1844: Sydney (New South Wales) to Darling Downs (southern Queensland

16 January 1844

Gilbert reached Launceston, Tasmania and left the same day for Sydney by the brig Union (155 tons) (Chisholm 1940: 163).

30 January 1844

Gilbert reached Sydney. From February to August he worked his way north along the sheep droving routes through New South Wales up to the Darling Downs (now part of Queensland) (Chisholm 1940: 163). Gilbert did make notes during this time but unfortunately they were in pencil in the very front of the hard-backed notebook he later carried on the Leichhardt Expedition; they became almost indecipherable. Gilbert also  wrote over some of his pencil notes in ink. This problem is compounded by the fact that this part of the diary was mis-filed for many years and these pencil-written pages were only available on microfilm. What can be read in this part of Gilbert’s diary has been used to compile the following part of the chronology. Much of the route has been interpreted by Ian McAllan in his careful paper tracing Gilbert’s route through New South Wales (McAllan, 1994); his interpretations, research and references quoted have been widely used below.

18-19 March 1844

Gilbert’s diary: “Left Sydney 18th March 10 at night in the Rose Steamer, arrived at [Morpeth] morning of 19th with the coach to Maitland. By the mail I left at 12 passing through Lochinvar; the name of a townsite, but little resembling its namesake in Britain, counting only about a dozen houses, to Black Creek, a distance of 19 miles from Maitland”

The Sydney Morning Herald for 19 March 1844 (Shipping Intelligence, in Vol. XV11, No.2,094) records that the Rose was scheduled to arrive in Sydney and leave for “Pattison” (= Patterson) and Morpeth on 18th March. Black Creek is near the present town of Branxton.

Gilbert’s diary continues: “from Black Creek the first seven miles was over a truly bush road; as rough and uneven as can well be imagined, about this distance we came upon the high banks of the upper Hunter; a shelving cut in the bank takes the road across a shallow ford, where the river was running slowly over its gravelly bed, we crossed the river twice again in the next seven miles and arrived at Patrick Plains or as the Townsite is termed Singleton, a scattered village on the left bank of the river”.

20 March 1844

“Wed 20. Left 4 in the morning. At 9 miles passed the [Glennies?] River Creeks. Arrived [at last] at Muswel Brook, breakfast arrived at Scone at [1 or 2?] miles on we arrived at Dartbrook”.

Dartbrook was the creek at Yarrundi ­ the property of Stephen Coxen, who was John Gould's brother-in-law. It is puzzling that Gilbert only stayed one night at Yarrundi, where his employer John Gould had such strong connections, but perhaps he was almost immediately hustled back on the road again. It adds weight to the theory that he joined up with a Coxen-organised droving operation moving between Yarrundi and their property on the Darling Downs.

21 March 1844

“[Tue 21] [Long] length of time in preparation ­ at 4 [o'clock before departure], but

only [miles] ….. pleasing enough at Cresfield [beneath] …. pretty romantic in situation surrounded by grassy hills”.

Gilbert's jottings at the end of this part of the notebook, where he made a list of mileages indicate that only 7 miles were made on 21st March.

22 March 1844

“Fri 22. Leaving Cresfield crossed over Waldens [Range] passing grassy hills to the Pages [River] from this we crossed the Liverpool Range for Loders where we remained for the night. The days distance [37] miles arriving very much [burnt] up”.

The Loder brothers’ property was near the present town of Quirindi. The property known as “Cressfield” is about 7 miles north of Scone, after which the road runs over Warland's Range to the Pages River and the Liverpool Range.                                 

