Blog post from Sunday, 31 May, 2015

On this day, 31st May 1813, Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson reached Mount Blaxland, which effectively marked the end of the route across the Blue Mountains.

After the First Fleet arrived in New South Wales in 1788, farmland and a food supply was needed to support the convict colony. Free settlers also began to arrive and considerable strain was placed on New South Wales’s resources, Farmers began to see the need for expansion beyond the Blue Mountains, which had provided an impassable barrier to the west. Many attempts were made to find a path through the Blue Mountains, but their attempts had all focused on following the rivers, which usually ended up against sheer cliff faces or mazes of impassable gorges.

Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson departed Sydney Cove, on 11 May 1813 with four servants, five dogs and four horses. The route they traversed is essentially still the one used by travellers today. Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth successfully crossed the mountain range by following the ridges rather than the river valleys. After an arduous three weeks of exploring through difficult and previously impenetrable terrain, Australia’s first explorers reached Mount Blaxland from where they could see the plains to the west, on 31 May 1813. Beyond the mountains the explorers found a great expanse of open country, which they surveyed. Blaxland wrote in his journal that they could see “forest land all around them sufficient to feed the stock of the colony for the next thirty years”.

The State Library of New South Wales holds an extensive collection of original materials relating to the Crossing of the Blue Mountains, including the journals of William Lawson and William Wentworth.

See our Discover Collections feature.

Blue Mountains, ca. 1815-1816] / watercolour drawings by John William Lewin