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Continuation of the biography of P. E. Strzelecki …

druku

- part 2  

On April 10 the Justine sailed for Sydney, where she arrived fourteen days later. The main object of the visit to New South Wales was, he said, to examine its mineralogy.

His first Australian expedition led to the Blue Mountains and beyond. When exploring in the vicinity of Bathurst, Strzelecki found traces of gold.

On October 16, 1839, Strzelecki wrote to James Walker: →
„On this side of the Dividing Range the variety of rocks and embedded minerals augment indications most positive of the existing gold and silver veins”.

Ten days later, on October 26, 1839, he wrote to James McArthur:
I have a specimen of native silver in hornblende rock, and gold in specks in silicate, both serving as strong indications of the existence of these precious metals in New South Wales ”.

Another place where Strzelecki found gold was the bank of Cox River, near Hartley. However, the Governor of the colony, Sir George Gipps, requested him to keep the news secret because the maintenance of discipline among 45,000 convicts would become impossible. So, publicly Strzelecki kept silent, except for his early communications to a few friends.

In February 1851, Edward Hargraves returning from the Californian diggings made his historical discovery, south-east of Orange. The Australian gold rush started, as well as the controversy of who the real discoverer in Australia was? The three main competitors in the dispute were Roderick Murchison of London, W. B. Clarke, a geologist of Sydney and the miner Hargraves, not to mention a less known lapidary of Sydney, W. T. Smith.
    Strzelecki kept silent for five years and did not take part in the public arguments. He left the defence of his discovery to his Australian friends. But, no doubt, he was angry when Hargraves was named „the first discoverer of gold in Australia” and received a reward of £ 10,000.
    So, finally he published a small booklet Gold and Silver in 1856, defending his priority, but it only draw attention away from Strzelecki's more notable achievements.

liscStrzelecki's discoveries of gold had the potential of changing the history of Australia, if Sir George Gipps had accepted the suggestions of the explorer expressed in October 1839.
The great human wave of the gold prospectors which riled the empty land of California would have gone to New South Wales and Victoria. In such a case the history of Australian development as a nation would have certainly been different, but the destiny of Strzelecki's discoveries was that they should remain as a one line entry in dusty books.

On December 22, 1839, Strzelecki set out from Sydney, taking with him a servant, two horses and a cart. The objectives were „Snowy Mountains, Port Phillip, and Launceston and Hobart”. Before leaving Sydney he had arranged to meet James McArthur ( the son of Hannibal) at Ellerslie near Tumut. The two explorers joined forces in a mutually agreed plan, each sharing the expenses. Proceeding in a southern direction they made a foray to the highest massif of the Snowy Mountains.

On March 12, 1840, Strzelecki, MacAthur and two Aboriginal guides, reached a peak most - probably Mount Abbott. The Aborigines were send down to prepare a night camp. Strzelecki by aid of his instruments detected one of the six peaks as being higher than others.
    He named the summit and the whole massif Mount Kosciusko. McArthur started to descend but Strzelecki set out to conquer the highest point.
After leaving the mountains they entered the country which Strzelecki named Gippsland.

Actually the first known explorer who entered East Gippsland, in the Deddick River area, was John Lhotsky in March, 1834. While passing through the Tambo Valley Strzelecki's party entered an out-station, in the vicinity of the present Essay, which belonged to a squatter named Lachlan Macalister.
The country between the Tambo and Macalister rivers had been explored some weeks before by Macalister's overseer, Angus McMillan, who was looking for new pastures for the stock of his employer. But the land from the Macalister River to Westernport was completely unknown.

liscThe party reached Lake King, which was named by Strzelecki after his friend Captain Philip Parker King. Making further progress, the party crossed several streams which Strzelecki named after his friends. The largest of them he named the La Trobe River.
After crossing this river, in the vicinity of the present site of Moe, the country side became very difficult, densely wooded. Progress was impeded by thickets of scrub and almost constant rain.
    About twenty kilometres past Moe the horses were abandoned. Food became as scarce as dry fuel and their gun-powder was often dump. They survived eating row koalas and progressing slowly south of present Poowong towards Western Port, which was reached on May 12, 1840, three weeks from the day when the horses were left.

The party arrived in Melbourne one week later and aroused in Melbourne great „sensation”, enthusiasm and marked publicity.
    Strzelecki immediately concentrated his efforts on preparing a report for Governor Gipps and publishing a pamphlet with the description of Gippsland supplemented with the first map of this province.
It caused an instant rush of settlers and their stock to occupy this splendid country.

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After forty-one days in Melbourne Strzelecki boarded the brig „Emma” on July 7, 1840. She visited briefly Geelong and left Port Phillip Bay three days later. It is nearly certain that the brig sailed to Portland Bay and Strzelecki had the opportunity to examine the palaeontology of the beaches in the Port Fairy area. The Emma arrived in Launceston in Tasmania on July 24.

From the moment of landing in Tasmania Strzelecki found himself under the care of Sir John Franklin, the Governor, who showed him remarkable friendship and placed the entire resources of the colony at his disposal. Lady Franklin his „strong-minded wife was fascinated and enthralled from the first meeting with the stranger”. The explorer spent two years in Tasmania, in the course of which he made three most extensive and detailed expeditions to almost every part of the island.

liscIn early December, 1841, Strzelecki made a maritime expedition to the Bass Strait islands, which lasted two months. Most probably the Governor designated to him a small cutter Shamrock of 30 tons with an experienced crew.
    The most important feature of this expedition was Strzelecki's correction of Matthew Flinders' map in the portion embracing the eastern coast of Flinders Island and small islands named Goose, Badger, Chappell and Green. Later when H.M.S. „Beagle” arrived in Tasmanian waters, under the command of Captain J. Lort Stokes, Sir John Franklin ordered him to include Strzelecki's corrections into the official Admiralty charts.

During this survey, on January 13, 1842, Strzelecki climbed the highest ridge on Flinders Island, which Capt. Lort Stokes named later Strzelecki's Peaks.
Strzelecki also landed in Sealers Cove, climbed Mount Wilson and examined for the first time the geology of the Promontory. According to his own map he landed at Cape Liptrap and walked once more to Corinella, apparently examining the local coal deposits.

At the request of Sir John Franklin he examined the coal mines of southern Tasmania and during this survey discovered new deposits. He also found in Tasmania traces of gold and copper.

It was also stated that he „greatly influenced Sir John Franklin's thoughts' on the subject of irrigation”

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On September 29, 1842, Strzelecki boarded the paddle-steamer Sea Horse and sailed for Sydney.
He stayed another six months in New South Wales mainly as a guest of Captain Philip Parker King of Port Stephens. Strzelecki examined the geology of the Hunter River and Karuah Valleys. He went north passing the Liverpool Range and Plains, Narrabri, entering the Namoi River country and reaching the 30th parallel.

During his geological investigations in Australia Strzelecki found, gold, silver and copper, as well as iron pyrites (bisulphenides), sulpharsenides, sulphurets, sulphates, oxides, phosphates and arseniates of iron; oxides of titanium and malybdiates of lead (wulfenite).
Among the non-metallic minerals he traced opals, carnelians, agates, marble, kaolin (porcelain clay), coal and asbestos.


After four years in Australia he departed on board the barque „Anna Robertson” on April 23, 1843.
    The ship sailed through the Arafura Sea, visiting Western New Guinea, Timor, Sumba, Sumbawa, Lombok, Bali, Java, Borneo, Manila, before reaching Canton and Hong-Kong at the end of July, 1843.

Continuation of part 3 on the next page _can be found here_