European land exploration of Australia

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European land exploration of Australia deals with the opening up of the interior of Australia to European settlement which occurred gradually throughout the colonial period, 1788–1900. A number of these explorers are very well known, such as Burke and Wills who are well known for their failed attempt to cross the interior of Australia, as well as Hamilton Hume and Charles Sturt.

Hamilton Hume Australian explorer

Hamilton Hume was an early explorer of the present-day Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria. In 1824, along with William Hovell, Hume participated in an expedition that first took an overland route from Sydney to Port Phillip. Along with Sturt in 1828, he was part of an expedition of the first Europeans to find the Darling River.

Charles Sturt Australian explorer

Captain Charles Napier Sturt was a British explorer of Australia, and part of the European exploration of Australia. He led several expeditions into the interior of the continent, starting from both Sydney and later from Adelaide. His expeditions traced several of the westward-flowing rivers, establishing that they all merged into the Murray River. He was searching to prove his own passionately held belief that there was an "inland sea" at the centre of the continent.

Contents

Crossing the Blue Mountains

Blaxland's expedition to cross the Blue Mountains Blaxland-map.jpg
Blaxland's expedition to cross the Blue Mountains

For many years, plans of westward expansion from Sydney were thwarted by the Great Dividing Range, a large range of mountains which shadows the east coast from the Queensland-New South Wales border to the south coast. The part of the range near Sydney is called the Blue Mountains. After numerous attempts to cross the mountains, Governor Philip Gidley King declared them to be impassable.

Great Dividing Range mountain range in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria

The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria. The width of the range varies from about 160 km (100 mi) to over 300 km (190 mi). The Greater Blue Mountains Area, Gondwana Rainforests, and Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Areas are located in the range.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In December 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.

Philip Gidley King British Colonial governor

Captain Philip Gidley King was the third Governor of New South Wales, and did much to organise the young colony in the face of great obstacles.

William Paterson led an expedition northward along the coast to the Hunter Region in 1801 and up the Paterson River (later named in his honour by Governor King) and in 1804 Paterson led an expedition to Port Dalrymple, in what is now Tasmania, exploring the Tamar River and going up the North Esk River farther than any European had previously gone. [1]

William Paterson (explorer) Scottish soldier and botanist in Tasmania

Colonel William Paterson, FRS was a Scottish soldier, explorer, Lieutenant Governor and botanist best known for leading early settlement at Port Dalrymple in Tasmania. In 1795, Paterson gave an order that resulted in the massacre of a number of men, women and children, members of the Bediagal tribe.

Hunter Region Region in New South Wales, Australia

The Hunter Region, also commonly known as the Hunter Valley, is a region of New South Wales, Australia, extending from approximately 120 km (75 mi) to 310 km (193 mi) north of Sydney. It contains the Hunter River and its tributaries with highland areas to the north and south. Situated at the northern end of the Sydney Basin bioregion, the Hunter Valley is one of the largest river valleys on the NSW coast, and is most commonly known for its wineries and coal industry.

Paterson River river in New South Wales, Australia

Paterson River, a perennial river that is part of the Hunter River catchment, is located in the Hunter and Mid North Coast regions of New South Wales, Australia.

Despite King's pronouncement, some settlers continued to try crossing the mountains. Gregory Blaxland was the first to successfully lead an expedition to cross them in 1813, accompanied by William Lawson, William Wentworth and four servants. This trip paved the way for numerous small expeditions which were undertaken in the following few years. [2]

Gregory Blaxland English explorer in Australia

Gregory Blaxland was an English pioneer farmer and explorer in Australia, noted especially for initiating and co-leading the first successful crossing of the Blue Mountains by European settlers.

1813 crossing of the Blue Mountains

The 1813 crossing of the Blue Mountains was the expedition led by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth, which became the first successful crossing of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales by European settlers. The crossing enabled the settlers to access and use the land west of the mountains for farming, and made possible the establishment of Australia's first inland settlement at Bathurst.

William Lawson (explorer) Australian pastoralist and explorer in New South Wales

William Lawson, MLC was an English-born Australian explorer, land owner, grazier and politician who migrated to Sydney, New South Wales in 1800. Along with his close friends and colleagues Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth, he pioneered the first successful crossing of the Blue Mountains by European settlers.

