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1 May 1839 Edward John Eyre

 1 May 1839   Edward John Eyre

On 1 May 1839 Edward John Eyre left Adelaide with a party of five men on an expedition to the north. At that time no-one had been further north than the head of Spencer Gulf. On his way he discovered a river which he named the Broughton, but north of the gulf he found the country more barren. He continued along the edge of the ranges, first seen by Flinders in 1802, but the outlook from one of the peaks was discouraging and he turned back.

In August that year Eyre again set out to explore the inland. This time he decided to sail to Port Lincoln and begin his trek from there. With four white men and two Aborigines he followed the coast to Streaky Bay where he set up a depot. He and one Aborigine rode on for another 100 miles, but finding inhospitable country and little water, they were forced back. The party then struck east across the peninsula, which now bears his name, and made for their old camping site in the Flinders Ranges. From there Eyre travelled further north than on his first trip and sighted the large lake now called Lake Torrens. He returned to Adelaide in October.

In June 1840 Eyre set out on his third trip to the north, this time reaching what is now known as Lake Eyre. He was convinced that there was one large horseshoe-shaped lake which blocked access to the centre of the continent through that area and again returned south. 

His most arduous journey was undertaken the following year. On 25 February 1841 he left Fowlers Bay with only his friend Baxter and three Aborigines, having sent the rest of the party back to Adelaide. They followed the coast around the Great Australian Bight in a determined effort to reach Western Australia. The journey with scant provisions through this virtually waterless and treeless country was made even more miserable by the heat, sandflies and mosquitoes. Eyre, like many early explorers had set off at the height of summer. Also, he had no idea of the Aboriginal attitude towards survival in the bush and was unaware that the Aboriginal men, Joey, Yarry and Wylie were increasingly unhappy with the dwindling daily rations. One night, while Eyre was watching the horses, Joey and Yarry shot Baxter and went off with most of the stores. 

Eyre and the remaining member of the group Wylie, struggled on.   When nearly at the end of their meagre rations and in desperate need they sighted a whaling ship, the Mississippi, anchored near the shore. Captain Rossiter took care of them while they recovered their strength; then, with new provisions, Eyre and Wylie continued their journey to the west, reaching Albany, 1000 miles from Fowlers Bay, on 7 July 1841. 

Eyre returned to Adelaide by sea while Wylie, suitably rewarded, went back to his tribe in Western Australia at Albany. Eyre contributed to the financing of these expeditions himself. In 1845 he returned to England and was later made Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand, then Governor of Jamaica. He died in 1901.

Hans Mincham, The Story of the Flinders Ranges, Rigby, 1964,
pp. 24-40..
M. McEwan,  Great Australian Explorers,   Bay Books, Sydney and
London, 1985, pp. 230-238.
Australian Junior Encyclopedia , Volume I, Georgian House, 1951, p.286

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