23 March 1844

“[Sat] 23.  [Travelled] on the Liverpool Plains at [2]4 miles, stopped at a Lagoon

for an hour – saw a species of kangaroo very like one species of [the genus Petro]gale generally … bought us to [Breezi?] here we [arrived at a bend] of the Mokai and [stopped] upon the right [bank], at seven miles came upon another bend of the Mokai known to travellers as Long point, stopped at a pool for half an hour … From Long point we moved on over the Plain to a station on the Mokai opposite Gunbunde, the days distance 42 miles. This Plain is in length above [20] miles with an average breadth of about 8 miles and the Mokai winding in a zigzag manner the whole length of the plain”.

“Breezi” is probably Breeza, the station belonging to Andrew Lang on the Conadilly (Mooki) River. If they did stop here, it would have been the first site of coincidence between Gilbert and the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, with whom he was later to be so fatefully connected. Leichhardt had stopped at Breeza on April 5th 1843, during his journey through New South Wales, further north Gilbert's party followed Leichhardt's path almost exactly, but a year later. Gilbert must have heard much about the explorer from the stockmen and farmers en route by the time he actually met him. According to Gilbert's jottings in his diary he travelled 4 miles on 23rd March. The “Long Point” of the Mooki River is about five miles north-west of the town of Breeza. “Gunbunde” probably refers to Gunnedah Station, which had two homesteads. The party is likely to have stopped at the

southernmost one, then owned by the Johnston family. The town of Gunnedah is presently located on the site of what was the northern homestead, The Woolshed.

On this date a Black-striped Wallaby Macropus dorsalis was indeed collected at Brezi (= Breeza Station on the Mooki River) (BMNH 1846.4.412, skull only collected).

24 March 1844

“Sunday 24. Four miles we crossed the River Namoi and in about 8 miles came again upon the river at Mr Wentworth's cattle station, from there being a good feed we brought up for the day. during the morning passed more stations and at several of them solitary graves fenced in. where we crossed the Namoi [it was a] running stream, not in other places and where we stopped the water was seen beneath the gravelly surface”.

In the 1840s William Wentworth owned “Burburgate”, about seven miles northwest of Gunnedah.

25 March 1844

“Monday 25. Travelled on thirty miles down the Namoi along the Namoi flats and through a moderately timbered Forest. The principal [incident of day] was the immense numbers of the migratory Grass hopper …. About half way in this distance of [30] miles we stopped a short time at a house, we were informed [the plague locusts Chortoicetes terminifera] had been passing for three whole days excessively, in along the grassy land, as they proceed the grass is completely eaten off”.

26 March - 2 April 1844

“Tuesday 26. This morning not a grasshopper was to be seen on the wing, the rain of last night apparantly [sic] having checked their progress for a time. The days Journey of thirty miles bought us to Gundamain on the Namoi”.

Gundemaine was some eight miles northwest of the present town of Narrabi, on the north bank of the Namoi, just below the mouth of Brigalow (or Bohena Creek). John Gould had visited there in 1839; just south is his “Gummel Gummel” (the parish of Gommel) where he observed Little Woodswallows Artamus minor breeding (Gould 1865). From his diary it appears that Gilbert stayed at Gundemaine for about a week.

Gilbert also observed in his diary for this period that he had [obtained] “The nest and [eggs of] Peristeri” (Bronzewing pigeons, see entry for 28th March). Two eggs of the Flock Bronzewing Phaps histrionica collected by Gilbert on the Namoi Plains on 28th March 1844 still survive (WFVZ 178693).

Gilbert continued, but did not closely date, his diary entries: “on leaving the last [Town] of Pages is the absence of any cultivation of the land and, at each station as you arrive you see a very large Backyard, and a slab Hutt Cottage - Beyong [sic] this and the larger paths leading to different parts of the bush there is nothing to point out to the stranger that he is in the land of civilisation”.

3 April 1844

“April 3. Wed. Left Gundamin crossing a Plain all the pools covered all over with a [species of] Composita and the native Melon very abundant. Saw Peristera histrionica, the species I obtained the eggs of a few days ago. They were very abundant, breed on the ground lay two white egg. arrived at Goolathra, a distance of 11 miles”.

