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John Oxley and his memorial at Redcliffe

21 years after Matthew Flinders’ journey to Moreton Bay, Surveyor John Oxley was dispatched from Sydney in the Mermaid in November 1823 to find s spot for a new penal depot. When he cast anchor at Point Skirmish on Bribie Island on 29th November, he was surprised to be met by a white man, Thomas Pamphlett, who was living with the natives there.

(With John Finnegan, Richard Parsons and John Thompson, Pamphlett had set out from Port Jackson for the Five Islands [Illawarra] to cut cedar. Blown north by a storm in which Thompson died, the boat was wrecked on the outer shore of Moreton Island. After some hardships, mitigated by help from Aborigines, they crossed to the mainland. Believing themselves south of Sydney they had sought a northward route homewards. Aborigines again helped them with food and directions during which they had crossed a large river.)

On the day following Oxley’s meeting with Thomas Pamphlett at Bribie, John Finnegan returned to Point Skirmish from a hunting trip, and on 1st December accompanied Oxley and his crew in the Mermaid when they set sail to explore Moreton Bay further. Oxley landed at Redcliffe Point on December 2nd 1823. This he chose as the site for the new penal depot as there was plenty of fresh water, fertile soil and plenty of timber for building.

Oxley also explored the inlet to the north of Redcliffe Point which he named Deception Bay (Oxley originally thought the bay was a river which he named Pumice Stone River. Later, when he discovered his mistake, he changed the name to Deception Bay.)

As well as exploring the western part of Moreton bay, Oxley sailed 80 kilometres up the river that Pamphlett had described (and which Flinders had missed). This he named the Brisbane River in honour of the NSW Governor Brisbane, who had sent him on this mission.