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John Gilbert diary entry

28 November 1844 - 30 November 1844

Page 122. Volume 1

Dogwood and Casuarina brush, and ending in a stupenduous rav=ine hundreds of feet below us129. from this we turned back to the more open forest on the tops of the hills and kept on in a nearly North direction for 4 or 5 miles the last two through a dense low brush of shrubs α sapling Gums, in every gully looking closely for water; and at length turning a little to the eastward we came upon a gully between two grassy hills having small pools of water on one of which we camped. our whole distance for the day about 13 miles on an a=verage course of about N. by west from our last camp of 9 miles130. The Dr α myself then rode in search of a passage across these Gullys keeping a N. course. in about two miles we again came upon the deep rocky gullys, on each occasion heading them and keeping upon the open grassy spots, and in every instance found we were only on spurs running parrallel with each other towards the large deep valley beneath us in many places so deep that it was one deep chasm beneath our feet, the rocks on every side forming almost perpendicular walls impassable even for man. on the opposite side one very high range of round topped hills ran along the valley E α W with nearly perpendicular rocky sides. the whole formation still Sandstone conglomerate. after spending several hours in our attempts we were from the lateness of the day under the necessity of returning to the Camp for the purpose of devoting to=morrow for the necessary search of a passage, it is certainly very high land we are now upon which is pointed out by the immense depth of all the water courses, they must very soon become dry for the whole time we were out, we did not see a drop of water. it is therefore more than ever necessary to reconnoitre the hills well before proceeding farther with our Bullocks α horses. at night we were surprised by great numbers of a species of Vampyre flying about us, perhaps attracted by the light of our fires. but as we were not successful in shooting any of them we could not determine the species, it seemed smaller than the Moreton Bay species131. During the day I saw a species of brown Kangaroo Rat which we have not seen before. it is smaller than the common Bettongia. the Bettongia rufescens has not been seen since we left the Dawson. probably this is its Northern limit132. many of the common southern forms of Birds, however are still with us, particularly the Cinclorhamphus rufescens, the Oreica gutturalis - Colluricincla cinerea - Myzantha garrula - Trichoglossus pusillus - both species of Tropidorhynchus133, - the Struthidea I have not observed since we left the great Cypress

country on the first of Nov. at night Thunder storm from S.W.

Rocky rest Camp.

Friday Nov 29. Lat 25-13-0. The Dr with Charley [sic] started off in pursuit of a passage from our present Camp. and did not return till late in the afternoon. his intelligence was not very favorable for us having with much difficulty found but an indifferent track for us to wind through the mountains to the Eastward, the only course left open to us. in the afternoon I with Roper α Murphy ascended a hill about half a mile east of our Bivouac134, from the rocky summit of which we had a magnificent Mountain view extending to a very considerable distance before us in long high ranges and lofty peaks α Mountains; we have therefore in all pro=bability some laborious travelling before us for a considerable time. A thunder storm passed over us in the afternoon from the S. West135.

Sat Nov 30 A day of regular mountain travelling, the whole morning winding round the sides or crossing over the craggy ridges to get from valley to valley; it was therefore very slow but tedious α fatiguing work to both Horses α Bullocks.

Note 129

The Robinson Gorge.

Note 130

Rocky Rest Camp, or Rocky Seat Camp as Leichhardt called it, was probably at about GR 197 093 (Glenhaughton sheet 8747), on one of the eastern tributaries of Glenhaughton Creek, a little west of the headwaters of Cherrytree Creek.

Note 131

John Gould generally referred to the Flying-foxes as Vampires or Vampyres, which explains Gilbert's use of the term. The bats they saw flying around the camp on that night may well have been Little Red Flying-foxes Pteropus scapulatus, a species which is an extensive wanderer throughout much of east and northern Australia, and does occur in camps of large numbers. Little Red Flying-foxes are appreciably smaller than either of the other two Flying-foxes that exist in south-eastern Queensland, the Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus and the Black Flying-fox Pteropus alecto. These two species occur only in the eastern coastal areas.

Note 132

This could possibly have been a Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Petrogale penicillata; this species now has a very restricted range in Queensland but were once much more widespread. Agricultural land clearance and predation by foxes have undoubtedly been the main factors in the decline of this species. Otherwise the animal Gilbert saw could just be a Rufous Bettong Aepyprymnus rufescens. Check whether individuals of this species are smaller in central Queensland than those from coastal areas.

Note 133

Probably the Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus and the Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis. A list of translated names is at the end of this transcription.

Note 134

A peak of 588m is marked on the Glenhaughton sheet at 213 091, at about half a mile from where McLaren estimated Rocky Seat Camp to have been.

Note 135

Gilbert also took time that day to collect specimens of molluscs. The Register of the Natural History Museum, London, has an entry for a donation from John Gould which included six Physa from "Rocky Seat Camp, Port Essington Expedition, Nov 19 [should be 29] 1844" (1846.10.7.105-108).