Quo Vadis Count?
Paul Edmund Strzelecki's Illawarra Maps & Fossils
'Strzelecki's foray to the eastern seaboard could have led from Camden to Appin and either down the Old Mountain Road to Bulli or down Mitchell's newer Mount Keira Road. His map 'Carte Geologique' indicates a spur-line from somewhere near Lupton's Inn to Lake Illawarra.....' (L. Paszkowski, Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki - Reflections on his life, 1997, p.100)
In 1845 Polish scientist and traveller P.E. Strzelecki published Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land (London, 1845, 462p), a landmark in the annals of colonial science containing the first substantive description of a collection of Australian fossils. It was based on work carried out by British palaeontologists John Morris, William Lonsdale and George Sowerby, and amongst the 48 Palaeozoic fossils described therein was a suite of 18 from the Illawarra district of New South Wales. A study of Strzelecki's geological maps, the Illawarra fossils and the circumstances surrounding their acquisition reveals the importance of Strzelecki's work and the difficulties inherent in researching this elusive Pole.
The Mysterious Count
Paul Edmund Strzelecki (1797-1873), also known as Count Strzelecki, is a figure to be admired. Arriving in Sydney aboard the French barque Justine on 25 April 1839, he spent the next four years travelling some 7000 miles on foot throughout eastern Australia and Tasmania. A number of books and articles have been written on this subject (e.g. Havard, 1941; Rawson, 1953; Heney, 1961; Paszkowski, 1997), yet Strzelecki remains an enigma. Known to his contemporaries as an extremely sociable, charming and intelligent man, he became a public figure of renown and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1869. However his last will and testament requested that all his papers - manuscript journals, diaries, notes, letters and reports - be burnt and that he be buried in an unmarked grave. This destruction of personal records has led some biographers to overly speculate upon the events of his life. Helen Heney (1937, 1961) and Geoffrey Blainey (1961) portrayed Strzelecki as a scoundrel. The more sober Paszkowski in 1997 concluded, after more than four decades of intensive research, that it was "impossible to write a satisfactory biography of Strzelecki" and his own was merely "an attempt to reconstruct a sequence of facts framed by the period of his life" (1997, p.xiv). It is clear that Heney and Blainey were wrong, for Strzelecki was no scoundrel. He was secretive, especially in regards to matters of a personal nature concerning women, and he was something of a loner - a "poor peregrinating wandering dog" as he put it, running from the "disease of domestic felicity." Local scientist W.S. McLeay in 1842 went so far as to repeat the rumour that he was a Russian spy. However the vast majority of those who encoutered Strzelecki were left with a positive impression of the man and his work.
Strzelecki arrived in Australia in 1839 looking for minerals to sell and to investigate the 'geognosy' of Terra Incognita (Physical Description, p.51). He had spend the previous decade travelling through Europe (1829-30), Africa (1830-1), the United States and Canada (1834-5), South America and Mexico (1835-8) and the Pacific Islands (1838-9), including New Zealand (1839). He was by the end of this period an experienced geologist and natural scientist with aspirations in that area, though also more businessman than philanthropist. The discovery, collection and sale of rocks, fossils and minerals had occupied him for many years and provided his livelihood. Strzelecki was neither singularly wealthy nor destitute, though varuious account suggest he had a substantial netegg housed in his Franch bank account. Strzelecki was financially constrained during his travels, though force of personality opened many doors, enabling him to fraternise with the wealthy and higher echelons of society and make use of their hospitality to defray costs such as accommodation and travel expenses. Strzelecki differed, for example, from fellow geologist the Reverend W.B. Clarke who arrived in the New South Wales in May 1839, a month after the Pole, tasked with discovering as much as possible about the local geology and forwarding this information on to England and Europe for wider dissemination amonst the scientific fraternity. At the end of the day this is exactly what Strzelecki did, however the two men approached their science from very different perspectives.
An initial lack of success in finding minerals within New South Wales, and the rapid development of the geological sciences in Great Britain during the 1830s, led Strzelecki to quickly set geognosy aside and widened the scope of his activities to include a more general geological and geographical survey. He was, for example, forced to carry out a trigonometrical survey whilst in Australia as much of the country he passed through was only recently settled and poorly mapped by colonial authorities. Fortune may have proved ellusive, however he was compensated with fame, becoming the first European to officially climb and name Australia's highest peak - Mount Kosciusko. His role in the discovery and opening up of the Gippsland region of eastern Victoria in 1840 brought notoriety, and his many subsequent geological and geographical investigations and revelations were of some significance. Strzelecki enhanced his personal reputation whilst in Australia and was able to build upon it to secure his future upon returning to England in 1844. His personal charm and efforts at self-promotion did gave rise to petty jealousies in a colony where the number of skilled, working scientists barely reached double digits. But at the same time he was able to win many friends in high circles. His bravery and intrepid drive to explore eastern Australia was inspirational, yet at times it verged towards the foolhardy. This is best seen in his overland expedition from Sydney to Melbourne at the beginning of 1840. Strzelecki's subsequent claim to discovery of Gippsland was rejected by squatter Angus McMillan and his supporters, giving rise to heated debate in the Sydney and Melbourne newspapers and to a controversy which continues to this day.
Strzelecki was very human, but also extremely humane. His concern over the widespread deforestation of eastern Australia and its effect upon climate marks him as an early environementalist. His commentary on the Australian Aborigines within Physical Description included a heartfelt plea for recognition of their humanity and rights to the land, whilst at the same time reflecting an attitude of European superiority over the race. He therefore presents as a mass of contradictions, and is all the more interesting for it. It is clear that during his time in Australia he carried out - substantially unassisted - an extraordinary amount of original research into local palaeontology, meteorology, mineralogy, physical geography, geology, ethnology, biology and the agricultural sciences. His travels on foot over 7000 miles in 4 years were a notable feat of exploration and Physical Description stands as a monument to this flurry of activity. Yet when one attempts to dig deeper into it, and into the everyday work of this illusive Pole, dead-ends are encountered. Precise details of Strzelecki's travels and whereabouts at any given point in time are often only gleaned from secondary sources or the reminiscences of those who happened to encounter him. His surviving records, including Physical Description, are usually vague or useless for those seeking details of where he went, who he met and what he saw. The works of Heney and Blainey perhaps reflect some of the frustrations inherent in attempting such research.
