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4. Botanical Exploration, the Lighthouse and Skye Crofters

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As already indicated, there was plenty of activity on the Promontory during the years immediately before and after the middle of the 19th century.

One visit of some significance to those interested in its natural history was that of Ferdinand Mueller—explorer, geographer and the first Government Botanist of the Colony of Victoria.

In the autumn of 1853 he was nearing the end of his long and arduous exploration of the Australian Alps and, on the homeward journey, he made what might be termed a detour which brought him to the east coast of the Promontory, where he spent some time collecting botanical material.

It was on this occasion, near Sealers Cove, that he spent a miserable four days with little food, drenched by incessant rain and, by unhappy chance, reduced to his last match.

In his report of September of that year to the Colonial Secretary which was duly tabled in Parliament and printed, mention of this visit is made in one what for Mueller is an unusually terse sentence: “After several weeks’ travelling in the neighbourhood of Port Albert and many excursions through Wilson’s Promontory, I quitted Gipps Land, returning homeward along the coast.”

The full written account of the whole journey was contained in despatches written en route and addressed to the Colonial Secretary but such accounts as are now readily accessible derive from references in papers and journals which appeared in the years that followed.

Mueller was certainly impressed with the richness and variety of the vegetation he noted at Sealers Cove, so much so that in the following year, he despatched John Walters, foreman of the Botanic Garden, to the cove to collect specimens for the Paris Exhibition…

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