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This Day in History

Australian History

Saturday, February 12, 1814. :   Government House, Sydney, issues an official announcement of the new discoveries west of the Blue Mountains.

     Since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, the colony of New South Wales had been virtually imprisoned by the impassable Blue Mountains that lay to the west. George Caley, Francis Barrallier and George Evans were just three of the explorers who had tried - and failed - to penetrate beyond the steep cliffs and ravines that characterised the mountain range. Their journeys had followed the rivers, but all were stopped when the explorers met either sheer cliff faces or mazes of impassable gorges.

Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth were pastoralists with their own holdings and a view to expand their land and stock. Like many other free settlers, they were affected by the limitations of land in New South Wales, hemmed in as the colony was by the mountains. They sought rich grasslands inland beyond the Blue Mountains. Setting off on 11 May 1813, they followed the ridges, unlike previous expeditions. The men faced difficult terrain, and had to use machetes to hack their way through the thick scrub, but they finally reached Mount York, at the western end of the Blue Mountains. From here, they sighted rich grasslands on the other side of the mountain barrier. Blaxland wrote in his journal that they "discovered what [they] had supposed to be sandy barren land below the mountain was forest land, covered with good grass". The men explored the forest and grassland for several more days, and culminated their exploration with their ascent of a high hill they named Mount Blaxland. A week later, they returned to the colony.

Six months later, in November 1813, Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned Surveyor George W Evans to lead an expedition to investigate the prospects of settling west of the mountains. The expedition, which lasted seven weeks and allowed Evans to thoroughly explore the region, returned a very favourable report. On 12 February 1814, the Governor released an order from Government House announcing the discovery of rich grasslands to the west. The announcement celebrated the fertile pasturelands, well-watered by numerous streams. The order also detailed the land grants awarded to Evans, the two free men who accompanied him, and the original explorers, Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth.

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