“Galathra” (Galathera) was a property acquired by William Wentworth at some point before 1848. It was on Galathera Creek, to the north of Gundemaine. Gilbert's pencilled notes later in his diary (17th April 1845) reveal that it was at Galathera that he had collected a Letter-winged Kite Elanus scriptus; the aboriginal name was Til=yeer=gar=bul. No such specimen has yet been found in any of the museum collections.

4 April 1844

“Thurs 4. April. 10 miles in continuance of Peristera creek, during the morning immense flocks of Peristera histrionica started found two of them breeding, 2 eggs on the bare ground. 4 miles to a second creek like all the former running across the plain, from this 6 miles to a small creek bearing a branch of the Waterloo creek where we stopped the night at a sheep station”.

“Peristera Creek” was probably the creek now known as Ten Mile Creek, north-east of Galathra. The “second creek” was probably Boggy Creek, which is north-west of Ten Mile Creek. The “small creek” was Gehan Creek to the south of Millie Creek. Millie Creek was formerly known as Waterloo Creek, after the property of that name on the creek near the Newell Highway.

5 April 1844

“Fri 5 April. Travelled over plains at one mile crossed a creek 4 miles [on] crossed a second … shot a Bustard with half a charge of buck shot, Peristera very abundant …

A further distance of 10 miles brought us to Bombell a [station on] Myall Creek. Bivouacd [on the station”.

The first creek was probably Waterloo Creek, the second Little Bumble Creek. Myall Creek is now known as Gurley Creek, on which there was a property known as “Bumble”.

An egg of the Flock Bronzewing Phaps histrionica was collected by Gilbert on the plains of the Namoi on this date (BMNH 1941.3.1.602).

6 April 1844

“Remained stationary this day. In a ramble up and down the Creek, I saw many birds for the first time in a state of nature”.

7 April 1844

Sunday 7 April. Again crossing Plains [for] 8 miles. Arrived at Bowmans Creek water in small pools, in which I caught a fresh water species of fish very like the common Roach. 7 miles farther to a distance [unreadable]  Halls Station on the Big River, and thus on onto the plains,  the first mile of country reminded me very much of some parts of the country at the [back] of the [Rivers] of Western Australia: here I saw the Graucalus phasianellus feeding on the ground. Park like open country ­ Bivouaced on a small creek running parallel with the river”. 

Bowman's Creek passed through George Bowman's property “Terry Hie Hie” and is now known as Tycannah Creek. Gilbert's party probably crossed this creek at the town of Tycannah, through which the old road used to go. The unreadable words must include the route over the extra five miles recorded in Gilbert's calculations at the end of this volume of his diary. Seven miles from Bowman's Creek would have only taken them to Halls Creek, south of the town of Moree. Gilbert's later notes record the collection of a fish called the “Pob=be” at “Mr Hall's”, when he must have been on the property of George Hall, who owned “Webollabolla”, east of Moree. Hall's Creek to the “Big River” (Gwydir River) via Webollabolla (“Halls Station”) would account for Gilbert's extra five miles. Moree was not then settled; James Cox did not obtain his license for Moree Station until about four months after Gilbert passed through (Jervis 1963).

The type specimens of the Australian River Gizzard Shad Nematalosa erebi were collected on this date at Bowman's Creek (Tycannah Creek) in New South Wales. Gilbert’s “fish very like the Common Roach" seems to be the fish he recorded in his diary as "Peer=nga" (BMNH 1846.3.24.11, .12 & .13 & 1853.1.4.17, .18 & .19).

8 April 1844

“Mon 8 April. Remained stationary all day. Caught a new fish”.                                         

This fish must be the one which Gilbert referred to as “Fish caught in a Creek near Mr Halls station on the Big River, Pob=be of the Natives”. It must be the fish now known as the Spangled Perch Leiopotherapon unicolor, described by Gunther in 1859 from thirteen specimens of Gilbert's which are now in the Natural History Museum in London Wales (BMNH 1846.3.24.6, .8 & .17, 1853.1.4.12, .13, .14 & .15, two BMNH with no accession numbers: the labels on these syntypes record that they were collected at “Gwydir River” but four were later collected  at the “Head of Mosquito Creek” near Darling Downs (Fisher 1992: 200)).

