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John Gilbert diary entry

27 January 1845 - 28 January 1845

Page 14. Volume 2

[N.B. two sentences with geographical information have been underlined in blue pencil on this page, possibly by Thomas Mitchell].

[in left margin]:


end and a little to the westward are two very conspicuous Peaks, with a large round topped hill adjoining on the West side of them257. from our camp they bear N W by N. distance about 7 miles. at a distance of about 8 miles farther west is another Peaked Mountain bearing from the camp W.N.W258. to the S W is a lofty range apparantly between 40 and 50 miles distant259 with Sugar loaf Mountains α Peak on its summit260. all the immediate vicinity of the Camp the country is very open well clothed in grass, and open plains are seen running to the foot of the Mountains nearest us the sides and summit of the range very open α clear to the summits, the Dr did not return during the night α from the appearance of the country generally around us there seems a probability of his finding some difficulty in meeting with water, where we are camped we have only two very small pools of rain water, and which appear to be drying up very rapidly.

[in left margin]:

Tues 28.

Peak Range Camp


We arranged to day to divide into two parties for the purpose of ascending the loftiest Peak, one Party taking the morning, and the other the afternoon, as I had several Birds to prepare261 I chose the latter portion of the day, but Mr Roper who headed the first party remained away the greater portion of the morning, and returned too late for me to reach which I very much regretted as this is almost the most interesting range we have yet come upon. they describe the range as running a considerable distance to the Westward with numerous Peaks and domed shaped Mountains standing up as it were in isolated parts of the immense extent of Plains, which spread out from the range in every direction and the distant range to the S.W. as appearing at least 60 miles off262 and as we have not seen the peaks of this range since the first night from this camp it is more than probable the effects of Mirage was the cause of our seeing it so distinctly and apparantly [sic] so near. About 4 o'clock the Dr α Calvert returned but in such a dreadful α shocking state of exhaustion, that was at first quite alarming, they had not met with water since leaving this Camp yesterday morning at 8 o'clock thus they were travelling for 32 hours over the most arid description of country exposed to the excessive heat of a tropical sun, the flour α other provisions they took with them were brought back as taken away, not finding water they could make no use of any thing, the Dr too was suffering the whole time from Diorrhea [sic], but Calvert who possesses rather a weak frame and is withal of a weak constitution was much worse than the Dr he was so changed that had we not known they were away and have met him by accident we could scarcely have recog=nized him, both of them were scarcely able to articulate a word, Calvert just uttered the word Tea, and in such a tone and with such a distressing look as made ones heart ache. I was obliged to assist him from his horse, and he then fell down quite exhausted. the Dr α he it seems rode over a great extent of country yesterday the whole day scorching hot occasionally ascending the mountains, then running down every water course in hopes of finding water untill [sic] it became dark, when they were both very much fatigued, and did not think of the necessity of keeping their horses tyed [sic] up by then the consequence was the horses as much as themselves were suffering from want of water and during the night instead of remaining near them wandered about in search of water, the next morning Calvert had 4 hours walking to find them and this was perhaps the primary cause of his being so much worse than he other=wise would have been, the horses were as badly off [as] their riders, and could but just crawl in to the Camp. it was fortunate the Dr had such good land marks to guide him back, or he would in all probability have perished, for their sight as well as speech began to fail them neither could see objects very distinctly

Note 257

Scott’s and Roper’s Peaks. The adjoining hill (676m high) to their west is not named on the Cotherstone 1: 100,000 sheet 8552. Adjoining these two peaks to the south is Malvern Hill (679m), which appears to have been called “John’s Red Hill” by Leichhardt (Field Book sketch map for January 25th to February 5th 1845) and “Red Mt” / “Red Mount” / “Red Mountain” by Murphy (Murphy’s diary pages 36, 37 & 38). Note that Sprod 2006 (pages 33, 35 and footnote on page 118) has “Red Mountain” as Mount Lowe. Murphy and Roper must have passed by “John’s Red Hill” when they climbed Roper’s Peak on the 28th January, although after which John – Murphy, Roper or Gilbert - it was named is not recorded. John Murphy is the most likely, as being a “boy” he would be most likely to be called by his first name. From a scrutiny of comments and sketches in both Gilbert and Murphy’s diaries, it appears they ascribed Scott’s Peak as the more southerly peak (804m), slightly lower than their Roper’s Peak (854m).

Note 258

Presumably this was the mountain named Macarthur’s Peak (now Mount Macarthur) by Leichhardt after James and William Macarthur of Camden Park in New South Wales. James Macarthur (1798-1867) was an important political figure in New South Wales but is also credited with the improvement in quality of Australian sheep and their wool by importing Saxon Merinos from Europe. A mile to the south of Macarthur’s Peak is Mount Lowe, named for Sydney barrister Robert Lowe.

Note 259

Underlined by Thomas Mitchell?

Note 260

This was probably the section of the Drummond Range which includes Mounts Tabletop, Zamia and Pisgah. This is about 70 miles south-west of Peak Range Camp.

Note 261

The birds Gilbert prepared on the morning of 28th January must have included the Weebill and Sitella, and probably the Woodswallow (see footnotes for 27th January).

Note 262

Underlined by Thomas Mitchell?