Photographer and Author: Edward Stokes
Publisher: The Five Mile Press (Melbourne), 1993
Format: Hardback, 280mm x 250mm, 132pp.
The Desert Coast recounts, with photos linked to the explorer’s journal, the single-minded drive, and the bitter hardships, of the Australian explorer Edward Eyre. During 1840 – 41, Eyre made an almost entirely forced march around the southern coast of Australia.
A young Englishman, Eyre rode out from the new settlement of Adelaide. He had resolved to be the first explorer to cross the continent from south to north. The country beyond the settled districts was, except to its Aboriginal people, unknown. But, despite his stamina and bravery, Eyre’s quest ended in failure.
North of Adelaide, beyond the Flinders Ranges, Eyre was baffled by salt lakes. Reason demanded a retreat to Adelaide. But Eyre was resolute. Instead, with a tiny vulnerable party, he planned to force his way along the southern coast of the Great Australian Bight. From earlier navigators’ accounts the coast was known to be waterless. Yet Eyre hoped that he might discover a river leading north.
“Cheerless and hopeless indeed was the prospect before us”, Eyre wrote. “The view was extensive and decisive. For three-quarters of the compass, as far as the eye could see, the horizon was one unbroken level.”
Eyre’s hopes were not to be. He and his few men barely survived. With one Aborigine, Eyre finally reached the southwestern coast – at Albany. Eyre’s courage, and his forced marches between waterholes, later gripped the Australian imagination. Known for his sympathy to the indigenous Australians, Eyre later became an Aboriginal “Protector” along the Murray River.
The production of The Desert Coast was sponsored by Cathay Pacific Airways, Sydney.
Photographing at the Head of the Bight, along Australia’s mid-southern coast. Here, Eyre struggled to find water across the arid Nullarbor Plain. Sheer cliffs plunge into the Southern Ocean. The photo was taken by Roz Keep, Ed’s co-driver on the photo expedition.