Edmund Kennedy - easier version

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Edmund Kennedy was born on the Channel Island in England in 1818. He was one of eight children and his father was an army colonel. Kennedy migrated to Australia in 1840 where he worked as a surveyor. Kennedy was a good bushman, a fine leader and a talented surveyor.

In 1845, Kennedy was second-in-command to Sir Thomas Mitchell when he went on an expedition to find an overland route to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Mitchell did not reach the Gulf but discovered a river in western Queensland, which he named the Victoria. He was sure that this river flowed into the Gulf.

When Kennedy returned to Sydney, Mitchell sent him on an expedition to follow the Victoria River until it reached the Gulf of Carpentaria. He left Sydney on 13 March 1847 and by August, he had proved that the Victoria River flowed into Cooper Creek. He renamed the river the Barcoo River. During this expedition, he also discovered and named the Thomson River. He had intended to continue on to the Gulf, but when the aboriginals mixed his flour with dirt he was forced to turn back.

The New South Wales government decided to send Kennedy on another expedition to explore the east coast of Cape York Peninsula to its most northern point. He was to be met by a supply ship here and would continue exploring the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. Supply ships were supposed to meet them at various intervals along the coast.

A ship landed Kennedy and his party at Rockingham Bay (halfway between Cairns and Townsville) and from the very beginning, things started to go wrong. Their way was blocked by dense rainforest, deep gullies and mangrove swamps. It was very slow going and the carts and drays had to be abandoned in the steep country. The men became ill and weak with fever. At Weymouth Bay, Kennedy left most of his men behind because they were too weak and exhausted to carry on. During the next few weeks, all but two of these men died.

The men were becoming weaker from the heat, lack of food and the hard work. Further on, Kennedy was forced to leave three more men behind when one of the men accidentally shot himself. He left him behind at Shelburne River in the care of the two other men and continued with a young aboriginal named Jacky Jacky.

Early in December, Kennedy and Jacky Jacky reached Escape River. They found it hard going due to the thick scrub and crocodile-infested mangrove swamps. Their horse died and their food ran out. To add to their problems, they were being followed by a group of hostile aboriginals who had to be driven off many times. The aboriginals followed for days. They also set grass fires and often hurled spears into the camp.

Finally, in the second week of December, the aboriginals attacked, surrounding the two men in a swamp, spearing Kennedy in the legs, back and side. The aborigines retreated and Jacky Jacky carried Kennedy into the bush, where Kennedy tried to write a letter to the Governor.  He later died in Jacky Jacky's arms. Jacky Jacky dug a shallow grave and buried him. The aborigines followed him and he was nearly speared on many occasions. However, he was able to escape by walking down a creek with only his head above the water. He spent 10 days trying to avoid his attackers and crocodiles.  Most of the time he had no food.

Jacky Jacky was eventually picked up by the supply ship the Ariel. The Ariel sailed back along the coast looking for the three men left at Shelburne Bay, but unfortunately could find no trace of them. When the Ariel reached Weymouth Bay, only two of the eight men had survived.  The other six had died of fever.

Fortunately, Jacky Jacky managed to save Kennedy's maps and notes.  His bravery made him a hero and in 1849, he was asked to join an expedition to recover Kennedy's body. Jacky Jacky died in 1854.

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