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John Gilbert diary entry

14 February 1845

Page 26. Volume 2

[in left margin]


Isaacs River

miles308 with the exception of the little native well not a drop of water was met with, and yet the banks every where give evidences of a plentiful supply probably the greater portion of the year, we are very probably at the present in this district at its driest time, every where on the open extensive flats there is the greatest abundance of the most luxuriant grass, and with the exception of two or three spurs of Scrub coming out upon the rivers bank it is lightly timbered and open, about a mile back the country appears to have a slight rise, the timber which is generally larger than we have been accustomed to see consists principally of the two species of Box, α flooded Gum, and here and there a good sprinkling of Blood-wood, and occasionally a few Iron bark, all along the banks of the river the dwarf fig-tree is very abundant, and from which we found many ripe, which although small were tolerably well favoured. the general course of the river is very winding, but mostly inclines to the South it however occasionally turns up to East-North-East, and just before my return part it came up to N by East. it however narrows very much as it progresses downwards, and the banks become higher, and in many places large banks are thrown up in the middle of the bed which form long islands, well covered with large Melaleuca α Casuarina. in the sandy bed grows a remarkably fine blue Convulvulus, and the large Bean first seen on the Mackenzie. in two places only did I see rock in the bed of the river, which appears to be decomposing Felspar [sic], and gravel with these exceptions, the whole bed is a white loose heavy sand resembling the sea-beach where not the slightest appearance of water can be traced on its surface by the anxious α weary wanderer on its banks, the whole extent of flat country on its banks must in wet seasons as in fact only with the ordinary supply of rains present a large extent of fine lakes α lagoons, but now they present the most parched α thirsty appearance, the deepest hollows, and the reedy beds of Swamps are all perfectly dry with masses of dead shells lying exposed on the surface. From the appearance of num=erous Cockatoos Swamp Pheasants Grallinas' and other birds constantly heard I felt convinced there must be water near although we could not find it, I therefore on my return crossing over the river followed up the right bank, we had not gone more than 2 miles when we came upon a fine lagoon, with numerous Ducks, Painted Snipe, Straw=necked Ibis the little Aegialitis α a bird with it I could not recognise, I gave Brown my Gun to creep up to the Ducks, he shot three brace, as I wished to ascertain what the little Plover309 was I loaded with small shot for the purpose of shooting it but to my annoyance found I had no more Caps. in a distance of three miles from this we saw a regular chain of Lagoons, but only [?3] of them having water. in returning we cut off many of the Angles and thus shortened the distance, about a mile before coming to the native well we recrossed the river, here we saw the tracks of Natives following upon our horses footmarks down the river, if they had not previously seen us or the Drs Party, they would be doubtless be very much astonished at the to them extraordinary appearance, returning to the Rushy Lagoon we slept at we turned our horses out for an hour to feed, while we discussed310 a Brace of Ducks, in the afternoon we returned to the Camp on the Hughes, [“and” deleted] delighted the Dr with my successful exploration α fine supply of water, the large River he has named the Isaacs after the Gent at the Darling Downs who liberally presented the Expedition with a fine fat Bullock, a valuable discovery had been

Note 308

If this is not an exaggeration then Gilbert and Brown must have reached the area on the Isaac River where the expedition camped on 21st-22nd February, Partridge Pigeon Camp, unless by his “12 miles” Gilbert was adding on the distance up Boomerang Creek from Rushy Lagoon to Crow Camp.

Note 309

This is likely to have been one of the Dotterels (Red-kneed or Black-fronted) or a Red-capped Plover. .

Note 310

According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (2nd edition, 1960), a colloquial meaning for the word “discuss” is “to consume appreciatively (food or drink)”.