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John Gilbert diary entry

1 February 1845 - 4 February 1845

Page 20. Volume 2

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[situation] is to trust in Providence α hope for the best. Roper returned in the evening having found [trees?] and water courses with a good supply of water, but all running very much to the Eastward.

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Sunday 2.

The Dr not being satisfied with Ropers Reconnoitre, and feeling a little better this morning, set off with the two Natives to explore round the Peaks to the Northward α Westward, Roper during his exploring trip passed through a very thick scrub in which Wallaby's were very abundant and as we remain [sic] stationary the whole day, and it has now become more than ever necessary to procure as much game as possi=ble we rode out in hopes of killing several, but after 3 hours in the Scrub only one was procured, Charlie who had seen the skin of one killed by Roper says it is the same species as is known to the Natives of Bathurst as the Warroon, but I am inclined to think it different, the skin α Cranium of which I saved276.

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Monday 3.

12 miles

[8?] N by W[?]

This morning we again recommenced our progress onward the Dr having sent back Brown to guide us on our first course was direct to the Peaks nearly in a N.W. course, close under the base of which we passed then bearing off considerably to the Eastward we rounded a long Sandstone Mountain about 3 miles S S W277 of the Peaks we camped on the Rocky bed of a water course running to the Eastward, the water lying in numerous basins lately supplied by the rains, we were rather more than five hours accomplish=ing the distance which although not more as we travelled in a devious course than 12 miles was a very fatiguing day to our Cattle the great heat in crossing the Plains and the constant succession of rocky ravines α gullies we had to cross in passing over the low ridge which connects the Peaks with the range rendered the travelling very fatiguing and distressing to several old Bullocks in particular and which very plainly shows us that in the event of pushing 20 miles in a day becoming necessary we can hardly expect it from our Cattle. Just as we had released our Bullocks of their Packs Charlie came in alone, for the purpose of conducting us a further distance of ten miles, had he been in time I think we could hardly have attempted it, having made a late start in the morning we should have been benighted long ere we had accomplished this additional distance, Charlie says he left the Dr riding off still to the N.W. reconnoitering consequently he did not return during the night, thus having the pleasure of being perfectly alone and his own supper to prepare278.

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Tues 4.

Rocky Basin Camp

To day we were kept stationary in consequence of our horses having taken back to Crinum Camp, Charlie who left us in pursuit of them at 7 in the morning did not return till after sunset, and said he could not drive them in. Fortunately the Dr who had waited very impatiently at the water hole we were to have gone to came in just before, so that Charlie will have a horse in the morning. Immense numbers of Bronze winged Pigeons visited the immediate vicinity of our Camp, but were so excessively wild we could not succeed in killing any279, a Raptorial Bird however was killed which puzzled me considerably having the Bill α Tarsi more of the character of Buteo, but which in style of colouring closely resembles Astur Calei or Aquila Morphnoides280.

Note 276

The Aborigines of Bathurst, west of Sydney, may simply have been referring to medium-sized kangaroos generally. On 7th December 1844 Gilbert had referred to collecting kangaroo specimens, and in my accompanying footnote for that date is a discussion of whether these might be represented by a skull belonging to a Black-striped Wallaby Macropus dorsalis, which is recorded in the Natural History Museum’s Accessions Register as having being collected by Gilbert on the Leichhardt Expedition. This is still in the collections of the NHM (BMNH 1846.8.27.1). Another skull with identical data to the first is also in the NHM (1846.8.27.2); this is unidentified but matches well with skulls of Macropus agilis from Inkerman. Alternatively, either one of these skulls might have been from the material Gilbert collected on 2nd February 1845, or the M. agilis skull could be from one of the wallabies collected on the Mitchell River on 24th June 1845. As for the Aboriginal use of the word “Warroon” – nothing matches on the internet or in any references to hand. According to Van Dyck & Strahan 2008: 379 “Warru” or “Waru” is the Central Australian name for the Black-footed Rock Wallaby Petrogale lateralis, but this never occurred in the Bathurst area of New South Wales.

Note 277

This has been underlined in blue, and "N.E.?" inserted in blue pen in the margin.

Note 278

Gilbert’s references to Leichhardt were becoming increasingly tart.

Note 279

Gilbert was probably referring here to Common Bronzewings Phaps chalcoptera, although he may have meant it was a mixed flock of the various pigeons which have bronze in their wings. Leichhardt recorded (1847: 136-137) that on 4th February 1845 “my companions shot twenty-one pigeons (Geophaps scripta) [= Squatter Pigeons] and five cockatoos; a welcome addition to our scanty meals”.

Note 280

“Astur Calei” is the Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus, “Aquila Morphnoides” the Little Eagle Hieraatus morphnoides. According to Murphy’s diary (Sprod 2006: 35) he shot this “new hawk, the finest bird of prey I ever saw”. This bird unfortunately slipped out of Gilbert’s pack the following day and was lost. Bruce Lawrie of the Environment Protection Agency, Queensland, thinks this might have been a dark-phased Little Eagle, but after consultation with his colleague Rod Hobson, agrees that Red Goshawk could have occurred in this area, although this species prefers wetter habitat. Another possibility could be a juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard Hamirostra melanosternon – according to the Slater Field Guide the rusty-red juvenile Black-breasted Buzzards are often mistaken for Red Goshawks. Gilbert had seen a Black-breasted Buzzard on January 10th 1845, perhaps this latter bird had been an adult.