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Week 33 - seeking a site for settlement

[ 2nd of October 1836 to 8th of October 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 33: Fresh Water ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 33 - seeking a site for settlement ]

In South Australia

Colonel Light and his surveying party continue their slow progress up and down the coast, still searching for Jones’ harbour and for fresh water.  They find Sturt Creek and Light is encouraged by the many fresh water lagoons nearby. With some prescience he records : ‘The little river, too, was deep; and it struck me that much might hereafter be made of this little stream’.

Despite his anxiety to find an appropriate landfall Light is careful. He and his party trudge many weary miles through sand and undergrowth testing the water in streams and examining the soil as they go. It is exhausting work, but intensely interesting.  Young Pullen is thoroughly hooked on exploration, ‘as this sort of work, exploring was a source of great amusement and excited interest only felt by those engaged in it,’ he writes.

Adelaide & Mt Lofty, c. 1837 (artist William Light) Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia B 2127

Inevitably they speculate as they go – about the fertility of the soil inland from the coast, about the prevalence of fresh water supplies, but there is more than a little irony in some of their observations. Light is obviously well aware that drought has been a frequent problem in eastern Australia, but he thinks that a settlement on the eastern side of the gulf should spare South Australia the same fate.  As it happens he could not have been more wrong, but it was a view that he seems to have formed even before he arrived.

‘My previous observations at sea, which I remarked often to Mr Field before I saw this country, were that all the vapours from the prevalent south-westerly winds would rest on the mountains here, and that we should, if we could locate this side of the gulf, be never in dread of those droughts so often experienced on the eastern coast of Australia. And I was now fully persuaded by the evidence here shown, as well as the repeated collection of clouds, and rain falling on the hills even at this season of the year.’

If only that had been the case!

At sea

The Africaine is making good progress before strong winds. Despite the gales and the water surging over the decks Mary Thomas steals out for a view of the ‘raging sea with its towering hills of water covered with foam’, and finds it ‘grand beyond description’. ‘ I could have stood for hours to look at it’, she writes. ‘Although it inspired me with awe, it filled me with wonder and admiration’.

The Buffalo meanwhile reaches Rio at last and George Stevenson hastens ashore to see his friends. ‘Our Colony has created great interest here’, he writes.

Young Bingham Hutchinson has a busy time overseeing the loading of water and stores, but still finds time to go shopping, and to visit the Museum and Botanical Gardens with ‘the Hindmarshes’. The visit has a sad undertone though, as the baby from the Breaker family dies while on shore, ‘but was brought off’, he writes. We do not hear where it is buried.

Language warning: Please note that these sources contain language which is today considered offensive. It has been retained as it is part of the historical record and evidence of past attitudes.


Next week

Light has just about given up on finding Captain Jones’ harbour, but is relieved to hear that the Cygnet has arrived. The Buffalo is chaotic after the visit to Rio, with half the crew drunk and yet more livestock to be accommodated.

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