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

Giles, Ernest -The journal of a forgotten expedition in 1875

This volume, reprinted from the Adelaide Observer in 1880, is of historical significance as one of the major works of this important Australian explorer and is personally annotated by the author. 

It is a record of Giles' third expedition in 1875 to the west of South Australia.

2024 RGSSA 4675

Ernest Giles (1835-1897) explored the pastoral country beyond the Darling River and led three major expeditions through central Australia. He also succeeded in his ambition of making an overland crossing from South to Western Australia (the subject of this journal) in 1875. He was made a fellow and was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1880 as well as being made a knight of the crown of Italy.

Among his explorations Giles crossed the western part of Australia twice. First in 1875 travelling east to west he set out from Beltana and then to Port Augusta. Then travelling northwest and west he followed the string of waterholes Wynbring, Ooldea, Ooldabinna and Boundary Dam to the Western Australian Border. He then made a risky 312 mile crossing of the Great Victoria Desert to Queen Victoria Springs and from there was able to travel to Perth relatively easily. His second crossing and fifth expedition was from west to east in 1876 - he travelled north from Perth to the Murchison and Ashburton Rivers and then west crossing the Gibson Desert to the Rawlinson Ranges arriving back in Adelaide in September 1876.

This book is of historical significance as one of the major works of Ernest Giles, an important Australian explorer, and records his third expedition in 1875 to the west of South Australia. This volume is rare because it is inscribed in the author's handwriting as follows - To The Hon. Sir Thomas Elder, With compliments of the author, Ernest Giles

The book is pamphlet size and is bound in with Giles collection of parliamentary papers. It is rare, although it is held at nine other Australian libraries and others hold the limited edition facsimile published in 1979.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography includes the following about Giles;  "Although Giles made no major discoveries, he is among the more interesting Australian explorers by virtue of his journals which, although overwritten, display a fine descriptive ability and constitute a record of inner experience as well as outward observation."

RGSSA catalogue rgsp 919 42043 E 96, with map, source Adelaide Observer, location Bentham Bookcase.

The set of Parliamentary papers is titled Explorations in Central Australia - Gosse, Giles and Tietkens and also includes the following relative to Giles-

  • No. 21 Mr Ernest Giles's Explorations 1872, pp 21-32
  • No.215 Mr Ernest Giles's Explorations 1873-4, pp 1-69
  • No22 Giles Explorations 1875, pp 1-16 -with map.
  • No 18 E Giles Explorations 1875-6, pp1-16
Artist's impression of an Australian expedition
Artist's impression of an Australian expedition