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This Day in History

Australian Explorers

Monday, June 20, 1836. :   Australian explorer Major Thomas Mitchell names Swan Hill.

     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. In this capacity, he undertook numerous expeditions of exploration into the NSW interior.

A point of contention for Mitchell was the fact that Charles Sturt had followed the Murray River to the sea, and discovered that the Darling River flowed into the Murray. Mitchell was determined to disprove Sturt's theory that the Darling flowed into the Murray. The instructions for his third expedition 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 in his second journey.

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. This led to the discovery of the rich farming country of western Victoria, which he named "Australia Felix", or "Happy Australia". Prior to reaching this district, Mitchell found significant grazing land south of the Murray, including the area around which the town of Swan Hill now stands. Mitchell named Swan Hill on 20 June 1836 after "the number of these birds whose beautiful notes were incessantly heard during the night".

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