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John Gilbert diary entry

16 February 1845 - 17 February 1845

Page 29. Volume 2

dressed322 a small share for ourselves, when Brown left us the Dr α I kept down the River he taking the right α I the left Bank, examining closely not only the river itself but every Creek and hollow in the vicinity, following the windings of the river we travelled over a good deal of Country, the Dr called to me at a Creek, when I crossed he shewed me the place where he had previously met with the Natives, at that time he did not search about for water near the spot, our attention therefore was directed to the Creek in particular, for as it was early in the morn=ing when he came upon them they in all probability could not be very far from water, however we found none in the Creek or Scrub at this particular spot, but in following up the River in about a mile distant came upon a fine round hole of water in the sand in the bed of the river just at a hollow where a very large creek comes in from the Northward323; the hole or well was about 8 to 10 feet in diameter and all round it other little wells scooped out by the Natives to obtain a more cool α refreshing draft, and to mix their honey for the purpose of sweetening it u[p]. all around one half of it were laid very carefully a great quantity of Branches, as if to protect the well from the falling in of the loose sand above, giving our horses water, and taking some ourselves, we again pursued our way upwards, for six miles, but saw no water, we therefore it being sunset had the pleasure of camping for the night324 without our accustomed Tea α when on the top of Mount Coxen in the morning we could not in any direction trace out the least smoke or appearances of water, but just before we halted, we had to pass by a fire, which had evidently only been blasing [sic] a few hours. and in many parts of the rivers bed were very recent traces of Natives crossing α recrossing.

[in left margin]

Monday 17.

Turning our Horses heads we set out for our return to the Rushy Lagoon325, we had not gone down the river more than a mile when I started a number of Birds from a hollow in the sand, a few seconds examination soon showed to me the appearance of water, and scooping out a handful of sand, found the water ran in very freely, removing a very small portion of sand I was enabled to fill my Panakin easily, and the Dr and myself never perhaps drank water with more relish, arriving at the round well of water326, we turned out our horses, and prepared for our Breakfast, while boiling our Tea we were surprised at the appearance of vast numbers of the Partrige [sic] Pigeon327, White Cockatoos α Crows, all apparantly brought to this one focus of attrac=tion by the general scarcity of water in the surrounding country from what we have observed it would appear as if water however can be obtained in almost every part of the rivers bed by digging, and if we do proceed upwards it appears exceedingly probable that we may yet be dependent on this means of supply, leaving the Breakfast water hole we steered off south east to cut across many of the Angles of the river and thus make the distance as short as possible, but it took us 4 hours α a half to reach the Rushy Lagoon and our horses kept up a smart walk the whole way, the distance therefore

Note 322

Presumably “dressed” is used here in the sense of “prepared for use”.

Note 323

Partridge Pigeon (or Reconcilation) Camp. The “large creek” must have been the one Leichhardt named “North Creek” on his published map (Leichhardt 1847). Was this because it came down from the north?

Note 324

Somewhere around the present Olive Downs?

Note 325

Otherwise known as Bawley’s Last or Separation Camp.

Note 326

The round well of water where Gilbert and Leichhardt had stopped to drink on February 16th. This became Partridge Pigeon Camp, where the main expedition spent the nights of 21st and 22nd February.

Note 327

Squatter Pigeons Geophaps scripta, as opposed to the modern “Partridge Pigeon”, Geophaps smithii, which does not occur in eastern Australia.