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John Oxley (1785?-1828) was a naval officer, surveyor and explorer and was born in England. Although he had little experience with land surveying, he was made Surveyor-General of the colony by Governor Macquarie.
|Exploring the Lachlan: Once the Blue Mountains had been crossed in 1813, and the town of Bathurst established, the colony wished to expand. Wool had become Australia's first main industry and more land was needed for sheep. In 1817, Oxley set off to explore the country west of Bathurst. Evans had discovered the Lachlan River and so Oxley set off to explore this river. Some of the party rode horses while others travelled in boats. They had taken with them salted meat and at the end of each day's journey would camp and go fishing. This provided a change from the salted food. Tall thick grass made the going very difficult and eventually they found their way was blocked by marshes. Leaving their boats, they started off south west and came across very dry country. The horses became very weak and started to die. The men were forced to eat dingo, emu and snake. The explorers turned north west and again came across the Lachlan. They continued downstream until they were again blocked again by marshes, causing them to turn back. Oxley believed that the interior was marshland and unsuitable for settlement. Little did he know that he was a few days away from the Murrumbidgee and large areas of good land. Food was running low, so he returned to Bathurst.|
|Exploring the Macquarie River: The next year, in 1818, Oxley set off from Bathurst with 15 men to follow the Macquarie River. They used boats, but these had to be left behind when they struck marshes again. Oxley was beginning to believe that there was an inland sea. Turning east, the explorers came upon flooded country and often they had to walk waist deep through water. On August 26 they climbed a hill and saw before them rich, fertile plains, which they named the Liverpool Plains. Continuing east, they discovered the Peel River, near the present site of Tamworth. Continuing east they crossed the Great Diving Range and came upon the Hastings River. Following it to its mouth, they discovered that it flowed into the sea at a spot which they named Port Macquarie. This expedition opened up large areas of new country, including the very fertile Liverpool Plains. However, Oxley did not achieve his main aim of tracing the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers. He also misled others such as Sturt into thinking that the interior of Australia contained an inland sea. There are many memorials to Oxley along his track, the greatest of which is the Oxley Highway which finishes at Port Macquarie. He was rewarded with grants of land around Camden and Bowral.|
|Coastal surveys: . In 1819 he sailed to Jervis Bay but said that it was unsuitable for settlement. Also that year he sailed to Port Macquarie and recommended it as a place to send the worst convicts. His coastal surveys led him to explore Moreton Bay where he found 2 escaped convicts living with aborigines. They told him of a big river which led him to discovering the Brisbane River in 1824. He spent 5 days sailing up the Brisbane River and was very impressed by the rich soil and timber. His favourable reports led to the setting up a convict colony at Moreton Bay and he returned to supervise this in 1825. Oxley chose Redcliffe Point as the first site as there was plenty of fresh water, fertile soil and plenty of timber for building. Altogether, Oxley sailed 80 kilometres up the Brisbane River.|