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John Gilbert diary entry

2 January 1845 - 5 January 1845

Page 2. Volume 2

[in margin, now torn off]:

[?252, = miles progressed altogether]

[Thursday] 2nd.

To day we moved on a short stage of about 5 miles in a N.W. direction, we turned off from the River to a creek [run]=ning through the scrub and camped near the water hole from which the Dr frightened the Natives, Charlie thinks they [left] the encampment yesterday, one Broken Spear α 2 Waddies, and a sort of Basket made of Bark was found, as we [carried] on we saw the remains of the White-man's Hut which the Dr told us of on his return yesterday, and about half a mile [be]=yond we came upon a second; all of us saw at once that neither of these could have been the work of Natives, it would seem that the Man or Men for there may of been several, were travelling, for at neither of the huts was there any appearance of the Native's Goonya, which would in all probability have been the case had he or they been living with them, the circumstance of the huts being so near each other, and their size and form would seem to point out the probability of he or they having made this spot a residence for several days at least, for if only for one night, one can hardly fancy a man would each day take so much trouble in cutting strong forks α ridge-poles, as is seen in each of these, in both cases the ridge-pole was standing in its original position, about 6 feet high and ten in length. the uprights and forks for supporters had mostly fallen down with [the] Bark. The reason of our making so short a stage to day is that the next water is too far distant for us to accomplish in one day in addition to that we have to day made. The Comet river where we turned off tak[es] a considerable bend to the Eastward, and an annabranch or back water sweeps round to the westward thus forming an Island, the River keeping the same character of Casuarina banks, while the anabranch [sic] has only Melaleuca. the creek we have camped on is deep α broad its banks covered with tolerably thick Scrub, it comes down apparantly [sic] from the Christmas Ranges, or from the S.E. its bed even in the deeper holes and clay bottom are all dried up and Crabs ([Gecarcinidae?210]) and various kinds of shells, exposed on the surface as if they had been suddenly exposed to the dryness of the ground a[nd] sun. Very few Birds observed the little Estrelda annulosa and the Bronze necked Dove211 perhaps the most abunda[nt].

[in left margin]

5 [miles made].

Camp of the White Mans Gunya212

[in left margin]:

Friday 3rd

12 [miles made]

Lat 24 = 6' = 0"213

Our Horses having strayed back gave us a late start, we had to go back about a quarter of a mile to avoid the thick Scrub which every where surrounded us, but we did not avoid it altogether during the days march as the Dr expect=ed, on the contrary we had as much Scrub to pass through as we have had almost any day, the consequence was the loads were repeatedly torn off, and kept us constantly dismounting to put them right, we crossed the annabranch and kept on the right bank till we arrived at its junction with the main River, where we again crossed it and in about a mile down a small tributary we arrived at the water hole a little before dark, our distance about twelve miles, and in about a Northern course. some fine Box flats we passed over, but the great character of each side of the annabranch is thick Brigalo Scrub.

[in left margin]

Sat 4th.

Lost Axe Camp

The Dr left early accompanied by Brown to reconnoitre for our further stages. I shot another Plectorhyncha214 not having heard its note till the last few days, I imagined it was a species of Thrush with which I was not acquainted but to my surprise I found it was uttered by this bird, it is a clear melodious warble, and generally uttered when perched on the topmost dead branches of the highest trees, the little water-hole we are camped on was visited by most of the birds observed as being so common during our whole route. The Dr returned in the afternoon having found a favourable spot of country.

[in left margin]:

Sun 5th

Travelling on the left bank of the Comet we made a good days stage of 14 miles, the scrub still prevailing but running parrallel [sic] with the River were many long clear streaks of flats with chains of Lagoons the majority of which

Note 210

Gilbert’s word here is unreadable, but could be “Gecarcinidae”, the generic name for true land crabs, a name composed by Leach in 1814. According to Rod Hobson of the Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland (pers. comm. 2008), the only land crab found in this area is Austrothelphusa transversa. Interestingly, Rod commented that one of the old names for this crab is Thephusa leichardti [sic], described by E.J. Miers in 1884 from collections made from 1881-1882 during the voyage of H.M.S. Alert. The type locality is given as Cape York, but is thought to be incorrect. The type is in the Natural History Museum, London.

Note 211

Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii and Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis.

Note 212

McLaren estimated The Camp of White Mans Gunya (Leichhardt’s “Camp after the White Man’s Gunya”) on 2nd January 1845 to be at GR 575 230 on the Rolleston sheet (8649). This point is on a small tributary of the Comet River, just south of present day Kilmain Waterhole.

Note 213

Their camp of 3rd-4th January was called “Camp of the Lost Axe” by Leichhardt and was estimated by McLaren to be on the Comet River at GR 568 338. As Gilbert wrote on the 5th January, they had lost the head of their large axe on the 3rd; despite much searching Charlie and Brown could not find it.

Note 214

See footnote for 1st January.