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John Gilbert diary entry

1 January 1845

Page 1. Volume 2

[number frayed off, possibly] 455 [that number is given in the Mitchell Library transcript] miles from Jimba

1845

Jan

Wed 1.

Our new year commences with a days delay, the Dr not having returned, from the peculiar dry character of the country these delays are likely to continue till we have a change in the general features or the regular tropical rains set in, that we shall in all probability have a severe struggle to reach our destination appears evident to us all every succeeding day. Our original stock of provisions is now reduced more than half, although we have at no time had a pound of flour per man since our departure, the losses from accidents having been nearly equal to our consumption, since killing our last Bullock our allowance has been 3 lbs per day or less than half a pound each, this although so small a portion we have done very well with, but which will again have to be reduced; our present stock of flour being rather under 400 lbs or less than twenty weeks supply at the present rate of allowance, and if we do not make more [passage?] than we have hitherto done, we cannot expect to reach Port Essington in this time; of Tea we have nearly 40 lbs and of Sugar about a hundred Pounds. this with economy will certainly last nearly as long as the flour, and after this [we] have our Bullocks to fall back upon, supposing no accident occur with them. Our whole days provisions is thus [2] lb of flour α 5 lbs of dried meat, with occasionally a few Pigeons or ducks when in a country favorable for procuring them but of late we have not succeeded in obtaining so much any day to make a meal for the whole party, and for want of dogs, Kangaroo or Emu seems entirely beyond our reach, although daily attempts are made to shoot them, even in the Scrubs we have continually passed, Wallaby's seem to be very few, more especially in the [scrub] country we have passed over since crossing Expedition range. The Dr returned in the evening having found water for camping on for two days journey, while away he came upon a small party of Natives, who on seeing him approach, immediately called out White fellow White fellow and all ran off in the greatest fright leaving their Spears Tomahawks α c. and various eatables, particularly Opossoms - Bandicoots - Brush [Turkey] eggs α c. one of the latter the Dr eat, but could not prevail upon Brown to do so, there were various [kinds] of edible roots distributed about, some of which the Dr also tasted, and then passed on207. he endeavoured to [induce] the Natives to remain and parley with him but they hurried off as quickly as possible, it is thus [very] evident they are not entirely strangers to the white Man, but the most striking circumstances of seeing [these] Natives was the fact of one of them being as light coloured as a half cast, which would seem to have some con=nection with another circumstance related to us by the Dr, viz, the remains of a hut which has evidently been the work of an European; perhaps of a Man who has been living with the Natives, and thinks [this] may of been his offspring. All the trees which we have of late seen cut or barked have been done with stone hatchets, while the forks α poles of this hut have certainly been cut with iron, and the size and [shape] all sufficiently marked to point it out as the work of a man who has a greater idea of comfort [than the] Aborigines of Australia generally display, whether such a being is in existence now would be an inter=esting thing to learn and [should] we fortunately meet with him might calculate upon his giving us a good deal of assistance in steering us through this dry country, for the Dr describes [this] and its vicinity as offering no change of character and the water courses and Swamps as much [paper torn] as we have latterly seen. Today I shot for the first time Plectorhyncha lanceolata208.

[in left margin]:

New Years Camp209. Muddy water-hole Camp [this last deleted].

Lat 23-15-0.

[Fi]rst [Plecto]rhyncha

Note 207

Presumably Leichhardt passed the roots on to Brown.

Note 208

Striped Honeyeater Plectorhyncha lanceolata. Gilbert wrote that he had collected specimens of this species on the 1st and 4th January 1845. One of these is probably a Murphy specimen now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. Others that are likely to be these specimens and should be checked are BMNH 1881.5.1.4165 (“N.S.W.”) and BMNH 1886.06.24.263, “Queensland”, Jardine Collection per Gerrard. The expedition were in fact approaching the northern limit of the Striped Honeyeater, so it is surprising Gilbert had not seen it earlier.

Note 209

New Years Camp, where they remained from 31st December 1844 to 2nd January 1845, was estimated by McLaren to have been on a bend of the Comet River at GR 630 167 on the Rolleston sheet (8649).