It is tantalising to realise that whilst in Australia Strzelecki compiled a detailed, descriptive diary in French, excerpts of which are dotted throughout Physical Description. Charles Darwin was so impressed with the journal - he had recently published his own bestseller describing his time aboard the HMS Beagle - that in 1845 he suggested the whole work be published separately. Strzelecki later wrote to his life-long love Adyna Turno informing her that she would be the one to prepare it for publication. Yet this never came to pass and it remains lost, perhaps burnt with Strzelecki's papers upon his death. The absence of detailed personal records such as these has forced historians to seek out and take note of the most insigificant references. Fortunately such references continue to be uncovered. For example, the manuscript diary notes of Lady Jane Franklin and a section of the voluminous correspondence of the Reverend W.B. Clarke have recently been published (Russell, 2002; Moyal, 2003), adding further detail to Strzelecki's Australian visit. For whilst much is known of his Gippsland expedition in 1840 and two years spnt in Tasmania between 24 July 1840 and 29 September 1842, there are otherwise many blanks. For example, a reading of the numerous published works and manuscript sources provide little help for the specific period between his arrival in Sydney on 25 April 1839 and departure early in September on an excursion over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst and Wellington Caves. His final 6 months in the colony is similary constrained.
Determination of the precise circumstances by which Strzelecki acquired a collection of fossils from the Illawarra district requires a considerable degree of historical detective work. For the months of May, June, July and August 1839 all that is known is that he made acquaintance with important people such as Governor George Gipps, Stuart A. Donaldson (an old friend from South America), Phillip Parker King (former master of the HMS Beagle), and members of the Macarthur family, most notably James Macarthur of Camden Park, and the young James Macarthur and his father Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur of the Vineyard, Parramatta and of Arthursleigh on the Wollondilly River. Strzelecki's free movement amongst senior colonial officials and naval officers suggests an ease of association deriving from similar experiences or some official, if secretive, commissions on behalf of government. This is mere speculation, but would explain some of the mystery surrounding his time in the colony.
After his arrival in late April the first we hear of him is that sometime during May he visited Captain John Lort Stokes on board the HMS Beagle in Sydney Harbour, and on 7 June he was present at a dinner at Government House attended by Lady Jane Franklin, wife of Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania. Her diary notes record the following:
.... Dinner party: Captain, Mrs & Mr O'Connelll; Dowlings, Sir James, Lady & Miss. Lady Dowling cleverish - sister to one gone to VDL. Count Strzelecki talked much to me - perceived VDL was a hit with me. Talking of English gambling, he said it explained beggary in England & wickedness here. Had broken his instructions coming here & to VDL said we should give him a great deal of work. (Diary notes, Saturday 8 June 1839)
Lady Franklin subsequently noted in a letter of 15 June to her husband that "we shall also have visits soon from Count Strzelecki - a most agreeable Pole" indicating his early plans to head south. Strzelecki visited Lady Franklin again at Government House, Sydney, on Thursday 11 July, just prior to her departure for Hobart.
The diary of Emmeline Macarthur of Camden Park also records: "I recollect Count Strzelecki frequently at Vineyard [Parramatta]." Though undated, it perhaps indicates that Vineyard was Strzelecki's base during these first 4 months in Australia, though no clear evidence of this has yet been located and a reading of the aforementioned biographical works would suggest that he was renting accommodation in the centre of Sydney. Strzelecki's small manuscript map 'Carte Geologique' (refer below) shows the various routes he travelled whilst in Australian and has a starting point in the vicinity of Parramatta, though this may have been a more general reference to the Sydney region due to the small scale.
We know that Strzelecki preferred to travel on foot, rather then by horse or cart, for this was the best method of discovering minerals and seeing first-hand the geology around him. Strzelecki was also competent in the use of scientific equipment such as the barometer and could take chemical analysis on the fly. Whilst in Australia his method of working was one of traversing the country in broad zig-zag patterns, collecting rocks, fossils and soil samples and taking barometric and magnetic readings using equipment he carried on his back. In this way he was able to cover a lot of ground in relatively short space of time. He was variously supported by horses, convict servants, Aboriginal guides and free settlers who happened to accompany him on sections of his journey. The first four months in Australia were most probably spent reading any published accounts relating to its natural history, of which there were few, getting access to available maps, talking to fellow workers in the field and acquiring equipment and assistance from government in the form of convict servants, horses and supplies. Whilst doing all this Strzelecki may have investigated the countryside about Sydney and began to build a collection of rocks, fossils and minerals. His Blue Mountains expedition is considered his first opportunity for sciwntific investigation, however he may have started earlier.
Nothing specific is known of his activities during August 1839. However early in September Strzelecki left Sydney, or Paramatta, west on foot for the Blue Mountains. He was accompanied by a single servant, with both men carrying their provisions and scientific equipment on their backs. On 8 September he was at Mount Tomah, on the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains. Ten days later he had crossed through difficult terrain and reached the plains to the west. On 17 September he wrote a letter to Stuart Donaldson from the farm of James Walker at Walerawang, near Lithgow. Whilst en route he found evidence of gold near Hartley Vale and later, beyond that, near Bathurst - finds which were to see him involved in controversy during the early 1850s when various individuals, including Edward Hammond Hargraves, William Tipple Smith, W.B. Clarke and Sir Roderick Murchison laid claim to being the first discoverer of gold in Australia. By 16 October Strzelecki was carrying out mineralogical investigations in the Wellington district and unearthing fossil bones at the Wellington Caves. Strzelecki's subsequent journey extended some 400 miles west of Sydney as far as Mount Canobolas (near Orange) and the Lachlan River near Parkes. He also travelled northerly towards Gulgong. A report in the Sydney Gazette of 7 November noted Strzelecki's extended presence at Wellington and an intention to visit the Snowy Mountains region. All told, some 2000 miles were covered on foot during this period.
