Leichhardt at Comet

December 28th, 1844

The sandy bed of the creek was entirely dry, and we must have encamped without water after a long and fatiguing ride, had not a heavy thunder-shower supplied us; we caught the rain in our pannikins as it dropped from our extended blankets.

The thunderstorm had passed, and the sun had set, when Brown, my blackfellow, suddenly threw back the blanket from under which we sat, and pointed out to me a fine comet in a small clear spot of the western sky. The creek received the appropriate name of “Comet Creek”

January 10th 1845

At the junction of the Comet Creek and the river, I found water-worn fragments of good coal, and large trunks of trees turned into iron stone. I called this river the “Mackenzie” in honour of Sir Evan Mackenzie.

The country was very rich in game. Kangaroos and wallabies are very frequent; several bush turkeys were seen, and the partridge and bronze-winged pigeons are very plentiful. Leichhardt’s Journal of an Expedition in Australia.
Out of the Scrub
Extracts from:

John Gilbert - Diary of the Port Essington Expedition with Leichhardt, 18 Sept. 1844 - 28 June 1845

Sunday Nov. 3.

Calvert and Brown set off early in pursuit of the cattle. After breakfast two of our people were busily employed cutting down a tree with a hollow branch of honey of the little native bee. While thus employed, the natives came out of the scrub to watch our actions; at each successive visit they seemed to gain confidence and become more urgent to come near our tents, and in their enquiries for food; some of them have evidently been among the Settlers for they understand and speak many words, those who apparently have not seen white people before are less confident and more curious in their manners.


The following letter from one of the party (a lad about sixteen years of age named John Murphy) under the command of Dr. Leichhardt, has been handed to us by his father for publication. Although it gives but a meagre account of the progress of the little band, yet it will no doubt be read with interest. It is rather   singular that this is the only letter which has reached Sydney, dated from the place where two of the party bid farewell to the others, and returned to Moreton Bay; and although the letter states that the reasons for their abandoning the expedition would be published in a contemporary, it appears that nothing relative thereto, that we can find, has yet been laid before the public. We should feel obliged for any communications on the progress of the Doctor and   his companions.

Dry Beef Creek, Nov. 3, 1844.

My Dear Parents,   I suppose by this time you think we are about half way, but no such luck; the explored parts of Australia are not to be compared with what we have gone through — scrubs impenetrable — rotten ground, and misfortunes have stopped us considerably, but never mind, we expect, though it is all over for some time, we shall go on surprisingly. The country we have travelled through, is very scantily supplied with game, which obliged us to kill a steer, and try the experiment of drying it, in which we have succeeded in a most exquisite manner, so we shall not starve while we have bullocks and horses; my horse is as fat as mud. I was made caterer, and went duck shooting, and had the misfortune to lose myself with the bearer of this, Caleb, an American. We were three days wandering about without anything to eat, and thirty-six hours with- out water; and it would have been a settler with us only for Charley, our black fellow, who tracked us. It is most miserable to be lost, not knowing the moment we might have the blacks upon us — it was much worse than the time the Doctor was lost, but never mind I won’t be lost again, for I won’t go again without a black fellow, or the Doctor, and have accordingly resigned the office of caterer. Yesterday, we had our first interview with the blacks, who were very friendly, but little crib would scare a hundred of them. They visited us this morning again, and went away to procure honey for us, which they got in abundance; they also wished us to have a gin, narangie mory, which was, of course, declined. We are now clear of the scrub — well watered — clear beautiful country — plenty of game, and splendid pasturage. We have discovered new birds, new plants, and like- wise the way to eat grubs, goanna’s, lizards, and all we got hold of. Mr. Hodgson and Caleb return tomorrow; and the Herald will inform you that we are nearly 200 miles from Jimba, or 400 from Moreton Bay. I could return now if I wished, but the Doctor says I stand it better than he imagined ; he asked me if I wished to return, but I told him I would stick to him till death, if he did not wish me to return. There is no fear of black fellows, never think of them, I would not care for the best fifty in the bush.
Leichhardt Crossing the Condamine
Oct. 8.

Following down the Condamine banks still high and very much broken, the scrub frequently coming down close to the bank, but we were able to avoid it and in one instance almost a worse dilemma befell us, two or our Bullocks became Bogged so deep we were obliged to take off their loads this delayed us a considerable time, here we saw the advantage of Pack Bullocks over drays, in this part the portion of the river bank was so narrow only one bullock at a time could have passed, & for a dray it would have been quite impossible, the only way it could have proceeded would be by cutting down the scrub or finding an opening, both of which we escaped.
Leichhardt - Along Ruined Castle Creek
(Eight Months with Dr Leichhardt 1846 1847 page 25)

On the 29th, we continued our journey. The valleys we traversed were extremely picturesque, being studded with arborescent ~zamia, cypress pine (collitris), dogwood (Jacksonia), and many other trees. They were hemmed in by banks, or hills, of great height and steepness, from time summit of which extensive views of tile surrounding country were obtained.

Expedition range, with mounts Nicholson and Aldis were conspicuous objects; the latter being a perfect cone. Time country ahead was intersected by the deep ravines and gorges of Ruined Castle creek. Owing to the precipitous nature of time country we had much difficulty in finding a pathway by which we could descend into this valley. At length, proceeding by single file around the base of perpendicular cliffs we reached the main watercourse. The valley soon opened out to a fine grassy country, surrounded by high hills topped by sandstone cliffs. Water seemed plentiful, and numerous branches united with the main stream.
Leichardt’s Ill Tempered Bullock- Dry Beef Creek
September 18, 1844 – June 22, 1845.

After many days preparation principally taken up in breaking in the pack bullocks, we were at length on the 18th. Sept. enabled to make a fair start from Stevens station, 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 &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 Jimba [Jimbour](15 miles), our last station. Both the last days travelling was very distressing to both horses and bullocks the major part of the whole distance of thirty miles being either flooded or boggy

2 October 1844

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 the timber 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 miles.

Although the Bullocks and 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 and kick till in the end he not only threw off the whole of his load, but broke the saddle so much that to have started after the necessary repairs, would have been useless, the Dr. therefore determined on remaining at the same camp.
Henry Russell’s Impressions of Leichhardt
“A graphic account of Leichhardt is given in the Genesis of Queensland by Henry Stuart Russell. When the famous explorer was contemplating his first overland expedition to North Queensland Russell met him under the following circumstances: "One afternoon in the middle of 1844, when within half a mile of the cottage on the west branch of the Condamine, I saw a surprising object—an old fashioned tall black hat, a suitable chimney pot. Whose was the black hat? 'Twas Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt's. Introduced, we simultaneously lifted our head gear. I took off my own, wholly in astonishment at seeing the fine face opposite suddenly bespattered with half a bushel of flowers, leaves and vegetable specimens; the hat, too, was girt around by sundry creepers and climbers, with here and there a beetle speared to the rim.”
Eight Months with Dr. Leichhardt as seen by John F Mann
The Doctor was a tall man, six feet in height; he had lost a considerable amount of flesh since leaving Sydney which gave him the appearance of greater height. He wore at this time a Malay hat of conical shape, a most serviceable-covering;’ the lower part of his face was hidden by a bushy, light-brown beard and moustache; a very old, greasy, long tweed coat, which had seen service on a former occasion, partly hid a red woollen shirt; his moleskin trousers did not quite reach to his low boots, these were tied with string. He preferred to carry a sword as he could not use a gun, this was slung in such a manner—the handle projecting behind him—that he would have found it a difficult matter to grasp it in case he required to do so. Being now troubled with boils, he had one stirrups long and the other as short as possible.