Hamilton Hume

Hamilton Hume (1797-1872) was born in Parramatta, New South Wales on 18 June 1797 and was the first Australian born explorer making many small journeys from the age of a teenager before joining with William Hovell, an English sea captain who was an exceptional navigator but had little bush skills. Hume had explored many areas around Sydney travelling as far south as the plains around Yass. He was an expert bushman who understood some Aboriginal languages. In 1824 the set out from Appin about 45km from Sydney and were bound for Western Port, the port in Bass Strait that George Bass discovered in 1798. The objective of the expedition was to find out what kind of landscape lay to the south of the Murrumbidgee River.

William Hovell

Together with four convict men, horses, bullocks and dogs, they carried enough supplies to last 16 weeks. It was the first Australian expedition to use bullocks and it was also the first to use an innovative odometer. Hovell had attached a device to a baby pram’s wheel which, like a modern car’s odometer, was designed to measure the distances travelled.

When they arrived at the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, they found that it was flooded and couldn’t cross it by walking. Instead they crossed the river by fixing a tarpaulin around the bottom of one of the carts and using it as a boat to ferry across the food and equipment.

Crossing the river they entered unexplored territory fining the landscape to be mountainous and rugged. The weather became hotter and swarms of flies, mosquitoes and pests tormented them, making the expedition even more difficult. On November 8th, they caught site of the Australian Alps. Eight days later they reached a river which they named ‘The Hume’ but is now called the Murray River after Charles Sturt explored the full extent of the river. Near the Murray, at the place that is now Albury, the explorers carved their names on a tree on 17 November 1824. The tree is still there, with a plaque duplicating the carved words. The tree is called the Hovell Tree.

They crossed the river westward of where they were as the river was very wide and the water was clear and deep. They penetrated further into crossing several major rivers, including the Ovens and the Goulbourn. Just south of Goulbourn, they encountered mountains covered with thick bush that scratched and tore at them. This mountain range was the very southern part of the Great Dividing Range. They made their way to the top of a mountain and named it Mount Disappointment. Travelling further they approached the coast whilst during this time admired the rich pasture lands they saw. In the middle of December they arrived at a bay which Hovell thought was Western Port. But his calculations were wrong as his pram measuring device had fallen apart. Where they actually were, was Corio Bay, in the town of Geelong on the western side of Port Phillip Bay. Western Port was 100kilometers further east, towards Melbourne. They reached Corio Bay - the area of Port Phillip Bay that Geelong now fronts - on 16 December 1824, and it was at this time they reported that the Aborigines called the area Corayo, the bay being called Jillong. As supplies were running low, the expedition set off for home the next day. They arrived back a month later and advised the governor of the wonderful grazing land at Western Port.