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John Gilbert diary entry

5 December 1844 - 7 December 1844

Page 127. Volume 1

Our progress to day down the river was not so much as we wished in consequence in the first place of being so long delayed in the morning start, and after=wards from the devious course of the river, and the many patches of scrub obliging us to so frequently cross α recross. however we made about 6 miles in a N by W course. the river however sometimes turns off as far one way as N.E. and occasionally to nearly due W. the general appearance of the river is the same as travelled down yesterday confined high banks and

sandy bed; the country we travelled over on either side is lightly timbered Iron bark, with patches of scrub upon all the higher hills overhanging the river; at about five miles the bed became more rocky having Calathamnus in its bed α the Casuarina growing much more luxuriantly than observed all day yesterday. Weather very fine all day, with occasional breezes from the N α Westward149. See 7 Dec.*150.

White Kangaroo Camp.

Friday 6th Dec. Lat 25=0=30. Long 147=0.

We were kept stationary the whole day, from Bullock α horses having during the night wandered back, the former one α the latter two camps back, Charlie not having a horse to ride, was late in the day ere he re=turned, at our last camp he saw tracks of many Natives

having visited it apparantly yesterday, it therefore seems evident that we are seen by them, and proba=bly watched closely, for independent of their tracks being constantly seen we daily see other evidences of their being in the immediate vicinity of every place

we have made our Bivouac and the country we have as yet passed through has been more or less burned. During the day I was enabled to watch the Birds closely, and although I found nothing new, still many additions of coast forms rendered them

interesting as showing the general sameness of country α vegetation. this constant recurrence of coast forms as well as many of the vegetable pro=ductions is certainly singular, and would almost induce one to suppose the Theory of an Inland Sea was on the point of being realized, of the most re=markable Birds killed to day as alluded to above was Ptilotis auricomis - Chlamydera maculata - Euphema pulchellus - Amadina modesta - Cinclorhamphus rufescens - Oreica gutturalis151 - α c - the day fine but very hot, wind N α Easterly. Large Bluff mountain bears from camp 15 miles N 20 W α the Peaked mountain North.

Sat 7 Dec. Left Camp early and travel=led down the Creek about 13½ miles, and a=bout 10 in a N.N.E. course with the excep=tion of two pools there was no water for

Note 149

They camped on the nights of 5th and 6th December at "White Kangooroo Camp", according to Leichhardt. McLaren has set this on Comely Creek at GR 113 325 on Glenhaughton sheet 8747; he found John Murphy's four sketch maps of the view from a hill adjacent to the campsite particularly useful to locate it accurately.

Note 150

Here Gilbert referred to some notes on the largest kangaroo they killed. These notes and measurements can be found on page 130 of Gilbert’s diary. Could this animal have been a Black-striped Wallaby Macropus dorsalis, as Gilbert's measurements seem to fit this species? A skull belonging to a Black-striped Wallaby, which is recorded in the Accessions Register as having being collected by Gilbert on the Leichhardt Expedition, is in the collections of the Natural History Museum (1846.8.27.1). However, Gilbert's pelage details (but not his measurements) better fit the much lighter-coloured Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis, into whose range the expedition were just moving. Another skull with identical data to the first is also in the Natural History Museum (1846.8.27.2); this is unidentified but matches well with skulls of Macropus agilis from Inkerman. The fact that in both cases the skulls only were saved confirms the impression that the expedition were using all available substitutes for their shoes, clothes and bags. Gilbert referred to “White Kangaroo Camp” again on 2nd May 1845, when they were in the Valley of Lagoons area of the Burdekin River. On that day Gilbert wrote that they had “killed a fine Buck Kangaroo precisely resembling that killed at White Kangaroo Camp”; this animal might also be represented by one or the other of these two skulls. In theory, judging from the present distribution of these two species, Macropus dorsalis would have been the species killed on 5th December 1844, Macropus agilis the species killed on 2nd May 1845. See my note concerning John Gould’s entry for Halmaturus agilis in The mammals of Australia (1845-1863, vol.2: text to plates 24 and 25). This note is at the end of this transcription, after the table of modern scientific and common names of species. Gilbert also made some other notes later in his diary which referred to December 5th; these notes concerned Roper and Murphy getting lost (see page 131 of Gilbert’s diary).

Note 151

Gilbert inferred that he had collected specimens of all these birds. Possibilities found so far in museum collections are: “Ptilotis auricomis” = Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops; ANSP 18573 is a specimen listed as being from “P. Essington”, where it does not exist. It may have had an original label with “Port Essington Expedition”. “Euphema pulchellus” = Turquoise Parrot Neophema pulchella (in this instance rather further north than its present known range extends); five specimens in ANSP are all labelled “New South Wales”, could this be one of them? “Amadina modesta” = Plum-headed Finch Neochmia modesta; Gilbert collected two at Erythrina Creek four days later (LIV D1757d, female; LIV D5550s, immature male). Several possibilities for the Plum-headed Finch collected on the 6th December and the one collected at the Robinson River on 22nd November 1844 are a female in Murphy’s collection in RAME, and three in the NHM - BMNH 1881.5.1.4471 & .4490, and one with no number. “Cinclorhamphus rufescens” = Brown Songlark Cinclorhamphus cruralis; there are lots of possibilities for this bird, including BMNH 1881.5.1.2558, from “New South Wales”, but it is more likely to be ANSP 17265 from “P. Essington”, where the Brown Songlark does not exist. Similarly the Crested Bellbird Oreoica gutturalis may be ANSP 15206, listed as from “Port Essington” where it does not exist, and more likely to have been from the “Port Essington Expedition”.