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Canoeing the Snowy... in 1898, using Aboriginal canoes!

From Ranger Phil Mcguinn:

Canoe Trips down the Snowy River. I am on the hunt for more details of the first Canoe trip by non aborigines down the Snowy River? There was a widely publicised trip by two adventurers in 1937, but the real story seems to be in 1898. From a wonderful lead, generously provided by a friend of Helen Martin, I am now confident that the first canoe trip down the Snowy was led by William Hamilton Ferguson, a surveyor/geologist, for the Mines department who mapped about 6,000 square miles of Victoria, searching for mineral resources, much in Gippsland. This article offers a hint of the motivation for this adventurous journey: • The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) • Sat 7 May 1898 • Page 11 THE DEDDICK FIELD BRUTHEN, Friday Mr. Foster, Minister of Mines and Mr. Williams, Minister of Railways, returned here tonight from a tour through East Gippsland. They were accompanied by representatives of the Mount Deddick silver-field and Mr. Stirling, Government geologist. The expressed great satisfaction and surprise at the extent of the field, and Mr. Foster promised to have tracks cut from Deddick to Bonang and from the field to Campbell's Nob, 12 miles down the river. The companies are sending a surveyor down the Snowy River by a canoe to make a flying survey for a proposed railway or tram line to carry ore to the seaport. The party return to Melbourne tomorrow. This ties in to several recent serendipitous finds, taking me in different lines of enquiry, that seem to keep looping back to the role of the Mines Department of Victoria in Gippsland Exploration. I will come back to that in later posts, but it ties in to Economic Development initiatives to overcome unemployment during the 1890s Depression, following the collapse of "Marvellous Melbourne".The Minister, Henry Foster (MLA for Gippsland East) had a vision for opening up the remote areas of the state, especially those in his electorate. His breif biography in the Victorian Parliament's Re=Member page offers some leads for further enquiry: There is commentary in May 1898 of the surveying work undertaken by William Hamilton Ferguson and his boss, the government geologist, James Stirling, on the lead mining prospects near Deddick On 21 January 1899, The Leader published a photo-spread of W.H Ferguson's images of the Snowy, restating Ferguson's recommendation that the Snowy River be set aside as National Park. The original Glass Plates are in the State Library and ten days ago, I highlighted several, including this canoe. There are tantalising hints that the surveying party made their way into the area on horse back, but the canoe uses indigenous construction techniques, a large sheet of bark (possibly stringy-bark) formed with ends sewn together in some way, a couple of stringers placed across and then string tied around the hull . The second photo below is intriguing, It is titled Snowy Maps in the SLV records, but looked pretty uninteresting, on first site. Prompted by the story of Ferguson's journey down the Snowy by canoe, I have attempted to improve the image by clipping extraneous information (a paling fence) and increasing contrast. The map's description, "Plan of the Snowy River from Deddick to Buchan" suddenly leaps into focus, as do the many twists and turns of the river. There are many other photos by Ferguson of this Snowy River trip that I am revisiting in light of this discovery. Thank you to Helen Martin and her friend for this great lead, which has taken my searches in a different direction!

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