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1866 Northern Territory Expedition: Finniss

Boyle Travers Finniss was appointed first Government Resident and ordered to explore and survey a site for the new settlement in the Northern Territory. The site he selected was at Escape Cliffs near the mouth of the Adelaide River, overriding the objections of some of his staff.

Surveys and explorations continued, with men contending with the conditions of the wet and dry seasons and not fully understanding them.  JT Manton replaced Finniss in 1865 and John McKinlay arrived from Adelaide to explore the region, to seek a better site than Escape Cliffs.  McKinlay was to examine the country to the east of the Adelaide River in the direction of the Liverpool River, and then south to the Roper. After supply delays, he set out 14 January 1866. His party consisted of Robert Edmunds, surveyor and second in charge, Thomas Glen, Fred Thring (one of Stuart's men) George Mayo, Thomas Crispe, T Gilbanks, John Horner, Jerry Ryan, Owen Morris, J Young, David Collier, Charles Hulls, Sam Watts and Edward Tuckwell.  They were equipped with 45 horses and a number of sheep. McKinlay made the first part of the journey by boat up the Adelaide River, while most of the men went overland with the horses and sheep.

As well as the near impossible conditions, Edmunds and McKinlay were in almost continual disagreement, with Edmunds finding fault with the Government sending McKinlay north at the wrong time of the year, and with McKinlay for the unnecessary delays he had made. By late April they had crossed the upper reaches of the Mary River and made camp near the headwaters of the South Alligator River and beneath the escarpments of Arnhem Land. McKinlay headed north for the Liverpool River. Almost all the horses perished or were shot and the men resorted to walking while the horses carried the packs of those killed. McKinlay and Edmunds did agree on the beauty and grandeur of the area (it is now part of Kakadu National Park).  However beauty and grandeur was not enough to save the expedition.

For more information about exploration see SA Memory, Taking it to the edge.


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