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Charles Sturt & Collet Barker Monument, Hindmarsh Island

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by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia. https://www.facebook.com/paula.mcmanus1
Published March 31st 2019
European Discovery of the River Murray System
A tall and imposing monument situated on the highest point on Hindmarsh Island is a marker for one of the greatest explorations in Australian history.

Charles Sturt Collet Barker Murray River
Charles Sturt/Collet Barker Monument (©paula mcmanus)


The inscription on the monument reads:

"In memory of Charles Sturt and Collet Barker, Captains of the 39th Regiment, brother officers, fellow explorers and friends. Hereabouts, in February 1830, Sturt first saw the waters of Encounter Bay, thus crowning his heroic voyage of discovery down the Murray River. At the Murray Mouth in April 1831, Barker perished, having completed Sturt's task of exploration. During which he discovered the Port Adelaide inlet and first ascended Mount Lofty."

Captain Collet Barker was a military officer, explorer and friend of Captain Charles Sturt. He arrived in Australia as part of the 39th Regiment on the convict ship Phoenix which arrived in Sydney in 1828. He was less than a month in Sydney before he commenced his explorations. He started in the Northern Territory and crossed to Western Australia before his arrival in South Australia.

Charles Sturt Collet Barker Murray River
Charles Sturt/Collet Barker Monument (©paula mcmanus)


Charles Sturt's epic journey down the Murray River during the summer of 1829-1830 directly related to Barker's fateful expedition in April 1830.

It was at Charles Sturt's urging that Collet Barker embark on a mission to help him find an outlet for the Murray River, which the local aboriginal people knew as "Millewah". Sturt had sailed into Lake Alexandrina on 9th February 1830 and was hopeful of finding a safe entrance for ships.

Murray River Mouth Hindmarsh Island
The Mouth of the Murray from Hindmarsh Island (©paula mcmanus)


So, with Sturt's quest in mind, Barker climbed Mt Lofty to get a better view of the lay of the land. From its peak, he noticed several landmarks, which we now know as Barker Inlet at Port Adelaide and the Onkaparinga River in Port Noarlunga. He could see that the land south of (what was to become) Adelaide was fertile - "a rich, fat chocolate coloured earth".

On the 13th April 1831, Barker sailed his ship, the Isabella, to Yankalilla Bay and immediately began his task of finding a channel from the river. He couldn't find one on the western side of the peninsula, so headed overland to Lake Alexandrina and Encounter Bay where, from a high vantage point, he found what he was looking for - the mouth of the Murray River.

Charles Sturt Collet Barker Murray River
The Mouth of the Murray from the Monument (©paula mcmanus)


On the 29th of April 1830, Barker and his party of explorers reached the mouth of the Murray. Barker was the only person who could swim, so strapped a compass on his head and swam the narrow channel on his own. He walked over a sandhill on Hindmarsh Island where his men heard a sharp cry and Barker was never seen again. The exploration party waited for Barker to come back, but there was no sign of him. They then decided they needed to get help so headed back to the ship which was anchored off Rapid Bay and sailed to Kangaroo Island to get help from the seal hunters who lived there. The sealers responded and brought with them 3 aboriginal people to act as interpreters. Because of their help, they discovered that Captain Barker was speared to death and his body thrown into deep water. It is believed that Barker was mistaken for one of the itinerant Kangaroo Island sealers or whalers, who had been cruel to and mistreated the local Ngarrindjeri people of the Coorong. The Ngarrindjeri were not to know that Captain Barker was well known for being a humane friend to Aboriginal people all across the country. In his northern Australian expeditions, Barker had almost daily contact with Aboriginal people and at times was the only white person to accompany them while on walkabout for days and days at a time. A sad and ironic end for this popular explorer who was a friend, researcher and documenter of our country's original inhabitants.

Murray River Mouth Hindmarsh Island
The Mouth of the Murray River (©paula mcmanus)


An excerpt from The Advertiser, 20th January 1930: "There was a record number of people on Hindmarsh Island yesterday to witness the unveiling of the memorial to Captain Charles Sturt and Captain Collet Barker. This memorial completes the chain along the River Murray. It is a massive monument 25 feet high and ten feet square at the base. It is built of granite and commands a view of the lakes, the Goolwa channel, the Murray mouth, and the sea. The site marks the spot where Captain Sturt first saw the southern ocean and the mouth of the Murray."

This epic voyage of discovery dashed Sturt's hopes that the Murray Mouth could be a site for the new colony's capital. The whole area was a veritable maze of lagoons and sandbars - there was no safe harbour at the end of the river as he had hoped.

Coorong National Park
The Mouth of the Murray River (©paula mcmanus)


Today, Hindmarsh Island is home to the largest freshwater marina development in the Southern Hemisphere and is a recreational playground for fishing, boating, bird watching and bushwalking. This is mostly due to the Hindmarsh Island bridge, which was opened in 2001.

The Island is also part of the Coorong National Park due to a large number of birds who live there all year round.

The highlight of any visit to the Island is to visit the Murray Mouth - the point where the magnificent Murray flows out into the Southern Ocean and is something that every visitor simply must do.

You can find the monument on the corner of Randell and Monument Roads, Hindmarsh Island.

Hindmarsh Island is 5 kilometres from Goolwa, which is approximately 100 kilometres south-east of Adelaide.

Charles Sturt Collet Barker Murray River
Charles Sturt/Collet Barker Monument (©paula mcmanus)
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Why? A tall and imposing monument situated on the highest point on Hindmarsh Island is a marker for one of the greatest explorations in Australian history.
Where: Hindmarsh Island, South Australia
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Great job! Congrats on the silver!
by Michael Genrich (score: 3|1469) 80 days ago
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