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The Australian exploring expedition travelling through scrub (from the Illustrated London News 1879), 1876

Jesse Young

wood engraving on paper (sheet: 40.0 cm x 56.0 cm, image: 33.8 cm x 47.7 cm)

Ernest Giles (1835-1897), explorer, came to Australia at the age of fifteen, settling in Adelaide. After working in the Melbourne post office in the early 1850s, he went out to look for pastoral country on which to grow hemp. In 1872 he made his first avowed journey of exploration, from Chambers Pillar to the Finke River, Charlotte Waters and Adelaide, taking four months. His friend Ferdinand von Mueller raised a subscription for him to undertake a second journey, begun in August 1873, west from the Alberga River. Giles found a fine new river he named the Ferdinand, and was the first European to see The Olgas (now Kata Tjuta) and Lake Amadeus; he thought he was the first to see Ayers Rock (Uluru) but William Gosse claimed that honour. In the dry country his friend Alfred Gibson perished, and Giles named the area the Gibson Desert. In 1875 he worked on his Geographic Travels in Central Australia. In May that year he set out with camels from Beltana for Perth via Port Augusta. After traversing 320 miles without finding water, his party discovered some in a hollow; having thus averted death, they reached Perth in November. In 1880 Giles published The Journal of a Forgotten Expedition and in 1889 his Australia Twice Traversed appeared. He spent his last years as a clerk in Coolgardie, where he died unregarded and unmarried.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.114

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Jesse Young

Ernest Giles (age 41 in 1876)

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