Also in this section…?

John Gilbert diary entry

11 February 1845 - 13 February 1845

Page 24. Volume 2

[in left margin]


First Camp on the Hughes295


we followed down at least ten miles and found water in many places, but all apparantly drying up very quickly, it winds very much and for five or 6 miles very nearly east, it then comes up again to North, on the right Bank the Brigalo Scrub appears again, and a few patches only on the left bank otherwise flats with open forest extend from its banks a considerable distance back, but the ground is all rotten sandy soil and the grass rather poor. at ten miles the Creek is almost lost where it enters the Scrub, appearing as if a torrent of sand had been brought down α fairly choaked up the bed, here however I found a fine Lagoon of water almost hidden from our view by the surrounding Scrub, but seeing so many Birds apparantly hovering and flying over water I was induced to search, and there found it. here I again saw many old friends of the Coast, particularly Corcorax - Artamus superciliosus - Calyptorhynchus Leachii296 α many others, which have not been seen of late, when to the westward of the Ridges, by a short cut which Charlie made on our return and in about a W S W course we made the Camp in about 7 miles. The Dr has the [sic] named the water-course the Hughes, and the Camp after it297. during the whole distance down the creek we saw very recent traces of Natives constantly crossing the creek, and in many places where they had scooped out hollows in the sand to obtain a more cool α refreshing draught, than the exposed α heated water on the surface offered them. A new Melaleuca was observed to day for the first time, it is a large and lofty plant growing to a height of fifty to sixty feet, having broad leaves.

[in left margin]

Wed 12th

Second Camp on the Hughes298

E N E 7 miles

To day we moved down the Creek to the Lagoon in the Scrub, about a mile before coming to Camp, we passed a small pool of water, in which four Natives were bathing, but at our approach they immediately ran off into the Scrub at the back. Two additional species to the expedition were remarked to day viz Myzomela nigra299 α Myzomela erythrocephalea? I also saw a species of what appeared a Sandpiper at the Lagoon, but I afterwards succeeded in killing one when it proved to be Rhynchoea300 the first time I have had the pleasure of seeing it living, on dissection I found my specimen a Female with the Eggs in the oviduct very far advanced, but it wanted the extraordinary convolution of the Trachea, observed in all the females killed by Mr. Gould, my specimen however appears immature, but still this is not sufficient to account for such a difference of internal Structure, moreover I believe my specimen is much smaller than those killed by Mr Gould, and I think I can trace other external differences, my specimen may therefore prove a distinct species. I also killed a specimen of Glyciphila ocularis301 a species I have not observed for some time past. the Dr accompanied by Mr Roper α Charlie left us to explore down the Hughes, but left so late that neither of them returned during the night.

[in left margin]

Thurs 13th

At noon the Dr Roper α Charlie returned not having seen a drop of water during the whole time they were absent, they went in a Northern direction, and crossed the principal branch of the Hughes about a mile distant from Camp so that the water course I followed down is only an annabranch, the other or principal branch I saw about a mile distant, but from it being so shallow where it branched off I did not think it more than a swamp adjoining302. after leaving the creek they came in about 16 miles upon the largest water course hitherto met with during the expedition, but unfortunately running to the Southward. while following down this river in search of water they came upon a number of black fellows who were so busily engaged in the trees or digging roots that they were not disturbed till the Dr and his party were close to them, the poor Natives it seems were most horribly alarmed, and commenced beating the trees and yelling as if to frighten them away, but as they found it had no effect they immediately ran off into the adjoining Scrub, yelling α screaming in the most vociferous manner, the Dr tried to speak with them, but instead of getting

Note 295

The First Camp on the Hughes was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 332 253 on the Grosvenor Downs 1: 100,000 map 8553.

Note 296

White-winged Chough, White-browed Woodswallow and Red-tailed Black-cockatoo. John Murphy also recorded in his diary for 11th February 1845 that he had “Shot 2 little budgerigars” (Sprod 2006: 38), but no museum specimens with this date have been found in Exeter or elsewhere.

Note 297

As mentioned before, this was after Henry Hughes of Gowrie Station on the Darling Downs. The name of his partner at Gowrie, Fredrick Isaac, was to be used a few days later for a far bigger watercourse. This was in fact the expedition’s second camp on the Hughes, Leichhardt must have assumed that Bitter Tea Camp was on a tributary (McLaren’s typescript: 184).

