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Stirling's Explorations

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Aboriginies by the Swan River
March 1827 Stirling's Boats from HMS Success glide along the Swan River towards the future Guildford. Courtesy of West Australian Newspapers uncredited images from archival and contemporary sources.

In 1827, Captain James Stirling explored the Swan River and reported very favourably on the area. On 4th March 1827, he rounded Cape Leeuwin, on the 5th he sighted Rottnest, and by March 7 he had his ship safely anchored in Cockburn Sound close to Garden Island. The island had been previously named Ile Bauche during the French explorer Baudin's trip in 1801. Stirling planted a garden on the island and left some cattle and sheep.

On March 8th, two boats, a cutter and a gig, carrying Stirling and 18 men set off to explore the Swan River. They entered the mouth at about noon the same day. Stirling named Rous Head and Arthur's Head at the river's entrance at Fremantle, and as he explored the reaches of the Swan further inland, he named other places including Melville Waters, Claisebrook, Fraser Point and Point Garling.

As his expedition continued, he made many notes of his observations. On March 13th, he wrote:

The richness of the soil, the bright foliage of the shrubs, the majesty of the surrounding trees, the abrupt and red-coloured banks of the river occasionally seen and the blue summits of the mountains [today known as the Darling Range] from which we were not far distant made the scenery around this spot as beautiful as anything of this kind I had ever witnessed.

Indeed, it was these observations that led to Stirling's determination to advocate for a colony settlement on the Swan when he returned to England. What he saw impressed him and his reports influenced the British Government's decision to found a colony.

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