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Taking it to the edge: Land: William Christie Gosse

'What was my astonishment to find it was one immense rock rising abruptly from the plain… This rock is certainly the most wonderful feature I have ever seen. What a grand sight this must present in the wet season; waterfalls in every direction.'
South Australian Parliamentary Paper no. 48 1874; entries for 19 & 20 July 1873

In 1859 Gosse joined the South Australian Government Survey Office and in 1873 was appointed to lead a government expedition to explore between the Overland Telegraph Line at Alice Springs and Perth.  At the same time Ernest Giles and Peter Egerton Warburton were in the field on similar expeditions.

Gosse's party consisted of his brother Harry, Edwin Berry, Henry Winnell, Patrick Nilen, three Afghan camel drivers (Kamran, Jemma Khan and Allanah) and an Aboriginal boy, Moses.  A mixed party of horses, camels and a wagon left Alice Springs telegraph station 23 April 1873.  Some three months later Gosse discovered Uluru - which he named Ayers Rock.  His description mirrors the astonishment he felt:  'The hill, as I approached presented a most peculiar appearance…it was one immense rock rising abruptly from the plain…[It] appears more wonderful every time I look at it, and I may say it is a sight worth riding over 84 miles of spinifex sandhills to see.'  Edwin Berry endeavoured to capture the sight with his rather odd drawing of the rock.  Gosse climbed the Rock and discovered that the caves were used by the Aboriginal people, and noted that the country was good for 2 miles around it.

 The view from the top was extensive with Mount Olga (Kata Tjuta) to the west, Lake Amadeus to the north (both already discovered by Ernest Giles in 1872) and a mountain range to the south-east, which Gosse named the Musgrave Range after the Governor.  The highest point Mount Woodroffe (Ngarutjaranya) is in fact the tallest mountain in South Australia.  From Ayers Rock Gosse and his party explored west to Mount Olga and Stevenson's Peak, and then south to the Mann Ranges.  In this region they found well watered and grassy plains, and country that Gosse compared with that adjacent to Adelaide.  Continuing on to the Tomkinson Ranges Gosse continued to the western boundary of South Australia where extensive searching showed only spinifex and sand ahead.  He decided for the safety of his party to turn back to the east, abandoning the attempt to reach Perth.  Gosse now explored the Musgrave Ranges, finding en route that the water supplies in the Mann Ranges were drying up.  He worked his way along the northern edge of the Musgraves and discovered the Marryat River which united with the Agnes River to form the Alberga.  This was followed downstream and then to the Overland Telegraph Line at Charlotte Waters.  Gosse's expedition had covered some 60,000 square miles of unknown country and he had travelled 600 miles west from the Overland Telegraph Line.

Ayers Rock
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Ayers Rock discovered and named
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Discovery of Ayers Rock: diary 19 July 1873
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Gosse continues his diary
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The most wonderful natural feature ever seen: diary 20
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