Thomas Mitchell - easier version

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Thomas Mitchell was born in Scotland in 1792. His parents were not well off. When he was 16 he joined the army, being promoted to a second lieutenant when he was 19. Most of his work in the army was surveying and map making. In 1826, he was promoted to major.

In 1827, he was offered the job of assistant-surveyor general to John Oxley in New South Wales and arrived with his wife and family. Oxley died the following year and Mitchell became surveyor-general. His work was mostly building roads and bridges in the colony.

An escaped convict had spoken of a large river and so in 1831, Mitchell set out to find it. His party reached the upper reaches of the Darling but were forced to turn back when two members of the party were speared to death by hostile aboriginals. His attitude towards the aboriginals was not friendly and at one time he even told his men to musket charge a group of aboriginals who just happened to be watching from a distance. He became involved with a number of fights with aboriginals.

In 1835, Mitchell explored the Bogong River and then followed the Darling River for several hundred kilometres. He discovered that the waters of the Darling were not salty as reported but sweet and drinkable. Again, he came across hostile aboriginals and several aboriginals were shot. Mitchell's botanist, Richard Cunningham, brother of the explorer Allan Cunningham, was killed. Again, they were forced to turn back.

New South Wales was suffering from drought and new grazing lands were needed. Mitchell now set off on his most important journey. He led a party of 23 along the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers to the Darling.

They came across a large group of aborigines at Mount Dispersion. Mitchell thought that they would be hostile and ordered his men to ambush them. Seven aboriginals were killed. Members of the party said that Mitchell ordered old women and children to be killed. On another occasion, Mitchell's men followed aboriginals who were running for their lives and shot them as they tried to swim across the Murray River to safety. He was widely criticised in the colony for his deeds.

After leaving the Darling and crossing the Murray, they then set off across western Victoria. Here Mitchell discovered rich and fertile land which he named "Australia Felix". Eventually, they reached the coast and were amazed to find the Henty brothers already living there at Portland Bay at the site of the present city of Portland. The Henty family had arrived from Tasmania a couple of years earlier.

Mitchell made a fourth expedition in 1845, hoping to find a route from Sydney to Port Essington, but turned back before achieving this. He did discover the Victoria River which he named, and also rich and fertile land in central Queensland.

Mitchell was a very hot headed man and when a politician criticised him, he challenged him to a duel - the last fought in Australia. He managed only to shoot a hole in the man's hat.

After his last expedition, Mitchell retired to England where he published a book on his travels. He spent the next 10 years surveying. Mitchell caught a chill while surveying, which led to pneumonia and he died in 1855.

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