John Oxley - easier version

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John Oxley was born in England in 1785. When he was fourteen years of age, he joined the navy as a midshipman. When he was just a teenager, he arrived in Australia and was involved with exploring the coastline.

In 1812, Oxley was appointed surveyor-general of New South Wales, a position he held until his death in 1828.

In 1817, he led an expedition to trace the course of the Lachlan River. He had been asked by Governor Macquarie to cross the ranges and follow up on the discoveries of George Evans. Some of the party rode horses and others used boats. Oxley followed the Lachlan, surveying and mapping its course, until his way was blocked by swamps. Leaving the boats, the explorers travelled south-west, only to find very harsh conditions in dry country.  Weakened horses began dying and the men were forced to eat dingo and snake to keep alive. So he turned north until he struck the Macquarie River. They followed the Macquarie upstream and arrived in Bathurst on 29 August 1817. Oxley came to the conclusion that "the interior of this vast country is a marsh and uninhabitable". He did not know that he was a few days march from the Murrumbidgee River which would have led him to large areas of good land.

In 1818, he led another expedition to trace the course of the Macquarie River, but again was blocked by marshes. Instead, he led his party north-east and discovered the Castlereagh River and the fertile Liverpool Plains. He then continued on discovering and naming the Peel River and crossed the southern New England Range. Oxley discovered the Hastings River and followed it until it reached the coast. After naming Port Macquarie, he continued on to Sydney.

Because the two rivers he followed had become blocked by marshes, Oxley believed that they flowed into an inland sea. His discovery of the rich fertile Liverpool Plains was followed by the settlement of pastoralists. He had found good agricultural land, but was unable to solve the mystery of where the rivers went.

By 1823, many free settlers had arrived and so another convict settlement was needed to send convicts. Oxley was sent up the coast to find such a place. In 1823, Oxley sailed into Moreton Bay where he found and named the Brisbane River. He had been shown the Brisbane River by three seamen (Richard Parsons, John Finnegan and Thomas Pamphlett) who had been shipwrecked seven months earlier. They had been befriended by local aboriginals. They were able to show Oxley the mouth of the Brisbane River and guide him upstream to where the Story Bridge now stands. There is a plaque on Coronation Drive in honour of John Oxley in front of the John Oxley Centre. It was John Oxley who recommended the setting up of a convict settlement at Moreton Bay.

This was the last expedition Oxley undertook and he later published a book on his travels. He died in England in 1828.

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