Strzelecki was back at Sydney by 28 November 1839, taking up residence at the Australian Club (the old Pulteney Hotel) on the corner of Bent and O'Connel Streets. Upon his return he informed Governor Gipps of his mineral discoveries, noting the presence of gold and silver near Bathurst and Wellington. Gipps in reply warned him against making this public, afraid it might stir the convict population to revolt. The Reverend W.B. Clarke received similar advice from Gipps in 1841 after he also found gold near Hartley. Upon being shown a specimen at the time, the Governor supposedly uttered those famous words: "Put it away Mr Clarke or we should all have our throats cut!" There is no doubt Gipps' words to Strzelecki were similarly stern.
Following his return to Sydney in November, Strzelecki and the young James Macarthur finalised their plans on travelling to the Snowy Mountains together and exploring the then undiscovered (i.e. publically unknown) area of eastern Victoria. Hannibal Macarthur supplied Strzelecki with £500 towards the expedition, which ultimately proved a great success in opening up Gippsland. However it came at a price to Strzelecki's reputation. There was widespread controversy in the Sydney and Melbourne newspapers for years to come over whether Strzelecki and Macarthur's claim to discovery had precedence over that of Scottish squatter Angus McMillan. McMillan had taken up land there during 1839, but kept his discovery a secret. Strzelecki and Macarthur made no secret of their exploring efforts, presenting and publishing a detailed account of their travels, with a map. They were therefore able to make claim to the discovery, though in the long run it meant little, for escaped convicts and others had known the area for many years previous. Throughout this episode Strzelecki was supported and encouraged by Governor Gipps.
After arriving in Melbourne on 19 May 1840, Strzelecki spent approximately six weeks there recovering from the expedition, promoting his discoveries, writing a report of his travels and compiling a map of the route from Yass. He then travelled on to Tasmania, reaching Launceston on 24 July. He remained there as a welcome guest of Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin until late September 1842. During this period he travelled extensively throughout Tasmania and carried out scientific experiments for the governor and in connection with his proposed publication. Upon returning to Sydney on 2 October 1842, Strzelecki spent the following six months undertaking further researches in the northern part of the Colony and, with the assistance of Phillip Parker King, compiling his notes on the geology and mineralogy of southeastern Australia and Tasmania. For many months he was based at King's residence Tahlee, on Port Stephens, and was visited there in December by English geologist J.B. Jukes.
Strzelecki left New South Wales on 22 April 1843, bound for England via Hong Kong, China and Egypt. He arrived in London on 24 October 1843 and, with the assistance of £400 donated by his friends in Tasmania, went about the task of preparing Physical Description for publication. It was issued in March 1845 and was well received by the scientific fraternity, though the Times of London gave it a scathing review because they felt it lacked readability for the general public. Some of Strzelecki's fossil collections and maps eventually found their way into the Library of the British Geological Survey, though his notes did not. Strzelecki had an active and full life subsequent to his round-the-world tour, living out his final years in London. He was naturalized in 1845 and knighted in 1869. Though he was a prominent member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society of London he did little work of a scientific nature after returning from Australia. Strzelecki passed away on 6 October 1873 leaving an estate worth £10,000 and a noteworthy will.
A precise study of Strzelecki's encounter with the Illawarra revelatory, though information on the fossils he found there and details of his visit are fragmentary and imprecise. The Illawarra region is located on the east coast of New South Wales approximately 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Sydney. It is within 2 day's walking distance of the metropolis and less than a day from Camden or Appin. It should be noted that in 1839 the term Illawarra was used to denote the region south of Sydney and beyond to the Shoalhaven. It is therefore possible that some of Strzelecki's Illawarra fossils may have been sourced from areas which lie within the boundaries of the present-day Shoalhaven district and to the south. This is important, as the geology in this part of New South Wales is very different from that of central and northern Illawarra, which lies on the southern boundary of the more geologically recent sedimentary Sydney Basin.
A cursory reading of Physical Description provides evidence of Strzelecki's presence in the Illawarra, for he talks of it possessing "the most picturesque and the most gloomy and savage scenery" (page 61). There is also a geological note on the strike and dip of the sedimentary formations of the Illawarra - an observation that they slope generally to the north-west and form the southern edge of the 'Newcastle' Basin' (now known as the Sydney Basin). Most significantly he includes detailed descriptions of a large collection of Palaeozoic fossils from the Illawarra in Section VI (pages 261-296). All told, Paszkowski noted 16 references to the Illawarra within Physical Description (pages 61, 91, 266, 271-7, 279, 282,284, 288, 290-1). There also exist a number of maps deriving from Strzelecki's visit to Australia and indicating the routes he followed and geology unearthed. These maps are described in Branagan (1986) and Paszkowski (1997). They include:
Strzelecki's published geological map of southeastern Australia and Tasmania, issued with Physical Description, was coloured to indicate the relative ages of the various parts of eastern Australia that he visited. The colours were based on those used in his original, large scale manuscript map.
1. P.E. Strzelecki's published geological map of eastern Australia (extract), 1845, showing the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions. This map was drawn by J. Arrowsmith and is based on Strzelecki's original manuscript map. Key: First Epoch (Pink), Second Epoch (Yellow), Third Epoch (Blue-green), Fourth Epoch (Brown). These colours are related to the colouring used in the original large scale map.
The published map has the Illawarra region geologically coloured as far south as the Shoalhaven River, indicating that Strzelecki investigated its geology first-hand. His geological background, at least what is known of it, was Wernerian and apparently based on teachings in France and Scotland (Branagan, 1986). He therefore initially investigated 'geognosy' and his rocks were allocated to an appropriate Epoch within Physical Description. The coloured sections of his published map show that he was able to delineate the extent of the sedimentary rocks which form the Sydney Basin and which were designated by him as belonging to Epoch 3, coloured in blue-green. The colouring within the northern Illawarra region indicates the rough extension of the geographical feature known as the Illawarra Escarpment or, as Strzelecki called it, the Merrigong Range, adhering to the original Aboriginal name. The land on the coastal plain below the escarpment and extending to the south is allocated to Epoch 2 in yellow and curving around the southern extension of the basin in the vicinity of the Shoalhaven River and Berrima. Finally there is a spur looping in a south-easterly direction from Arthursleigh on the Wollondilly towards the Kangaroo River and the Shoalhaven River, allocated to the oldest rocks beloning to Epoch 1 and indicated in pink. This was the first geological map of the Illawarra to be published.
