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This Day in History

Australian Explorers

Tuesday, September 15, 1846. :   Explorer Thomas Mitchell discovers and names the Barcoo River, near the present site of Blackall.

     Major Thomas Mitchell was born in Craigend, Scotland, in 1792. He came to Australia after serving in the Army during the Napoleonic Wars, and took up the position of Surveyor-General of New South Wales. He undertook four expeditions into the NSW interior. His fourth and final expedition spanned 1845-46, and extended to what is now western Queensland.

Mitchell discovered and named numerous western Queensland rivers. On 15 September 1846, he discovered the Barcoo River, whilst other discoveries on this expedition include the Balonne, Culgoa and Belyando rivers, which mostly flowed south-west into the Darling. However, Mitchell originally named the Barcoo the Victoria River, believing that it flowed north into the Gulf of Carpentaria. His theory was proved incorrect when Edmund Kennedy explored the region the following year, following the Barcoo until it became part of Cooper Creek.

Although this area was not as rich as the land he had found in Victoria on his third expedition, it would prove to be excellent grazing country in the future. The town of Blackall, with its current population of a little less than 2000, grew out of the huge pastoral leases taken up in the area and is situated on the Barcoo River.

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