Charles Darwin's Visit to Australia (Part 2)

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Govetts Leap in the Blue Mountains (Picturesque Atlas of Australia 1888)
Govetts Leap in the Blue Mountains (Picturesque Atlas of Australia 1888)

On 17th January 1836 Charles Darwin crossed the Nepean River on a ‘ferry-boat’ and ascended the road built by William Cox. A strenuous climb to an altitude of 3000 feet brought him to the Weatherboard Inn (Katoomba) by the middle of the day. Local inhabitants recommended he ride 1½ miles to look into the Jamieson Valley. He wrote a word description of the sheer sandstone cliffs and the waterfall that dropped 1500 feet onto the valley floor. Travelling further west he stopped at Blackheath for the night. A walk next morning of 3 miles brought him to Govett’s Leap, named to honour surveyor William Govett. The word “leap” is an Old English expression of a small waterfall.

‘We descended from the sandstone platform by the pass of Mount Victoria. To effect this pass, an enormous quantity of stone has been cut through. At Hassan’s Walls, I left the high road, and made a short detour to a farm called Walerawang…..the usual number of assigned convict-servants here is about forty.’

Charles Darwin considered the convict policy and wrote –

‘Converting vagabonds, most useless in one hemisphere, into active citizens of another, and thus give birth to a new and splendid country – a grand centre of civilization – it has succeeded to a degree perhaps unparalleled in history’.

Reference: The Voyage of the BEAGLE by Charles Darwin.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.