Australian History

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Again and again I think about the history of Australia and historical facts are confused again and again. Finally I decided to write a short view. This report on the historical evolution of Australia mainly referres to the age since the discovery by the Europeans. Another article describes the geological history you can read on the page "The Evolution of Australia" (Text only available in German!).

The Discovery by mariners

The discovery of Australia by the Europeans is especially because it occurred several times.

Magellan (1519)


In the year 1519, the Portuguese seafarer Fernão de Magelhães (Magellan) (1480-1521) began his sea voyage in Spain. Because of the Treaty of Tordesillas of the year 1494, only the Portuguese may used the way eastwards the to the productive Spice Islands (today: Molucca Islands). Fernão de Magelhães wanted to find the way westwards for the use of Spain. With this idea he could avoid a confrontation between Spain and Portugal. In 1521 he got closer to the Philippines via the Mariana Islands. At Mactan, he was killed by the living natives in the same year. His crew didn't want to drive back again the brutal sea-way via the Pacific Ocean. They decided to take the known way via the Indian Ocean through the hostile area of the Portuguese. Barely, the fearful and sick crew missed the north of Australia by only few kilometers on their return to Spain. They still discovered the island Timor in 1522, but Australia was remained hidden. In known history, this event was the first, with which European seafarers got Australia so incredibly near.

Willem Janszoon (1606)

Later Lois Vaez de Torres (1565-1610) sailed between Australia and Papua New Guinea and failled short Australia, too. The first European who stepped onto Australian ground was the Dutch Willem Janszoon (ca.1570-ca.1630 / not to be confuses with Willem Janszoon Blaeu, 1571-1638). He took the ship Duyfken and sailed from the dutch tradebase at Java for the Dutch East India Company at Bantam at 28/11/1605 heading Australia into unknown waters. He went ashore in 1606 in the northeast in Cape York at the Pennefather River. Nine crewmembers were killed in a fight with the Aborigines. The number of killed Aborigines is still unknown.

Landing location of Willem Janszoon

The discovered land was now called New Holland. Willem Janszoon mapped about 320km of the coastline. There are less information left about the Duyfken. There are speculatuions about a ship with 20 tonns, 20 men crew, 2 big cannons, 6 small cannons and 2 bombards. In 1623 Jan Carstenszoon sailed with the Pera again there. The river of the fight in 1606 he calles Carpentier River. Again many years passed by without action.

Melchisédech Thévenots map of „New Holland“ of the year 1663. This map is a copy of the work of the dutch cartographer Jean Blaeu (1596-1673) - son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) - of the year 1659. It is based at the voyages of Willem Janszoon (ca.1570-ca.1630) and Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603-1659).

Abel Janszoon Tasman (1642)

The Governor-General Anthony van Diemen (1593-1645) of the Dutch East Indies (today: Indonesia) asked the mariner Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603-1659), to cartograph the coast of New Holland (today: Australia). During his journey holding up from 1642 to 1644 he sailed from the north to the south into the Gulf of Carpentaria and then heading west alongside the Australian coast. Approximate at the Tropic of Capricorn at the west coast he turned off the coast and sailed heading west. He came back in a large arch but he missed the continent. He sailed to far away in the south of the continent and discovered a large island that he called Van Diemens Land (since 1856 autonomy: Tasmania).

He did not know that this was an island. He thought of one big landmass of New Holland (today: Australia) containing Van Diemens Land (today: Tasmania). Sadly his discoveries were not accepted because he explored not enough. The unknown country was not interesting for the dutch. About 1700 the british buccaneer William Dampier (1652-1715) explored the coast of Papua New Guinea and Western Australia. He arrived at the conclusion that Australia is commercial uninteresting, too.

James Cook (1768)

About 1768 the british admiralty asked Captain James Cook (1728-1779) to take possession of all territories for England during a south pacific expedition. Cook set sail in 1768 for his first journey using the Endeavour. He circumnavigate South-America. In the south pacific he searched out New Zealand being a double-island. He arrived at Australia at the 28th of April in 1770. At the first European he stepped onto Australia at the east coast in a wounderfull bay he called Botany Bay (today: south of Sydney).


Botany Bay

Because of the enormous historical impact this event is declared as the offical discovery of Australia by the Europeans.

