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John Gilbert diary entry

18 September 1844 - 2 October 1844

Page 81. Volume 1

Port Essington Expedition

After many days preparation principally taken up in breaking in the Pack Bullocks we were at length on the 18 Sept enabled to make a fair start from Stevens station1, two days

were taken up in getting them the first stage to Gowrie, and 2 days more to Coxen's: here we were annoyed by the horses taking back, the next stage was to the long-water hole on Oakey creek. here also 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, hitherto not a days travelling concluded without one or more of the Bullocks throwing off their loads, many Bags of flour α c in consequence were torn and a portion of our stores lost. from Oakey Creek we made Myall Creek a distance of 14 miles without any accident - the Bullocks for the first time travelling the whole day without any attempt to ease themselves of their loads; the next stage was to Jimba2 (15 miles), our last station. both the last days travelling was very distressing to both horses α Bullocks the major part of the whole distance of thirty miles being either flooded or boggy. at Jimba we rem=ained a day, where I obtained my provisions and other neces=sary things of the former I took a much larger quantity than I intended to make up in some measure for our losses; when we came to muster all the Provisions and Baggage, we found there was greatly too much for our Bullocks, each one therefore de=termined at once to give up their riding horses for the purpose of carrying each a portion.

On the first of October we left Jimba3 and instead of a mounted as originally intended we began as a pedestrian party the party consisting of Dr. Leichardt4 [sic] the leader of the expedition Mr Calvert - Mr.Roper - Mr Hodgson and myself - and a youth of the name of Murphy - a Ticket of leave man of the name of Phillips and American Black named Caleb (Cook) Charlie α Brown two Aborigines, the former from the Bathurst country and lately been acting as a Policeman at Moreton Bay, the latter from Newcastle, both of them speak very good English, with 12 Pack Bullocks and four Steers for killing, and 17 horses - seven pair of Kangaroo Dogs5. our provisions are calculated for six months. From Jimba we steered in a North-west direction allowing six degrees for the variation of the Compass; in about 3 miles we came upon the Waterloo plain, across which for six miles, skirting thetimber on our right, we arrived at a small creek, crossing which we camped for the night, the creek came from the eastward, and below us bent round and ran about west by north for a mile, we did not conclude our days march without one of our usual annoyances, as

one of our Bullocks became restive, and threw off its load, which detained us some time. Days distance 9 miles6

Oct 2. This morning we discovered our Bullocks α most of the horses were absent. Charlie went out in search and did not return till the middle of the day, in the mean time I took a ramble up and down the creek. I found a pair of Artamus minor7 building. the nest was apparently scarcely finished, formed of narrow strips of Bark, and small twigs, and placed in the hollow end of the branch of a fallen tree. I also found the nest of Haliaster sphenurus placed in a large fork near the top of a flooded Gum, it contained three eggs8; and a nest of Ardea pacifica with four eggs. the nest was formed of sticks and placed at the bottom of a long hanging branch of a gum tree overhanging the water9. Although the Bullocks α horses came in so late, the Dr was anxious to make a few miles, we therefore commenced preparations, and had nearly concluded when one of the Bullocks in an ill humour began to back α kick till

Note 1

"Stevens" station being Campbell's and Stephens' (Westbrook); "Gowrie" being H.H. Hughes' and F.N. Isaac's property on Gowrie Creek; "Coxens" was Henry W. Coxen's station Jondaryan - he also looked after the property on Myall Creek. Oakey Creek, which runs northwards past Jondaryan and eventually into the Condamine River, is the location recorded on an immature male Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus, which Gilbert collected on 13th July 1844 (LIVCM D.789b). From dates on a specimen of the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby Onychogalea fraenata (Gould, 1841) which Gilbert collected from the "Brushes of Oakey Creek", it seems that he was still there in mid-August 1844. This suggests that Oakey Creek and the Condamine River may well have been Gilbert's main collecting sites during the months between May and September 1844 - and also suggests that, in fact, the expedition was passing over country that Gilbert knew far better than Leichhardt did.

Note 2

The name "Jimba or "Gimba" is taken from the aboriginal name for "good pastures". Jimbour Station, now a National Trust showpiece for tourists, was then in the charge of Thomas Bell. The house was re-built in magnificent style by Bell's sons between 1874 and 1876. In the 1920s Jimbour was sold to Wilfred

Russell, and the Russell family have subsequently made extensive renovations to the house and grounds. The slab hut that Leichhardt's party slept in could still be seen on the property until quite recently, its position is now marked with a plaque.

Note 3

According to Ludwig Leichhardt's journal, they set off from "Jimba" singing a full chorus of "God Save the Queen".

Note 4

This is the first time Gilbert mentions Ludwig Leichhardt, the German medical man who led the party. The other members of the party were: James Calvert (aged 19, from his brother's property near Newcastle); John Roper (20), James Murphy (16, whose family Leichhardt had met on a ship); William Phillips (44, a former convict); Pemberton Hodgson (who ran Eton Vale station, on the Darling Downs, with his brother Arthur); Caleb (an African American, recruited as cook) and two Australian Aborigines, Charley Fisher (a Brisbane Native Policeman) and Harry Brown. The list of people and of their stock given by Gilbert tallies with that which Leichhardt gave in his Journal (1847), but Leichhardt added some remarks on their stores: "Of provisions - we had 1200 lbs. of flour: 200 lbs. of sugar: 80 lbs. of tea: 20 lbs. of gelatine .... Of ammunition - we had about 30 pounds of powder, and 8 bags of shot of different sizes, chiefly of No.4 and No.6. Every one, at my desire, had provided himself with two pair of strong trowsers, three strong shirts, and two pair of shoes .... some of us were provided with Ponchos, made of light strong calico, saturated with oil, which proved very useful to us by keeping out the wet".

Note 5

Kangaroo dogs are a breed of Australian hunting dog, in the main descended from Greyhounds and Scottish Deerhounds.

Note 6

Glen McLaren has plotted this camp as being on Cooranga Creek at GR 147 255 on the Jandowae 1: 100,000 sheet 9144.

Note 7

Artamus minor is the Little Woodswallow.

Note 8

A single Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus egg collected by John Gilbert and recorded by him on the egg as having been collected in the “vicinity of Jimba” on 2nd October 1844 is in the collections at the Natural History Museum’s ornithological substation at Tring, Herts (BMNH 1955.5.78, received from J.H. Gurney in 1955). The other two eggs from this clutch are now at the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo, California, as part of the Gould Collection of eggs that was transferred from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in the 1970s (WFVZ 178691). Both eggs are labelled “Haliastur sphenurus vicinity of Jimba Oct 2 1844" although one has lost the piece of shell with "Oct" into the egg. Gould, ever the businessman, selected one or more eggs from many of the clutches of Australian birds eggs he received from Gilbert and sold these [in 1847] to Edward Wilson for his brother Theodore Wilson (of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia), and then sold the rest of the eggs in the clutch to others – notably the British Museum. The Gould Collection of eggs in ANSP was transferred to the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo in the 1970s.

Note 9

One of the Pacific Heron Ardea pacifica eggs survives at Tring: BMNH 1962.1.94. labelled by Gilbert “vicinity of Jimba, October 2 1844” and by the BMNH staff “N.S.W. Gould Collection”. Another in the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology (WFVZ 178875) is listed as being from “Victoria” but is actually labelled "Ardea p … vicinity …" in Gilbert's writing. The rest is broken off, but the writing is assumed to have been “vicinity of Jimba, October 2 1844”, as on NHM 1962.1.94.