The Explorers

The explorers were young men, keen for adventure, risk takers who set out into country that none of the early colonists knew. They were looking for good land for farming and grazing, gold, copper and water.

It took decades for South Australian settlers to understand that the inland was so arid – there are no great bodies of fresh water as they hoped.

Edward John Eyre

  • Edward John Eyre was the first European to trail the rugged ranges inland in 1839 and 1840. He hoped to find fertile country inland, or even an inland sea.  But as he went up the west of the range he found only dry country and salt lakes.
  • In 1839 he noted and named Mt Remarkable and Depot Creek – a reliable source of water.
  • In 1840 he returned to the north, starting out with 6 European and two Aboriginal men; thirteen horses; two drays a cart and 40 live sheep for food. He kept to the flat western plain, more arid than the better watered country on the east of the ranges.
  • Eyre found and named the barren, salt Lake Torrens . He also touched on what we know as Lake Eyre South, Lake Frome, Lake Blanche and Lake Callabonna, and thought they were part of Lake Torrens. As Hans Mincham (1986:19) writes, to Eyre, all these separate lakes ‘were simply stretches of one great horseshoe-shaped lake of salt-encrusted mud – a myth that bedevilled inland exploration for the next eighteen years’.
  • Eyre was convinced he had discovered mainly useless, sterile country. This is reflected in some of the names he gave – such as Mt Deception and Mt Hopeless.
  • His views didn’t stop others trying to explore the area.


  • Australian Dictionary of Biography:
  • Mincham, Hans 1983. The Story of the Flinders Ranges. (3rd ed). Adelaide, Rigby.
  • Hylton, J and Curtin, P. (eds) 2002. Arid Arcadia: Art of the Flinders Ranges. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

John Horrocks

  • Individual classification for Horrocks has same text.John Horrocks owned a sheep run at Penwortham in the Clare Valley. In 1846 he set out to find a way around the salt lake ‘horseshoe’ that Eyre had described, looking for new agricultural land near Lake Torrens.
  • Horrocks set off with thirteen horses and a camel, travelling up the eastern side of the ranges. Just past Mount Remarkable, he found a pass through the ranges, which is named after him. The road from Wilmington to Port Augusta goes through it.
  • Horrocks was fatally wounded on this trip when his camel lurched and his gun went off accidentally and shot him. He died of gangrene a month later, at home. The Wikipedia entry for Horrocks says that the camel had previously attacked people and a goat. It was executed ‘on Horrocks’ express wish’.
  • Artist S.T. Gill [link to section on Gill in ARTISTS] accompanied Horrocks on this trip.  His watercolours tell the story of the journey, and show what the men and the country looked like.


  • Chittleborough, Jon, ‘Horrocks, John Ainsworth (1818–1846)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 September 2012.
  • Hylton, J and Curtin, P. (eds) 2002. Arid Arcadia: Art of the Flinders Ranges. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide