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Hovell & Hume first to see the Murray River at Albury in 1824

The Hovell Tree

Marked by the Explorer Captain William Hovell on November 17, 1824 the tree was flanked by another tree marked by fellow Explorer Hamilton Hume which was destroyed by fire in the 1840s. Hume and Hovell travelled from the Yass area and were the first white men to see the Murray River.

The Hume & Hovell Expedition

The Governor at the time, Sir Thomas Brisbane, was primarily concerned with the advancement of the Colony. He implemented practical policies that increased the level of development of the land, and improved the process for issuing grants.

In 1823 he sought to send an expedition into the country between Lake George and Bass Straight. The plan was to land a party on the Bass Strait coast and have them make their way back to Sydney. Hume was to be the leader. However, the plan failed because Brisbane was unable to raise adequate funds and Hume declined, saying that any exploring party need a base to return to if things went wrong. However Hume was willing to start from Sydney and try to reach Bass Strait.

Hume investigated the possibility of paying for it himself. Hovel expressed a desire to accompany the explorer. He was prepared to supply half the provisions, and a number of bullocks and horses. The two men became partners.

The Expedition

The party assembled at Hume's Father's farm at Appin on Saturday, October 2, 1824. The two leaders had three assigned menservants each. Hovill noted in his journey the supplies he took with him for four months.

  • 640 lbs flour
  • 200 lbs pork
  • 100 lbs sugar
  • 14 lbs tea
  • 8 lbs tobacco
  • 12 lbs soap salt
  • Coffee for myself and three men, together with a musket and ammunition for each man, this is exclusively for ourselves as Mr. Hume has supply'd (as I understand) the same quantity."

During the expedition. Hovell kept a detailed record in his journal of bearings and distances. He also accurately described the country through which they passed. Hume also kept a written record, but unfortunately it has been lost.

The return journey of almost 1,900 kilometres was accomplished in sixteen weeks.

In order to reach Westernport, Hume and Hovell endeavoured to lead the party in a south westerly direction where possible.

The tough journey

Their first major obstacle was the Murrumbidgee River, which was swollen by the late rains.

The explorers ingeniously converted one of the carts used to carry their supplies into a boat. Stripping it of its axles, wheels and shafts, they secured a tarpaulin around the bottom, making it watertight.

Hume and one of the men, Thomas Boyd, courageously swam across the quickly flowing river, taking a line with them. The cart was then hauled back and forth from bank to bank, transporting the supplies.

On 8 November from Big Hill, near Tumbarumba, they became the first Europeans to sight the Australian Alps. In his excitement Hovell wrote in his journal..."a prospect came into view the most magnificent, this was an immence high Mountain Covered nearly one fourth of the way down with snow, and the Sun shining upon it gave it a most brilliant appearance."

On 16 November, they came to the banks of the Murray River, which they named the Hume. They were unable to find a place to cross in spite of searching for three days along its banks at the present day sight of Albury.

On the 20th they decided to try to build a boat. It proved to be difficult, as they had been forced to leave the carts beside the Goodradigbee River because of the roughness of the terrain. Hovell patched the remaining tarpaulin, making use of his skill as a sail maker.

The men built a misshaped wooden frame, and secured the tarpaulin to it. To their delight the contraption floated.

On 7 December, the explorers began their attempts to cross the southern end of the Great Dividing Range.

At first, they were thwarted by impenetrable scrub an dead timer on the ground that made the bullocks lame.

Another plan was made. They would try to cross the range without the animals, once they had found a sutiable passage, return for them. Hovell and Hume, with three men, left their camp, and proceeded in a south westerly direction from Old Sydney Town. The were foced to crawl on their hands and knees over rock and brush.

By noon they had only travelled two miles. They struggled on, but lat into the afternoon, with the situation worsening, they decided to retreat. Because of these features they gave the mountainous country a fitting name - Mount Disappointment.

On the 10th they set about finding a way around the northern end of the ranges.

On 16 December, the party crossed the Werribee River, heading to the South-West. In the course of the morning they saw what they sometimes thought was water, and at other times smoke from the brush fire.

At about 4.00pm it became clear they were approaching a broad harbour. AT 5.00pm they came to the shores of Corio Bay, near today's Geelong, weary, short of provisions, but delighted by their success.

Although both men mistakenly believed they had come to the southern coast at Westernport, their achievement was nonetheless spectacular. They had travelled almost 1,900 kilometres in 16 weeks when they returned to Sydney.

