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John Gilbert diary entry

2 December 1844

Page 124. Volume 1

=tains which run up so precipitously from the Boyd valley, and other mountains α sides, which from our change of position could scarcely be recognized as those we saw at first. to our right were many examples of the extraordinary large Boulders of sand=stone, so abundant on most of the ridges to the East of us, these curious rocks certainly present a most sin=gular appearance, and are the more striking as being on the tops of high ridges, they resemble when seen in the distance ruins of old Castles, and Druidical stones. here and there one may be seen singly presenting the most grotesque forms, on nearing them, they are found to be worn in hollows, holes through them, α irregularities precisely like the rocks exposed to the ocean on the coasts, to the N W. were seen many distant ranges, but from our position a regular decline in the land appeared to wind between the ridges and gave us promise of an opening and an escape from our Mountain Barriers, we therefore pursued our way N.W. and immediately came again into Iron bark grassy hills, in three miles we struck upon the head of a water course, this we followed down for 2 miles, when it brought us upon a large Creek run=ning to the Northward occasionally a little easting, having a very narrow bed, but high banks, and Casuarina in its bed, we followed down for 8 or ten miles and only saw two small water holes in its bed, so considera=ble a water course has not been traced so far down and so little water seen, this we accounted for from the narrowness of its banks, the sandy bed, and the very great and rapid fall which the water has in its progress139, as we progressed downwards, there was here and there a patch of Brigalo Scrub down upon the banks, in one of which I saw numbers of the Wonga Wonga Pigeon, and a Brush Turkeys nest, but it did not wear the appearance of having been very lately visit=ed by the birds, but the most singular and striking thing seen is a large species of Xamia, in magnitude of trunk equal to the Swan River species, but it ap=pears to me to have very much narrower leaves. the whole of the banks of the river as far as we followed has lately been visited by the Natives, and their destruc=tive fires have swept off every blade of grass, in many places the logs of dead timber was still fiercely burning. on our return to the camp at night, we found some of our party had discovered a Rock Kangaroo140 haunt, four of which they killed, as our dogs are not in a condition to run after two days trial, the Dr thought it would be worth our stopping tomorrow to get a supply of this species to save our dried meat as long as possible. A Centropus141 too had been shot during our absence, I believe it to be precisely the same as that found on the coast. but the Rock Kangaroo I think is different

Note 139

Gilbert and Leichhardt appeared to have been scouting first up Ruined Castle Creek; they then rode to the east and came across the watercourse now known as Comely Creek, which Leichhardt in fact named Zamia Creek. This latter name, and Roper Pass, are therefore names given incorrect attributions on the present maps.

Note 140

These "Rock Kangaroos" were probably from the Queensland population of the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Petrogale penicillata. Leichhardt's Journal (1847) in fact records more pelage details than Gilbert's diary: "... they were about two feet long; body reddish grey, neck mouse grey, a white stripe on each shoulder, black muzzle, and black at the back of the ear; the tail with rather long hair". Gilbert would have been familiar with the form of this wallaby present in New South Wales, individuals of which are larger, darker and more ornamented than animals of the Queensland population (Strahan 1983, van Dyck & Strahan 2008: 384). The area the Leichhardt Expedition had reached is close to the present northern limit of distribution of this Rock-wallaby, although they may have been more widespread in the early nineteenth century - particularly before foxes spread into the region.

Note 141

A specimen of the Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus, of which there is at present no trace (however check BMNH 1881.5.1.3654 from “New South Wales”).