Also in this section…?

John Gilbert diary entry

23 December 1844 - 25 December 1844

Page 144. Volume 1

=icule, he went to sleep and thus for half the night we were again exposed to the danger of a nightly surprise, surely if it be necessary to keep a watch when all the party are together, it must be much more so when lessened by three of its number and one of that number the leader. The Dr admitted to me that he wished me at all times to have charge of the camp in his absence as he does not feel a sufficient confidence in any other of the party. this he said to me when I expressed a wish to form one of the explor=ing party, but it is not the most pleasant task, when all do not agree as to the necessity of acting upon certain rules, which the Dr α myself have always con=sidered of importance α so necessary to adhere to185.

Tuesday 24 Dec. Every person busy during the day repacking our loads making α mending straps α c while Murphy kept me employed most of the day in skinning186. The Nymphicus Novae Holl. made its appearance, the first time we have seen this spec=ies during the expedition, the Estrelda ruficauda α the Mycteria Australis were visitors to the Lagoon we are camped on, I obtained a species of Antechi=nus I think the same species as described by Mitchell as the Red Shrew mouse, and a species of Mus killed in the reeds, the former I shot from the dead branch of a Gum tree187. The Aegialitis nigrifrons, is particularly abundant here. Great numbers of Cacatua galerita have each evening visited the Lagoon and to day we succeeded in shooting several, which gave us a very excellent mess of soup. the Moreton Bay Roselle, the new Platycercus188 α the Crimson Wing have all been seen here, and the two common Maluri, in fact all the Birds which have been most common with us the whole distance thus far are all found here. it is certainly singular that no new Bird has yet been observed, as we are so near the Tropics I am in full hopes we shall soon meet with something new to repay us for our exertions189. In the evening we again had our usual Thunder Storm, it came on from the S. East, and continued with heavy rain about 3 hours. the re=mainder of the night cloudy but no rain. In the Pool are fish, some of which I caught, which proved to be the Cristus both varieties.

Wed 25 Dec. While we were eating our Christmas dinner, the Drs party returned, α thus we had the pleasure of all being together to eat our dinner, we could not boast of a Plum

Pudding, but the suet which we had saved enabled us to enjoy a very excellent light plain pudding, which with a little spice α sugar, was rather a delicious morsel

Note 185

Leichhardt in effect was asking Gilbert to act as deputy leader of the expedition, as he was the only member with any extensive knowledge of the bush, and of Aborigines.

Note 186

Despite Gilbert having spent most of the day skinning, no specimens with this date have been found so far. A Black-throated Finch Poephila cincta in Murphy’s collection in RAME, which unusually has the collecting date copied onto the museum label, was collected on 23rd December 1844.

Note 187

The “Red Shrew mouse” was probably a Yellow-footed Antechinus Antechinus flavipes rubeculus Van Dyck, 1982, as Gilbert recorded this species as the “Red Myrmecobius Myrmecobius rufus … Mitchell” in his field notes (now in Queensland Museum Library). This subspecies is the largest and reddest of all the Yellow-footed Antechinus subspecies, which occur in both east and west Australia (van Dyck & Strahan 2008: 86-88). The only possibility on my database is Antechinus flavipes BMNH 1881.4.6.6, immature, from New South Wales. However, this IS from a very similar accession number to BMNH 1881.4.6.7, an adult Rattus tunneyi with a very small label with "N.7. Leichhardt" on it, probably in Gould's writing. Therefore BMNH 1881.4.6.6 may well be Gilbert’s “Mus”. The mammals collected on the Leichhardt Expedition are problematical and difficult to trace: on 31st December 1844 Leichhardt told Gilbert that he would not be allowed to keep any natural history material except bird specimens, and that everything else was the expedition leaders’ property. Gilbert “ … of course produced the only quadrupeds which had been collected … these he [Leichhardt] seized upon and packed away”. The only other mammal material from the Leichhardt Expedition which has definitely been found is now in the Australian Museum, but this institution does not appear to hold anything which could be described as an “Antechinus” or “Mus” from the Leichhardt Expedition. The two mammals in the NHM are therefore likely to be these small mammals from the expedition and must have been given to Gould by a penitent Leichhardt after Gilbert’s death.

Note 188

Another most interesting record of the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus.

Note 189

Actually Gilbert had already discovered a new bird on the expedition, the Buff-breasted subspecies of the White-browed Scrubwren, Sericornis frontalis laevigaster, described by John Gould in 1847. According to his diary, Gilbert had collected the first specimens of this new subspecies on 30th November 1844 (see footnote for that day).