Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Explorers--1. Lt. William Dawes

Marine Lieutenant William Dawes, the first (documented) European to have set foot in Warrimoo--December 1789

The first (documented) white person to set foot in the vicinity of Warrimoo was Marine Lieutenant William Dawes, who had been sent to New South Wales to assist the military keep order in 1788. He was a cultured man, who took an avid interest in astronomy (the telescope at Dawes Point) and in the local Indigenous people and their languages. So much so, that when Pemulwuy killed Governor Phillip’s gamekeeper and the Governor ordered him to go on a punitive expedition against the natives, Dawes refused to go. He argued that the gamekeeper, John MacIntyre, had caused provocation to Aboriginal people around the harbour, and may have deserved his fate. In the event, Dawes was prevailed upon to go on the expedition, which proved utterly fruitless. Nevertheless, the bad blood this whole incident brought between Dawes and the Governor ultimately led to his leaving the colony in December, 1791.
However, two years earlier this same William Dawes, along with Watkin Tench, had discovered the Nepean River and with a small party and minimal provisions, Dawes determined to explore further westward. In December 1789, he commenced his journey:

To the ‘line of march’. The first day he headed due west from Emu Ford to the crest of the first ridge, in the vicinity of Mt. Riverview, and from here had a direct view of ‘Round Hill’ (Mt. Hay).

Dawes moved his ‘line of march’ to a straight traverse and made a bee line for Round Hill crossing the now line of highway just near the Sydney side of Warrimoo. [1]

In other words, Dawes scaled the escarpment at present day Mt. Riverview and took a direct westerly march, keeping a mark on Mt. Hay directly ahead. This route misses the areas of Glenbrook and Blaxland entirely, but if such a forthright strategy was to continue, it was clear Dawes’ path would be an extraordinarily difficult one, obliging him and his party to climb and descend continuously.

Early Warrimoo historian, Maisie Lupton[2] continues the story...

...he would have passed by the foot of the ridge which is now Florabella Street on his unsuccessful trip to find a route across the Camarthen Mountains, as the Blue Mountains were then known. It is believed that his ‘line of march’ would have taken him along a course similar to that of the high tension electricity line which crosses the Highway, near the (now defunct) Westward Ho Cafe, and continues across the gullies and ridges in a westerly direction...

Dawes--same picture, reverse angle, in colour
 Dawes and his small party marched on, and most of the conjecture (Dawes did not keep a detailed diary--merely some trigonometric readings and his distance covered) has him stopping somewhere between Linden and Lawson because provisions began to run low and exhaustion had set in. More recent examination of his readings, however, concede that his party had, in fact, covered the necessary distance to Mt. Hay before turning back.

The number of subsequent attempts to cross the Blue Mountains is now legion: Paterson, Bass, Everingham, Wilson, Barallier and Caley to name the most prominent. It is worth noting the attempts of Francis Barallier and John Wilson, because they illustrate something of the knowledge and influence of the Darug and Gundungarra peoples at the time.

[1] PAISH, Lindsay, Heritage, Newsletter of the Blue Mountains Association of Cultural Heritage, issue #10, July-August 2010, p1
[2] LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, p.11

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