Swan River

Willem de Vlaming

In 1827, an English captain, named James Stirling, after having sailed along the western coast, gave a most favourable account of a large river he had seen on his voyage. He was not the first discoverer of this river, which, as early as 1697, had been visited by a Dutch navigator, named Willem de Vlaming, who was sailing in quest of a man-of-war supposed to have been wrecked on these shore. Vlaming had seen this stream, and, astonished by the wonderful sight of thousands of jet black swans on its surface, had given it the name, Swan River.

Captain James Stirling

But the Swan River had been unthought of till Captain Stirling, by his report, awakened a warm and hopeful interest in this district. Shortly afterwards the British Government resolved to founding a colony on the banks of this river and Captain Freemantle arrived as the pioneer of the intended settlement. When he landed on the shore, he found that a nearer view of the country was far from realizing the expectations formed by those who had viewed it merely from the open sea. He began to have forebodings, but it was now too late, the ships, containing 800 of the first settlers, were already close at hand; and, in the course of a week or two, after narrowly escaping shipwreck on the reefs along the shore, they landed Captain Stirling, the first Governor, with his little band, on the wilderness of Garden Island.

Finding A Suitable Location

Here, in this temporary abode, the colonists remained for several months, sheltering themselves in fragile tents, or in brushwood huts, from the rough blasts and the rains that beat in from the winter storms of the Indian Ocean. Exploring parties set out from time to time to examine the adjoining mainland; but, however fair it seemed from a distance, they found it to be merely a sandy region, covered with dense and scrubby thickets. The only port was at a place called Fremantle, where there was but little shelter from the storms of the open ocean; and the only place suitable for a town was several miles up the Swan River, where the waters expanded into broad but shallow lagoons. Here the colonists determined to build their city, to which they gave the name of Perth ; but this site was not favourable to enterprise, an impassable bar stretched across the mouth of the river, which was , therefore, inaccessible to vessels. The goods of the colonists had to be landed on an exposed beach at Fremantle, and then carried overland through miles of sand and scrub. 

New Immigrants

In 1830 about a thousand new immigrants arrived; and, towards the end of the year, the colonists succeeded in settling down in their new home at Perth.


History of Australia