On 13 November 1813 Governor Lachlan Macquarie sent Government Surveyor, George Evans, across the Blue Mountains to confirm the findings of Blaxland's exploration party. Evans generally followed Blaxland's route, reaching the end of their route on 26 November 1813 at a point Evans named Mount Blaxland. Evans's party then moved on and discovered the Fish River area and further west near the junction of the now named Fish and Campbell Rivers and described two plains in his view, the O'Connell Plains and the Macquarie Plains. [3] On 9 December he reached the site of present-day Bathurst. [4] After the explorations that took seven weeks Governor Macquarie awarded Evans £100 and 1000 acres of land near Richmond in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). Evans departed for Tasmania in 1814. [3]

Lachlan Macquarie Scottish British army officer and New South Wales colonial administrator

Major General Lachlan Macquarie, CB was a British Army officer and colonial administrator from Scotland. Macquarie served as the fifth and last autocratic Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821, and had a leading role in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony. He is considered by historians to have had a crucial influence on the transition of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement and therefore to have played a major role in the shaping of Australian society in the early nineteenth century. In 1816 Macquarie gave orders that led to the Appin Massacre of Gundungurra and Dharawal people.

Bathurst, New South Wales City in New South Wales, Australia

Bathurst is a city in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. It is about 200 kilometres (120 mi) west-northwest of Sydney and is the seat of the Bathurst Regional Council. Bathurst is the oldest inland settlement in Australia and had a population of 36,801 at June 2018.

Richmond, Tasmania Town in Tasmania, Australia

Richmond is a town in Tasmania about 25 km north-east of Hobart, in the Coal River region, between the Midland Highway and Tasman Highway. At the 2006 census, Richmond had a population of 880.

In 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie approved an offer by William Cox to build a road crossing the Blue Mountains, from Emu Plains, the existing road terminus west of Sydney, to the Bathurst Plains. The first road to cross the Blue Mountains was 12 feet (3.7 m) wide by 101 12 miles (163.3 km) long, built between 18 July 1814 to 14 January 1815 using 5 freemen, 30 convict labourers and 8 soldiers as guards. Governor Macquarie surveyed the finished road in April 1815, [5] and as a reward Cox was awarded 2,000 acres (810 ha) of land near what is now Bathurst.

William Cox was an English soldier, known as an explorer, road builder and pioneer in the early period of Colonial settlement of Australia.

Emu Plains, New South Wales Suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Emu Plains is a suburb of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is 58 kilometres west of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the City of Penrith and is part of the Greater Western Sydney region.

On 7 May 1815, Governor Macquarie proclaimed the name of the future town of Bathurst, [6] the first inland town in Australia and intended to be the administrative centre of the western plains of New South Wales.

Inland exploration

1817 and 1818 expeditions of John Oxley Oxley-map.jpg
1817 and 1818 expeditions of John Oxley

Evans was back in New South Wales by 1815 to continue inland explorations. [3] In 1815, Evans was the first colonial explorer to enter the Lachlan Valley, naming the area the Oxley Plains after his superior the Surveyor-General, John Oxley. He also discovered the Abercrombie and Belubula River Valleys. He was the first explorer through the areas that now include the towns of Boorowa and Cowra.

On 1 June 1815 in Eugowra, a town in the Central West region of New South Wales, George William Evans and his group marked a tree at the junction of Lachlan river and a creek which they named Byrnes Creek. This was the furthest west any Europeans had travelled into the country. On 1 June 1815 he was running short of provisions and returned to Bathurst where he arrived on 12 June. This journey opened the way for later explorations, mainly by John Oxley. Evans took part in some of Oxley's expeditions.