9 April 1844

“Tues 9 April. Eight miles up the Big River brought us to Moki=bundi [or Moki branch?], through a forest of small Timber, with an occasional small Plain well covered with grass. Here we brought up for the day. Here was the greatest encampment of Natives we have hitherto seen …”.

10 April 1844

“Wed 10 April. stationary all day”.

11 April 1844

“Thurs 11 April. [went] 10 miles up the River to Eatons Station where the river [spumes?] a character worthy of its name. The bed of gravel and of great breadth, and a running stream with high banks. 3 miles farther to Eales Station. the latter distance the country was changed from that we have travelled so far over, at first through a thick scrubby forest & then through an undulating country with gently rising stony hills”.

Daniel Eaton held “Binnigy” (now Biniguy) and John Eales was the licensee of “Yagobi” (now Yagobe).

12 April 1844

“Friday 12 April. First 12 miles cut off a turn of the river then encamp for two hours near a sheep station; the whole distance a continuation of the undulating country. As we progress easterly, the hills become higher grassy land … [after] 8 miles more of similar country [we] brought up, did not [meet] with the usual hospitality at Gally and went to bed [on] a midshipman's supper”.

This ungentlemanly soul was George Gally, who lived at “Gingeroi”. Ian McAllan and I could not at first believe that “a midshipman's supper” was really what we had deciphered, but later found that it was a well-used Navy term denoting nothing very much at all.

13 April 1844

“Sat 13 April 12 Miles over the most beautiful grassy country I have yet seen with an Iron bark forest but clear of scrub or underwood, the whole country gently undulating. Stopped for the night at [Capt. Beatties?] station”.

Ludwig Leichhardt and Gilbert's routes seem to have converged again at this point; Leichhardt stopped at “Beatty's” station on May 24th 1843. From henceforth the 1843 (Leichhardt) and 1844 (Gilbert) routes taken up to the Darling Downs were almost identical; it was obviously an established road (Gilbert's “main road leading to the [Darling] Downs”).

14 April 1844

“Sunday 14 April. Todays stage about 9 miles leaving the Big River … reached the river again and stopped at Mr [Abaries] the whole distance saw moderate Hills constantly crossing The Big River. We soon came upon the main road leading to the [Darling] Downs and [bivouacked] …”.

Leaving the “Big River” (the Gwydir), the party appear to have travelled up Myall Creek, which was a major route to the Darling Downs.

15 April 1844

“Mony 15. … over hills all day …. Fitzgerald”.

On this day, according to Gilbert's later calculation, they apparently travelled 7 miles, and probably passed near the present town of Delungra. We have been unable to trace the name “Fitzgerald”, if that is indeed the word Gilbert wrote.

16 April 1844

“Tuesday 16(r) Stationary(r) Rain”.

17 April 1844              

“Wednesday 17. This days journey was 23 Miles to Mr Waterfords Station where               

we were in prospect of [exchanging; examining?] the [sheep] … the whole days distance over a hilly grassy country, surrounding Mr Waterfords are extensive open plains with rising hills and [with now] & then a creek abundantly supplied with water. [We travelled across] the plains … on the first [good] spot we [set up] camp upon [a creek near the] station …. [the surroundings] resemble [a] Farm. Here were ploughed fields, paddocks & gardens … excepting Tea and sugar, every [necessity fast] running out …”.

In 1844 William Waterford owned “Bannockburn”, north-west of Inverell. The reference to sheep is another clue to the possibility that this was a droving party. They also hade cattle with them.

