State Library of NSW

John Gilbert’s Diary


Port Essington expedition, 1844-45

Crossing the Continent

John Gilbert’s Diary [The Aborigines] appear to have been engaged in cooking their food and pieces of bark or boughs showing that it has been a regular camping ground, but what the ring is for would be very interesting to know, perhaps in some way connected with their superstitions. 28 June 1845

Born perhaps around 1810, Gilbert arrived in Australia in 1838 as chief collector of natural history specimens for John Gould. He was working on the Darling Downs in Queensland when in September 1844 he joined Ludwig Leichhardt’s expedition, then setting out for Port Essington on the Coburg Peninsula, Northern Territory.

Gilbert was a competent bushman with an understanding of the Aboriginal people. At the Mitchell River in far north Queensland, near the Gulf of Carpentaria, he was killed at night by an Aboriginal spear when the camp was attacked in retaliation for some of the Aboriginal women being molested by the two Aboriginal men with the party. He had completed his diary entry for that day—28 June 1845. He was buried on the spot and his diary was later sent by Leichhardt to John Gould, presumably because Gilbert had no family or none that was known.
Display item John Gilbert’s Diary


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