Episode 29: Australia, Part II

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Though it started as a convenient dumping ground for Britain’s human refuse, the colony of Australia was not destined to remain a prison forever. Despite the grandiose plans of some of its visionaries, however—like Lachlan Macquarie, Colonial Governor—it would take a great deal of labor, money and innovation if it was ever to rise above its convict roots. Macquarie began with an ambitious program of building and urban design, in the process cheating the British government and Australia’s free settlers out of the cheap labor they felt they were entitled to. Meanwhile whalers and sealers were wreaking havoc on the continent’s south coast, and settlers were pushing up against the geographic seal that walled off Sydney from the unknown interior of Australia. How did the utter mess that was Australia in the early 19th century eventually become anything like a real country, much less a cohesive society?

In this, the second part of a series on the formative years of Australia, you’ll find out a lot of what you never knew about the strange land down under. Find out what finally happened to Lachlan Macquarie, how and why he made all the wrong enemies, and how he gave the continent its official name. You’ll discover why ignorance of basic geography was sometimes fatal to escaping convicts; you’ll appreciate why the seal skin industry was a particularly gross and disgusting business; and you’ll ride along with three intrepid explorers and their mysteriously anonymous hangers-on as they try to push the boundaries of the colony across the fabled Blue Mountains into the true Australian outback. Prepare for a historical walkabout as Second Decade takes you to one of the strangest places on the planet at the time.

Second Decade is now on the Recorded History Podcast Network! Check out some of the other great history podcasts on the network, here.

Additional Materials About This Episode

The 1813 exploration of the Blue Mountains is one of the highlights of Australia’s pioneer history. Consequently, there’s a lot written on it.

Here is a link (Archive.org) to Gregory Blaxland’s journal of the expedition.

[Above] Map of the 1813 Blue Mountains expedition.

[Above] Gregory Blaxland, circa 1813.

[Above] William Lawson, as he appeared about 1840.

[Above] William Wentworth, toward the end of his life. Long after the Blue Mountains expedition, he was a leading member of Australia’s political community.

[Above] Eber Bunker, the American captain who taught Australian convicts how to hunt whales.

All images are believed in to be in the public domain.

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