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John Gilbert diary entry

13 February 1845 - 14 February 1845

Page 25. Volume 2

off his horse and quietly approaching them, he galloped up to them, which only the more alarmed them. As the Dr was so unsuccessful he wished me to follow down the creek, and I α Brown immediately started off to explore for water, the creek from the Camp entered the Scrub, and for the first mile kept off very much to the South303, but after=wards turned again to the N α Eastward, for five miles I followed its windings through very dense Brigalo Scrub, and immediately it emerged (“from” deleted”) into open country it joined the main branch304, just before it left the Scrub, we found two small holes of water, from this I followed down the creek a farther distance of 6 miles, when I found a tolerable supply of water at the junction of a large creek coming from the North305, about a mile beyond this following the windings of the creek I sud=denly came upon the banks of the large river, the Dr described. Where I crossed it, it (“was” deleted) is fully 300 yard across, with a loose sandy bed, and very picturesque regular sloping banks, from 20 to 30 feet in height, during the whole time I travelled down the main branch of the Hughes the same character of open timbered flats extended on either side as observed before, the same character is still con=tinued on the banks of this large river, Casuarina was growing on its banks, and in many parts of its bed quite a brush of small Scrubs α young Casuarina. after crossing the river I followed it down about a quarter of a mile and found a little back from the banks a rushy lagoon, as it was now getting late, I determined on Camping here for the night306 and following down the river in the morn=ing thinking that as the Dr could not discover water above he would probably pursue the river downwards, at night an hour after dark we were surprised at hearing repeated cooey's from a party of Natives as if approaching the lagoon we were camped on some of the Cooey's were within 200 yards of us, and thinking that in such a dry country the natives might probably have travelled a long distance in order to make this water at night, they might be disposed to question our right of possession, I had the horses brought in and we kept in readiness to meet them if they approached, but I very soon after heard them moving farther off as if going down the river, and as I heard Women crying, I concluded they had camped at another water hole behind a patch of scrub which separated them from us, we in a short time heard no more of them, and we both lay down to obtain our nights sleep, in which we succeeded without any further interruption. this little incident only serves to shew how little the general habits of an Australian is to be relied on at all times and places, here was an evident proof that Natives do travel at night notwithstanding what has been repeatedly stated to the contrary by so many persons who know the natives well too.

[in left margin]

Friday 14.


By sunrise we were in the Saddle and on our way to explore the river downwards. I kept on the banks ex=amining the river, while I directed Browns attention to the appearances of Swamps or Lagoons, about a mile we came to the Embouchure307 of two large Creeks coming into the river from the Scrub from the North, and a little beyond this seeing a Reed bed with Melaleuca in the bed of the river I rode down in hopes of finding water, we certainly found some but not the character I expected, it was merely a little temporary Native well apparantly only been formed the day before by the Natives, ascending the bank again we followed on, in about 0 miles we came upon a patch of Scrub, from which emerged a large α deep creek, but like the river dry sandy bottom, and in a quarter of a mile farther another of nearly equal magnitude, but coming in from the Northward α Westward, at three miles beyond this a fifth large Creek with Casuarina banks came in from the open country to the N α Eastward, I continued on for about five miles farther, when I determined on returning, during the whole of this distance of not less than 12

Note 303

From this comment I wonder whether Crow Camp was actually a little more to the east, actually where a side road crosses Hughes Creek at GR 411 296. From here the Hughes sweeps southwards for about a kilometre before turning east again.

Note 304

Possibly at the junction of One Mile Creek with the Hughes at GR 460 284, the Hughes in fact being the main branch.

Note 305

Possibly at the junction of a watercourse coming in from the north-west (which is unnamed on the Grosvenor Downs map) and Hughes Creek, at GR 497 302. Several small lagoons are shown on the Grosvenor Downs map in the area between these two watercourses. The Hughes joins the Isaac River only about a kilometre south-east of this junction, at GR 508 295.

Note 306

“Bawley’s Last” or “Separation Camp”, where the main party camped on the nights of 15th to 20th February. Leichhardt called this camp site “Rushy L.” on his published map of the expedition (1847). McLaren puts this camp at GR 517 289 on the Grosvenor Downs 1: 100,000 sheet, about a kilometre south-east of the junction of the Hughes and the Isaac. If this is correct, then Gilbert had followed the Isaac a quarter of a mile “up” rarther than “down” from its junction with Boomerang Creek.

Note 307

The mouth of the two creeks. This must have been the junction of the Isaac River and Boomerang Creek at GR 507 295. Leichhardt referred (1847: 151) to Gilbert’s scouting expedition down the Isaac River from “Rushy Lagoon” (Bawley’s Last): “Mr Gilbert … continued to follow the river further down, and found that four large creeks joined it from the northward. Another creek also joined it from the southward; as subsequently observed by Mr Roper. Beyond these creeks, several lagoons or swamps were seen covered with ducks, and several other aquatic birds, and, amongst them, the straw-coloured Ibis”. Leichhardt’s sketch map bears the following annotation: “According to Mr Gilbert 4 large creeks from the north. According to Mr Roper one large creek from the South between Bawleys Last [= Separation Camp] and 7 miles further down”.