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John Gilbert diary entry

28 December 1844 - 30 December 1844

Page 147. Volume 1

return during the night. Big Waterhole Camp.

Deception Camp (?)195

Sunday 29 Dec. The Dr returned in the after=noon, having ridden over two days journey for us. he does not speak very favorably on the whole of the coun=try before us. Large water courses with dry beds, open country α large plains with little scrub, he describes as

being the character of the country he has seen, but every where abounding in Game. In the evening we were gratified with the view of a fine Comet, the Dr α Brown however saw it yesterday. had we not been so buried in the thick forest we should in all probability have seen it before, at night there was an unusual number of brilliant Meteors flying α shooting in the heavens196. Lat 24..25..0

Monday 30 Dec. To day we resumed our march following down the creek, occasionally leaving it a little to cut off Angles, on its banks were thickets and Scrub while to our left was an open country, either light=ly timbered forest or open plains and the country undulating as the range was approached, the ground is light resembling as well as its vegetation the Darling Downs district, on one of the open plains we started a Kangaroo and a flock of ten Emu’s, these we gave chase with our only dog, but were unsuccessful, the latter after giving us a gallop of two miles took to the scrub, which prevented us following. in about five miles from the camp we came upon the banks of a deep water course197, and a very little distance be=yond joined by another of equal magnitude198 as it was necessary to cross the one coming down from the mountains, we did so in the most con=venient part we could choose, but even this was the most difficult from its great depth α steepness we have yet had to surmount, our Bullocks how=ever, to our surprise accomplished it without much difficulty, we followed down the river on its left bank about four miles, when turn=ing a little from its bank we found a waterhole in a small creek, where we camped, The river al=though of such apparent magnitude has no water in its bed, the bottom being loose sand the banks very steep and varying in height from 30 to 50 feet, and well clothed with large Casuarina and Melaleuca. the land on its banks forming fine grassy flats, with open forest and in places thickets of seedling gums the timber being Box α flooded Gum. the day was excessively hot and oppressive till late in the afternoon when the usual cooling breeze

Note 195

Gilbert has incorrectly written in the name “Big Waterhole Camp” for the campsite of 28th December 1844, which was actually “Deception Camp”. This latter name has been written underneath (with a query) in pencil, in another hand - possibly Chisholm’s. The “deception” seems to have been a reference to the contrast between Leichhardt’s glowing scouting account of the country and the actual scrubby nature of the ground they had to travel over on the 28th December. Glen McLaren sited Deception Camp at GR 612 985 on the Rolleston sheet (8649), about 4km north-west of the present town of Rolleston. Deception Camp has great ornithological significance as it may represent the most northern sighting of the now-extinct Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus. In the second volume of Gilbert’s expedition diary, in his entry for 18th June 1845, he remarked that he had seen “my new Platycercus of the Downs, a species which has not been observed with us since leaving Deception Camp on Comet Creek”. Gilbert’s 18th June 1845 record was almost certainly a mis-identification, but possibly the record from 28th December 1844 gives us the last Gilbertian, and most northern, locality for the Paradise Parrot.

Note 196

This comet (first seen by Leichhardt on Monday 28th December 1844) and the meteor shower have lent themselves to the name of the river and to other features in the area (Meteor Creek, Planet Creek, Pluto Timber Reserve, Capella, Orion Primary School). According to the former Director of the Leichhardt Museum in Germany, Bernd Marx, this comet was seen from Rome by Father Francesco de Vico on 23rd August 1844. It has been re-discovered several times since and is now named “54P/ de Vico-Swift-NEAT”. Appendix Two (at the end of this document) by National Museums Liverpool’s Astronomer John Moran, lists the local names in this area which have been influenced by the comet after it was seen by the expedition members in 1844.

Note 197

The confluence of Comet River and Meteor Creek.

Note 198

The confluence of Comet River and Planet Creek.