29 Aug 1817 - exploration of Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers

#OnThisDay 29 August 1817 explorers John Oxley and George Evans arrived back in Bathurst after exploring the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers. Oxley, the Surveyor General and Evans, his deputy, had left Sydney on 6 April and travelled to Bathurst before setting off to follow the course of the Lachlan River.

By July the party had become stuck in marshlands and had to turn northwards to follow the Macquarie River back to Bathurst. Oxley thought this land to be uninhabitable due to the swamps but it is now rich pasture and grazing land.

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From the Collection

Lines by J O on quitting the
Lachlan Swamps
From sickly marshes and unhealthy Plains
Where Lachlan’s Turbid Waters Spread
From Silence Death & Desolation dread!
While Hope our Guide small soother of our Pains
Springs in each Breast & lightens every fear
the Path to Happier Climes we lightly tread,
To where old Ocean spreads his bosom bare
And breathes & smile to dissipate our Care
Ultimo On Molles Plains, Western Interior of Australia
Lat of our Tent 33.53.19S + Long 144.39.30E
[VERTICAL TEXT]
Stagnant Water 33.57.144.31.15E
Ulto Tent          33.53.19 144.39.50
Horizon            34.22.12.144

This fragment of verse was written in early July 1817 on a small scrap of paper, and was found within one of Allan Cunningham’s journals of exploration (Cunningham travelled with Oxley on the 1817 expedition to explore the course of the Lachlan River). An unusual document within an official record, it gives us an insight into the trials of such an expedition into inhospitable terrain. On the basis of the latitude and longitude given, it would appear to have been written somewhere near present-day Booligal, which has a memorial to Oxley in the form of a giant theodolite.

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