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John Gilbert diary entry

1 February 1845

Page 19. Volume 2

one good result it will enable the Dr to work his Longitude frequently and thus show us our positive position on the Map, instead of trusting as hitherto to the uncertainty of what may be termed dead reconing [sic]. as regards our future prospects however particularly as related to our Provisions it is much more serious. having travelled on in the false hope of progressing much more than the result shows, we did not shorten our daily consumption of provisions so much as we could have done, and now with only a quarter of the whole distance we find we have consumed more than 2 thirds of our whole stock, ex=cepting the Bullocks, which must now be considered as our only future resource. We now saw the necessity of again lessening our daily supply, of flour from 3lbs to 1½ per day, at which rate we have about 5½ months supply, always supposing we have no accident in losses α c. of Tea α Sugar, we have not more than 3 months, particularly of the latter, which will be all consumed in much less time. We have thus the whole four months been travelling Parrellel [sic] with the coast from Jimba, without fairly making any way towards the real interior of Australia, our being all along accounts for so many remarkable occurrences we have met with, the Palm tree’s about the different ranges, which have been before remarked as not extending far inland, the same character of vegetation generally, the same geological features of the country, the same birds α Quadrupeds, and though last not least the regular sea-breezes blowing in from the Northward α Eastward. The Dr notwithstanding his illness treats this result of his observations, and the gloomy prospects before us with the utmost matter of course coolness, as leader of the Party he has a heavy responsibility resting on his shoulders having the lives of so many persons under his charge, with such a severe struggle as evidently appears before us and with at least three persons who may be considered so delicate that they would soon sink under any extraordinary fatigue or privation, one would imagine he would set aside his private wishes and think only of the lives of those who may be sacrificed, to feed his ambition with such prospects before us and having only accomplished so short a portion of our whole distance I cannot help thinking the most prudent course to be followed by a leader would be to return in preference to running into perhaps worse dangers, with so little means at command to help us through them. I believe there is no one of the party who would not willingly undergo a little hardship and privation in preference to turning back, but when we see before us probably 12 Months274 before arriving at our destination the prospect α result looks rather gloomy, and I do not see that we can at all calculate upon accomplishing the whole distance in less time, for as we approach such difficult tracks275 of country as we have already traversed, the delays will in all probability be as long, and more particularly if we do succeed in making our way more to the westward, we must expect the country less watered and therefore greater necessity of being exceedingly careful in our exploring, all this will take up very much time and I think that 12 Months may be calculated as the probable time of our arriving at Port Essington by which time we will have neither food or clothing if we have anything at all of the character of country to travel over as that we have already passed, our only consolation therefore in such a

Note 274

It was actually just less than 11 months later when the party finally reached Port Essington, but Gilbert’s words about running out of food were prophetic.

Note 275