Note 298

This camp name was later deleted by Gilbert. The site of Crow Camp, which was on a lagoon in the scrub, needs further research. It was estimated by McLaren to be at GR 395 293 on the Grosvenor Downs 1:100,00 sheet 8553, but he was unsure exactly where to place it because Leichardt’s sketch map was so vague. I wonder, after reading Gilbert’s remarks on February 13th: “the creek from the Camp entered the Scrub, and for the first mile kept off very much to the South, but afterwards turned again to the N α Eastward”, whether Crow Camp was actually further east on the Hughes, at GR 411 296. McLaren did not even give this camp a colour spot in his typescript, indicating he could not be precise by more than 800 yards. It was named “Crow Camp” after the crows (Torresian Crows Corvus orru, or perhaps the White-winged Chough Corcorax melanorhamphus, which looks like a crow to the uninitiated) which the expedition members shot and ate during their stay. In his diary entry for 14th February John Murphy wrote that “They are not bad stewed well, only very strong of course. Shot 9 crows, 10 ducks, 7 blue mountain parrots, 4 cockatoos and 2 pheasants”. The “Blue mountain parrots” (Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus) seem the mostly likely to have been prepared as specimens, as opposed to being eaten by hungry men, but none seem to have survived (but check BMNH 1881.5.1.4684, .4685 & .5686). The “2 pheasants” were probably what Leichhardt called “swamp-pheasants”, the Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus, which is actually a large cuckoo with a pheasant-like plumage. Alternatively, one of the pheasants could have been a female Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus now in the collections of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. This bird is amongst a small collection of John Murphy’s specimens from the Leichhardt Expedition which were donated to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter by a Miss Fox of Beckenham, Kent. Unfortunately the specimen – which has been mounted and then taken off its stand – has no other collecting data. The Plains-wanderer is only know from a very few specimens in eastern Queensland, so this specimen is of great interest wherever on the Leichhardt Expedition route it is from.

The “4 cockatoos” were likely to have been Red-tailed Black-cockatoos; as for “ducks”, Leichhardt mentioned (1847: 147) that “Bernicla jubata” (Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata) abounded on the larger water-holes.

Note 299

Underlined and with an arrowhead, in pencil, probably by Alec Chisholm rather than by John Gould (see Chisholm’s remarks in Birds of the Gilbert diary 1945: 197). Gilbert’s “Myzomela nigra” is now in National Museums Liverpool, a male Black Honeyeater Sugomel niger from the Lord Derby collection (D5482s), collected at Crow Camp on 13th February 1845. “Myzomela erythrocephalea” translates as the Red-headed Honeyeater Myzomela erythrocephala, which Gilbert knew from his stay on the Cobourg Peninsula on the north coast, but which does not occur this far south in Queensland. Gilbert probably saw a Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta, perhaps an immature; he would not have been so familiar with this species. No such specimen has been found . Three Gould Collection birds from “New South Wales” or “Queensland” are in the Natural History Museum at Tring (BMNH 1881.5.1.1464, .1465 & .1466), although these are all listed as adults they should be checked.

Note 300

Another arrowhead inserted in pencil, probably also by Alec Chisholm (see Chisholm’s remarks on this specimen in Birds of the Gilbert diary 1944: 147). This bird is indeed a young female “Rhynchoea”, an Australian Painted Snipe Rostratula australis, which is now in National Museums Liverpool: Lord Derby collection D4863s, labelled as having been collected at Crow Camp on 13th February 1845. John Murphy also recorded that he shot a specimen of this bird [on the 12th February], and that he had shot another on the 16th February, when they had reached the Isaac River (Sprod 2006: 38-39). Marchant and Higgins (1993 vol.2: 660) quote several sources which record the most northerly breeding record of the Painted Snipe in Queensland as 1950s Ayr, which is less than 350 km north of Crow Camp.

Note 301

Gilbert’s specimen of “Glyciphila ocularis”, a male Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta ocularis collected at Crow Camp on 13th February 1845, is also in NML (Lord Derby collection D5483s). This bird actually revisited the area in 1990, this time by coach, when I took five of Gilbert’s original birds on the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland’s “Following in the footsteps of Leichhardt” tour.

According to Leichhardt (1847: 151), the party had also shot “a small scrub wallaby” on the 14th February, which added to their “several good messes” – did they keep the skull, and could this be one of the two medium-sized kangaroo skulls known to have been collected on the Leichhardt Expedition – a Black-striped Wallaby Macropus dorsalis and what is probably the skull of an Agile Wallaby Macropus agilis – which have been found in the Natural History Museum in London?

Note 302

Leichhardt and Charlie went due north, apparently for a considerable amount of miles, before they came across a creek which led down into a “broad deep channel of a river, but now entirely dry” (Leichhardt 1847: 149). This river Leichhardt named the Isaac, after Frederick Isaac of Gowrie Station on the Darling Downs. They possibly met it at about GR 428 459, where a small creek (unnamed on the Grosvenor Downs map) enters the Isaac River. In which case Gilbert and Charlie, the day before, had probably scouted up Hughes Creek itself (not an anabranch), past where it becomes Boomerang Creek.