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Several Failed Expeditions

Sir Thomas Mitchell statue
Sir Thomas Mitchell

The next traveller following Captain Charles Sturt who sought to fill up the blank map of Australia was Major Thomas Mitchell. Having offered in 1831, to conduct an expedition to the north-west, he set out with 15 convicts and reached the Upper Darling. Unfortunately, two of his men, who had been left behind to bring up provisions, were speared by the blacks and the food quickly ran out. This disaster forced the party to return soon after. In 1835, when the major renewed his search, he was again unfortunate. The botanist of the party, Richard Cunningham, brother of Allan Cunningham, was treacherously killed by the natives which, finally determined the hostility of the black brought the expedition to a grinding halt.

Garden of Eden

In 1836 Major Mitchell undertook and expedition to the south and in this he was much more successful. Taking a party of 325 convicts, he followed the Lachlan river to its junction at Murrumbidgee. Here he stayed for a short time to explore the neighbouring country. Unfortunately, the party was attacked by hordes of natives, of whom a great number were shot. The major then crossed the Murray and from a mountain top in the Loddon district, he looked forth on land which he declared to be like the garden of Eden. On all sides rich expanses of woodland and grassy plains stretched away to the horizon, watered by abundant streams.

Glenelg River

They then passed along the slopes of the Grampians and discovered the river Glenelg, on which they embarked in boats which they had carried with them. The scenery along the stream was magnificent featuring luxurious festoons of creepers hung from the banks, trailing downwards in the swirling current and partly concealing the most lovely grottos which the current had dug out of the pure white banks of limestone. The river wound around abrupt hills and through valleys, which mad eth later part of the journey to the sea most agreeable and refreshing. Being stopped by a sand bar at the mouth of the Glenelg, they followed the shore for a short distance eastward before they turned towards home.

Portland Bay and the Brothers Henty

Portland Bay now lay to their right and Mitchell made an excursion to explore it. To his surprise, he discovered a neat cottage on the shore, with a small schooner in front of it at anchor in the bay. This was the lonely dwelling of the brothers Henty, who had crossed from Tasmania and founded a whaling station at Portland Bay.

Mitchell is Knighted

On Mitchell’s return, he had a glorious view from the summit of Mount Macedon and what he saw induced him, on his return to Sydney, to give to the country the name “Australia Felix”. As a reward for his important services, he received a vote of £1,000 from the Council of Sydney and he was knighted shortly afterward, as that he became known as Sir Thomas Mitchell.