18 April 1844

“Thurs 18. From Wyndham's Station on the MacIntyre River. Distance [7 miles]”.

This station was “Bukkulla”, owned by George Wyndham.

19 April 1844

“Friday 19. Todays distance [20] miles [much then unreadable]…. runs into

the Frazer [unreadable]  this runs into the MacIntyre”.

“The Frazer” was Frazers Creek, which was also the name of the station owned by Gregory Blaxland, about 8 miles north of Ashford.

20 April 1844

“Sat 20th. Stationary all day to rest the Cattle”.

21 April 1844

“Sunday 21st. Nine miles down the Frazer to Blaxlands Station” [rest unreadable]

22 April 1844

“Monday 22. 11 miles to Hatherington Station on the Severn; nearly the whole distance hilly country” [rest unreadable].

“Hatherington's Station” was “Bonshaw”, owned by the Reverend Irving Heatherington. Bonshaw is on the Dumaresq River, now the border between New South Wales and Queensland.

23 - 28 April 1844

“Tues 23. 12 miles down the Severn over a hilly country to Cox's Station. Here we have to wait for a party following us with Sheep and a cart with Provisions [so that] we can travel farther. Small Antechinus”.

William Cox held “Gunyan” station during this period, to the south-east of the later site of the town of Texas. The twelve miles that the party travelled to get to Cox's from Bonshaw was the last distance included in Gilbert's mileage tallies written later in his diary. Gilbert's party appear to have remained at Cox's for about six days.

Gilbert's collecting notes later in this little notebook record a “small Antechinus” obtained on 23rd April 1844; he recorded the native name as being “Ne=moo=ga”. Gilbert also recorded a “Circus” as having been collected on the “Severn” on the same date, but he must have meant what is now the Dumaresq River. The “Antechinus” must have been a Common Dunnart Sminthopsis murina; in Gould's “The Mammals of Australia”,  under “Antechinus murinus” (Vol.1, text to plate 43) he noted that Gilbert had written to him in a letter that “I caught this species on the banks of the river Severn; the male is much larger in all its proportions than the female, and has a darker mark around and before the eye”. Two Common Dunnart from the “Severn River” are extant in the collections of the Natural History Museum in London (BMNH 1853.10.22.26 and 1853.10.22.27). The latter still bears an original Gilbert field label with “No.1? Severn River, New South Wales”.

Note that the one letter from Gilbert to Gould known from this period was one written on June 8th 1844. This is only known from a copy which was made by the 13th Earl of Derby (Liverpool City Libraries, 920 DER(13) 1/67/11). There is no mention of mammals in this copy of the letter, but a series of dots included by Lord Derby after the words “crossing the Plains from Gande” indicate he may well have omitted some of Gilbert's remarks on  specimens he had collected during this period. Derby was not as interested in mammals as he was in birds.

29 April 1844

“Monday 29. The party with the sheep came up to day, preparations for tommorows stage”.

30 April 1844

“Tuesday 30(r) Day commenced with rain. when [we had gone] about 3 miles the wheel [would] not turn, and we were obliged to bring up, being Mairs patent axle[tie], it was too complicated to get it off very easily, and night coming on we gave it up as hopeless, raining the whole night …”.

The patents record for Mairs axeltie was published about 1856.

1 May 1844

“Thursday [= Wednesday]. Managed to get the wheel off with much difficulty it was found the [grease and sand] had stripped it up [unreadable] … [decided] to remain stationary. [It rained] all day [and] all night”.

2 May 1844

“Thurs 2. Moved on about a mile & a half to MacDougall's Station where we pitched our tents all the day still raining”.

From 1840, John McDougall occupied “Collebelaa”, on the site of what is now the town of Texas, Queensland. Texas is just over a mile north of the border of New South Wales and Queensland.

3 May 1844

“Friday 3. The country here very boggy and the day being fine [I thought it best?]

to deter …”.

