A Tale of Two Mountains - part two

Part two of an article by Matt Smith

A Tale of Two Mountains 2

Strzelecki was so impressed and overcome with emotion that he named the mountain after the revered Polish patriot, Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

Mosaic Paul E. Strzelecki

An extract from his report, first published in the Port Phillip Herald in 1840, said:
„The particular configuration of this eminence struck me so forcibly, the similarity it bears to a tumulus elevated in Krakow over the tomb of the patriot Kosciusko, that, although in a foreign country, on foreign ground, but amongst a free people, who appreciate freedom and its votaries, I could not refrain from giving it the name of Mount Kosciusko.”

The original naming by Strzelecki left out the »z« in »Kosciuszko«.
However, it was officially reinstated in 1997.

Did he or didn’t he?

A vigorous debate has raged since 1840 about which mountain Strzelecki actually climbed. Evidence supporting the view that Strzelecki climbed Mt Townsend and named it Mt Kosciuszko is attached to the following arguments.

— Firstly, Strzelecki described the summit as a „rocky pinnacle”, which, as I can verify from personal experience, is a far more apt description for Mt Townsend.
— Secondly, from Mt Townsend, it is possible to see the Geehi River, a massive drop of 1600 metres (another perspective I can personally validate). It is not possible to duplicate this view from Mt Kosciuszko yet Strzelecki when on „Kosciuszko” commented on this very view.

Even on the 100-year anniversary of Strzelecki’s ascent, doubt still lingered about the mountain that Strzelecki climbed. In 1940, an inscription on a tablet was placed on the Mt Kosciusko summit: → →

From the Valley of the Murray River The Polish Explorer Paul Edmund Strzelecki Ascended these Australian Alps on 15 th February, 1840.

  So it seemed that even after a century, considerable care was taken not to imply that Strzelecki had climbed Mt Kosciuszko, as it was believed that such a fact could not be substantiated.
In 1941, virtuoso skiers Tom and Elyne Mitchell, who had a strong connection to the Snowy Mountains (Elyne was the first woman to descend the entire west face of the Snowy Mountains on skis), also championed the claim that Strzelecki climbed Mt Townsend, not Mt Kosciuszko.
Perhaps the debate is meaningless and merely a manifestation of modern-day obsessions with records. Nineteenth century mountain climbers possessed a different mentality. When Strzelecki named the highest eminence in the country, he grouped Kosciuszko, Townsend and Ramshead together.

Strzelecki would have most likelyStrzelecki would have most likely considered each peak as ‘points’ on a whole mountain (the Snowy Mountains massif). This makes sense, as all these peaks are really part of a continuous high granite plateau. Strzelecki (and many others who followed this trend) applied the name Kosciuszko to the general mountain plateau, not a single peak.
Another plausible theory (and my personal favourite) is that Strzelecki climbed both mountains, first Mt Townsend, followed by Mt Kosciuszko.
After all, as Reverend Curran stated in 1896 (and my own experience verifies): „It must be remembered also that the two peaks, Mt Townsend and Mt Kosciusko, are within an easy walk of each other.”

This article was published in the online edition of the magazine „Wild” issue 135 on Friday 19th, April 2013.

Let's now _see excerpt_  from the article.