Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Diaries of Expedition to Ayers Rock, 1873 - Gosse and Berry

This treasure consists of two diaries - the original diary of William Gosse from his expedition to Central Australia and his discovery of Ayers Rock (the first by a non-indigenous explorer), and the diary of the expedition's second in command Edwin Berry.

2024 Gosse 0003

In 1872 the South Australian Government invited William Christie Gosse (1842-1881) to find a route from Central Australia to Perth. An exploration party was formed consisting of William Gosse leader, Edwin Berry as second in command, Harry Gosse William's younger brother, Henry Winnell, Patrick Nilen and three Afghan camel drivers.

The party travelled west from Alice Springs, then called Charlotte Waters, leaving 23 April 1873. On 19 July Gosse described and named Ayers Rock, now Uluru. This was the first sighting of Uluru by a non-indigenous explorer. The party continued west and south to the Mann Ranges and the Tomkinson Ranges to the western boundary of South Australia. They then turned back deciding not to pursue a route to Perth due to the harshness of the country and on their return to Adelaide explored the Musgrave Ranges.

MSS 49,50c Rare Book Room

Route RGSSA map catalogue 804.4 atc 1873/2; South Australian Government Report: rga 919.42043 G678|rgsp 919.42043 E96

Photograph: Album P10/1 p55

A mixed party of horses, camels and a wagon left Alice Springs telegraph station 23 April 1873. Some three months later Gosse discovered Uluru - which he named Ayers Rock. His description mirrors the astonishment he felt:

"The hill, as I approached presented a most peculiar appearance…it was one immense rock rising abruptly from the plain…[It] appears more wonderful every time I look at it, and I may say it is a sight worth riding over 84 miles of spinifex sandhills to see."

Edwin Berry endeavoured to capture the sight with his rather odd drawing of the rock. Gosse climbed the Rock and discovered that the caves were used by the Aboriginal people and noted that the country was good for 2 miles around it.  The view from the top was extensive with Mount Olga (Kata Tjuta) to the west, Lake Amadeus to the north (both already discovered by Ernest Giles in 1872) and a mountain range to the south-east, which Gosse named the Musgrave Range after the Governor. The highest point Mount Woodroffe (Ngarutjaranya) is in fact the tallest mountain in South Australia.

From Ayers Rock Gosse and his party explored west to Mount Olga and Stevenson's Peak, and then south to the Mann Ranges. In this region they found well-watered and grassy plains, and country that Gosse compared with that adjacent to Adelaide. Continuing to the Tomkinson Ranges Gosse continued to the western boundary of South Australia where extensive searching showed only spinifex and sand ahead. He decided for the safety of his party to turn back to the east, abandoning the attempt to reach Perth. Gosse then explored the Musgrave Ranges, finding enroute that the water supplies in the Mann Ranges were drying up. He worked his way along the northern edge of the Musgraves and discovered the Marryat River which united with the Agnes River to form the Alberga. This was followed downstream and then to the Overland Telegraph Line at Charlotte Waters (later called Alice Springs). Gosse's expedition had covered some 60,000 square miles of unknown country and he had travelled 600 miles west from the Overland Telegraph Line.