4 May 1844

“Sat 4. At length made a start but being so late [starting] we moved but a short stage of [8?] miles journey ... on the right fork of the Severn [river]”.

5 May 1844

“Sunday 5. To days distance about 9 miles 5 of which along the Severn river”.

6 - 7 May 1844

“Monday 6 [travelled] along a creek, camped on the side of a long pool. Passed along the edge of the Scrub during the whole day. White Native Dog [unreadable] … About 7 miles in all [unreadable] … during the day [we went ] over a bog nearly ? miles [in] distance, the cart [having] gone on before us had so completely [lost] the road … necessity of taking off the load from the cart, and carrying them in [loads] of 200 pounds, at each step sinking up to the knees”.

They then travelled through a very thick and scrubby forest [on the 7th May], but the higher ground [meant they had easier travelling].

8 May 1844

“Wed 8 … [unreadable] … [we had] made [Mosquito Creek?] by one o'clock, a distance of about 8 miles”.

9 May 1844

“Thurs(r) 9th [unreadable] crossing [unreadable] ... [reached Mosquito] creek …”.

10 May 1844

“Friday 10. Ten miles [of] Mosquito creek [having travelled] through thick scrub, the road very good”.

The other four type specimens of the Spangled Perch Leiopotherapon unicolor were collected from the head of Mosquito Creek, southern Darling Downs, Queensland (BMNH 1846.8.16.2, .3, & .4 and 1846.3.24.4), probably on the 9th and 10th May 1844.

11 - 13 May 1844

“Sat 11 …. at first continuing [creek] but the last 3 …”. From here until the entry for May 13th Gilbert’s diary is unreadable.

13 - 14 May 1844

“Monday 13 [unreadable] following the Canal creek we arrived at Pitt & Bonaparts the [first] station belonging [to] this Darling Downs District … [unreadable] … station up the Condamine to …”.

This must be the same Pitt, living on Canal Creek, that had been visited by Ludwig Leichhardt in June 1843.  The fact that the party reached the Condamine River suggests that, after leaving McDougall's property, they had followed the stock route pioneered by Patrick Leslie in 1840.

15 May 1844

“Wed 15. From Pitt & Co to [unreadable line]”.

16 May 1844

[Unreadable].

17 May 1844

“Fri 17. To Gores. New Parrot”.

“Gores” must correspond to St George and Ralph Gore's Station, “Yandilla”, on the Condamine River. The “New Parrot” was the bird John Gould later described as the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus (Gould, 1845) and this date corresponds with Gilbert's original field label on a specimen now in National Museums Liverpool Queensland (LIV D789a). This label bears the information: “Male. May 17 1844, Condamine River, Darling Downs, New South Wales”; on the reverse: “Irides Dark Brown”. The Liverpool bird appears to be the first specimen that Gilbert collected of this beautiful parrot, which is sadly now extinct. John Gould described the new species from this specimen, and others which Gilbert had collected during his travels in the Darling Downs area, and which he described in detail in a letter sent to Gould on June 8th 1844 (Fisher 1985 & 1986).

These brief pencil notes of Gilbert's suggest that his first ever specimen of the Paradise Parrot must have been collected on the Condamine River between “Yandilla” and the previous station upstream, “Tummaville”, which was then owned by Dr John Rolland and Domville Taylor.

18 May 1844

“Sat 18. From Gores Head Station to sheep station 16 miles”.

19 May 1844

“Sun 19. To Russell & Brooks 9 miles”.

Henry Stuart Russell, Sydenham Russell and Gerald Brooks occupied “Cecil Plains” in 1841. Here Gilbert must have heard much about Ludwig Leichhardt's proposed overland expedition to Port Essington; Leichhardt had visited Cecil Plains at the beginning of April 1844, only 6 weeks before Gilbert arrived there. In fact Leichhardt was under the impression that he had persuaded the Russell brothers to join him on the proposed expedition.

