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Taking it to the edge: Coast: Towards white settlement

Collet Barker

Sealers and whalers were the next on the coast, though they were more interested in trade than in discovery.  However Captain George Sutherland, employed by Sydney merchants, spent some time exploring Kangaroo Island in 1819, and his account was published in 1831 in Proposal to his Majesty's Government for founding a colony on the southern coast of Australia. He records the discovery of a large lake adjacent to Encounter Bay, pre-empting Charles Sturt's discovery of Lake Alexandrina by some time. To learn more about this see Downstream (European discovery) website

Collet Barker arrived on the coast in April 1831, directed there by the Governor of New South Wales, following Charles Sturt's voyage down the Murray.  Barker searched the eastern side of Saint Vincent Gulf, looking for another exit for the Murray River.  He and his men climbed Mount Lofty, where he saw an inlet on the coast and discovered the Sturt River that he named for his friend and fellow officer. Barker also found the Onkaparinga River and with four others travelled upstream as far as the horseshoe bend at Noarlunga.   'The party were quite delighted with the aspect of the country on either side of the inlet, and with the bold and romantic scenery behind them.  The former bore the appearance of natural meadows, lightly timbered, and covered with a variety of grasses. The soil was observed to be a rich, fat, chocolate coloured earth…'

The Onkaparinga's mouth was however masked by a sand bar.  (On Sturt's map in his book Two expeditions into the interior of Southern Australia… published in 1833 it is shown as the Ponkepurringa Creek).  Barker then sailed down the coast and anchored in Rapid Bay before crossing overland to the mouth of the River Murray in Encounter Bay.  After swimming the mouth alone and climbing an adjacent sand hill, Barker was killed by Aboriginal people.  After waiting some time for his return, his men returned to the ship for assistance.  The account of Barker's exploration was published by Charles Sturt in his book Two expeditions into the interior of Southern Australia. Barker and his men  had shown conclusively that there was only one exit for the river and that was in Encounter Bay. A fuller account is given in the European discovery section of the Downstream (European discovery) website .

William Light

A Captain John Jones visited the coast some time before 1836 and reported finding a good harbour in the gulf.  Henry Hesketh sailed from Launceston in December 1835 and spent some time examining Kangaroo Island and the two Gulfs.  In 1836 William Light arrived ahead of the settlers and examined the coast, in particular looking for Captain Jones' harbour.  During the course of this search, the Onkaparinga was again found. In his Brief journal Light records that on the 3 October a large river was sighted but it was not until the 10 October that they located it and Pullen was sent to examine it.  He reported that he had been unable to enter the river because of the large surf at the mouth.  He was however able to see some distance upstream and described it as a large river.  The river is not named on Light's chart of the east coast of Saint Vincent's Gulf but its mouth is marked as 'Oct 10'. (There was some difficulty with the naming of this river: (Sturt showed it as the Ponkepurringa which seems to indicate that Barker had some communication with the local Kaurna people); on Arrowsmith's map The Maritime portion of South Australia it is shown as the Field River. In 1838 Governor Gawler changed it officially to the Aboriginal name Onkaparinga and a creek some distance to the north at Hallett Cove now bears Field's name.) In his surveys to find the best site for the capital of the new province of South Australia Light examined Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln, and Encounter Bay.  WS Pullen one of Light's surveyors eventually located Jones' harbour, which was the Port River Inlet.  Having found the site for a harbour, Light's attention was turned inwards to the land.

The discovery of the South Australian coast was now complete although there would be on-going survey work and the continual refinement of charts with the work of the South Australian government vessels Waterwitch, Beatrice and Governor Musgrave until the Royal Australian Navy took over the hydrographical work on Australia's coast in the 20th century.

Aboriginal women taken from the mainland
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Abundant fish and a good harbour
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An excellent harbour is found
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Chart of Cape Jervis
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Climate of Kangaroo Island
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East side of St. Vincents Gulf
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Field and Pullen each explore the inlet
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Light again explores the inlet
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Light begins his search for the harbour
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Light considers ranges would produce rain
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Light continues down the coast
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Onkaparinga mouth is examined
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