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John Gilbert diary entry

25 January 1845 - 27 January 1845

Page 13. Volume 2

[in left margin]:

Emu Camp

of the Drs exploring. the country the whole distance fine open forest richly clothed in grass, but the light sandy character of the soil prevailing so much that nearly the whole distance was rendered disagreable [sic] travelling from the heavy rotten state of the ground. the whole country is beautifully undulating and open, with an occasional spur of Scrub cropping out in a narrow belt, some of the ridges were stony α rocky, and as yesterday great quantities of fossilised wood lying on the surface. as yet there is no general change in the vegetation, we have still the two kinds of Box, the flooded Gum, and the two kinds of Iron-bark, and the shrubs in general the same species as those seen on the Condamine River thus it is the same with the Birds not a species have I observed that I have not more or less seen during the whole expedition252. We crossed one large Creek about half way between the two Camps which like all the water courses we have seen during the day run to the South α Westward. Just before camping we came upon a flock of 7 Emu's, but were again unsuccessful in chasing them. Contrary to our expectations Charlie at the camp procured us about a pint of Honey, but which was not very much relished after so fine a sample as yesterday, from its having become quite acid. Charlie left the camp this morning without his Tinder Box α knife, as both these articles are too valuable to lose he went back for them, in con=sequence of this he could not accompany the Dr in his reconnoitering to take us on tomorrow, the Dr α Roper have therefore gone alone, to endeavour to find a camp for tomorrow. we camped on a fine open flat on a creek but having only two very small water holes supplied from the last rains253. the grass from the whole country having lately been fired is most luxuriant α young.

[in left margin]:

Sunday 26

Newmans Grove

5 miles W.N.W. [made].

A short stage of only 5 miles was made to day, the entire distance over Sandstone ridges or flats of Rotten sandy soil, between the ridges the gullies were often very rocky α steep, and rather a thick brush very much resembling the ridges of the Boyd. as we approached the range the hills became higher and more rocky. we camped on the edge of a small reedy pool in a creek running to the S α Westward, on a very open flat surrounded on all sides by rocky hills of Sandstone, every part of the country travelled over to day well supplied with young grass and the forest generally open, the timber consisting principally of the two kinds of Iron Bark, White Gum α Flooded Gum. our course about W.N.W. here a number of Peach α Plumb [sic] Stones were planted and the Dr has named it Newman's Grove254.

[in left margin]:

Monday 27.


8 miles [made]

627 [total miles progressed, extreme bottom left corner]

Charlie who accompanied the Dr yesterday in Reconnoitering did not return till this morning to take us on a stage, we had a little rough travelling during the day, making about 8 miles in a W N W course the whole route through open forest, and undulating country, the ridges we had to cross frequently were in general very rocky while all the lower parts still rotten ground till about 6 miles when we crossed a Basaltic ridge. then on to very open country and at length camped in the immediate vicinity of the Peaked Mountains seen on the 24th. our camp is on a small pool of water left by the last rains255 all around us the country very open, the soil rich α black and abundance of grass, the Basaltic rock cropping out from all the elevations around us. The Bearings of the several Mountains are thus, a range having three conspicuous sugar loaf Mountains bearing the nearest about ¾ of a mile N.E., the Middle one N by East256, α the most Northerly N by West its direction about E S E α W.N.W. at the Northern

Note 252

John Murphy recorded in his diary for 26th January that he had shot a “bigheaded goat sucker” (Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides). This specimen has not been located (the museum collection in Exeter has been checked, and so has Harvard’s MCZ 024754, which is almost certainly a Coxen specimen from Queensland).

Note 253

McLaren estimated Emu Camp to be at GR 510 529, on a small watercourse running into Oaky Creek.

Note 254

The camp at Newman’s Grove was at GR 408 579 according to McLaren, near the headwaters of Oaky Creek. This grove was named after Francis William Newman, who was later the Superintendant of the Botanic Gardens in Hobart, Tasmania.

Note 255

Their camp of 27th – 28th January was called Peak Range Camp by Gilbert, Murphy and Leichhardt, but Leichhardt also named it “Camp of the Crinum Fields” (see his Field Book sketch map for 25th January to 5th February 1845; note that Gilbert called their camp of the 29th January – 2nd February “Crinum Camp”). Peak Range Camp was located at GR 313 645 according to McLaren, on a headwater of Isabella Creek. An adult male Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris was collected by Gilbert at Peak Range Camp on 27th January (BMNH 1881.5.1.294), as was a female Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera leucocephala (ANSP 9178). This latter bird, which is from the White-headed race of the Varied Sittella, was used as the model for the bottom right-hand bird in John Gould’s plate of “Sittella leucocephala” in The birds of Australia (volume 4, plate 102, published in March 1848). Gould noted in his accompanying text that “my collection contains three specimens of this new species of Sittella, two of which were received from … Moreton Bay and the other was procured during Dr. Leichardt’s overland expedition to Port Essington, Mr Gilbert having killed it near Peak-Range Camp on the 27th of January 1845; the latter, which is figured on the right-hand side of the plate, differs from the former in the greater purity of the white colouring of the head, and in the darker tint of the striae which run down the centre of each of the feathers on the breast; and it is possible that it may hereafter prove to be distinct”.

Gould’s type(s) of Sitella leucocephala, a name he published in 1838 and which must have been based on at least one of the Moreton Bay specimens, need investigating. The holotype is listed as ANSP 9179, but this may be a hybrid Daphoenositta c. chrysoptera x Daphoenositta chrysoptera leucocephala and it is thus possible that the name Sitella leucocephala was based on a hybrid bird. There are also two Gould Collection Varied Sittellas from Moreton Bay in the collections at NHM Tring Outstation (BMNH 1881.5.1.4344 and 1881.5.1.4345), both of which have possible type status for Sitella leucocephala Gould, 1838.

Another entry in Gould’s The birds of Australia concerns a Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus which was also collected at Peak Range Camp (text and plate for “Artamus albiventris”, volume 1 plate 32, published in September 1847). In this account Gould refers to having just two specimens in his collection, one from the Darling Downs (probably ANSP 15493) and one from the Leichhardt Expediton (probably ANSP 15492, which is incorrectly labelled “Port Essington”, presumably in error for “Port Essington Expedition”). In Gould’s type description of Artamus albiventris (Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1847 vol.15, page 31) he expanded on this; both birds had been killed by “Mr Gilbert” and the second had been collected at “Peak-range Camp”. Gould’s Artamus albiventris was considered too close to Lesson’s 1831 name Artamus albiventer and so was re-named Artamus hypleucus by Sharpe in 1890 (Gould’s two types are still the standards for Sharpe’s name). Sharpe’s name is now considered to be a synonym of Artamus cinereus dealbatus Schodde & Mason, 1999.

Note 256

Was this range the one including Mount Demipique? (which apparently refers to the French for “war saddle”, but was probably not named by the members of the Leichhardt Expedition). McLaren seemed to think so – but was Gilbert actually referring to the range to the east of Roper’s and Scott’s Peak? What are these mountains called? (no names are given on the 1: 100,000 map). Need to obtain some photographs of the Peak Range from various angles in order to identify Gilbert’s list of the peaks he made on the 27th January. Some should be taken from just east of the road running north from Old Malvern, at points about 2-5 km north of Woolamba. This may help establish where exactly the campsite was (near head of little watercourse off Isabella Creek). Sugar loaf mountains are tall cones with a rounded top.