20 May 1844

“Mon 20. To Old Station 5 miles”.

21 May 1844

“Tue [21]. To Coxens 1[8?] miles”.

Charles Coxen's “Jondaryan” is actually 25 miles from Cecil Plains. Charles Coxen and his brother Stephen were both in Sydney at this time, signing insolvency papers (see Sydney Morning Herald for 26th April 1844, vol. xvii, no.2: 168, for the Notices of Insolvency). Some original notes dictated by Henry W. Coxen to his son H.C. Coxen in September 188¸ give a clue to Gilbert's travelling companions on this droving trip. The notes include references to the fact that in 1843 or 1844 H.W. Coxen “undertook to overland 3000 sheep from Homebush [Sydney] to the [Darling] Downs via Wiseman's Ferry and the Wallambi [= Wollombi] Mountains over which progressed one mile a day the journey occupied six months camping out all the time”. Gilbert would appear to have joined the party at Gundemaine, after which his daily mileages dropped dramatically. After arriving at Coxen’s “Jondaryan” with the drovers, Gilbert must have spent the following few months collecting on the Darling Downs, until he came across the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt there sometime during September 1844. According to John “Tinker” Campbell, of Westbrook Station (where Leichhardt is known to have been on September 3rd), Gilbert met Leichhardt at the Coxen's station “Jondaryan”.

22 May - 13 September 1844

Gilbert must have been collecting on the Darling Downs, probably basing himself at “Jondaryan”, but made no date specific diary entries.

8 June 1844 

Gilbert wrote from the Darling Downs to Gould (No.17?). He had only been in the district a short while, but had collected a new parrot which he proceeded to describe in some detail (this in effect became the type description of Platycercus pulcherrimus Gould, 1845, the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus). Gilbert had also been collecting freshwater fishes and shells (a copy of this letter is in Liverpool City Libraries Local History Library, written by the 13th Earl of Derby. Also see Fisher 1985: 12-14). 

10 July 1844

Another Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus was collected on the Darling Downs (MCZ 74281).

13 July 1844

Another Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus was collected at Oakey Creek, Darling Downs (LIV D789b). “Jondaryan” is on Oakey Creek.

2 August 1844

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis robusta collected on the Darling Downs (LIV D2261s).

13 August 1844

The German Explorer Ludwig Leichhardt left Sydney by sea with his animals & stores (including 13 horses and a spring cart) for his expedition. They travelled on the Sovereign under Captain Cape, having been given a free trip from the Hunter's River Steam Navigation Company. Leichhardt arrived in Moreton Bay a week later, instead of the intended three days; the horses were in a bad way. With him were: James Calvert, aged 19; John Murphy, aged 15 (both these previous shipboard acquaintances of Leichhardt); John Roper, aged 24, Englishman; William Phillips, aged 44, convict; Harry Brown, Aborigine.

At Moreton Bay Leichhardt added Charlie Fisher (a Brisbane Native Policeman) and Caleb (an American cook, who returned from the expedition after a few weeks). He also added Pemberton Hodgson (squatter) and (later in the trip) John Gilbert. They had bad travelling conditions when first leaving Brisbane; the spring cart bogged and eventually the horses bolted, breaking the shafts. Leichhardt exchanged the cart for 3 bullocks. The party got to Cowper's Plains (10 miles from Brisbane) on the second day of travel at 1am; they then proceeded to Campbell's station.

