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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.