Strzelecki's original manuscript map, compiled between 1841-44, is on a much larger scale - 1/4in to 1 mile. It is at present housed in the Library of the British Geological Society and has never been published in a complete form. A monochrome extract featuring the Illawarra region is included below.
2. Strzelecki's original manuscript geological map (extract), showing the region south of Sydney to the Clyde Rive and west towards Lake George. The original map is coloured, though faded in parts and described in detail within Branagan (1986). This map includes reference to 'Five Islands', 'Lake Illawarra', 'Shoalhaven R.' and 'Jervis Bay.' The original is in the Library of the British Geologicial Survey. It is 25 ft x 5 ft with a scale of 1/4in to 1 mile.
This map includes both geographic and geological elements, with colour and markings to indicate various stratigraphic elements and time periods. These annotations indicate not only Strzelecki's findings, but also the precise areas he visited. They are an important supplement to the published map, which is by its nature very compressed and imprecise. Branagan (1986) includes a detailed description of the manuscript map, and some explanatory diagrams. One of these is included below for the area south of Wollongong and west to Lake George.
3. A section of Strzelecki's original map with an associated legend from Branagan (1986) which attempts to summarise some of the information on the map. As can be seen, the original map contains a great deal of information.
Another, smaller scale manuscript map by Strzelecki is in the Polish Academy of Science, Cracow. It is titled 'Carte Geologique de la Nouvelle Galle et Van Diemans' and annoted. Of particular interest is the fact that it indicates the precise routes Strzelecki followed during his time in Australia. It shows, for example, that at some point he travelled south from Parramatta towards Liverpool and Camden then turned south-easterly near Lupton's Inn, Appin, towards Wollongong and Lake Illawarra. A copy is redrawn in Paszkowski as follows:
4. Strzelecki's annoted sketch of his manuscript map, showing the routes of his Australian expeditions. This is a copy drawn by A.E.J. Andrews in 1995 and published in Paszowski 1997. The original small map in Strzelecki's hand is in the Polish Academy of Science, Cracow.
This map also indicates that Strzelecki took a second route south-east from Marulan, near the head of the Shoalhaven River, and on towards the coast south of Jervis Bay. Both Illawarra excursions are indicated on the map below. It is also interesting to note from that map that four of Strzelecki's excursion started from Paramatta, the location of Hannibal Macarthur's property Vineyard, and not necessarily from Sydney as such.
5. Strzelecki's published map with routes to the Illawarra and Shoalhaven superimposed. The northerly route enters the Illawarra near Lake Illawarra. The southerly route enters the County of Saint Vincent south of Jervis Bay.
The 'Carte Geologique' map shows an additional excursion took place in the direction of the south east coast of New South Wales, this time from Yass due east via the Queanbeyan River to the area of Araluen and Currowan Creek then on towards the mountains west of Bateman's Bay and the Clyde River. Strzelecki then turned back and eventually headed south towards Victoria. Andrews and Paszowski, in their map of known and inferred routes, include a path into the Illawarra via Meryla Pass near Marulan and along the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River towards Alexander Berry's farm near the coast. However this was a misreading of the southern 'Carte Geologique' route.
6. A.E.J. Andrews map of known and inferred routes, 1995. Published in Paszkowski 1997. Includes a route into the Illawarra, via Meryla Pass and along the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River, indicated as having taken place during January 1840.
A concise study of the aforementioned maps, alongside information contained within Physical Description, adds greatly to our understanding of precisely where Strzelecki went when carrying out research in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region of New South Wales. It shows that the coloring of the published map does not necessarily coincide with the areas of the manuscript map which have been geologically filled in. A lot of the precise detail of the latter map is also missing from the former. There is no doubt that Strzelecki would have had a hand in the colouring of the published map, however it must be read in association with the unpublished map and descriptive material in the book. Of the Illawarra region we can glean a great deal. We can, for example, see that he geologically mapped areas to the immediate north and south of the Shoalhaven River and there are indications of the precise route into the northern part of the Illawarra, just south of Lake Illawarra. But when did these visits take place?
To the Illawarra - But when?
In working out precisely when P.E. Strzelecki undertook his collecting expeditions to the Illawarra we hit a veritable dead-end. Strzelecki does not tell us when they took place. Neither do extant manuscript records assist. We are left to conject. Windows of opportunity for such an excursion exist between May - August 1839, as suggested above, or following Strzelecki's departure from Sydney and Camden on his Victorian expedition on 27 December 1839 and prior to his arrival at Bogolong, south of Yass, on 20 January 1840. Strzelecki was also in New South Wales between 2 October 1842 and 22 April 1843 but appears to have spent most of his time on that occasion in the Hunter region.
Up to this point Strzelecki has not been written into Illawarra history, and Paszkowski is the first modern writer to point to the fact that a visit took place there. W.L. Havard, author of an important 1940 work on Strzelecki's visit to Australia, spoke to the Illawarra Historical Society on this topic during September 1949, however there is no reference by him to a Wollongong excursion in notes subsequently published in the Society's Bulletin. As information on Strzelecki's manuscript maps was not made public by Professor Branagan until their rediscovery in 1976 such an omission is understandable. What we do now know is that Strzelecki had ample opportunity to visit the Illawarra and may have done so between May and August 1839 or during December 1839 - January 1840.
Concerning the latter we know that, having decided to travel overland to Melbourne with James Macarthur, Strzelecki left the Australian Club, Sydney, on Sunday, 22 December 1839, bound initially for Goulburn via Camden Park. He was accompanied by a covered cart, 2 horses, and a servant, and planned to meet up with James at Ellerslie Station, near Goulburn. Strzelecki most likely spent the evening of the 22nd at Liverpool, and arrived at Camden Park on the afternoon of the 23rd. According to the personal diary of Emily Macarthur, wife of the elder James Macarthur, on 24 December she returned to Camden Park from Parramatta with her husband and a Mr. Merewether. On arrival she "found Mr. West & Count Strzelecki there." Christmas day was supposedly spent quietly - Emily simply noting in her diary: "...went to prayers. Took a walk." Strzelecki therefore spent his first Christmas in Australia with the Macarthurs. The following day he undertook a tour of the estate with James Macarthur and met with German settlers there. We know that from a diary extract which was reproduced in Physical Description. Finally, Emily notes that on 27 December "Count Strzelecki left" Camden. According to Paszkowski (p100), who was not aware of the Macarthur diary notes, the explorer and his party had left Camden by 1 January 1840, and on 20 January they were at Bogolong, between Yass and Jugiong.
