David Carnegie – Explorer and Prospector

The Hon. David Wynford Carnegie left an indelible legacy in Western Australia, and one that was even more remarkable considering the short time he was here.

In 1896 – 1897, Carnegie, born in 1871, youngest son of the Earl of Southesk, led one of the last great expeditions in the exploration of Australia. His route from Lake Darlot to Halls Creek and return took thirteen months and covered over 4800 kilometres. Carnegie financed his expedition from the results of a successful gold strike at Lake Darlot.

Arriving in Australia in 1892 with his friend, Lord Percy Douglas, he learnt the ways of the bush as a miner, prospector and engine driver, taking several small expeditions into unknown areas in search of gold. Carnegie was mentored by the bushman’s bushman, Gus Luck, before he embarked on his classic exploration from Wiluna to Halls Creek and return through the desolate wastes of three deserts.

Carnegie gives a first hand account of the Coolgardie gold rush, the suffering of the prospectors, great gold discoveries, his own long march with typhoid fever, the desert tribes, the constant search for water, the death of one of his men and the vastness of the surrounding desert in his book Spinifex and Sand. All are woven together in one of the most readable accounts of exploration in Australia.

David Carnegie returned to England in 1898, was awarded a medal by the Royal Geographic Society and in 1899 was appointed Assistant Resident and Magistrate in Northern Nigeria. On 27 November 1900 while on an expedition to capture a brigand he was shot in the thigh with a poisoned arrow and died minutes later. Hs body is buried in Lokaja, Nigeria and a memorial to him is in St George’s Cathedral, Perth.

Spinifex and SandLetters from Nigeria and the Western Australian Exploration volume Ambitions Unfinished are available direct from Hesperian Press.


© Kim Epton 2016-2021
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