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This Day in History

Australian Explorers

Friday, April 17, 1835. :   Richard Cunningham, brother to Allan Cunningham, is killed by Aborigines whilst exploring with Major Mitchell.

     Richard Cunningham, younger brother to botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham, was born in Wimbledon, England, on 12 February 1793. He travelled to Sydney, Australia, where he was appointed Colonial Botanist and Superintendent of Botanic Gardens, Sydney, in 1832, a position he held until his death in 1835.

On 7 April 1835, Richard Cunningham accompanied Major Thomas Mitchell on the latter's second expedition, to prove (or, as Mitchell hoped, to disprove) Sturt's theory that the Darling River flowed into the Murray. Early in the expedition, on 17 April 1835, Cunningham wandered off from where the party had camped in order to collect botanical specimens, becoming lost in the bush. Mitchell spent nearly a fortnight searching for him until deciding to finally continue with the expedition. After mounted police searched for Cunningham some time after Mitchell returned, it was discovered that Aborigines had tended to the botanist who, suffering from exposure at the time, had become delirious. Thinking he was possessed by evil spirits, the Aborigines killed him.

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