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Taking it to the edge: Land: 1840s - Darke and Horrocks

John Charles Darke and Eyre Peninsula

Reports of good land on Eyre Peninsula were received in 1843 from Richard Harris and George Cummings, who had travelled overland from Anxious Bay to Port Lincoln.  This report required further investigation, as the men's accounts were contradictory, and John Charles Darke of the Survey Department was sent out.  His party set out from Port Lincoln in August 1844 and travelled beyond the Gawler Ranges, but without finding the water mentioned by Harris and Cummings.  Turning back Darke and his party went east towards some hills.  It was in the vicinity of these, on 23 October 1844, that the party was attacked by some Aboriginal men. This was despite Darke's usual conciliatory manner towards them.  He was wounded and the men attempted to take him back to Port Lincoln but he died en route and was buried at the foot of a hill that was subsequently named Darke Peak.  In 1910 a memorial was raised over his grave.  To learn more about John Charles Darke see a series of articles written by Basil Darby and Bill Tostevin, Darke of the Peaks: a short history of surveyor-explorer John Charles Darke, in GeoNews, July-August, 1995, pages 17-19; November-December 1995, pages 32-34; March-April 1996, pages 28-29.

John Ainsworth Horrocks

Horrocks arrived in South Australia in 1839 and settled on the then northern limits of the colony, founding the village of Penwortham in 1842 near the source of the River Wakefield.  A number of exploratory trips in the region ensued and in 1846 Horrocks decided on a longer expedition to the north to seek more pastures. Accompanied by Samuel Thomas Gill, the artist, and several other men they set out on 29 July.  Their equipment besides horses and cart included one camel, considered to be the first imported to Australia. (See 'Did you know?' section on ('Camels in the exploration of Australia') Beyond Mount Remarkable they passed into unsettled lands, and located a pass that would enable them to cross the Flinders Ranges and travel beyond the head of Spencer Gulf.  This pass was later named after Horrocks.  By 21 August they had reached Edward Eyre's old camp at Depot Creek, and from here Horrocks explored to the north-west, accompanied by Gill, Bernard Kilroy, and with the camel carrying three weeks provisions.  Four days into their journey, Horrocks paused to reload his gun, when the camel lurched, and the firearm was accidentally discharged.  It shot off the middle fingers of his right hand and entered the left side of his face knocking out the teeth of his upper jaw.  Seriously wounded as he was, Horrocks was unable to make the return journey to Penwortham unaided.  Kilroy hastened back to Depot Creek for help.  Horrocks survived three days after his return home, but not before dictating a letter in which he described the expedition that had failed to find good pastoral lands. The unfortunate camel was destroyed.

South Australia owed much to the explorations of pastoralists such as Horrocks as they pushed forward the known boundaries in the early years of the Province. Regrettably they rarely left any written records of what they found.

Gill sketched the country : letter 8 September 1846
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Grey's route
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Grey's wallaby
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Horrocks decides to use a camel : letter 8 September 18
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Horrocks sets out with Gill and Kilroy : letter 8 Septe
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Horrocks terminates the expedition : letter 8 September
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Horrocks's severely wounded : letter 8 September 1846
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Kilroy returns alone : letter 8 September 1846
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Mt Gambier climbed
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Rivoli Bay surveyed
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