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John Gilbert diary entry

27 December 1844 - 28 December 1844

Page 146. Volume 1

as it may appear the Dr with all his preparation seems to have had no idea of what was necessary for the due preservation of specimens of Nat. Hist. Inde=pendent therefore of the accomodation I have thus offer=ed him, I have preserved all the few specimens yet ob=tained, with these advantages in his favour I certainly expected he would reciprocate my wishes α intentions – but the contrary was shown a few days ago, when Brown found several specimens of a new α beautiful Helix, he immediately siezed [sic] upon them all, and very coolly remarked to me, that if I could not find any speci=mens he would give me one, this not only surprised me but I felt hurt α annoyed; As I fortunately succeeded in afterwards finding two specimens I did not accept any from him, previous to this he had made it a rule to give me any specimens of Shells to pack away with the general collection, but in this case he seemed fearful of trusting them out of his own possession, and ever since has requested Calvert to pack away his shells, what may of been the cause of this conduct I suppose time alone will shew at present I have not the slightest idea193. Big WaterholeCamp194.

Sat 28 Dec. Leaving our encampment we travel=led on the left bank of the creek over a level flat with open Box forest, from the appearance of the flood mark generally observed on the flat, it is evidently subject to great inundations, in about five miles we came upon the first of the undulating country which the Dr had pictured in such glowing colours, but our hopes were not realized to the full extent the Dr had led us to suppose, for after about a mile we were again interrupted in our course on the bank of the Creek by thick scrub, the open undulating country receding back to the East. the little we saw of it was certainly a very agreable change after emer=ging from so much dense scrub, the hills are covered with luxuriant grass, and small Iron bark trees thinly distributed, with fine Whinstone soil. as a small spot of land, it is one of the prettiest spots we have seen, the Creek (Scrub Creek) as we advanced down it and when the Scrub occasionally opened and allowed us to approach appeared im=proving in magnitude, with high banks, and Tea tree growing abundantly on both sides, after making about 9 ½ miles we camped in rather an indifferent spot beside a small water hole, and surrounded with scrub. in the afternoon we were again visited with a Thunder Storm, which com=menced with great violence from the South, a heavy shower of rain followed and continued for half an hour. one of our tents again blew out of its pegs. the evening cleared up and became fine. our course for the day about N.N.W. The Dr α Brown left us in the afternoon to reconnoitre taking with them provisions for two days they did not

Note 193

The decision by Leichhardt to appropriate all natural history specimens apart from birds had serious implications for the expedition collection as a whole. Only a few specimens of mammals from the expedition can now be identified, and these have no useful locality data. Most were burnt by Leichhardt, except a few given to the museum in Sydney (letter from Frederick Strange to John Gould of 9th May 1846, Gould Correspondence, Natural History Museum, London) and “a parcel of quadrupeds” were given to Frederick Strange to send back to Gould, which were to be returned to the Sydney museum when Gould had described them (letters from Robert Lynd and Frederick Strange to Gould, both of 11th May 1846, Gould Correspondence as above). Perhaps this parcel included the Antechinus flavipes and Rattus tunneyi now in the NHM and thought to be from the expedition (BMNH 1881.4.6.6 & .7). The bird specimens and Gilbert’s diary were carried to safety by Charlie Fisher. As for Gilbert’s shells, some did make their way back to Gould - 33 were sent to Lord Derby by Edwin Prince on 9th September 1846 (letter in the Gould Correspondence, as above) and 200 shells “collected by Mr Gilbert” were purchased from Gould by the British Museum (see the NHM Accession Register for 7th October 1846, which includes entries for four Physa shells (running numbers 112-115), five Planorbis (187-191) and two Lymneus (192-193) collected near “Brown Town” (see next footnote) on 27th December 1844). The 13th Earl of Derby’s collection of birds and mammals, including those collected on the Leichhardt expedition, were bequeathed to the people of Liverpool in 1851, but his shell collection, which must have been considerable in both numbers and importance, was left to his daughter-in-law Mrs Charles Smith-Stanley and cannot be located at present.

Another disagreement about the ownership of specimens took place between Leichhardt and Gilbert on 31st December 1844.

Note 194

“Big Waterhole Camp” is written in pencil, in a rather scribbled fashion - probably much later and probably not by Gilbert, presumably because he had incorrectly given this name to the campsite of 28th/29th December (Leichhardt named it “Camp at the Big Water outside the Scrub”). McLaren found it difficult to pinpoint the site of this campsite, but with reference to other waterbodies mentioned or drawn by Leichhardt has placed it at GR 663 908 on the Rolleston sheet (8649), about two kilometres south-east of the present town of Rolleston (once known as “Brown Town”, after Leichhardt Expedition member Harry Brown).