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This Day in History

Australian Explorers

Thursday, October 13, 1836. :   One of Mitchell's men drowns as his expedition returns from the successful 'Australia Felix' discovery.

     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 third expedition is considered to be his most successful. His instructions were to follow the Lachlan and Murrumbudgee Rivers to the Murray, then on to the junction with the Darling River. He was then to follow the Darling upstream as far as Menindee to confirm that it was the same river he had initially followed south from northern New South Wales.

Discouraged by the desolate country around the southern end of the Darling, Mitchell decided to return to the Murray to explore its more fertile surrounds. Crossing the Murray near the Murrumbidgee junction, he passed through the rich farming country of western Victoria, naming it "Australia Felix", or "Happy Australia". After continuing down to the southern coast, he turned in a northeasterly direction back towards Sydney. It was during this stage of his journey that he suffered his only loss of one of his team. On 13 October 1836, whilst scouting out a suitable crossing site on the Broken River, an ex-convict named James Taylor fell off his horse and drowned.

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