.27.2) is unidentified but matches well with skulls of Macropus agilis from Inkerman. This was possibly the species collected at Crinum Camp in the Peak Range area in late January 1845. Leichhardt certainly referred to the fact that these wallabies had a white hip stripe (see footnotes for 25th June 1845).