19 August 1844

Two Bridled Nailtail Wallabies Onychogalea fraenata were collected at "the Brushes of Oakey Creek", Darling Downs (BMNH 1853.10.22.28: "Male of one year old. Aug 19 [1844]. Brushes of Oakey Creek, Darling Downs, New South Wales" - "3 lbs. Irides Dark Brown" and 1853.10.22.29: "Mature Female. Aug 19. 1844. Brushes of Oakey Creek, Darling Downs, New South Wales" - "4 lbs. No.9. Irides Dark Brown". John Gould recorded in “The mammals of Australia” (1863, vol.2, text to plate 54) that Gilbert had found it “common in the thick patches of scrub which are dispersed over all parts 

of the Darling Downs”. From a comment in Gilbert’s diary which reads: “Wallaby killed at Pearce’s about the size of manicatus”, he collected these two wallabies at the station of J.C. Pearce, who lived at “Helidon”, south-east of Oakey Creek and the modern town of Toowoomba. Gilbert's “manicatus” refers to the Western Brush Wallaby Macropus irma.

20 August 1844

Eggs of the Spotted Harrier Circus assimilis were collected on the Darling Downs (WFVZ 178697).

September 1844

Gilbert joined Dr Leichhardt's Overland Expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington (the First Leichhardt Expedition) (Chisholm 1940: 163).

10 September 1844

Gilbert wrote to his friend George Bennett in Sydney, announcing his intention of joining the expedition. (Mitchell Library, Sydney Leichhardt Papers, also see Chisholm 1940: 158 & 1938: 147-148).

14 September 1844

“Hughes & Isaac for saddles & c. £6-10-0. Isaac, shirts & boots 15-0. Horse 14-0-0”.

Gilbert appeared to be buying saddles, clothes and a horse at Hughes and Isaac's station on September 14th; this was on Gowrie Creek, well north of Stephen & Campbell's station at Westbrook. However, the first page of Gilbert's expedition diary proper (October 1st)  indicates that he was with the Leichhardt Expedition party at “Stevens” station for a few days until 18th September, breaking in bullocks, “Stevens” presumably being Stephens, who was John Campbell's partner at Westbrook. On September 24th Gilbert bought another horse for £25; it appears from his expedition diary that they were at the Coxen's station of Jondaryan that day.

16 September 1844

Gilbert wrote to Frederick Strange asking him to act as intermediary in sending a small natural history collection to Gould in London, and to notify him of the fact that Gilbert was joining the Leichhardt Expedition. He expected to be back in Sydney in about 12 months time.

N.B. A letter dated July 1845 to Gould from Charles Coxen in Sydney stated "Mr G. was staying with me some months before he left for the exploration." Charles Coxen was actually at Yarrundi, New South Wales, when Gilbert left on the Leichhardt expedition - Coxen wrote to Gould from Yarrundi in October, 1844 saying that he was there to clear up his deceased brother's affairs. He continued that "Gilbert is with me (or was when I left) at my Moreton Bay Station.... (he) is expected to be in Sydney in a few weeks..". Coxen obviously was not aware of Gilbert's membership of the Leichhardt Expedition until well after he had left.

18 September 1844 

The Leichhardt Expedition left Campbell & Stevens' Station on the Downs (Chisholm 1940: 163). The expedition had 16 cattle (12 pack bullocks and 4 steers for killing); 17 horses; 10 people; 7 pairs of Kangaroo dogs; 1200lb flour; 200lb sugar; 80lb tea; 20lb gelatine. Their ammunition consisted of 30lb of powder and 8 bags of shot (chiefly No.4 & No.6). Everyone had 2 pairs of strong trousers, 3 strong shirts and 2 pairs of shoes. Some had calico ponchos saturated with oil.

20 September 1844

The expedition reached Gowrie (H.H. Hughes & F.N. Isaac's Station). (Chisholm 1940). 

22 September 1844

They reached Jondaryan, property of Henry Coxen, John Gould's nephew.

23 - 30 September 1844

After a day rounding up horses, they moved on to the “long-water hole” on Oakey Creek, where “we were obliged to halt a day for both horses and Bullocks ran back to Coxen's station and came in too late in the day to enable us to start”. They then travelled the 14 miles to Myall Creek. Two days later they reached Jimbour (owned by Thomas Bell, an Irishman, who had recently replaced Henry Denis; see Chisholm 1940).