Untergang Endeavour

Cook annexed the east of the new continent for the British Empire. Then he sailed heading north but he grouded onto the Great Barrier Reef near the White Sunday Islands. The ship repairs gave an opportunity to explore the mainlands eastcoast. In 1788 a news border divided Australia in two parts. The west was called New Holland and the east was called New South Wales. The border take course from the north to the south strict through the middle.

The Colonization

The Declaration Of Independence of the british colony in North America in 1776 promted the british government to search new places for prisoners.

New-Southwales was suitable for this. In 1787 Great Britain started the colonization of eastern Australia. Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814) was appointed governor of New South Wales and he was shipped with 700 british prisoners far away to Australia. Phillip landed with his fleet become famouse under the name of the First Fleet at the 26th of January in 1788 in todays Sydney. This was the establishment day of the colony. But this was the end of the wonderfull Botany Bay

This was a time of chaos. Crimes and corruption branded this period. Bloody conflicts whith the native inhabitants the Aborigines were often. The commanding officers were no good examples because they exploited the situation to become rich for their own. The native man Bennelong had a gift for languages so he could act as interpreter for Arthur Phillip between the Europeans and the natives. Governor Phillip abdicated at 10th of December in 1792 as a sick man. He went back to England and he was positive about the the coloy: It would survive.

Australia Day 1988 / Invasion Day 1988

Become famouse of the mutiny of the Bounty the commanding officer William Bligh (1754-1817) tried to organize the chaos since 1805 as governor. But he failed.

He was resigned by his own soldiers. But the former governor Phillip should be right because his successor Gouverneur Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824) eliminated the chaos by violence from 1810 up to 1821. Many settlers protested but New South Wales found boom years.

The prisoners were followed by free settlers and explorers from the motherland and many other countries. Little by little the country was discovered and explored. On his journey from 1813 to 1815 George Evans (1780-1852) found a path through the great wall of the Blue Mountains to the fertile country-areas in the interior.

The Outback exploration

This path discovered in 1813 was very important for the next steps the settlement and exploration of the Outback. The barrier to the west was finaly opened. In 1836 Charles Darwin visited Australia using this path.

This map shows the explored southeast of Australia up to 1832. You can see the location of todays New South Wales and Victoria
This map of today shows the big surroundings of Sydney far over the Blue Mountains as far as after Parkes.

Charles Sturt (1828)

Numerous exploration took place into the inland. For example from 1828 to 1830 the in India born and in England grown up Charles Sturt (1795-1869) managed an expedition along the Macquarie River, Darling River and the Murray River from the source in New South Wales to the mouth of the river in South Australia. The result established the basis of the later settlement in both countries.

Edward Eyre (1840)

In the years of 1840-1841 Edward Eyre (1815-1901) walked across Australia as first from the east to the west from Mount Hopeless in the north of the Flinders Ranges (north of Adelaide) to Albany in the south of Western Australia. He searched a good country way between both location. Edward Eyre discovered a great salt lake in 1840 in todays South Australia. In his honor this lake was later called Lake Eyre. The Aborigines call this lake Kati-Tanda. Lake Eyre is the lowest point of Australia counting 15 meters below zero.

Charles Sturt (1844)

In an other expedition Charles Sturt crossed the Simpson Desert from 1844 to 1845 in central Australia. He searched a big inland lake he assumed to be there. But at this time nobody knows that such a lake does not exist.

A political proposal in 1838 should divide Autralia into countries. This is uncommon with our todays point of view.
Leichhardts way in north Australia

Ludwig Leichhardt (1844)

The German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt (1813-1848) crossed northeastern Australia at the same time searching a country way from the Darling Downs (near Brisbane) to Port Essington (near Darwin). Sadly Leichhardt was no good outdoor man. Because of this he fighted agains problems with his catering. Furthermore he lost crewmembers in the war against the Aborigines. But the expedition itself was a success. In 1846 Leichhardt failed in his east-west crossing from the Darling Downs in Queensland to the Swan River in Western Australia because of to much heat and dryness. After his five month trip he gave up. He tried it in 1848 a second time. He started at the McPherson Farm near Brisbane to search a country path to Perth. All people were amazed about the bad equipment of this adventure for example only one horse were available per person. Leichhardt's last jorney was a big fail. All crewmembers were lost.