Evans returned to Tasmania in 1817 but was again to return to New South Wales to journey with his superior John Oxley on travels into the Lachlan River areas, along the path of the Macquarie River to the Macquarie Marshes and eastwards to the coast to Port Macquarie. [3]

In March 1817, Oxley was instructed to take charge of an expedition to explore and survey the course of the Lachlan River. He left Sydney on 6 April with Evans, as second-in-command, and Allan Cunningham as botanist. Oxley's party reached Bathurst after a week, where they were briefly detained by bad weather. They reached the Lachlan River on 25 April 1817 and commenced to follow its course, with part of the stores being conveyed in boats. As the exploring party travelled westward the country surrounding the rising river was found to be increasingly inundated. On 12 May, west of the present township of Forbes, they found their progress impeded by an extensive marsh. After retracing their route for a short distance they then proceeded in a south-westerly direction, intending to travel overland to the southern Australian coastline. By the end of May the party found themselves in a dry scrubby country. Shortage of water and the death of two horses forced Oxley's return to the Lachlan River. On 23 June the Lachlan River was reached:

"we suddenly came upon the banks of the river… which we had quitted nearly five weeks before".

They followed the course of the Lachlan River for a fortnight. The party encountered much flooded country, and on 7 July Oxley recorded that:

"it was with infinite regret and pain that I was forced to come to the conclusion, that the interior of this vast country is a marsh and uninhabitable".

Oxley resolved to turn back and after resting for two days Oxley's party began to retrace their steps along the Lachlan River. They left the Lachlan up-stream of the present site of Lake Cargelligo and crossed to the Bogan River and then across to the upper waters of the Macquarie River, which they followed back to Bathurst (arriving on 29 August 1817). [7]

Oxley travelled to Dubbo on 12 June 1818. He wrote that he had passed that day "over a very beautiful country, thinly wooded and apparently safe from the highest floods..." Later in 1818 Oxley and his men explored the Macquarie River at length before turning west. On 26 August 1818 they climbed a hill and saw before them rich, fertile land (Peel River), near the present site of Tamworth. Continuing further east they crossed the Great Dividing Range passing by the Apsley Falls on 13 September 1818 which he named the Bathurst Falls. He described it as "one of the most magnificent waterfalls we have seen". He discovered and named the Arbuthnot Range, since renamed the Warrumbungle Range. Upon reaching the Hastings River they followed it to its mouth, discovering that it flowed into the sea at a spot which they named Port Macquarie.

In 1824, Governor Thomas Brisbane asked Hamilton Hume and William Hovell to travel from Hume's station, near modern-day Canberra, to Spencer Gulf (west of modern-day Adelaide). However, they were required to pay their own costs. Hume and Hovell decided that Western Port (in present-day Victoria) was a more realistic goal, and they left with a party of six men. After discovering and crossing the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, they eventually reached a site near modern-day Geelong, somewhat west of their intended destination. [8] [9]

Inland sea

This 1830 map of Australia depicts a 'Great River' and a 'Supposed Sea' that both proved nonexistent. Maslens Inland Sea of Australia.jpg
This 1830 map of Australia depicts a 'Great River' and a 'Supposed Sea' that both proved nonexistent.
Route of the Sturt, Hume and Hovell expeditions Sturt and Hume and Hovell expeditions.jpg
Route of the Sturt, Hume and Hovell expeditions

After the Great Dividing Range had been crossed at numerous points and many rivers were discovered—the Darling, Macquarie, Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers—all of which flowed west, a theory was developed of a vast inland sea into which these rivers flowed. Another reason behind the idea of an inland sea was that Matthew Flinders, who had very carefully mapped much of Australia's coast had discovered no great river delta where these rivers should have emerged by had they reached the coast. The Murray-Darling basin actually drains into Lake Alexandrina. Matthew Flinders had noted this on his maps but viewed from the sea does not look like the outfall of a large watershed, but instead as a gentle tidal basin.

The mystery was solved by Charles Sturt, who in 1829–30 undertook an expedition similar to the one which Hume and Hovell had refused: a trip to the mouth of the Murray River. They followed the Murrumbidgee until it met the Murray, and then found the junction of the Murray and the Darling before continuing on to the mouth of the Murray. The search for an inland sea was an inspiration for many early expeditions west of the Great Dividing Ranges. This quest drove many explorers to extremes of endurance and hardship. Charles Sturt's expedition explained the mystery. It also led to the opening of South Australia to settlement. [10]

