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Peach’s Explorers – East to West (1984)

Synopsis

Edward John Eyre and his loyal companion Wylie, an Indigenous Australian, completed an epic journey across the terrible sand dunes of the Nullarbor Plain from South Australia to Albany in Western Australia in 1841. The journey was undertaken after Eyre had been thwarted in his attempt to explore northwards from Adelaide in search of an inland sea.

Curator’s notes

The terrible journey of Edward John Eyre and his companion Wylie, a West Australian Aboriginal man, must rank as one of the great feats of exploration in the history of the great 19th Century explorations. Being in many ways a failed mission does not diminish its importance. Eyre had set out to find an inland sea to the north of Adelaide and, failing to cross the salt pans, pushed on and crossed the Bight out of sheer stubbornness, not wanting to return to Adelaide as a failure.

Aware of how dangerous and difficult the journey was he took only volunteers, though one wonders whether the three Aborigines were truly volunteers. When two of the Aborigines rebelled and fled to the bush after killing Eyre’s only white companion, Wylie stayed with his boss until the end of the journey. This brave and steadfast Aborigine was then reunited with his people in Albany and was granted a government pension for his loyalty and assistance to Eyre.

Bill Peach loves Australian history and imbues it with his own particular passion. He tells us stories of daring, adventure and tragedy through the explorers’ own eyes, by using their words, cleverly recreated from diaries and notebooks, and by journeying through the same arid interior. Suddenly the madness of the opening up of the interior of this unforgiving land is brought home to those of us who live in cities along the narrow coastal plains.