Melbourne during the gold rush
By COX, [Commander Henry L.], 1866
Australie — Port Phillip. Baie D’Hobson Et Riviere Yarra conduisant a Melbourne Reduction du Plan leve en 1864 par le Cap. Cox de la Marine Anglaise.
- Author: COX, [Commander Henry L.]
- Publication place: [Paris]
- Publisher: Depot des Cartes et Plans de la Marine
- Publication date: 1866.
- Physical description: Tinted lithograph chart.
- Dimensions: 502 by 672mm (19.75 by 26.5 inches).
- Inventory reference: 15635
Matthew Flinders had been responsible for the first British surveys of Australia, produced at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but rapid developments in the following decades gave Melbourne new importance as a naval hub, calling for improved charts of the surrounding waters. Moreover, the 1851 Australian gold strike caused a flurry of interest that brought shiploads of European and American hopefuls to the area. As a result, Her Majesty’s Government was petitioned to create accurate and precise charts of the eastern approaches to Australia, which were often a hazard to vessels because of their reefs and islands. The project was headed by Captain H. M. Dendham, who delegated specific areas to different teams. Henry Cox was charged with leading the expedition to chart the Melbourne region; Cox had previously served with both Belcher and Vidal on their important hydrographic expeditions. He would later survive the sinking of H.M.S. Orpheus, which sank off the west coast of Auckland in 1863, with the majority of the crew lost, making it the worst maritime tragedy to occur in New Zealand waters.
Cox’s chart would become the template for all subsequent charts of Melbourne well into the mid-twentieth century. Its influence is shown by the present example, which is a French reproduction, first published two years after the original chart became available. Cartographically, it is identical to Cox’s charts, with the same updates made from later surveys. Soundings are shown in metres, with the land relief depicted in hachures. Additional written information is included along the right side of the chart, explaining the soundings, tides and possible obstacles. To accomodate this text, part of the terrestrial map showing East Melbourne is sacrificed. This chart may have been produced to cater to the growing number of French immigrants to Australia. During the mid-nineteenth century, industry and agriculture in south-west France was stagnating, leading vast numbers to leave France in search of a more promising life in Australia. Similarly, the Industrial Revolution brought about the collapse of the silk-weaving industry that was dominated by Huguenots, meaning that many of these French refugees also sought the southern continent. There is evidence that much of Victoria’s fertile land was transformed into vineyards at the hands of the French immigrants.
The present map is exceedingly rare: we have been unable to trace any other example, either in institutions or on the market.