Loading

Sketch of the district south east of Lake Eyre, South Australia

Goyder, G. W. (George Woodroffe), 1826-18981864-03-01

State Library of South Australia

State Library of South Australia
Adelaide, Australia

George Goyder hand drew drew this detailed map of the area between Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre in the far north of South Australia, using ink and water colours. It includes detailed notes on natural features and shows the tracks of the Edward John Eyre who had explored the area in 1840 in an attempt to open up the far north of the colony to pastoralists.

Goyder was born in England in 1826 and trained as a surveyor in Glasgow before migrating to Australia in 1848. He lived first in Sydney before moving to South Australia in 1851 where he joined the Department of Lands as chief clerk in January 1853 and rose rapidly to Deputy Surveyor-General in 1857, and finally Surveyor-General, in 1861. He held this position for 33 years. He later became chairman of the railways commission and forest board.

He is most remembered for mapping a line of demarcation for rainfall in South Australia, 'Goyder's Line'. This marked out the lands which received enough annual rainfall to sustain agriculture. Beyond this line was generally considered unsuitable for anything but grazing.

In April 1857, several months after his appointment as Deputy Surveyor-General, he led an expedition north to report on country which was at the time beyond pastoral settlement. His task was to report on some earlier discoveries of the South Australian Government Assayer, Benjamin Babbage. Since Babbage's journey there had been some substantial rainfall. New to the Australian landscape, Goyder was misled by the newly grown lush vegetation and reported a freshwater lake and fertile land. This contradicted earlier 1839 assessments by Edward Eyre.

The Surveyor-General, Arthur Freeling decided to examine the area in September of 1857. No more rain had fallen and hot winds had killed the vegetation and turned the lake to mud. Freeling criticized Goyder for mistaking flood for permanent water, being misled by mirage. Goyder learned from this mistake and in 1859, at his own request, he led survey parties to triangulate the country between Lakes Torrens and Eyre and to sink wells. This map draws on this work. When Freeling resigned, Goyder was recalled from the north to become Surveyor-General on 19 January 1861.

Meanwhile, Goyder's initially positive assessment had led to a rush of land applications from hopeful farmers. After several back breaking years these pioneer settlers realized that the country was barren, almost waterless and useless for farming. In 1865, after years of drought, Goyder was sent north to map the actual line of demarcation between arable and drought stricken land. 'Goyder's line of rainfall' followed the southern boundary of vast areas of saltbush country in the far north of South Australia. The line was soon generally accepted as an accurate guide to the separation between farming and grazing lands. Farmers who ignored the demarcation were inevitably forced off their land by lack of water.

During 1868-69 he was sent to the Northern Territory then administered by South Australia, to survey the area that is now Darwin, then known as Palmerston and adjacent farming lands. From 1875-83, he was Chairman of the Forest Board and was instrumental in establishing forest reserves as South Australia had little commercially valuable timber. He was also involved in water conservation. Starting with wells and dams on northern stock routes he persuaded the government to spend 300,000 pounds on drainage in the south-east in 1867.

Goyder was one of South Australia's most competent and hard-working administrators and consistently overworked himself and as a result, his health suffered. He retired in 1894 after several previous requests to do so had been denied him by the government. He died on 2 November 1898 at his home, Warrakilla, near Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills.ed the Department of Lands as chief clerk in January 1853 and rose rapidly to Deputy Surveyor-General in 1857, and finally Surveyor-General, in 1861. He held this position for 33 years. He later became chairman of the railways commission and forest board.

Goyder is most remembered for mapping a line of demarcation for rainfall in South Australia, 'Goyder's Line'. This marked out the lands which received enough annual rainfall to sustain agriculture. Beyond this line was generally considered unsuitable for anything but grazing.

In April 1857, several months after his appointment as Deputy Surveyor-General, he led an expedition north to report on country which was at the time beyond pastoral settlement. His task was to report on some earlier discoveries of the South Australian Government Assayer, Benjamin Babbage. Since Babbage's journey there had been some substantial rainfall. New to the Australian landscape, Goyder was misled by the newly grown lush vegetation and reported a freshwater lake and fertile land. This contradicted earlier 1839 assessments by Edward Eyre.

The Surveyor-General, Arthur Freeling decided to examine the area in September of 1857. No more rain had fallen and hot winds had killed the vegetation and turned the lake to mud. Freeling criticized Goyder for mistaking flood for permanent water, being misled by mirage. Goyder learned from this mistake and in 1859, at his own request, he led survey parties to triangulate the country between Lakes Torrens and Eyre and to sink wells. This map draws on this work. When Freeling resigned, Goyder was recalled from the north to become Surveyor-General on 19 January 1861.

Meanwhile, Goyder's initially positive assessment had led to a rush of land applications from hopeful farmers. After several back breaking years these pioneer settlers realized that the country was barren, almost waterless and useless for farming. In 1865, after years of drought, Goyder was sent north to map the actual line of demarcation between arable and drought stricken land. 'Goyder's line of rainfall' followed the southern boundary of vast areas of saltbush country in the far north of South Australia. The line was soon generally accepted as an accurate guide to the separation between farming and grazing lands. Farmers who ignored the demarcation were inevitably forced off their land by lack of water.

During 1868-69 he was sent to the Northern Territory then administered by South Australia, to survey the area that is now Darwin, then known as Palmerston and adjacent farming lands. From 1875-83, he was Chairman of the Forest Board and was instrumental in establishing forest reserves as South Australia had little commercially valuable timber. He was also involved in water conservation. Starting with wells and dams on northern stock routes he persuaded the government to spend 300,000 pounds on drainage in the south-east in 1867.

Goyder was one of South Australia's most competent and hard-working administrators and consistently overworked himself and as a result, his health suffered. He retired in 1894 after several previous requests to do so had been denied him by the government. He died on 2 November 1898 at his home, Warrakilla, near Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills.

Details

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps