Explorers and Pioneers


Explorers of Australia’s North West

William Dampier

Englishman William Dampier was the first recorded explorer of the North West when he sailed to the region onboard the HMS Roebuck. The expedition began in January 1699 and seven months later they reached Shark Bay in Western Australia.

Searching for water, he followed the coast northeast, to Dampier Archipelago, Roebuck Bay and Broome. His notes on the fauna and flora of Australia’s North West were studied by naturalist Joseph Banks, who made further studies during the first voyage with Captain James Cook.

Captain Philip Parker King

In 1818, Captain Philip Parker King set out on the Mermaid "To discover whether there be any river in that part of the coast likely to lead to an interior navigation into this great continent". On his voyage he discovered the Dampier Archipelago.

Francis Gregory

50 years after Captain Philip Parker King’s expedition, Francis Gregory arrived at Nickol Bay in Karratha. Gregory was responsible for the naming of Hearson's Cove, the Maitland River, the Fortescue River, the Hamersley Ranges, Mt Samson and Mt Bruce.

Alexander Forrest

Arriving in 1879, Alexander Forrest was the first European man to discover and name the Kimberley region, the Margaret River, the Ord River, King Leopold Ranges and the fertile area between the Fitzroy and Ord Rivers.

Pioneers of Australia’s North West

Walter Padbury

Inspired by Gregory’s expedition, Walter Padbury set out to establish a sheep station on the uninhabited northwest coast in 1863. His party landed at Tien Tsin (now Cossack, Point Samson Peninsula) with stock and supplies.

John and Emma Withnell

John and Emma Withnell arrived in April 1864. They followed the Harding River inland until they arrived at Yeera-Muk-A-Doo Pool and camped at the base of a hill, which Emma named Mount Welcome. The Emma Withnell Heritage Trail is a 52 kilometre driving and walking route that commemorates these early pioneers.

The Murray Squatting Company

In 1881 the first five graziers, who called themselves the Murray Squatting Company, took up land and named it Yeeda Station.

Patrick Durack

In 1882 Patrick Durack organised the droving of 7250 head of breeding cattle and 200 horses on a 4828 kilometre trek from Queensland to the Kimberley - the longest undertaken by Australian drovers up to that time.

After two years and four months they reached the Ord River, by which time they had lost half the cattle and several men. The Duracks were the first of the great Australian cattle kings and an important pioneering family in the Kimberley. Their epic story is told in Dame Mary Durack's book Kings in Grass Castles.


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