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John Gilbert diary entry

5 January 1845 - 7 January 1845

Page 3. Volume 2

were dried up but in two or three instances we saw fine pools of water. in following down these clear parts we frequently saw fine flats, and the country inclined to open to the westward, we avoided the scrub so successfully that no accident or delay occurred during the distance; in pushing our way through the scrub on the 3rd the head of our large Axe was lost, α Charlie α Brown were sent back in hopes of their finding it, but they returned in the evening unsuccessful, In the afternoon Roper α myself rode 8 miles on our course to examine the country, but returned without accomplishing our object viz finding water for our next camp. the whole distance was more or less scrubby and in most parts so thick that it would not be possible for us with our train to proceed through, and with the excep=tion of a very small puddle we could not find any water. it was 4 O'clock when we left the Camp, we therefore had but a very short time to search about, our want of success therefore will make it necessary for the Dr to Reconnoitre tomor=row, and thus another days delay. the spot of country we are now camped on had given us hopes of a probable change, Stony Ridges with small Iron bark trees and tolerably open with many water-holes in the water courses, but it would seem that it is merely a Basaltic spur from some of the Ranges to the westward, our present camp is surrounded by several fine water holes and very stony, from which character it has received the name of Basalt Camp. Course N.W. 14 miles.

[in left margin]:

14 [miles made]

Basalt Camp215

Lat 23=59=0

[in left margin]:

Mon 6th

Malurus Lambertii216

The Dr α Brown [have] gone out to explore. There is every appearance of an approaching change in the weather the last two days the heavy clouds preceding a thunder storm has risen from the westward and given us hopes of approaching Rain which of late has been so much wished by us. Phillips walked into the scrub near the camp and was lost for three hours when he returned he told us of his having seen Brush Turkeys α Wallaby's in such numbers as led us to suppose we had only to walk there and shoot them, I α Charley217 made two excursions but without success, I found a species of Caparis218 growing very fine but I only succeeded in finding one ripe fruit in taste it resembles some of the Rock Melons. during the day I saw no Birds new or more than usually interesting. The Dr α Brown did not return during the day. I shot a Malurus Lambertii, it appeared to me to be a larger Bird than those I killed at the Swan.

[in left margin]:

Tues 7th.

The Dr not returning I immediately after Breakfast with Charlie rode out about seven miles in a W N W direction to see the country, which proved any thing but favourable [sic], after getting through the scrub near our Camp we came up=on an open arid spot, then again into thick Brigalo scrub, which at length brought us to dense thickets, in which we saw many of the Brush Turkey's mounds, we pushed our way for a mile α a half through the thickets, in hopes of finding an opening but without there appearing the slightest appearance of it and I then steered more to the West α in about two miles came upon the tracks of our whole train of the 5th and thus back to the Camp thinking the Dr might have returned in the interim, and would wish to push on to day, on our return to Camp we found he had not. while we were away Roper went out to shoot ducks, and while following up a pool heard several Cooeys, which he supposed were from some of our party, but on his return he not only heard that it was not so but the Cooeys were again repeated, we have therefore some of the Natives in our immediate vicinity; whether they will show themselves to us seems doubtful, from their not appearing when they were answered. The Dr returned in the evening α brought us fav=orable news on the whole, we have still much Scrub to contend with, but a plentiful supply of water and feed for our Cattle α Horses; while out the Dr met an old Native with his wife α two children, who appeared at first excessively alarmed, but on the Dr approaching them and appearing friendly, he recovered a little from his alarm, and talked very freely with the Dr, but of course neither could understand the other, when he saw Brown first he was engaged shooting Pigeons, and from his manner seemed surprised and very anxious to know where he was going, which Brown α Dr replied to by gestures, and the old man seemed to understand and seemed well pleased when the Dr in leaving him gave him two Pigeons. so far we may consider we are on [good terms?].

Note 215

McLaren put Basalt Camp, where they stayed from 5th – 7th January 1845, at GR 532 461 on the Comet River (see Comet 1: 10,000 scale sheet 8650).

Note 216

Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti. The bird which Gilbert killed has not been located. Check the adult bird from “Australia” in the Gould Colllection’s 1881 accession (BMNH 1881.5.1.0685).

Note 217

Note temporary change of spelling from “Charlie” to Leichhardt’s usage of “Charley”.

Note 218

Capparis, the Caper genus. Species of Caper in Queensland are generally listed as Wild Passion Fruit Capparis spinosa and Wild Orange C. mitchellii.