The theory of the inland sea had some supporters. Major Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor-General of New South Wales, set out in 1836 to disprove Sturt's claims and in doing so made a significant discovery. He led an expedition to 'fill in the gaps' left by these previous expeditions.He set off along the Lachlan River, down to the Murray River. He then set off for the southern coast, mapping what is now western Victoria. There he discovered the richest grazing land ever seen to that time and named it Australia Felix . He was knighted for this discovery in 1837. When he reached the coast at Portland Bay, he was surprised to find a small settlement. It had been established by the Henty family, who had sailed across Bass Strait from Van Diemen's Land in 1834, without the authorities being informed. [11] He was meticulous in seeking to record the original Aboriginal place names around the colony, for which reason the majority of place names to this day retain their Aboriginal titles. [12]

The Polish scientist/explorer Count Paul Edmund Strzelecki conducted surveying work in the Australian Alps in 1839 and became the first European to ascend Australia's highest peak, which he named Mount Kosciuszko in honour of the Polish patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko. [13]

The vast interior

From 1858 onwards, the so-called "Afghan" cameleers and their beasts played an instrumental role in opening up the outback and helping to build infrastructure. [14]

The competition to chart a route for the Australian Overland Telegraph Line spurred a number of cross-continental expeditions. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Burke and Wills expedition led by Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills who in 1860–61 led a well equipped expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Due to an unfortunate run of bad luck, oversight and poor leadership, Burke and Wills both died on the return trip. [15]

List of expeditions 1804–1897

Eyre's expeditions on the Nullarbor Plain and to the Flinders Ranges Eyre-map.jpg
Eyre's expeditions on the Nullarbor Plain and to the Flinders Ranges
Kennedy's expeditions in the interior of Queensland Kennedy-map.jpg
Kennedy's expeditions in the interior of Queensland
Leichhardt's exploration Leichhardt-map.jpg
Leichhardt's exploration
The ill-fated expedition of Burke and Wills Burke and Wills Track.png
The ill-fated expedition of Burke and Wills

Expeditions (in chronological order):

WhenWhoWhere
1804 William Paterson Port Dalrymple, Tamar River, North Esk River (Tasmania)
1813 Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson From Sydney across the Great Dividing Range via the Blue Mountains; first penetration into inland New South Wales
1817–1818 John Oxley [16] Interior of New South Wales; discovered Lachlan River and Macquarie River
1818 Throsby, Meehan, Hume and Wild Throsby and Wild discovered an overland route from Sydney to Jervis Bay via the Kangaroo and Lower Shoalhaven rivers

Meehan and Hume followed the Shoalhaven upriver and discovered Lake Bathurst and the Goulburn Plains [17]

1820 Joseph Wild [18] discovered Lake George [19]
1823 Currie, Ovens and Wild Region south of Lake George; [20] discovered Isabella Plains (now a suburb of Canberra), charted the upper reach of the Murrumbidgee River and discovered Monaro [21]
1824 Hume and Hovell expedition Sydney to Geelong; discovered Murray River
1828–1829 Charles Sturt and Hamilton Hume Macquarie River area; discovered Darling River
1829 Currie, Drummond, Dr Simmons and Lieut GriffinSouth of Fremantle; explored region, now Rockingham and Baldivis, and sighted the Serpentine River [22]
1829Dr Collie and Lieut.Prestondiscovered Harvey, Collie and Preston rivers
1829–1830 Charles Sturt Along the Murrumbidgee River; found and named Murray River, and determined that western-flowing rivers flowed into the Murray-Darling basin
1830 John Molloy Blackwood River, Western Australia
1830–1834 Alfred and John Bussell Blackwood River and Busselton, Western Australia
1831 Robert Dale and George Fletcher Moore Avon River area in Western Australia
1831 Collet Barker Mount Lofty and the Murray Mouth
1834 Frederick Ludlow Augusta to Perth; discovered Capel River
1834–1836 George Fletcher Moore Avon River and Swan River; discovered that they are the same river; discovered rich pastoral land near the Moore River
1839–1841 Edward John Eyre [23] The Flinders Ranges and Nullarbor Plain
1840 Paweł Strzelecki [24] Ascended and named Mount Kosciuszko, New South Wales
1840 Patrick Leslie Condamine River, New South Wales
1840–1842 Clement Hodgkinson [25] North-eastern New South Wales, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay
1844 Charles Sturt North-western New South Wales and north-eastern South Australia; discovered the Simpson Desert
1847 Anthony O'Grady Lefroy and Alfred Durlacher Gingin, Western Australia
1854 Austin expedition of 1854Robert Austin, Kenneth Brown Geraldton, Mount Magnet, Murchison River
1858–1860 John McDouall Stuart [26] North-western South Australia; discovered water sources used as staging points for later expeditions; found and named Finke River, MacDonnell Ranges, Tennant Creek
1860 Burke and Wills expedition including Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills Melbourne to Gulf of Carpentaria (traversing Australia south to north); determined non-existence of inland sea
1897 Frank Hann [27] Pilbara region of Western Australia; named Lake Disappointment