We therefore have a window of 27 December 1839 to 20 January 1840. Did Strzelecki go from Camden to the Illawarra? The fact that the road to Wollongong and down the steep escarpment was somewhat treacherous known points to Strzelecki and his party not making the trip unaided. The Macarthurs and others at Camden Park had made regular visits to the region over many years, and an Aboriginal or European guide could easily have been secured to accompany the Pole. It is therefore possible that a trip to Wollongong may have begun from Camden Park on 27 December, with Strzelecki arriving in Wollongong the following day (28th), spending a day or two collecting rocks and fossils, and returning the way he came, as far as Appin, before verging off in a southerly direction towards Goulburn and Yass. The route indicated on his manuscript 'Carte Geologique' map suggests he entered the Illawarra via the mountain road at Mount Keira. However the more detailed large scale geological map suggests a visit to the area south of Lake Illawarra.
He may have carried out this journey on horseback to ensure his arrival at Yass on 20 January. If it was simply a short visit to collect fossils then this may also account for the lack of detailed discussion of the geology of the Illawarra coal seams within Physical Description. A study of the geology of the coastal plain, rather than within the escarpment, is indicated.
In the opinion of the author it seems likely that Strzelecki made his journey to Wollongong sometime between 8 June and the end of August 1839. His second visit to the southern part of the Illawarra, south of Jervis Bay, may have taken place following his departure from Camden on 27 December 1839. He would still have had enough time to reach Yass on 20 January and join his Gippsland expedition comrades James Macarthur, James Riley, Charlie Tara and the two convict servants.
In the path of Lady Jane Franklin?
The evidence for Strzelecki's visits to the Illawarra and Shoalhaven exists in Physical Description and the various maps. An impetus for Strzelecki's excursions off the beaten track may lay with Lady Jane Franklin. The two had met at Government House on 7 June 1839 and immediately hit it off - Jane noting that they "talked much" at this first meeting. Of what did they talk? We know it included gambling and wickedness, but science, exploration and the arts may also have been topics of conversation. Jane Franklin had much in common with the Pole. She had just completed an overland journey from Melbourne, begun on 6 April and ending in Sydney on 18 May. The last part comprised an excursion to the Illawarra between 10-17 May. An adventurous traveller, she and her ill-fated husband Sir John Franklin were strong supporters of colonial science. By May Strzelecki already had plans to follow in her path with his own Victorian expedition, in search of minerals, though he would be heading in the opposite direction and not necessarily following the same route.
One topic of conversation may have been the Illawarra. In her manuscript diary of the overland excursion, and in letters written to her husband at the time, Lady Franklin described in detail her visit there and how much she enjoyed its rugged beauty. She immediately put in place plans to purchase some land in the districy, but when the property she had in mind sold for almost £1000 above the £1500 she was prepared to pay, the opportunity lapsed. As she had travelled as far south as Kiama, which was noted for its geological diversity and volcanic outcrops, there is a strong possibility that it was from Lady Franklin and her party that Strzelecki was encouraged to go to the Illawarra in search of rocks, fossils and minerals. At the time a large harbour basin was being excavated at Wollongong, and there were a number of convict road gangs working in the district, forming road cuttings and quarrying local rock for road surfaces. Such activity was usually welcomed by geologists as it exposed, often for the first time, the local geology and stratigraphic element. Lady Franklin was aware of geology and was actively collecting rocks and fossils for her own museum in Tasmania. This is evidenced by the following comment in her diary notes, taken at Wollongong on Sunday, 12 May:
Wollongong is about 3 1/2 yrs old. Works at basin begun 1 1/2 yrs ago, taking away solid sandstone rock from basin. 17 ft at high & about 9 at low water. Fossils in rock, stoneballs in the sand. Mr Cronin stone mason, was to send me some balls in sand contain them. (Diary notes, p.212)
These notes would suggest that Lady Franklin had spoken to Mr Cronin, the government stone mason, and arranged with him for some of the stone balls and fossils to be sent to her. If Strzelecki had been informed of this he no doubt would have been interested and perhaps made plans to visit Wollongong as soon as possible. We know from references in Physical Description that the Illawarra was mainly used by Strzelecki as a locality for fossil collection. There is no detailed description given of its general geology or of the coal formations which are an important part of its distinctive escarpment. The coal formations of the Hunter region of New South Wales and of Tasmania are described in detail by Strzelecki, however those of the Illawarra are not mentioned, apart from the fact that the Illawarra fossils were derived from "carboniferous formations." It may have been that Strzelecki made contact with Mr Cronin and retrieved a collection of fossils from the Wollongong harbour works at some point following the 7 June meeting with Lady Franklin and prior to his departure for the Blue Mountains at the end of November. There is no doubt that there was plenty of time for such an excursion to take place. However, as indicated above, a hurried visit may also have taken place between 27 December 1839 and 20 January 1840.
Strzelecki, Clarke and Dana
Strzelecki was not the only one interested in the geology of New South Wales and the collection of local rocks, fossils and minerals. It was one of those strange quirks of fate which likely saw the Illawarra region of New South Wales visited by three distinguished geologists around the Christmas / New Year period of 1839-40. The three wise men - James Dwight Dana (American), the Reverend W.B. Clarke (English) and P.E. Strzelecki (Polish) were not in this instance bearing gifts, but rather seeking earthen treasures in the form of rocks, fossils and minerals. Of the visits by Dana and Clarke the precise details are known and outlined in the latter's detailed manuscript diary (Mitchell Library, Sydney, ML MSS139). Furthermore, in 1849 Dana published a monograph describing the geology of New South Wales and featuring the Illawarra. Dana's detailed fossil descriptions built upon those published in Physical Description and included a large number of specimens from the Illawarra. Dana also went into some detail describing the fossils found inside the stone balls from the Wollongong harbour excavations, similar to those noted by Lady Jane Franklin. In the American's case he was assisted in the collection of this material by the Colonial Engineer Major Barney, no doubt a collegue of Mr. Cronin.
