Blaxland, Wentworth & Lawson - easier version


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Gregory Blaxland was born in England in 1778 and was a farmer. He came with his family to Australia as a free settler and soon owned large areas of farming land in the Sydney settlement. When he realised that he needed more grazing land for his sheep and cattle, he decided to try and find a way across the Blue Mountains. With him went William Lawson and William Wentworth.

Lawson was born in England in 1774 and came to Sydney as a soldier. Wentworth was born aboard a sailing ship travelling to Norfolk Island, where his father was in charge of the convicts. Wentworth was also a farmer and grazed cattle on the Nepean River.

The settlement at Sydney was growing larger as more convicts and more free settlers arrived. As it grew, it was important to find more land to grow food to feed the colony. There were increasing numbers of sheep and cattle, but less and less grazing land. In 1813, there was a bad drought which damaged crops and killed many sheep and cattle causing a food shortage.

A  way across the mountains needed to be found, and many tried. However, they always found their way blocked by steep mountains walls.

Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson set off in 1813 to find a way across. They planned to follow the high ridge. With them they took 3 convicts and a man who hunted kangaroos in the mountains, James Burns. They also took 4 pack horses and five dogs. The horses carried equipment and six weeks' supplies including salted meat, flour, tents, 7 hand guns, compasses, a hoe and tools for cutting.

It was a difficult journey. The explorers followed a ridge that led them high up into the mountains and on either side there were deep, rocky gullies, making it very dangerous. Dew on the ground made the way slippery. A couple of the horses fell because of the heavy loads they were carrying. In addition, they had to cut their way through the thick bushland.  It was exhausting work and the men's hands were skinned from cutting through dense bushland and cutting footholds for the horses so that they wouldn't slip on the steep hillsides.

At night, the explorers were forced to spend the nights sitting in darkness away from the campfires because they were afraid that they would be attacked by aboriginals who followed them constantly.

As they walked through the bush, they decided to mark their way by cutting the bark from the trees on each side of the track. This way they could find their way back across the mountains even when the bush grew back. Their progress was very slow and it was difficult finding food for the horses.

When they reached Mount York, they could see what looked like good grass down in the valley below, but it would be very difficult climbing down to it. Using the hoe they had brought with them, they made a small trench, which stopped the horses from slipping. Also, they unloaded the horses because the animals were very weak by this time, and it was important to get them down to the grass as soon as possible. There was water in the valley and the horses ate fresh grass for the first time since starting on the expedition.

After the horses has recovered, they were taken back up the mountains and the supplies reloaded to be taken down the mountains. As it was so steep, the explorers had to carry the supplies part of the way. On May 31, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the valley and climbed a high hill. From here they saw wonderful grazing lands to the west of the Blue Mountains.

By now their supplies were very low, their clothing was rags and their shoes were very worn. Also they were starting to feel ill. The return trip took just under five days and on June 6, they crossed the Nepean River and returned to their homes. They had found a way across the Blue Mountains opening up the settlement. The settlement in Sydney could now spread across the mountains and the settlers could begin to use the land to the west of the Blue Mountains.

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