Other 19th-century explorers

Other explorers by land (in alphabetical order):

Stuart was the first to cross the country from south to north successfully. Stuart-map.jpg
Stuart was the first to cross the country from south to north successfully.
Map of John Forrest's expeditions Expeditions of John Forrest.jpg
Map of John Forrest's expeditions

20th-century explorers

By the turn of the 20th century, most of the major geographical features of Australia had been discovered by European explorers. However, there are some 20th-century people who are considered explorers. They include:

21st-century activity

Indigenous Australians participating in European exploration

A number of Indigenous Australians participated in the European exploration of Australia. They include:

Naturalists and other scientists

There are a number of naturalists and other scientists closely associated with European exploration of Australia. They include:

Uncategorised explorers

Related Research Articles

John Oxley British explorer

John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley was an explorer and surveyor of Australia in the early period of British colonisation. He served as Surveyor General of New South Wales and is perhaps best known for his two expeditions into the interior of New South Wales and his exploration of the Tweed River and the Brisbane River in what is now the state of Queensland.

William Hovell British explorer

William Hilton Hovell was an English explorer of Australia. With Hamilton Hume, he made an 1824 overland expedition from Sydney to Port Phillip, and later explored the area around Western Port.

Hume and Hovell expedition exploration of eastern Australia from 1824 to 1825

The Hume and Hovell expedition was one of the most important journeys of explorations undertaken in eastern Australia. In 1824 the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, commissioned Hamilton Hume and former Royal Navy Captain William Hovell to lead an expedition to find new grazing land in the south of the colony, and also to find an answer to the mystery of where New South Wales's western rivers flowed.

Macquarie River river in New South Wales, Australia

Macquarie River a watercourse that is part of the Macquarie–Barwon catchment within the Murray–Darling basin, is one of the main inland rivers in New South Wales, Australia.

George Evans (explorer) Australian explorer

George William Evans was a surveyor and early explorer in the Colony of New South Wales. Evans was born in Warwick, England, migrating to Australia in October 1802.

1813 in Australia featured a number of important developments. Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains which opened up the interior of New South Wales for European settlement. John and Elizabeth Macarthur sent the first wool exports from their properties.

Sir Maurice Charles Philip O'Connell KCH was a commander of forces and lieutenant-governor of colonial New South Wales.

Windradyne Indigenous Australian warrior

Windradyne was an Aboriginal warrior and resistance leader of the Wiradjuri nation, in what is now central-western New South Wales, Australia; he was also known to the British settlers as Saturday. Windradyne led his people in the Bathurst War, a frontier war between his clan and British settlers.

OConnell, New South Wales Town in New South Wales, Australia

O’Connell is a village in New South Wales, Australia. The village, classified by the National Trust of Australia, is 23 kilometres from Oberon on the O'Connell Road. At the 2006 census, O'Connell and the surrounding area had a population of 355.

Embagga

Embagga is a civil Parish of Franklin County, New South Wales, Australia.

Wyadra Parish

Wyadra Parish is a civil parish of Franklin County in central New South Wales, Australia.

Wogonga

Wongonga is a rural locality and a civil Parish of Franklin County, New South Wales.

Baeda parish Civil parish in Australia

Parish of Baeda is a civil parish of Franklin County, New South Wales, Australia which is west of Sydney.

Marowie Civil parish in New South Wales, Australia

The Parish of Marowie is a civil Parish of Franklin County it is located on the Lachlan River and the only town of the parish is Hillston, New South Wales.

References

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Further reading