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John Gilbert diary entry

30 December 1844 - 31 December 1844

Page 148. Volume 1

from the Northward set in. To day we had the buz=zing of the Cicada for the first time. Our course for the day about N.E. 7 miles. While out hunting I passed over a very large flat with scarcely any other vegetation than fat-hen, but so stunted and dried, as plainly shewed the effects of the great heat of the sun, in fact the whole country now begins to assume the character of an arid parched up appearance and all the large water courses being dry, our only hope of finding water appears to be in isolated lagoons or chains of ponds, where rain water is collected from each passing Thunder storm; as the Tropical rainy season may now be said to have almost commenced with us, we are in full hopes we shall not be likely to suffer the want of this great desideratum, it is singular that while the bed of the river we are now upon is so dry its banks above is clothed with the most luxuriant green grass. but as soon as you emerge to the right or left to the open plains, it is an entire change of character. we to day have had the satisfaction of discovering another vegetablea species of Potolacca, a succulent plant, which is very excellent, eaten either as a salad or boiled, the fat-hen hitherto has been so plentiful, that we have frequently had it boiled, but now it is be=coming in seed, and too tough for eating, it is a very agreable change therefore to find the last named new vegetable good which forms a most agreable addition to our dry meat. Potolacca Camp therefore is the name of the present spot199.

Tues 31 Dec. Followed down the Comet Creek, the name assigned to it by the Dr from the circumstance of his first observing it when on its banks while reconnoitering, the creek pre=senting the same features as yesterday, about 9 miles was made to day, the whole time scarcely a drop of water to be seen, and we began to fear we should have to camp without water, when by searching very closely every hollow we at length found a small pool of muddy water, resembling soap suds in colour, and even this as if not bad enough was rendered much worse by the rush of horses α cattle into it, so eager were they to allay their thirst, that it was quite impossible to prevent it. as this is apparently only rain water it will in all probability in a few days be as dry as other deeper holes passed during

the day. a good deal of thick scrub lay on our left in patches, and here α there large open plains. our encampment is nearly surrounded with scrub

Note 199

Potolacca Camp (Leichhardt’s “Portulacca Camp”) of 30th December 1844 was at GR 633 092 on the Rolleston Sheet according to McLaren, just north of the junction of Comet River and Planet Creek, at a point where the terrain becomes less hilly and (as Gilbert said) more like the Darling Downs. Leichhardt called this area Albinia Downs.