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John Gilbert diary entry

9 January 1845 - 11 January 1845

Page 5. Volume 2

[in left margin]:

18 miles [made]

15 N.N.W.

the bed of the river, and the immense collection of sand in the deep bed, prevents the formation of water holes α this seems marked as in the Zamia Creek by the great quantity of Casuarina growing on the banks, only where there is a sandy bottom. the last two days stages thus show the contrast the banks of the river are not so high and steep and are more cut up into ravines α creeks running out of the scrub, which carries with them the soil of the surrounding country and thus forms a hard bed, and deep water holes in the river is the consequence, α with the absence of sand we lose the Casuarina, which is replaced by Melaleuca, and the whole bed much narrowed the banks less steep and the bed more resembling chains of Lagoons, with deep water holes although the majority of them are dried up, very large shells of the Unio are every where exposed to the surface, and in the few water holes of any extent of water fish have been observed, as we are likely to be stationary tomorrow, we may make out what species inhabits this apparantly [sic] Northern water.

[in left margin]

Friday 10

Cooey Camp

Lat 23=41=0

Stationary to day, while the Dr is exploring. All engaged in repairing yesterday’s damages to our packs. When the Dr left the camp Charlie accompanied him and did not return till the afternoon, with a Note from the Dr saying Charlie would lead us on tomorrow 9 miles while he continued to reconnoitre [sic]223. it seems we shall have a more favorable [sic] country to travel over tomorrows stage, one of our working Bullocks appears nearly knocked up. no fish could be caught. saw Buteo melanosternon224.

[in left margin]:

Sat 11th.

9 miles [made]

552 [total miles progressed]

To day we moved on about 9 miles, crossing the river at our camp we travelled over a fine open Box flat for about a mile, when we recrossed the river, and again met with the scrub for a short distance, crossing a large creek which came in from the Westward, we suddenly came upon a plain, with open forest undulating land in the dis=tance with patches of Scrub, and from which we had a fine view of a low range to the Eastward about 5 miles distant, running nearly N α S. and to the N.W. we saw several high mountains in a range running apparantly across our course, the distance probably from 20 to 25 miles. about four miles of this clear country was travelled over when we came again to Scrub, but generally sufficiently open to admit of our moving easily through it, excepting the scrubby places, almost the whole of the country we saw to day is again of Sandstone formation, the plain α forest ground generally rotten sandy soil and in many parts of the river the Sandstone was seen cropping out. Charlie having been over the ground yesterday was enabled to guide us in a more direct course, than we should have done had we kept the banks of the river for the whole distance, thus where the large creek comes in the river takes a long sweep to the east, and by our crossing the plain we saved at least 3 miles, and a=gain when coming upon it the river suddenly turned to the west α we again saved three miles225, several fine Lagoons were passed during our days march and a succession of pools in the river on one of which we camped, on the right bank, with open forest on the bank and Scrub at the back, the opposite [sic] side has Scrub close down to the rivers bank226. The whole days march was the most agreable we have had for some time past, the open forest land - plains α Ranges in the distance, was as great a relief to us on emerging from dense scrub, as is felt by the weary passenger on board ship when he first see’s land after a long passage. Our Bullocks even seemed to feel with us, the agreable change

Note 223

This note is still extant in the Mitchell Library (Fragment No.7), and is kept with other fragments and a business card from Gilbert’s diary. They were found when the hard backed volume of the diary was accidentally dropped on the floor in the old Bird Room of the Natural History Museum in London, not long after Alec Chisholm had been given the two little volumes by Gould’s descendants (Chisholm 1941: 25-26 and 157). Gilbert had tucked these fragments into the little pocket in the cover, which burst open when it was dropped. Leichhardt’s note reads: “My good companions. Charley will bring you tomorrow by a fine cut over a plain about 9 miles farther. I shall take advantage of the opportunity of extending my reconnoitre. The scrub is approaching again, but the River has taken a fine sweep to the westward. Sandstone appears again and was cropping out in all the gullies and along the River, but notwithstanding there are plenty of fine waterholes and good feed. If Brown had hit the 3 ducks after which he fired, I should have sent them home. But he missed twice and the 3rd time the wounded bird made its’ escape. 2 Partridge pigeons however for my supper. I shall be very short for tea and sugar. Adieu till tomorrow night when I hope to see you in good health. Mr Phillips will put the sextants in his [?cross bag]!”.

Note 224

Black-breasted Buzzard Hamirostra melanosternon.

Note 225

They must therefore have crossed the plain at the point where the town of Comet now stands on the Capricorn Highway.

Note 226

According to McLaren this campsite was at GR 568 894, by the Comet River and just north-west of present-day Comet. Leichhardt generously called it “Charley’s Choice Camp” (Gilbert’s “Camp of Charlie’s choice”).