This photograph taken by Samuel Sweet (see below) purports to show the steamer 'Omeo' moored on the Roper River in the Northern Territory (the original caption). In fact there are three ships, which have been identified in a photograph taken from a slightly different position held in the State Library of SA (B 4641) as the 'Omeo', 'Young Australian' and 'Bengal'.

From 1870 to 1872, Captain Samuel Sweet piloted the 'Gulnare' (wrecked), 'Bengal', 'Young Australian' and 'Tararua' on expeditions to survey the Roper River as part of the completion of the northern end of the Overland Telegraph. An account of one survey journey by a passenger was published in the Adelaide press (Register, 20 April 1872, p6).

The image is a copy made in 1917 from the original glass plate.

A wood engraving of a scene identical to SLSA B4641 appeared in the Australasian Sketcher, 14 June 1873, p45, with initials 'TC' and 'BC'. 'TC' is believed to be the painter Francis Thomas (Tom) Carrington, 'who almost certainly worked from a photograph' - presumably taken by Sweet. (See http://www.territorystories.nt.gov.au/jspui/handle/10070/266861)

After careers as a sea captain and surveyor, Samuel White Sweet (1825-1886) established himself in Adelaide as a well known photographer. 'With his horse-drawn dark room he travelled through South Australia taking hundreds of skilful pictures of the outback, stations and homesteads. The colony's foremost documentary photographer of the 1870s, in the early 1880s he was one of the first to use the new dry-plate process.' (Allan Sierp, 'Sweet, Samuel White (1825–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sweet-samuel-white-4678/text7739, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 5 June 2019.) After his death in 1886, his wife continued his gallery in Adelaide Arcade and sold prints made from his glass plate negatives (https://www.daao.org.au/bio/samuel-white-sweet/biography/).

The State Library of South Australia holds a substantial collection of his photographs.


  • Title: Three ships on the Roper River
  • Creator: Samuel White Sweet
  • Date: 1880
  • Rights: Public Domain
  • Medium: Glass Negative

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