W.B. Clarke also made reference to the region throughout the remainder of his life as a resident of Colony, visiting it on a number of occasions to geologise and collect specimens. Following Clarke's death in 1878 various authors such as Beale (1957, 1959), Grainger (1982) and Middleton (1994) have discussed the Clarke/Dana visit to Illawarra and the significance of their brief collaboration there. These discussions have invariably centred around their activities at Wollongong, Kiama and the Shoalhaven between the 2nd and 9th of January 1840, though Dana had been in the Illawarra a day or two before, accompanied by fellow American scientists off the United States Exploring Expedition under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes. During that brief visit the two geologists studied the local rocks and geography, collected numerous fossils for later identification, and prepared maps and drawings. This collaboration was a significant episode in Australian earth science history, and pivotal in the ongoing quest to delineate the geology of New South Wales and of the Sydney Basin in particular. The region often a varied landscape and rich collecting area for naturalists - botanist Allan Cunningham had made eight trips there between 1818-1830, following in the footsteps of Robert Brown who journeyed there in 1803. Landscape artists were also attracted to the region because of its subtropical rainforest vegetation and escarpment landscape. Geologically it was also enticing, situated as it was on the southern extension of the sedimentary Sydney Basin and bordering the geologically older Shoalhaven to the south. Clarke and Dana therefore wasted no time in heading south to explore, excited by the opportunity to discover the as yet undiscovered. Did they follow Strzelecki there? Possibly.
The Reverend W.B. Clarke (1798-1878), a Church of England minister and Cambridge University trained geologist with some twenty years field experience, had arrived in Australia with his family on 27 May 1839, tasked with delineating the sedimentary formations of New South Wales and reporting back to his fellow geologists in England, including the Reverend Professor Adam Sedgwick and Sir Roderick Murchison. Four weeks previous to this Strzelecki had landed with the stated aim of investigating the mineralogy of the colony. Clarke remained resident in New South Wales until his death at St Leonard's on 16 June 1878, whilst Strzelecki's stay was relatively brief (1839-43) and Dana's even briefer, numbering just a few weeks. Clarke did not mess about, and by December 1839 had geologised around Sydney and Parramatta and was looking forward to visiting the Illawarra region south of Sydney and the Blue Mountains in the west.
The American geologist and mineralogist J.D. Dana (1813-95) arrived in Sydney on 28 November 1839 and met up with Clarke on 18 December aboard the Vincennes, where they talked at length about local and overseas geology and began a friendship that was to last the rest of their lives. On Friday 20 December Clarke, possibly in the company of Dana, though this is not certain, was introduced to 'Count Streletski' during a formal welcoming ceremony for the Americans held at Fort Macquarie, site of the present Opera House, and hosted by Governor Gipps. Apparently Clarke and Strzelecki had not met during the previous seven months (June - December 1839), though Clarke was obviously aware of the Count's presence in Sydney through media reports and word of mouth among the then small local scientific community. This lack of contact is somewhat surprising, especially in light of the dearth of earth scientists in the Colony at the time, and Clarke's subsequent efforts to seek out a meeting with Dana. There are a number of possible reasons for this. During the second half of 1839 the Reverend Clarke was fully occupied, recovering from illness suffered during the voyage out to Australia, settling his family in (he had a wife and two young children to support), taking care of various clerical duties, and running the King's School, Parramatta, in his role as headmaster. Strzelecki on the other hand kept the company of the upper echelons of society and was busy preparing for his various expeditions in search of saleable minerals. There was therefore a distance between the two scientists, mainly due to circumstance, though in hindsight temperament may have been a factor. Strzelecki was a loner, Clarke the collaborator, when it came to the pursuit of science.
Following the encounter with Strzelecki at Fort Macquarie, Clarke and Dana continued their discussions at the home of Dr. Charles Nicholson on Monday, 23 December, and made plans for an excursion to the Illawarra. Once again, we can only guess as to whether the topic had come up in conversation between the three geologists at the time, though the evidence would suggest not. Clarke and Dana had quickly come to appreciate each other's company and competence. Strzelecki was an unknown and unfortunately remained so, at least to Clarke, for a large part of the Pole's time in the colony. It was only with the appearance in print of some of Strzelecki's scientific writings after 1840, and some chastising by fellow acquaintances such as P.P. King, that Clarke came to appreciate his obvious skill and expertise. In a glowing review of Physical Description published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 3 parts during 1846, Clarke lamented the fact that the two geologists had not had a closer professional relationship. Clarke then went on to criticise, and rightly so, the rather old-fashioned and Wernerian aspects of Strzelecki's book.
At their Fort Macquarie meeting on 20 December 1839, Strzelecki spoke to Clarke of his recent visit to the Blue Mountains, noting that 'the geology was "very tame."' For some reason Clarke was somewhat suspicious of Strzelecki from the start and perhaps jealous of his apparent ability to pursue geological studies in New South Wales unencumbered by financial constraints, and supported to a degree by Governor Gipps. Clarke was himself keen to get out into the field upon arrival, but was held back by commitments to Church and family. His somewhat hostile sentiments towards the Count were expressed in a letter on 14 August 1840 addressed to Sir Roderick Murchison and published in London the following February. Of the mysterious Pole, Clarke had this to say:
'...You are aware that there is, in this part of the world, a foreign traveller who styles himself Count Streleski; he is a well-informed, intelligent, and active person, and a most gentlemanly, pleasant companion. His residence here, with funds at his command apparently unlimited in extent, is as great a mystery, if he be really a Polish emigrant, as he calls himself, as it was to the Americans with whom he lived, and amongst whom he journeyed, before he came hither. He may be a Pole; but I believe there is no title of Count attached to that surname in Poland; or he may be a Russian or Gallician; at any rate he was known to Captain King as Count Streleski in America; and at the dinner given in Sydney by the officers of the United States Exploring Expedition to their British friends, I heard him most affectingly (or affectedly), in a brilliant speech, discourse on the hardships of his condition. He manages, however, here to go whither he wishes, and see what he likes....' (The Literary Gazette, London, 20 February 1841)
In this letter Clarke proceeds to cast doubts over Strzelecki's claim to the discovery of the Gippsland region - calling the Count pompous, whilst at the same time praising his scientific skills and personal traits. When Phillip Parker King, a friend of both geologists, became aware of this piece in 1841 he severely rebuked Clarke, who in turned apologised to Strzelecki. King noted in a letter to Governor Franklin that "Mr. Clarke is much ashamed of [the article] himself..." (Heney, p.129). It is perhaps ironic that Strzelecki and Murchison went on to form a longstanding friendship, while Clarke's relationship with the famous English geologist and promoter of the Empire was often strained. While Clarke was therefore no great fan or supporter of his "brother geologist", he came, with time, to recognise the Pole's skills and talents. Strzelecki was aware of this initial antipathy, along with that of fellow Sydney scientists W.S. Macleay and Dr. Charles Nicholson, though he did send all three a copy of his book when it was published in 1845. In a letter dated 5 June 1845 he referred to them as 'the three tried friends of mine' (Paszkowski, p216). Whilst in the colony he appears to have more often than not disregarded such negative opinion, going about his research mostly in isolation.
