Saturday, January 30, 2016

False Trail

I hoped to be able to find a Western Ground Parrot specimen that could definitely be traced back to the Perth area.

When looking through the papers relating to John Gould in the National Library of Australia, Canberra, I came across an undated consignment list for shipment on the 'Madras', together with an envelope dated 28 Ju 1839 (MS 587/57). The letter was addressed to Mr Prince, John Gould's secretary. Amongst the specimens on the list were 2 Pezoporus formosus (Ground Parrots). 

Thanks to Clemency Fisher's paper* I knew that collector John Gilbert was in Western Australia in June 1839, and in fact had for most of the three months he had been there, collected in the vicinity of Perth. He had sent some specimens on the 'Herald' in May. Perhaps he had got another consignment away in June. However a search in the 'Shipping Intelligence' section of the newspaper of the day for a visit from the 'Madras' to Cockburn Sound in 1839, yielded nothing. Then I perused the species list more closely. First there was a list of 82 eggs. Gilbert had complained of finding no eggs in Western Australia - wrong season. Some of the skins also pointed away from Western Australia: Platycercus eximius (Eastern Rosella), Wattled plover (Masked Lapwing), and Pardalotus affinis (Tasmanian version of Striated Pardalote), for example.

So it was necessary to conclude that these specimens were sent from Tasmania, after Gilbert and Gould returned to Lauceston following their Bass Strait Islands collecting trip which ended in mid-January 1839. Gould set off for Hobart. John Gilbert left Launceston on the 'Comet' bound for the Swan River Colony on 4 February 1839. 

However in the two short weeks before departure he was able to pack a box of specimens and have it placed on the 'Madras' which was loading at the time. Below is an extract (OCR copy) from the 'Ship News' of The Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston's weekly paper, concerning the arrival of the 'Madras' on 24 November 1838. On 26th January, a note in the Chronicle said 'Madras' is fast completing her cargo and is expected to leave about mid-February. 

The date on the envelope was more to do with arrival in England than time of departure from Australia. The Ground Parrots in that consignment were undoubtably not from Western Australia.

*See previous posting

Nov. 24. --- Madras (barque), 321 tons, W.
Henalker, master, from London— 1 cask British
goods, 1 crate ditto, 1 case silver plate, 88 cases
haberdashery, 41 bales ditto, 6 packages car.
riage, 3 packages British Roods, {packs ditto,
16 trunks ditto, 1 butt sherry, 1 butt pork, 84
eetkxbottled potter, SO hhds. stout, 17 casks
ale— 3. & D. Jlobertson; 8 bags nails, 2 cases
ironmongery, S7 packages British goods, 1 rase
ditto, 3 cases stationery, 4 cases books — F.
Palmer ; COO deals, 70 bhdn stout, 50 barrels
ale, 30 cash* vinegar, 10 torn iron tern-ing, 124
barrels pork, £6 cases British goods, IB bales
ditto,' 67 packages ditto, 20 buds, ale— Kerr,
Alexander. 4 Co. ; 40 packages a deal house, 7
packages British goods, I barrels ale — R. Spark ;
90 barrels port. 10 caws British goods £) hhfe.
ttout— Connolly & Co. ; 3 caws cigars 10 cases
wine, S pipes ditto, 10 obds. ditto, 10 quarter
casks ditto ? Order; 5 packages sundries — J.
Down i 1 caw British goods, 7 packages ditto,
S cask- ditto— J. Cameron ; 4 packages ditto— '
Smith, 'Revel), & Co. ; 12,000 staves — Willis,
Keogfci 4 Cd.j $8 packages wines 4 brandy;
SS quarter carts Tcnerifft— Order.

Passengers per Madrat, from London,
Mr. and Mrs. D. Robertson, 8 children and
servant ; Mr. and Mrs. Spark, 2 children and
servant ; Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, .Miss Palmer,
Miss E. Palmer, Mr. F. Palmer, Mr. W.
Palmer, Mr. C Palmer, Mr. A. Palmer and 4
children, Mr. and Mrs. Fairwcather. Mr. W.
Wood, Mr. Uncll, Mr. Greenhill, Mr. Canning,
Mr. Howard, Mr. H Howard.

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