Everyone suffered. Food was often short supply. The salted port went rotten. At times they had fresh meat (fish, kangaroo, emu, birds) but often had nothing more than flour (bush damper) and tea for days. It was physically hard. At times the men had to carry the loads on the bullocks. Some days they walked 25 kilometres on rough ground and through thick scrub. Their clothes were in tatters, their boots fell to pieces so they wrapped their feet in lots of kangaroo skins. Some nights were cold and each man had one blanket. Some of the convicts were unable to walk by themselves near the end of the return journey. The men who knew nothing of the Australian bush expected to meet dangerous animals and hostile natives.

Despite their hardships they had opened the gateway to south eastern Australia. The lands they had investigated were described in The Australian as comprising "the finest country yet discovered: the finest in point of soil and incomparable the most English-like in point of climate. An admirable port too, and a river not inferior in magnitude to any yet known in the colony, runs into the very heart of it - thus affording every facility of communication, which agriculture and commerce can need."

Caption: W.H. Hovell - remarks on a journey from Lake George...Towards Westernport 2nd October - 24th December, 1824

Hamilton Hume (1797 - 1873) Born - Toongabbi
Explorer and Settler

Hume's Father was an impulsive Irish Officer, who had been discharged from the Moira Regiment of Volunteers after a duel with a superior. He immigrated to New South Wales as a Superintendent of convicts on the Guardian.

Hume's Mother, Elizabeth More Kennedy, was an Anglican Clergyman's daughter.

Hume received the foundations of his education from his mother. At the age of seventeen he understood his first expedition when he, his brother, and an Aboriginal boy investigated the Bong Bong District.

He returned to the same area twice more, before Governor Macquarie requested he accompany Charles Throsby and James Meehan there. He and Mehan discovered Lakes Bathurst and the Goulburn Plains.

In 1819 he accompanied the Surveyor General, John Oxley, and Meehan returning overland. John Macarthur then sought Hume's services as a guide to the Bong Bong District.

In 1821, Hume discovered the Yass Plains, and in 1822, along with Alexander Berry, investigated the upper reaches of the Clyde River, as far as Braidwood.

For his services he received a grant of 300 acres near his father's property near Appin, which he called "Brookdale".

Soon after the expedition of 1824-5. Hume married Elizabeth Dight of Richmond.

In 1827, he marked a line of road across the Blue Mountains. Although it was not used, he received a grant of 1,280 acres.

In 1828-29 he was a member of Sturt's party in the exploration of the Castlereagh and Bogan Rivers. It is interesting to note that Hume acknowledged Sturt as his superior and was happy to accept a secondary role. Hume's ability to converse with the Aboriginies was an important skill.

In 1829, his exploring days were over, he settled at the west end of Yass Plains, at a place called by the natives, Booroo, receiving grants of 1,280 and 1,920 acres. In 1839 he moved to Cooma Cottage.

In 1853, Hovell was invited to attend a function in Geelong, where he was heralded as the townships's father. Hume regarded Hovell's acceptance of the townspeople's accolades as an attempt to take an unfair share of the credit for the success of the expedition.

Both men published pamphlets. Hume first then Hovell casting dispersions on each other's competence and integrity. They were not reonciled when Hume died in 1873.

William Hilton Hovell (1786 - 1875)
Born - Yarmouth. Sailor, Settler and Explorer

He joined the Merchant Navy as a boy and by 1808 commanded a vessel. He immigrated to New South Wales in 1813 on the Earl Spencer.

He was employed as a ship's master by Simeon Lloyd, an emancipated convict who had become one of the Colony's foremost merchants.

Hovell traded along the eastern seaboard of New South Wales and around New Zeland. In 1816 he was shipwrecked in the Ken group in Bass Strait, while aboard the "Brothers". The trading venture was a disaster and Hovell was forced from the sea.

He took up a 700 acre grant of land at Narellan. Like many settlers, he made short journeys of expedition, he investigated the Cumberland Plain and in 1823 discovered the Burragarong Valley.

Hovell was included in a party acting under the instructions of Governor Brisbane, which invested Westernport by sea in 1826. He realised the mistake made by himself and Hume in concluding they had been to Westernport.

For his services, he received grants of 1,200 and 1,280 acres and settled at Goulburn where he was appointed Commissioner for Crown Lands. He repeatedly sought more substantial rewards for himself an Hume.

Apart from the longer conflict between the explorers, he remained quietly on his property at Goulburn until his death.

His second wife's will established the William Hilton Hovell lectureship in Geology at the University of Sydney in 1876.


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