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John Gilbert diary entry

7 January 1845 - 9 January 1845

Page 4. Volume 2

[in top left margin]

[5]01 [total number of miles progressed]

in our first communication with strange Natives, it is very probable we shall again meet them in passing the same country, and if they were so astonished at seeing only these two with horses, they must be amazed indeed when they see our whole train α party. while the man was in conversation with the Dr he was evidently under great alarm, but apparantly did not wish to display it in presence of his family, his wife stood behind him the whole time vociferously talking α the two children again behind each other peeping at different times on each side in such a state of surprise as may be well imagined by those only who have witnessed similar scenes.

[in left margin]:

Wed 8th.

First water met with on the Comet River.

14 [miles made]

12 N.N.W.

Grebe Camp

Lat. 23=51=0219

To day we recommenced our travelling; the Dr having yesterday crossed the river on his way back to the Camp found the country rather more open, we therefore crossed it this morning in starting and fortunately found openings in the Scrub, which enabled us to proceed very well, although it gave us perhaps two or three miles more to go over, about four miles lower down than Roper α I had previously gone the first pool of water in the Bed of the River was met with and from this four miles more was followed down by us with a succession of pools, but as the vegetation on the banks here was so great α the Scrub coming close on the banks we camped on a clear open space on a back water beside a small pool of very clear water. the River now has changed its character considerably, instead of the loose white sandy bed and large Casuarina Banks, it now assumes more the appearance of the beds of Lagoons, and the banks are not quite so high α steep, and only lined with Melaleuca. The whole days distance travelled over was about 14 miles but in a direct line not more than ten North a little westerly. the country travelled over to day was more va=rious than we have had for some time, at first open Brigalo Scrub, with Box flats in places, then a fine clear streak of country with chains of Lagoons, then in an Iron Bark forest, which brought us on the banks of the River with tolerably heavy timber of Box α flooded Gum α c. many of the Lagoons, were well supplied with water, from the dry bed of one we found a very large species of Limneus220, but could not succeed in finding living examples of it in the water. our camping place not being very good for our horses, we took the precaution of tying them up in the evening around our tents, to ensure an early start in the morning. Podiceps gularis was shot at the pool we camped on, α the Dr named the Camp after it221.

[in left hand margin]:

Thurs 9.

We made a long stage to day, travelling over 18 miles of country and with but little exception the whole was through scrub and a very great proportion of it as thick as any we have had at any time to penetrate, our Baggage suffered very much but for=tunately without being attended with any loss, the day was very hot α sultry, and as we met with no water for the first 14 miles the Bullocks began to flag very much and we were fearful we should not accomplish our distance. in following as much as possible the beds of creeks or chains of dry beds of Lagoons we were frequently brought into the river in the bed of which we often moved on for half a mile then [were] obliged to ascend its steep banks to avoid the heavy timber lying across. when in the bed of the river shut in between the high banks, we often found the heat most excessive. and this with want of water tended more than ever their efforts to push through the scrub to fag our Bullocks. at length after one of the most fatiguing days march we have had, we arrived at the Drs farthest exploring point222, and where the Native first Cooed, we all felt fatigued having been 9 hours in the Saddle, which at the slow rate of travelling is most tiring. although the same character of Scrub still exists, there is a change of character in the river and its banks during the last two days, at first the river had very steep banks and its bed a great depth of sand, showing that it runs down from Sandstone Ranges although during the whole course we have travelled on, it has run through Whinstone soil, that the bed should be choaked [sic] up with the detritus of Sandstone is accounted for, from the circumstance of their [sic] being no regular outlet from the chains of Lagoons α swamps which every where run parallel with it, and the detritus of the banks is thus kept confined to the water holes above

Note 219

The 51 appears to have been altered in another hand.

Note 220

Lymnea is a genus of water snails.

Note 221

The camp (incorrectly called Diver Camp by Leichhardt) was named after the Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) which Gilbert had shot there, but the specimen has yet to be found. McLaren located this camp at GR 543 654 on the Comet 1: 100,000 sheet 8650.

Note 222

They had travelled along the Comet River just west of present-day stations Galgathaa and Milperoo, and camped at GR 539 777 (Comet 1:100,000 sheet 8650). Leichhardt named this “The Blackfellow’s Cooee Camp”.