Edward Hargraves (1851)

In 1851 Edward Hargraves (1816-1891) changed whole Australia. In a waterhole near Bathurst (150km west of Sydney) he found gold. After informing the local authorities he get a reward of 10000£. Finaly the economy boomed. One year later 370000 immigrant arrived in Australia. Meanwhile at a lof of other places in New South Wales and Victoria more gold was found. In 1852 Victoria declared 1/3 of the global gold production. The population rised up until 1861 to 1.5 Million.

This map shows Australia in 1860
Stuarts way

John McDouall Stuart (1860)

In 1859 the South Australian government submitted an offer to pay 2000£ for the first man crossing Australia from the south to the north. This golden important opportunity was taken by the explorer John McDouall Stuart (1815-1866) in 1860. Unfortunately he was defeated by the strong climate forced to turn back. His third attempt in 1862 was successfull. He started in Adelaide reaching the north coast near Darwin in the same year. The today well known Highway No 87 connecting Adelaide and Darwin, was called afer him the Stuart Highway.

In the meantime the Australian colonies showed interesting in there own politics without Great Britain. As a consequence they build a Federal Council in 1883. But without New South Wales. Because of this the political power was missed.

Kimberley - Walk to the Mitchell Falls
Kimberley - At the Mitchell Plateau

This map of 1885 shows the landuse in the northwest. You can clear see the regions being unexplored in 1885. You can see the famous white stains at the map called "unexplored". The Kimberley Region was first discovered in the 1950s. Up to now this region belongs to the fewest settled areas within Australia. My photos left and right from the year 1997 show the landscape in the Kimberley region at the Mitchell Plateau. One can recognize the rocky low mountain region-character very beautifull. Further photos of the beautiful Kimberley low mountain region can see in my gallery. On the following gallery pages, there you can see also photos at the Mitchell Falls, the gigantic waterfalls.

Beginning of the 20th Century

At the 1st of January in 1901 Queen Victoria (1819-1901) proclaimed the Comonwealth of Australia, the Australian Federation with it's temporarily headquarter in Melbourne.

Australia was now a state. The first prime minister was Edmund Barton (1849-1920). The highest head of state belongs to the British Queen Victoria. The towns Sydney and Melbourne fighted about the status of the Australian capital city. Not until 1927 a new capital was build. On the half way between Sydney and Melbourne a new town called Canberra was build only to be the capital city. In 1927 the parliament and the government moved to Canberra.

This map shows a summary of the history from 1788 to 1911. The map itself is dated 1932.
Old Ghan Railway
Ruins at Warrina

This map of 1923 differs in small details to our todays maps. An interesting part you find at Alice Springs. In the middle of the map you cannot read Alice Springs but you can read Alice Spring Station. This small different remembers the location history being a telegraph station built by Charles Todd (1826-1910). He called the station after his wife Alice. Later the Alice Spring Station raised and the town was called Alice Springs. Now the station is a nice place of excursions with a historic museum. Further information about the Alice Spring station is discussed in the forum.

Oodnadatta Track

The village Oodnadatta (Photo: 1997) is located in former time at the (Old) Ghan Railway (Photo: 1997) the north-south railway. Because of the railway the small town was attactive for business. You can see this place in the map in the middle of the image. The left-right dotted line shows the ols telegraph line. Parallel there was the railway. Anyway the small town was it worth to be shown as the only town within more 100kms. The shutdown of this railway in the eary 1980s the business interesting was suddenly gone. Today it exists "without interesting". A greater fortune suffered other towns and villages at the old Ghan Railway. One of this location is Warrina (Photo: 1997). At that time it had up to 100 inhabitants. Today it is a lost town of ruins.

Another - completely different - nice part in the map is the south island in front of the mainland, the island Tasmania. To inform the reader about the clearly place the new name Tasmania is followed by the old name Van Diemens Land.

Like this there are many other interesting historical differences in this old map of 1923 an todays maps.

In order to come back to the Oodnadatta Track once again: This is clearly marked at the card of 1916. The Stuart Highway, who was asphalted completely later in the 1980th, is not yet registered as North-South-connection. Only the nonstop asphalt coating of the Stuart Highways and the shut down of the railroad-route (Old Ghan Railway) were responsible for the scene of destruction of the cities at the Oodnadatta Track and the railroad.


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