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John Gilbert diary entry

18 November 1844 - 20 November 1844

Page 115. Volume 1

returning direct to the Camp as usual, they took us 6 to 8 miles too far west, and brought us at the foot of Gilberts Range, from this we struck off in a S by E direction when in about two miles we came upon the creek just above our tents. in crossing from the hills to the range and from the range to our Camp was over one immense flat, very thickly clothed with grass. At the water hole opposite our tents we were yesterday and to day very successfull in catching Fish α Eells [sic] of large size. which formed a very agreable change in our usual diet. we took with us our two remaining dogs, one of which we unfortunately lost107; the most interesting occurrence to me to day was in meeting with Estrelda phaeton a new species I discovered while at Port Essington, giving to this bird a very extensive southern range108. I also found a second nest of Estrelda ruficauda109, placed in the long grass at the edge of the Pool. Two of our large Eells dryed as an

experiment. another discovery was a strong cordage made from the sheath part of the old leaf stalk, when made up it very much resembles the Coir rope of India.

Tues Nov 19 25-30-0 We to day moved on in a W. direction, at 3½ miles had to go round the east end of a very large swamp which turned round a considerable distance to

the south. between this α the fifth mile we crossed a deep bed of a water course running to the north. and about half a mile a little north of west came upon a large Lagoon about a mile ½ in circumference, at the foot of a low range of hills running in a E S E α W N W direction. Days dist. 6 miles110. The whole distance for the most part over a grassy flat, thinly timbered with Box, numbers of Birds being on the Lake all of us went out to different parts of it over which we could easily wade up to our knees in mud. I ob=served the following species Himantopus leucocephalus - Glottis glottoides - Pelidna Australis - Dendrocygna ar=cuata - Rhynchaspis rhynchotis - Ibis strictipennis - Aegialitis nigrifrons. the water α Range is named after Murphy.

Wed Nov 20 Travelling on in a West North West course, we continued on the same extensive Box flat as yesterday passing numerous Swamps and Lakes, some of which had become dry, but others not only had water, but presented a sheet of considerable magnitude, the first at about three α a half miles was at least a mile in length, and nearly as broad, and about four miles farther on we passed along the edge of one even longer, from this we soon began to ascend higher ground, about five miles of Iron bark grassy hills were now travelled over, with an occasion=al patch of scrub turning us off our direct line, and here α there patches of Vitex Brush. when we came upon the banks of a considerable water course the banks from 35 to 40 feet in depth and having no water

Note 107

However, the dog turned up again on the 21st.

Note 108

In fact this record is very much south of the present range of the Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton, which in modern times only inhabits the north coast and an area round Mackay on the Queensland coast (Schodde & Tidemann 1986). No specimen of this finch from the Leichhardt Expedition has been found (although BMNH 1881.5.1.4494, and another specimen in the Natural History Museum with no number need checking. Both just have the locality “Australia”).

Note 109

See Gilbert's diary and the footnotes for 10th November, the date he had previously collected a Star Finch's nest.

Note 110

"Murphy's Lake Camp" being on the south-eastern bank of Lake Murphy, at GR 670 787 (Ghinghinda sheet 8847). Murphy's Range runs in a north-westerley direction to the north of Lake Murphy. Gilbert collected specimens of shells here; there are four Physa (1846.10.7.105-108) from "Murphy's Lake" recorded in the Register of the Natural History Museum, London.