I had some electronic contact with someone who I discovered grew up in the same small South Gippsland (a region within the State of Victoria) as I spent a couple of years in with my father and step mother in my late teen years, perhaps 18 to 21. I also discovered he lives in the same apartment building near Station Pier as an acquaintance of ours does. He was as a child, and still is very interested in trains. He used to ride with the train drivers in South Gippsland steam locomotives. What fun. Something he said led me to do some searching and I discovered the Strzelecki train line which branched off at Koo Wee Rup from the South Gippsland line, about which I knew nothing or I had forgotten, apart from having heard of a couple of the towns having a station.
One day I plan to drive the Grand Ridge Road over the not particular high Strzelecki Ranges. When I was young, Strzelecki had been Anglicised to Strezlecki. At some point the name was corrected, back to the name of the person who first led an expedition through the area. So who was Strzelecki? Here is a photo of him. Squared jawed, I guess you would say, and handsome enough.
Clearly travel interested him and at the age of 37 via Liverpool, he sailed for New York and spent much time in both North and South America and the South Seas Islands, ending up in New Zealand.
In 1839 he was requested by the Governor Gipps (hence Gippsland) of the Colony of New South Wales, which then controlled the area now known as the State of Victoria, to survey the geological and mineralogical conditions of the south eastern part of Australia. Hence the area he surveyed became known as the Strzelecki Ranges.
He also led an expedition into the Australian Alps and the Snowy Mountains and named Australia's tallest mountain Mount Kosciuszko, after a Polish military leader. He headed back to explore more of Gippsland, and nearly died from starvation. He spent a further two years extensively exploring Van Diemens Land, now our island State of Tasmania.
He returned to England, via China and the West Indies, where he became a naturalised citizen and was appointed as superintendent of relief distribution in County Mayo and County Sligo during the Irish famine in 1846 and came down with the disease himself. He helped Irish people emigrate to Australia (thanks for that :-P ) He also helped soldiers injured fighting in the Crimean War. Was this Polish born person recognised for his achievements? He sure was.
Gold Medal from the Royal Geographical Society
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
A member of the Royal Society
Order of Bath
Order of St Michael and St George
Honorary degree from the University of Oxford
Are you impressed? I am very impressed by his significant achievements and his willingness to risk his personal safety and well being. Australia advanced significantly by his efforts.
He died of natural causes in 1873 at the age of 76 and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in west London. However, in 1997 his remains were transferred to the Crypt of Eminent Poles, Church of St Adalbert, (Wojciech) in Poznan, Poland. How odd. What brought this about? It is not easy to find out who was behind the return of his remains to Poland.
Was he honoured in Australia, oh yes, he was that too. This monument, which could do with some maintenance, was erected in his honour in the Gippsland town of Traralgon in 1966. Photo by phunnyfotos.