A significant pointer to Strzelecki's visit to the Illawarra region is the many references to fossils collected at 'Illawarra' and 'Wollongong' and identified by English palaeontologists Morris, Lonsdale and Soweby. A total of 48 Palaeozoic fossils from New South Wales and Tasmania were described by them in Physical Description, of which the largest single collection was 18 from the Illawarra. These included:
A number of these fossils were also collected by Clarke and Dana during January 1840 and later refigured by the American (Dana, 1849). It is telling that of the many New South Wales fossils listed and described in Physical Description, the majority were collected either in Illawarra or the Hunter region. Strzelecki did not appear to collect any for description during his 1839 excursion west across the Blue Mountains. Though he was mainly in search of minerals at the time, it would have been physically difficult for him and his servant to bear the load of heavy rocks and fossils upon their backs. This perhaps points to the Count initiating a more detailed investigation of New South Wales palaeontology only after his return from Tasmania in October 1842, or with the assistance of long-time residents and collectors such as the Macarthurs and Kings, who had the resources to be of assistance. It is also possible he obtained his Illawarra fossils from a dealer in Sydney, though it is more likely that he collected them himself.
The precise details of P.E. Strzelecki's visit the Illawarra and Shoalhaven between 1839-1843 remain unknown. A number of opportunities existed to travel to the region, especially between May-August 1839 and 27 December 1839 - 20 Janaury 1840. The description of a significant collection of Illawarra Palaeozoic fossils in Physical Description attests to such a visit. Pending the discovery of new sources of information, this section of Strzelecki's life, like so many other parts, remains shrouded in mystery.
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Appendix 1: Paul Edmund de Strzelecki Chronology
1797 - 20 July - Pawel Edmund Strzelecki born at Gluszyna, near Poznan, Poland
1807 - Paul's mother dies (10)
1810 - sent to school in Warsaw (13)
1814 - moves to Cracow (17)
1817 - returns to Poznania with his brother Peter
1818 - Paul serves as an Ensign in the Prussian Cavalry
1820+ - visits Saxony, Carlsbad, Italy and Switzerland
1825 - Appointed Plenipotentiary to Prince Francis Sapieha
1829 - Prince Sapieha dies. Paul sues his son over the disputed will. Settled out of court.
1829-30 - Strzelecki travels to France
1830-1 - Visits Africa
1831 (November) - Moves to England and travels to the north of Scotland. Acquires a knowledge of geology and geography around this time.
1834 - June - Leaves England for New York
1835 - Canada and the United States, plus Cuba and Mexico
November - Leaves the United States for Brazil and South America
1836 - 22 January - Rio de Janeiro
1837 - September - Aboard HMS Cleopatra, Captain George Grey
1838 - March - Mexico
20 July - Leaves Valparaiso aboard HMS Fly for Pacific Islands, Captain Russell Elliott
11 September - Mount Kilauea volcano
21 September - Honolulu
1 October - article on Kilauea published in The Hawaiian Spectator, 434-7
16 January - Leaves Tahiti for New Zealand
17 February - Bay of Islands, NZ, aboard French barque Justine
10 April - leaves the Bay of Islands for Sydney
25 April - Arrives in Sydney aboard Justine - listed as "Monsieur le Comte Treliski"
29 April - Strzelecki to Adyna Turno
May - Capt. Stokes and Beagle, in Sydney
7 June - Dinner at Government House - meets Lady Jane Franklin
11 July - visits Lady Jane Franklin at Government House
August - Sets off on Blue Mountains expedition and to the Wellington Caves. Makes the first scientific discovery of gold in Australia.
8 September - Mount Tomah (Diary)
10 September - Mount King George
17 September - Letter to Donaldson from Walker's, Walerawang
16 October - Strzelecki, Wellington to Thomas Walker
26 October - Strzelecki to James Macarthur
7 November - Sydney Gazette report on planned visit to Victoria - 'Science'
28 November - Gipps, Parramatta, to LaTrobe, Melbourne - letter of introduction for Strzelecki
20 December - Friday. Fort Macquarie meeting
21 December - Strzelecki to Donaldson
22 December - Sunday. Leaves Australian Club, Sydney on his second expedition, south to the Snowy Mountains, Victoria and Tasmania (Australasian Chronicle; Port Phillip Gazette, 8 January 1840)
23 December -Arrives at Camden Park
26 December - Meets German settlers at Camden Park
27 December - Strzelecki leaves Camden Park
20 January - P.G. King to John Hay re Strzelecki. Given to him at Bogolong
5 February - Arrives at Ellerslie. Macarthur & Riley around 21st
2 March - Leave Ellerslie, accompanied by James Macarthur, James Riley, Charles Tara and two convict servants
7 March - Welaregang
9 March - leave Welaregang
12 March - Strzelecki climbs Mount Kosciusko. Afterwards, returns to Welaregang
16 March - Leaves Welaregang
26 March - McAlister's station
6 April - Ford Nicholson (Riley) River
12-14 May - Western Port
16 May - Australian - report on Victorian expedition
19 May - Arrives at Melbourne. Stays for 41 days, during which he writes a report and compiles a map which is sent to Governor Gipps
