Cape York Peninsula - Exploration


Edmund Kennedy was the first European explorer to attempt an overland expedition of Cape York Peninsula. He had been second-in-command to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell in 1846 when the Barcoo river was discovered. The aim was to blaze a trail to the tip of the cape where some Sydney businessmen thought of developing a port for trade with the East Indies.

The expedition set out from Rockingham Bay near the present town of Cardwell in May 1848, and it turned out to be one of the great disasters of Australian exploration. Of the thirteen men who set out, only three survived. The others died of fever or starvation, or were speared by hostile aborigines. Kennedy died of spear wounds almost within sight of his destination in December 1848. The only survivor to complete the journey was Jackey Jackey, an aborigine from New South Wales. He led a rescue party to the other two who had been unable to continue.

The cape was finally conquered in 1864 when the Jardine brothers with eight companions drove a mob of cattle from Rockhampton to the new settlement of Somerset where the Jardines’ father was commander. En route they lost most of their horses, many of their stores and fought pitched battles with aborigines, finally arriving in March 1865.

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