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John Gilbert diary entry

10 February 1845 - 11 February 1845

Page 23. Volume 2

[in left margin]

Monday 10th

Fig-tree Camp [crossed out by Gilbert]

Bitter-Tea Camp

N 5 miles

Not having our Black-fellows we had every thing to do, the Dr α Calvert commenced by fetching in the Horses, but the Cattle they could not find, the rain having partially obliterated their tracks, Calvert returned unsuc=cessful, when I α Roper went out, after a great deal of searching we at length found new tracks going back, and when about two miles away we met the Dr bringing them up, however with all this apparant [sic] delay, we were en=abled to make nearly the average starting time; the whole of to days march, was little more than a constant succession of ups α downs in crossing Stony Ridges α valleys, till at length we camped in a very narrow valley, with fine water, our course about North290. A new Forest Gum was one of the most striking features of to days march, it is a large tree having the Bark like spotted-Gum with outspreading Branches resembling the Apple tree, but having very large oval leaves of a very light green. it grows on open Flats α on the ridges of sand, and is a very conspicuous and beautifully ornamental addition to the Australian Forest trees. We have never seen the Rusty Gum so abundant as to day, one Grassy hill we crossed had scarcely any other Plant growing on it, several other grassy ridges were crossed having a great proportion of Blood-wood Gum, and at no time or part of our expedition have we seen the Xanthorrhoea so abundant as to day, it is however a very stunted species, having fine wiry tough tops, very closely allied to Tough-top Black-Boy of the Swan. our present camp is beneath the shade of several Fig-tree’s, which with many other trees, still point out to us in very plain terms the fact of our being near the coast. during to days march we were successful in an Emu hunt, killing a fine old Female α a very young one291. almost immediately after our midday meal was pre=pared our two runaway Blacks very agreably surprised us by their return, they of course made every possible excuse but none of which made any impression on any of us, they brought in nearly a pint of Honey by way we supposed of smoothing the thing off, and they seemed not a little delighted with the Emu, α a probability of immediately having a good round meal292. To day in fact has shown them pretty plainly that we can; not only get in our Horses and Cattle without their assistance but hunt the Emu successfully, both of which they have long entertained the idea that they only could do for us, Charlie described to the Dr the Character of the country he had seen during yesterday which determined him in not reconnoitering to day, but of following down the Creek we are upon. Charlie obtained a Pint of Honey, and we tried the experiment of sweetening Tea with it, and which from want of proper management proved a failure it was so bitter we could not drink it293.

[in left margin]:

Tues 11th

E N E 7 miles

Day Dist 20 miles


Leaving our Encampment we followed down the creek for 2 miles crossing α recrossing it several times294. at length it opened out into fine open forest country for about 3 miles more, when we came upon a considerable water-course with deep banks and sandy bed with Casuarina on the banks, very much in fact resembling the Zamia Creek where we crossed it ran East α West. we followed it down about 3 miles in a very winding course, the average of which must have been at least E.N.E. during this entire dis=tance not a drop of water was met with in the bed while all the little rocky creeks falling from the ridges are well supplied, our whole course to day was very considerably to the Eastward, the Drs object being to trace it down to a flat extent of country that will enable us to travel along parallel with the Coast, and this water course in all probability will conduct us to it and even perhaps again to the Mackenzie, I α Charlie rode down the water course to find water for tomorrows Camp.

Note 290

On the 10th February 1845 the expedition moved about 5 miles north-north-east to the headwaters of a creek which Leichhardt later named “Hugh’s Creek” [sic] after Henry Hughes of Hughes and Frederick Isaac’s Station, Gowrie, on the Darling Downs. Their camp-site that night was called “Bitter Tea Camp” and was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 247 216 on the Grosvenor Downs 1: 100,000 sheet 8553

Note 291

According to Leichhardt (1847: 145-146) these Emus had been caught by John Roper and the expedition’s dogs. Roper had leapt off his horse to fire at the birds and his riderless horse had returned to camp, alarming everyone.

Note 292

Leichhardt also recorded (1847: 146) that the Aborigines told the other members of the expedition that they had caught a “ring-tailed opossum” (presumably a Common Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus) and had seen a black kangaroo with a white point at the end of its tail (a Swamp Wallaby (Black Wallaby) Wallabia bicolor? Van Dyck & Strahan 2008: 406 record that this wallaby occasionally has a white tip to the tail, especially in Queensland).

Note 293

“For want of proper management” can be translated with reference to Murphy’s diary, in which he acidly recorded that “Dr put wax and all into the tea and spilled both, after which the camp was normal”.

Note 294

En route, just before they left the hills, Leichhardt recorded that they had passed the junction of the Hughes with another creek. Here the sandstone cropped out and was divided by regular fissures into very large rectangular blocks, which resembled tombstones (Leichhardt 1847: 144). Leichhardt called this Tombstone Creek. This junction with the Hughes needs to be located: it appears to the near a T-junction just north of Saraji homestead (at about GR 30 24), but might be further west, for instance at the junction of the Hughes and another watercourse at GR 245 224.