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

Mr. Alfred Searcy’s Experiences on North coast of Australia

An important cultural report and details of everyday life in Port Darwin (the 'Singapore of Australia') pre and post European settlement. It includes a history of the trepang (sea cucumber) trade and transport network and the social interaction between the local Aboriginal, Malay and Macassar peoples.

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Searcy's report details Malay fishing vessels called proas which for centuries had been anchored around Australia’s northern coastline where divers freely collected trepang (sea cucumbers) to trade primarily with Chinese interests. Early pearling, deep sea fishing and tortoiseshell harvesting are also described. The report details the changes to the centuries old trepang fishing industry, post European settlement, where reliable trade routes were redirected to allow for the application of fishing licences and taxes to be collected from a very lucrative industry.

Alfred Searcy was Sub-Collector of Customs in NT from1882 to 1896 and travelled extensively around the seas and islands off the coast of Northern Australia. He was a passionate advocate for the development of the NT believing Pt. Darwin could become the 'Singapore of Australia'. Its proximity to Asia, he believed, would develop Pt Darwin into Australia’s principal port from where horses, cattle, troops (should Australia be at war) and produce could much more cheaply and speedily be shipped to Asian ports. He promoted the need for development of plantations of a diverse range of tropical fruits and flowers, cattle stations in the NT and always championed development of a transcontinental railway line from Pt. Augusta in South Australia to Pt. Darwin, as a critical support of this development.

In northern seas : being Mr. Alfred Searcy's experiences on the north coast of Australia  by Searcy, Alfred, 1854-1925, as recounted to Whitington, E. (Ernest), 1873-1934, and reprinted from The Register.

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