William Hovell

William Hovell

William Hilton Hovell (26 April 17869 November 1875) was an English explorer of Australia.

Early life

Hovell was born at Yarmouth, Norfolk, England and became a Royal Navy captain before settling in New South Wales, arriving in October 1813 aboard the "Earl Spencer" with his wife Esther née Arndell.] cite web |url=http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010517b.htm |title=Hovell, William Hilton (1786 - 1875) |accessdate=2007-09-07 |author=T. M. Perry |work=Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1 |publisher=MUP |year=1966 |pages=pp 556-557] Getting in touch with Simeon Lord, he became master of a vessel and made several trading voyages along the coast and to New Zealand. In 1816, while in command of "The Brothers" he was shipwrecked in Bass Strait. In 1819 he settled on the land near Sydney and did some exploring in a southerly direction; he discovered the Burragorang Valley in 1823.


In 1824 Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane asked Hovell to join with Hamilton Hume to undertake the exploration of what is now southern New South Wales and Victoria in an attempt to obtain more information about any rivers that might run south in the direction of Spencer Gulf. Hovell had little bush experience, but had great experience as a navigator.

Difficulties arose about the financing of the expedition, and the two explorers decided to make the journey practically at their own expense. All that the government did was to provide some pack-saddles, clothes, blankets and arms, from the government stores. The explorers left on 3 October 1824 with six men. They reached Hume's station 10 days later, and on 17 October began the journey proper with five bullocks, three horses and two carts. On 22 October they found that the only way to pass the Murrumbidgee River, then in flood, was to convert one of the carts into a kind of boat by passing a tarpaulin under it, the men, horses, and bullocks swam over, and everything was successfully got across. A day or two later, in broken hilly country full of water-courses, they had great difficulty in finding a road for the loaded carts, and on 27 October they decided to abandon them. Until 16 November their course lay through difficult mountainous country. On that day they came to a large river which Hovell called Hume's River "he being the first that saw it". This was an upper reach of the Murray River so named by Charles Sturt a few years later. It was impossible to cross here, but after a few days a better place was found, and constructing the rough frame of a boat, they managed to get across. By 3 December they had reached the Goulburn River and were able to cross it without a boat. During the next 10 days much difficult country was traversed but they then came to more level and open land, and on 16 December they sighted Port Phillip in the distance. Presently they skirted its shores south-westerly and came to what is now Corio Bay near Geelong. Here Hovell made a mistake of one degree in calculating his longitude, and they came to the conclusion that they were on Western Port. The party returned on 18 December and wisely keeping more to the west had an easier journey. On 8 January 1825 they came to the end of their provisions, and for a few days subsisted on fish and a kangaroo they were able to shoot. On 16 January 1825 they reached the carts they had left behind them, and two days later came to Lake George.

On 25 March 1825 Governor Brisbane mentioned the discoveries of Hovell and Hume in a dispatch and said that he intended to send a vessel to Western Port to have it explored. However, nothing was done until his successor, Governor Darling, towards the end of 1826, sent an expedition under Captain Wright to Western Port. Hovell was attached to this expedition, and when it arrived the error he had previously made in his longitude was soon discovered. Hovell explored and reported on the land surrounding Western Port and to the north of it, and near the coast to the east at Cape Paterson he discovered "great quantities of very fine coal". [Historical Records of Australia, ser. III, vol. V, p. 855] . This was the first discovery of coal in Victoria. Hovell was away five months on this expedition and henceforth did no more exploring. He made various efforts during the next 10 years to obtain some special recognition from the government in addition to the grants of convert|1200|acre|km2|0 for the journey with Hume, and convert|1280|acre|km2|0 for the journey to Western Port, "subject to restrictions and encumbrances so depreciatory of its value, as to render it a very inadequate remuneration". [Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vol. XIV, pp. 725-9.] ) He appears to have had no success, but must have prospered on his run at Goulburn, where he lived for the rest of his life. He died on 9 November 1875, and in 1877 his widow left £6000 to the University of Sydney as a memorial of him, which was used to found the William Hilton Hovell lectureship on geology and physical geography.

Late life

It was unfortunate that in 1854 ill-feeling arose between Hume and Hovell which led to a war of pamphlets between them. In December 1853 Hovell was entertained at a public dinner in Geelong, his speech was inadequately reported in some of the newspapers, and Hume considered that Hovell had endeavoured to claim all the credit for their joint expedition. The fullest report of Hovell's speech available does not justify Hume's contention. Though unable to take an observation Hume was the better bushman of the two, and more of a natural leader. But Hovell was a well-educated man of amiable character, and during their joint expedition they seem to have worked well together. Between them they were responsible for an excellent and important piece of exploration. Hovell's later discovery of coal during his visit to Western Port was also important; it is remarkable that the discovery was overlooked for a long period. Hovell died in Sydney on 9 November 1875 and was buried at Goulburn, survived by a son.

The road William Hovell Drive which connects the districts of Belconnen to North Canberra in Canberra, Australia is named after him.

ee also

For details of the expedition, see the Hume and Hovell expedition.


*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=William|Last=Hovell|Link=http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogHi-Hu.html#hovell1

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