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Continuation of the biography of P. E. Strzelecki …

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- part 3  


Download the full _biography of P. E. Strzelecki_ with detailed footnotes
- author Lech Paszkowski in .pdf file (26 pages)


Strzelecki left China about August 11, 1843, on board the paddle-steamer „Akbar”, visited Penang, Singapore and arrived in Suez about September 17.
He departed from Alexandria on board another steamer, „The Oriental”, sailing to Marseille via Malta and Alger.

From Paris Strzelecki reached London on October 24, 1843.

At first he was undecided as to whether to settle in England or France. Shortly after he received a most friendly address of recognition from the settlers and ladies of Tasmania, accompanied by a subscription of £ 400, £ 100 of which was contributed by Sir John Franklin.
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Strzelecki used this money to cover the greater part of the cost of publishing his book which appeared in May, 1845.
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„Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land”

The book received many flattering reviews and the personal commendation of Charles Darwin:

„ I congratulate you on having completed a work which must have cost you so much labour and I am astonished at the number of deep subjects which you discuss”.
(…)
I heartily wish that one quarter of our English authors could think and write in language one half as spirited yet so simple”.

Later the editor of the „North American Review”, James H. Perkins, wrote on the same subject:

„Strzelecki… has done more to make New South Wales and Tasmania scientifically intelligible than all other inquirers”.

The book, however basically scientific, contained some extracts from Strzelecki's „Journal”, like descriptions of a Brazilian jungle or calamity on a slave ship, which proved his great literary talent and forceful pen.

Strzelecki always showed everywhere a great sympathy towards the native people, thus, the chapter on the Australian Aborigines, in his book, is still worthy attention. This book became an unsurpassed source of knowledge on Australia for at least forty-five years.

On November 28, 1845, Strzelecki was naturalised as a British subject.
Seven months later he was awarded the gold Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his book. On this occasion Lord Colchester proclaimed Strzelecki „a geographer of no ordinary merit” and mentioned „the beautiful geological map”.
    The map reproduced in the „Physical Description...” was a reduction by John Arrowsmith from the original map by Strzelecki, was of a colossal size of twenty-five feet long and five feet wide. It was the first large geological map of eastern Australia and Tasmania.

During the autumn and winter of 1846-1847 the disaster of the _great famine_ came to Ireland. The British Relief Association was formed in London and Strzelecki at once applied for appointment as an agent. He was sent to the counties of Sligo and Mayo but soon became the Central Agent in Dublin in charge of the whole operation. Strzelecki devoted himself to the relief of this great misery and his success was beyond any doubt, although obtained at the cost to himself of an attack of typhoid fever, traces of which remained with him for the rest of his days.

liscFor the services rendered in Ireland the British Government nominated Strzelecki one of the first Civil Companions of the Bath, bestowed on him on November 21, 1848.
    In 1849 he returned to Ireland again and his combined sojourns in this country amounted to nearly twenty-four months.
On May 4, 1849, Strzelecki gave evidence on the Operation of the Irish Poor Law, before the Select Committee of the House of Lords, answering 142 questions.

He did not hesitate to tell the English Lords that the conditions of the Irishmen were the worst in any civilised country, including Russia. He told the English Lords that the Irishmen, were improving themselves rapidly, and were as good and capable as Englishmen, particularly in Australia. Strzelecki also predicted that the Frenchmen in Quebec would never be Anglicised.
Lord Overstone when conveying to him the resolution of thanks of the Relief Committee, said that he had, indeed, afforded „abundant proof that he possessed those high moral qualities which the British public always hold in the highest esteem”.

Strzelecki was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society on May 9, 1853. In June of the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Strzelecki was a shareholder of the Peel River Land and Mineral Company, which became a subsidiary of the Australian Agricultural Company of N.S.W.
In March, 1853, he was elected to the position of Chairman and Managing Director with a salary of £600 per annum.
    At the suggestion of Strzelecki both companies received a small group of Saxon and Mecklenburg Merinos from Germany to improve the stock in N.S.W.

liscHe held the position of managing director until January 1856, when he resigned, but remained as one of the directors of the Company Board till May 19, 1857.

His philanthropic interest were not limited merely to Ireland, as he helped to promote the emigration of many families to Australia. He was an esteemed member of the Family Colonisation Loan Society initiated by Caroline Chisholm, also of Lord Herbert's Emigration Committee and of the Duke of Wellington's Emigration Committee. He was also a member of the Crimean Army Fund Committee.

Sir William Fraser stated in his memoirs that Strzelecki in 1856 received a secret mission from Lord Palmerston in 1856 and went to the Crimea and paraded there sometimes in the uniform of an officer of British Navy.

He went indeed in July, 1856, to the Crimea in company of Lord Lyons who was taking over the command of the Mediterranean fleet. What Strzelecki did in the Crimea is not certain but he remained there at least to the end of November, 1856. He was also closely associated with Florence Nightingale and helped her in facilitating, through his friends, the publishing of a series of her articles
When the British Government gave up hope of finding the lost polar expedition of Sir John Franklin, Lady Jane decided to organise a private search party. Strzelecki came to her aid and was able to assist in the collection of needed funds.

On June 20, 1860, Strzelecki received a honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford, and on June 30, 1869, the Order of St. Michael and St. George for his „five years” explorations in Australia, the discovery of gold, the discovery of new territory accessible to Colonization and finally for the construction of topographical and geological maps, based on astronomical observations.

Strzelecki died in London on October 6, 1873, and was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery
They now rest in a splendid wooden coffin in the _Crypt of Meritorious_ (Greater Poland Voivodeship) beneath the church of St Wojciech's, in the old city section in Poznan - Poland.

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He should be remembered not merely as an early discoverer of gold and silver, nor as the explorer who named Mount Kosciusko and produced the first map of Gippsland, but as the man who had a great vision for the future of Australia.

He was a man concerned with the Australian environment, ecology and conservation of forests, the man who advocated the plans of vast scale irrigation in New South Wales and Tasmania, who foretold a very bright future of the Australian wool industry, the man who first proposed a vast and detailed geological survey in this country, as early as 1845.


Strzelecki also was named „a pioneer of Australian meteorology”


Lech Paszkowski - Melbourne