A Walk into History

I like to explore my local environment, and now my life has settled into a less hectic pace, I’m spending more time walking around my new neighbourhood.

There are many miniscule moments that give me a buzz of pleasure because they remind me that I’m really here, living in Australia again. I planned to list some of those magic moments in this post, but then, another blogger I follow – An American in Norway – blogged about a walk she took one day (Click here to read her blog), and it inspired me to head off on one of my walks armed with my camera.

We live close to the Arthurs Seat National Park, and I often walk along it’s bush tracks to explore. The very first time I ventured into the park, I was rewarded with laughing kookaburras, cockatoos nesting in a hollowed out old gum tree, and an abundance of small birds in the densely wooded gully.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

On another walk, I came across a kangaroo and an echidna.

And always, there are the gum trees, – or eucalypts as they are known in America – the she oaks, and wattles.

I love that when I wander through this park, it is blatantly obvious that I am in Australia.

Our bush is unique.

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

This time, I took a turn along a different path in search of something new to photograph and was rewarded with a pleasant, but unexpected discovery – a cairn which was built to commemorate the place where Matthew Flinders stood and surveyed Port Phillip Bay way back in 1802, over thirty years before Melbourne was first settled.

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I stood where he stood, looked over our beautiful bay, and wondered how difficult it was for him to reach this spot.

There would have been no cleared tracks for him to follow. I imagine he needed tools to help hack his way though the thick undergrowth, and large rocky outcrops would have made his climb even more difficult.

Perhaps the local aborigines guided him to this place with the great view?

What wildlife did he see? Snakes, wombats, koalas?

What were his thoughts?

Was he missing his cold and green land? Or the new wife he’d left behind against his wishes?

My Australian history lessons have faded from memory, but Flinders is commemorated with many statues and cairns around the country, and there are many places (towns, islands) and streets named after him.

Despite knowing some of these places well, I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten his significance to our country, so when I returned to my home, I Googled him.

He was born in England in 1774.

When he was a young boy, he read Daniel DeFoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe and was inspired by the story to live a life of exploration, so at fifteen, he joined the Navy.

Here is a list of the facts I found most st interesting:

  • He made three journey’s to Australia, each lasting longer than the previous one.
  • On his final trip, he circumnavigated the continent, successfully proving that Australia was also an island.
  • It was also on his final voyage that he went ashore in the newly discovered Port Phillip Bay, and climbed to the top of Arthurs Seat, on April 27th, 1802.
  • Drawing on an old British custom of marking historical points with a cairn, he left a scroll with his ship’s name on it in a small pile of stones at the the peak.
  • He later reported back to Governor King that the land had ‘a pleasing and, in many parts, fertile appearance.’
  • He campaigned to have our country called Terra Australis (the Great South Land)and eventually he referred to it as Australia.
Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

My walk was very different to Cindi’s stroll through the Norwegian woods, but I was well pleased with where it led me, none-the-less.

I was impressed by what I read about Flinders, his diligence, intelligence and high morals. He had reputation as a man who treated his crew and the local aborigines well.

We should be proud to have such a man in our history.

I think that, like me,  he enjoyed Australia.

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Thank you Cindi, for leading me to a history lesson.