24 May - Australian - report on Victorian expedition.
30 May - Port Phillip Gazette - report arrival in Melbourne
2 June - Port Phillip Herald - report on expedition
9 June - Port Phillip Herald - report on expedition
22 June - Port Phillip Herald - report on expedition
26 June - Strzelecki to Gipps - Report on Expedition
7 July - Emma to Geelong; Port Phillip Herald - editorial on Strzelecki
9 July - The Colonist - John Dunmore Lang article critical of Strzelecki
10 July - Emma to Launceston
10 July - Port Phillip Herald
24 July - Arrives at Launceston
1 August - Strzelecki, Launceston, to Adyna Turno
7 August - Sir John Franklin to Strzelecki
8 August - Archdeacon Browne diary notes
14 August - Clarke to Murchison - critical of Strzelecki and his Gippsland expedition
7 September - Lady Jane Franklin to her father, Mr Griffin, mentioning meeting Strzelecki
28 September - Governor Gipps deispatch to Lord Russell including Strzelecki's report and map
20 February - Literary Gazette letter by Clarke critical of Strzelecki
23 April - Gipps to LaTrobe, mentioning Strzelecki
22 May - Strzelecki to James Macarthur
22 June - Sydney Gazette article - critical
23 July - Van Dieman's Land Chronicle - paper by Strzelecki
19 August - Sydney Morning Herald - Report by Count Strzelecki on geology & minerals
20 August - Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science
28 August - Strzelecki Report, British Parliamentary Papers, volume 17
6 October - At Campbell Town with Franklin
9 November - Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, No.2. 'Altitudes of Mountains'
December - 4th Tasmanian expedition to the Bass Strait islands with the HMS Beagle, Captain John Lort Stokes
13 January - Flinders Island
8 February - Franklin to James
21 February - Strzelecki to Franklin
4 March - Franklin to Strzelecki
16 March - Lady Jane Franklin to Strzelecki
27 May - 'On Certain Varieties of Australian Coal.' Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, No.3
August - Sydney Morning Herald - commentary of Strzelecki's Victorian report
5 September - Lady Jane Franklin to Mrs Simpkinson regarding Strzelecki
20 September - Franklin to Strzelecki
29 September - Sea Horse to Sydney
2 October - Arrives at Sydney
5 October - Strzelecki to Adyna Turno
16 October - HMS Fly arrives in Sydney - J.B. Jukes meets Strzelecki
23 October - W.S. Macleay to P.P. King re Australian Club incident
Oct-Dec - Liverpool Plains expedition
15 November - Strzelecki, Port Stephens, to Colonial Secretary
19 December - Strzelecki to Franklin
20 December - Strzelecki, Port Stephens, to James Macarthur
February - Strzelecki dislocates collar-bone
April - From Tahlee to Sydney
22 April - Leaves Sydney for Hong and China on the barque Anna Robertson
26 July - Strzelecki to PP King
11 August - 'The Volcano of Kirauen, Sandwich Islands.' Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, No.6.
24 October - London
15 November - Strzelecki to Adyna Turno
October - Magazine of Natural History
May - Physical Description published
25 May - Charles Darwin letter to Strzelecki thanking him for a copy of his book.
5 June - Strzelecki to King, re copies of Description
June-September - Quarterly Review, London. Review of Physical Description
19 July - Athenaeum, London. Review of Physical Description
8 October - The Times, London. Review of Physical Description
28 November - naturalised a British citizen
3 December - Strzelecki to Sir Robert Peel offering his collection of Australian rocks and fossils to the Museum of Economic Geology for £200
Agent for the British Relief Association for the Irish Famine
20 January - Sydney Morning Herald. Review of Physical Description (Extracted from Calcutta Englishman)
28 January - Sydney Morning Herald. Review of Physical Description (Extracted from The Times, 8 October 1845)
7 February - Launceston Examiner. Review of Physical Description (Extracted from Calcutta Englishman)
16 March - Sydney Morning Herald. Review of Physical Description by W.B. Clarke. Part 1.
17 March - Port Phillip Herald. Review of Physical Description (Extracted from The Times, 8 October 1845); Port Phillip Patriot. Review of Physical Description
27 March - Sydney Morning Herald. Review of Physical Description by W.B. Clarke. Part 2.
3 April - Sydney Morning Herald. Review of Physical Description by W.B. Clarke. Part 3.
7 April - Port Phillip Patriot. Review of Physical Description
25 May - receives Founders Medal, Royal Geographical Society, London
17 June - Launceston Examiner. Review of Physical Description
26 August - Launceston Examiner. Review of Physical Description
1 July - Port Phillip Gazette. Review of Physical Description
8 July - Port Phillip Gazette. Review of Physical Description
23 September - Launceston Examiner. Review of Physical Description
24 October - Launceston Examiner. Review of Physical Description
Agent for the "British Association for the relief of the extreme Distress in Ireland & Scotland" in Ireland.
21 November - presented with a Civil Companion of Bath order for his work in Ireland
May - returns to London from Ireland
16 May - Strzelecki to sir Henry de la Beche offering eight boxes of Australian fossils and minerals plus 2 maps to the Museum of Economic Geology
17 May - Sydney Morning Herald - Letter from Thomas Walker regarding Strzelecki's gold discovery in Australian during October 1839
July - committee member of the Geography and Ethnology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Ipswich meeting.
25 November - P.E. Strzelecki to Thomas Walker
9 May - Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London
June - Fellow of the Royal Society of London
14 June - Sydney Morning Herald - P.E. Strzelecki's letter to Thomas Walker of 25 November 1852 is published
June - made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
16 January - Times, London - report of Australian gold discovery claims
3 March - Strzelecki to P.P. King
4 June - P.E. Strzelecki to P.P. King
6 November - P.E. Strzelecki to the Reverend W.B. Clarke regarding the gold discoveries in Australia.
Accompanies Lord Lyons to the Crimea.
20 June - made a DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) at Oxford.
On the council of the Royal Geographical Society.
13 June - granted a KCMG (Knight Commander of St Michael and St George).
23 August - Strzelecki to Maria Reidt
6 October - Pawel Edmund Strzelecki dies
In the compilation of this paper I would especially like to thank Annette Macarthur-Onslow and D.F. Branagan.
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