Journey into the interior | State Library of New South Wales

Journey into the interior

In the late 1790s a tall tale circulating amongst the convicts concerned the existence of a colony of white people living in the bush not far from Sydney. This settlement was said to offer freedom and an abundance of provisions. Many convicts escaped in search of this paradise, only to discover starvation and death in the dense bushland. Governor Hunter wanted to prove once and for all that there was no mythical colony just beyond the fringe of settlement.

LyrebirdMenura superba, published in An account of the English colony in New South Wales: with remarks ... from the MSS of Lieutenant-Governor King by David Collins, printed for T. Cadell Jun and W. Davies, 1798-1802, vol 2, Printed volume Q79/61

A curious exploratory party set out in January 1798, under instructions from Governor Hunter. Accompanying four convicts and their guards were John Wilson and John Price. Wilson had been an escaped convict. He took to the bush shortly after his arrival with the First Fleet and lived with Aboriginal communities for several years. He was given the name Bun-bo-e, wore kangaroo skins and scarred his body with traditional markings. Wilson returned to the Sydney colony in 1797 claiming he had ranged a hundred miles in every direction from the settlement. With his knowledge of the surrounding bush and bushcraft, he was an indispensable member of the party. 

The other guide, John Price, was a servant to Governor John Hunter. Arriving in the colony as a sixteen year old, Price enjoyed exploring the Australian bush. He asked permission to join the expedition. In 1801, Hunter wrote to Sir Joseph Banks,

'As he [Price] grew up in that country and became pleased with travelling through the woods, he solicited permission to go upon the excursion then intended, and as he could write, he was instructed to enter in a paper, the observations which their journey might suggest. He is an intelligent lad.'

(Banks Collection, Letters received from John Hunter, Series 38.21)

Price recorded his travels with Wilson.

> Read Price's account of the first expedition

Price, Journey into the interior


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