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John Gilbert diary entry

15 January 1845 - 16 January 1845

Page 8. Volume 2

[page 8]

[in left margin]:

[Wed 15]

[page torn, but a number 6 remains, which was probably Gilbert’s total of miles made].

Greenwater Camp

Soon after daylight a Black-fellow was seen to run across the bank of the river into the scrub within a hundred yards of us, [he] perhaps had been tempted from curiosity to come thus near to watch us. it will be more than ever necessary to keep constantly on the alert, for if they begin to feel curious about us we may soon expect them to pay us a more open visit if we should happen to come upon any number of them; Charlie was again our Pilot, at first we had some very difficult ravines to cross, and finding they increased upon us while keeping so near the river we rather chose the higher bank which is scrubby, about 3 miles of the scrub with occasional openings brought us to a fine open flat along which we continued for about 4 miles when we camped at a spot marked out for us by the Dr and certainly not the most agreable235, the water although a pool of half a mile in length, was quite green, and had a very disagreable flavour; this we did not expect, for as we passed several very large reaches, we could not expect to find bad water in such a river. A specimen of Onichogalea fraenatus was killed to day, I also observed Oreica gutturalis and the little Cincloramphus still extending its range236. the Dr returned to us in the evening having ridden down 20 miles of the river from this camp, the mean course of the stream is E.N.E. and in one part takes a very considerable bend to the South, the Dr therefore con=cludes that the river is decidedly an Eastern water237, and has come to the determination of at once leaving it and again striking out in a N W course, all our anticipations relating to this river therefore cease here and we have no alternative but again face the scrub and most probably a scanty supply of water, before leaving the Mackenzie however we have to kill and pre=pare our third Bullock. the last having only served us 30 days, in consequence of our being unable to procure any game. the place we are now camped on independent of the bad water is in other respects not at all adapted for the preparation of our meat, and we shall in consequence have to move on about 2 miles lower down the river, where the Dr saw a spot suited for us. at night the sea-breeze was not so strong as usual, and we were threatened with a Thunder-storm, which however passed off about two miles to the west of us and fortunately left us untouched. had it come over us, from the situation we are camped on, we should have been fairly washed out. we were again unsuccessful in our fishing.

[in left margin]

Thurs 16

1 ½ [miles made]

To day we moved down about 1¼ miles and camped on a fine open spot with a gravelly bank or shoal running out from the embouchour238 of a small creek into one of the finest pools of water we have seen239. for the first time therefore we shall be able to enjoy Bathing, as well as having a convenient place for obtaining water. Charlie who was some time in following us with the spare Horses saw a Native with his two wives who cooeyed to him in a friendly manner, when he stopped the man swam from the oppo=site side of the river to him bringing with him his coolamon240 half full of Honey and a quantity of cooked Mussels, the whole of which Charlie was not slow to receive. and we had not been more than two hours at Camp when 3 Natives made their appearance from behind a large tree at a distance of 500 yards, they Cooeyed to us which we returned, and Brown α Charlie left the camp to meet them. at this moment our only remaining Kangaroo dog discovered them and set up a most tre=mendous Bark, which so astonished the Black-fellows they immediately turned away, and ran off very fast, Brown α Charlie however walked on after them when they stopped and talked with them for a few minutes only then went on, nothing that passed between them could be at all understood by either party, in the evening they again made their appearance the number this time increased

Note 235

Leichhardt’s “Camp at the Green Waterhole” was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 750 164, on the apex of a large bend in the Mackenzie River. Lurline Road now passes just north-west of this point.

Note 236

The only part of the former range of the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby Onychogalea fraenata where it still exists is a small area near Dingo, and the species is listed as endangered. Formerly this wallaby was found from the Murray River in the south to the Charters Towers area in the north (Van Dyke & Strahan 2008: 355-357). As further confirmation of this, Gilbert also recorded Bridled Nailtail Wallabies much further north on the Burdekin River (see his diary, pages 62 & 72). The two birds Gilbert listed here were Crested Bellbird Oreoica gutturalis and (probably) the Rufous Songlark Cincloramphus mathewsi.

Note 237

Indeed the Mackenzie eventually flows into the Fitzroy River and then into the sea at Keppel Bay, east of Rockhampton.

Note 238

Embouchure, the mouth of a waterway.

Note 239

This campsite, which Leichhardt did not name but Gilbert called “Redmans Camp” after the bullock they killed, was situated by McLaren at GR 772 168, at a point where the Mackenzie River turns sharply southwards.

Note 240

Coolamon or coolaman, a wooden vessel for holding water or food, often made from the hollowed knot of a tree (Reed 1998: 69)