From the time of its establishment in 1788, Sydney, Australia, was hampered by lack of space, being hemmed in by mountains to the west, and the Pacific ocean to the east.
Numerous attempts were made to cross the mountains, originally named “Carmarthen Hills” and “Landsdowne Hills”, but now known simply as “The Blue Mountains”.
The mountains appear to be blue due to the release of oils from eucalyptus forests, eucalypts being the dominant form of vegetation.
Although known as the “Blue Mountains”, the terrain is actually made up of a giant plateau, which has been weathered into cliffs and gorges.
Paths through the mountains were known and used by indigenous Australians for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in Australia, and it wasn’t until 1813 that the settlers found a way to the west.
The Daruk people lived in the mountains, and were bordered by the Wiradjurie people to the west.
From what I understand of Aboriginal history, the trail blazed by the explorers closely follows that used by the original inhabitants.
Up until 1813, attempts to cross the mountains were made by traveling through the valleys, but all ended in failure.
On May 11, 1813 the explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth, and Lieutenant William Lawson left Emu Plains and crossed the Nepean River, heading west.
With a group of four servants, horses and dogs, they took just eighteen days to find their way across to the western slopes, completing the journey on May 29, 1813.
They achieved the feat by following the ridges rather than struggling through the valleys. Sitting and talking to members of the Wiradjurie tribe some time back leads me to believe that the speed with which the task was accomplished must have been due to help by the local indigenous population.
Of course, I have no documented proof of this, but satellite images of the area show very few natural crossing places in the area. Did they just stumble across an old trail and follow it?
Of course, their effort is to be lauded, as they helped the settlers to Sydney break out of the Sydney area, and even with help, crossing the highlands would have been a very difficult task.
In 1814, Governor Macquarie appointed William Cox to build a road across the mountains.
Beginning on July 18, 1814, Cox completed the task with a team of thirty convicts and eight guards on January 14, 1815.
The road covered a distance of 101.5 miles (163 kilometers) from Emu Plains in the east, to Bathurst in the west.
Following the declaration of the town of Bathurst, settlers began moving west.
Settlement of the area was resisted by the Wiradjurie people, a resistance that culminated in the Frontier Wars of the 1820s.
Bathurst developed into a major administrative area, and is Australia’s oldest inland city.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1851, and the area has a large primary and secondary industry base.
Bathurst Court House
Links, Sources and Resources!
Please note that all care has been taken in compiling this post, and includes my own opinion on how the mountains were successfully crossed so quickly after years of unsuccessful attempts being made.
This opinion was formed after meeting and talking to a number of local indigineous Australians, who’s knowledge I deeply respect.
For further information on this topic, please follow the links below. Images on this page are from Wikipedia.
This post may also be of interest: Botany Bay…
Celebrating Australia Day, January 26 2008!