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Event North Australian Exploring Expedition (1855 - 1856)

August 1855
December 1856


The North Australian Exploring Expedition was organised at the request of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and with the backing of the Royal Geographical Society, London, to explore parts of inland northern Australia where no Europeans had previously travelled. Members of the Expedition included Augustus Gregory as leader, his brother Henry, botanist Ferdinand Mueller, artist Thomas Baines, geologist James Wilson, surgeon and naturalist Joseph Elsey, collector James Flood and 11 other men. Embarking from Moreton Bay in August 1855 the Expedition reached the estuary of the Victoria River in September. After establishing a depot camp Gregory, with eight men, travelled south exploring the Victoria River for nearly 300 miles before, sensing the onset of drought, he turned back. While most Expedition members returned to Moreton Bay by sea, Gregory, Mueller and five others travelled overland across northern Australia and Queensland, arriving back in December 1856. While no significant resources or grazing land were discovered, over 5,000 miles were traversed, extensive scientific collections were made, and all Expedition members returned safely. Mueller retained the plant specimens in his Herbarium in Melbourne, with duplicates being forwarded to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Many of Baines's paintings from the Expedition are in the Royal Geographical Society.



September 1855
Expedition landed in the estuary of the Victoria River
January 1856 - March 1856
Gregory and a small party explored the Victoria and other inland Rivers
June 1856 - December 1856
Gregory, Mueller and a small party travelled overland to Moreton Bay
Gregory published his journal of the Expedition (Gregory 1858)
1858 - 1958
Mueller published his report on the Expedition (Mueller 1858)
August 1955 -
Expedition members embarked by sea from Moreton Bay, Queensland

Related Corporate Bodies

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Published resources


  • Papers relating to an expedition recently undertaken for the purpose of exploring the northern portion of Australia (London: Eyre & Spottiswood, 1857), 30 pp. Details
  • Braddon, Russell, Thomas Baines and the North Australian Expedition (Sydney: Collins in association with the Royal Geographical Society, 1986), 160 pp. Details
  • Cumpston, H. J. L., Augustus Gregory and the inland sea (Canberra: Roebuck Society, 1972), 146 pp. Details

Book Sections

Edited Books

  • Carruthers, Jane and Stiebel, Lindy eds, Thomas Baines: Exploring Tropical Australia, 1855 to 1857 (Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press, 2012), 177 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Chisholm, A. H., 'J. R. Elsey, Surgeon, Naturalist, Explorer', Queensland Naturalist, 17 (3/4) (1964), 60-70. Details
  • Chisholm, A. H., 'J. R. Elsey, Explorer of the Never-Never', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 52 (1966). Details
  • Cohn, Helen M., 'Mueller and the North Australian Exploring Expedition', Victorian Naturalist, 113 (1996), 163-168. Details
  • Gregory, A. C., 'Journal of the North Australian Exploring Expedition, under the command of Augustus C. Gregory, Esq.(Gold Medallist R.G.S.), with report by Mr Elsey on the health of the party', Journal of the Royal geographical Society, 28 (1858), 1-137. Details
  • Macdonald, J. D. and Colston, P. R., 'J. R. Elsey and His Bird Observations on Gregory's Overland Expedition', Emu, 65 (4) (1966), 255-278. Details
  • Mueller, F., 'Botanical report on the North Australian Exploring Expedition under the command of A. C. Gregory, esq.', Journal of the Linnean Society, botany, 2 (1858), 137-68. Details

See also

  • Birman, W., Gregory of Rainworth: a man in his time (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1979), 296 pp. Details
  • Feeken, Erwin H. J., Feeken, Gerda E. E. and Spate, O. H. K., The discovery and exploration of Australia (Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Australia), 1970), 318 pp. Details

Helen Cohn