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Readers note: This is an excerpt from the Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 Greatest Explorers exhibition, developed in 2015. This content was written as a brief biography on why this person was included in the exhibition. We recognise there is missing history here and the Australian Museum is continually reviewing its content to ensure it conveys truth-telling, is scientifically and historically accurate as well as respectful to First Nations cultures.
Gregory Blaxland (1778–1853) was born in Kent in England to wealthy landowners. Encouraged by Sir Joseph Banks, he emigrated to New South Wales in 1805 with his family and goods, including seeds, bees, tools and clothing. These he parlayed into significant landholdings and businesses.
Of moody personality, Blaxland opposed Governor William Bligh and his two successors. Fearing that his growing livestock holdings would outgrow pastoral lands, in 1813 Blaxland joined the push to find a route across the Blue Mountains to new pastures. Despite being awarded additional lands, and growing business, Blaxland committed suicide on New Year’s Day, 1853.
William Charles Wentworth (1790–1872) was born to a convict mother shortly after her arrival in Sydney, but was acknowledged as the son of the doctor of the ship that transported them to the penal settlement of Norfolk Island. Wentworth was sent to England for education, but returned to Sydney in 1810, keen to explore.
He joined Blaxland and William Lawson in finding a way across the Blue Mountains, then went on to explore the South Pacific, where he was nearly killed by natives in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Wentworth would go on to become one of Australia’s great politicians, a strong proponent of free press and the constitution, and with an associate found the Australian newspaper.
William Lawson (1774–1850) was born in Middlesex, England to Scottish parents and trained as a surveyor. In 1799 he bought a commission to the New South Wales Corps, was posted to Norfolk Island, then in 1806, to Sydney. He rapidly rose in the ranks and acquired land. His surveying skills made him the most valuable member of the trio that crossed the Blue Mountains as his record of the journey allowed others to follow.
Lawson was the first to take stock over the mountains and settled near Bathurst. He went on to open rich pastoral lands near Mudgee, and discovered coal in Hartley Vale.