Australasia 1862: Crossing the Outback
The possibility of connecting Australia to the world by a telegraph line to Java encouraged the British colonies of Victoria and South Australia to mount competing expeditions to cross the continent. Despite having better funding, the 1860–61 Victorian expedition under Burke and Wills narrowly failed to reach the northern coast and ended in disaster when the two explorers ran out of supplies on the way back. The South Australian expedition under Stuart fared better, successfully charting the route from Adelaide to just east of Port Darwin in 1861–62.
17 Mar 1860–18 Mar 1861 First Taranaki War▲
In 1860 the New Zealand government sent British troops to occupy disputed land in Taranaki province, leading to a clash with the Māori claimants. A series of battles followed in which the local Māori were tacitly supported by tribes of the Māori King movement. After a year of conflict, the Kingites negotiated a peace with the government on the condition that the disputed purchase was investigated.
20 Aug 1860–28 Jun 1861 Burke and Wills Expedition▲
The Royal Society of Victoria in the British colony of Victoria launched a 19-man expedition, led by Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills, in an attempt to cross the Australian continent from Melbourne in the south to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. Despite making a successful crossing, the expedition was stopped just short of the north coast by swampland. Plagued by delays on the return journey, Burke and Wills reached their supply depot at Cooper Creek just hours after it had been abandoned and died of starvation a week later.
12–13 Apr 1861 Battle of Fort Sumter▲
Shortly after forming, the Confederacy began confiscating United States military posts, but was unable to peacefully assume control of Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina. Refusing to grant legitimacy to the Confederacy by entreating with its government, the US refused to hand over or sell the fort. Finally, on 12-13 April, Confederate forces bombarded and captured the Fort, marking the outbreak of the American Civil War.
20 May 1861–? ?? 1865 Otago Gold Rush▲
In May 1861 Australian prospector Gabriel Read found gold in a creek bed near the Tuapeka River in Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. News of the discovery brought 14,000 prospectors to the region by Christmas and doubled the population of Otago and Southland over the next three years. The boom began to decline in 1864, but the prosperity it generated helped push the South Island to 63% of New Zealand’s total population by 1867.
10 Oct 1861 South Australian boundary change▲
In 1836 the western boundary of the British colony of South Australia had been proclaimed at longitude 132°E for reasons that are no longer known. This declaration left New South Wales with a disconnected area of 128,500 square km between South Australia and Western Australia. After years of debate, Letters Patent proclaimed the region annexed to South Australia, pushing that colony’s western boundary to meet Western Australia at 129°E.
17 Oct 1861 Cullin-la-ringo massacre▲
In October 1861 a party of settlers under Horatio Wills were suddenly attacked by Aborigines while setting up the grazing property of Cullin-la-ringo northwest of Brisbane in the British colony of Queensland. Nineteen settlers were killed, although six absent or hidden members of the party survived—including already famed cricketer and Australian rules football co-founder Tom Wills. In reprisal, a punitive expedition set out, massacring a large number of Aborigines the following month.
23 Oct 1861–24 Jul 1862 Stuart’s sixth expedition▲
In October 1861, having already made an unsuccessful attempt at crossing Australia earlier that year, Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart left Adelaide in the British colony of South Australia and traveled north with 10 men and 71 horses. After a number of efforts to reach the Victoria River in the northwest failed, Stuart instead pressed due north to reach Daly Waters and the Mary River. From here Stuart traveled to Chambers Bay, completing his successful crossing of the continent.