The genesis of the
Western Australian Explorers' Diaries Project was John Septimus Roe, the
Swan River Colony’s first Surveyor General. From 1827 Roe took great pains
to transcribe every journal of exploration in Western Australia that came
across his desk.
After Roe retired in December 1870 the collection of exploration reports was
The Lands and Surveys Department continued to receive and hold surveyors’
fieldbooks, journals and reports, but these documents were not kept in a
single form of reference.
More disturbingly, journals, diaries and reports of private explorations
were not systematically recorded and to this day the location of each and
every one of these important documents is not completely known – although
many are with the Royal Western Australian Historical Society and SRO.
In the 1950s, the Lands and Surveys Department started using aerial
photography to map the topography of Western Australia.
Aerial photography quickly made it clear that there were issues with the
methods of land survey used in the 19th century. Cartographers found that
the location of many features, such as hills, did not match.
Quite simply - we did not know our State. And this was only 50-70 years
There was a pressing need to go back to source documents – the explorers’
journals – to determine the names and locations of many, many features
throughout our State.
One of the main sources
of reference for names of places and features and their origins was a set of six volumes of
exploration journals from 1827 to 1871. This collection, prepared in 1966,
consisted of bound photocopies of typescripts, made in the early 1920s of
the Lands and Surveys’ record of exploration journals. Entitled Exploration
Diaries, this material is held by the Battye Library. But these typescripts
proved to be an unreliable source of information as many words, including
the names of places and people, had not been accurately transcribed. In
addition, many diaries of explorations were missing from these volumes.
In 1980 and 1981 Lands
Surveys were approached by Peter Bridge (Hesperian Press) for permission to
reproduce departmental maps in a project to publish a comprehensive,
accurately reproduced collection of the exploration diaries, journals and
reports made to, and collected by, the Surveyor General’s Office.
But almost 20 years would elapse before the project would commence in
In early 2000 Kim Epton and Peter Bridge formally approached the Department
of Land Administration (DOLA) for assistance with access to records they
held – although the focus in accessing these records fairly quickly moved to
the State Records Office. A Project Committee was formed and it quickly
expanded to include geographers, historians, botanists, ecologists, typists,
proofreaders, editors, genealogists and persons generally and genuinely
interested in assisting.
And from it emerged the Western Australian Explorers’ Diaries Project.
Important Aspects of the Project
The Constitution of the Western Australian Explorers' Diaries Project