Port Essington & The Historical Victoria Settlement
Today we enjoy a marine adventure cruise down Port Essington aboard our state-of-the-art expedition boats. We’ll retrace the course of the early mariner’s square riggers, passing landmarks like Gunners Quoin, Low Point, Turtle Rock, Observation Cliff and Record Point on our way to the historic Victoria Settlement.
Surveyed in 1838, Victoria Settlement was the third attempt by the British at a northern settlement, after Fort Dundas on Melville Island and Fort Wellington at Raffles Bay. Conceived to facilitate trade with Asia, the settlement consisted of 24 houses and a hospital. Disease was rampant and living conditions poor, leading to its abandonment in 1849.
Upon our arrival at Victoria Settlement, we’ll take an informative and fascinating tour of the old buildings and ruins and learn about life in the early British occupation. An optional extension walk will also lead to lonely gravestones in the forest, almost forgotten by history.
After a picnic lunch on the beach we head back to Seven Spirit Bay, arriving mid-afternoon. The remainder of your afternoon is yours to enjoy at your leisure. The lodge has a magnificent swimming pool for anyone looking to cool off. (B, L, D)
History of Victoria Settlement/Port Essington
In the early 19th century, the British government became interested in establishing a settlement on Australia’s northern coastline in order to facilitate trade with Asia. Port Essington, officially named Victoria Settlement after the young Queen Victoria, was surveyed by Charles Tyers in 1838 and consisted of 24 houses and a hospital. It was the third attempt at a northern settlement, after Fort Dundas on Melville Island and Fort Wellington at Raffles Bay.
While the British government intended to establish Port Essington as a major trading port, along the lines of Singapore, the new settlement suffered from the same adverse conditions that plagued the previous attempts. The settlement lacked resources and supplies and skilled labour. While some prefabricated buildings were brought from Sydney, many had to be built with what materials could be found in the area, and due to the unskilled nature of the builders many of these were of poor quality.
Disease was also rampant among the small population, and living conditions were poor. Consequently, it struggled to attract settlers and the post was much-disliked by the troops stationed there. Despite these setbacks, there was still widespread hope that Port Essington may be able to break the curse, as evidenced by Ludwig Leichhardt’s 1844/1845 expedition. The New South Wales government had hoped to establish a direct line of communication with Asia, India and the Pacific, and supported Leichhardt’s journey which successfully charted an overland route between Moreton Bay (now Brisbane) and Port Essington. In 1849 Port Essington was abandoned. The ruins of Port Essington still exist today and are incredibly interesting.