Port Essington today

The experiment of settlement at Victoria was neither happy nor lasting, the remote outpost dogged by its isolation, dependence on the sea for re-supply and communication, frequent outbreaks of disease and cruel extremes of tropical weather.

Scarcely eight years after its establishment, it was completely destroyed by a cyclone in November 1839 and laboriously rebuilt, partly by convict labour. When the appearance of Leichhardt and the remains of his bedraggled party startled the occupants late in 1845, there was a brief flurry of hope for the settlement's future. Surely now the demonstrated overland route from the southeast might create new links and incentives? But it was not to be and, four years later, the ailing settlement was finally abandoned. You can find an interesting summary of the Port Essington story here.

In addition to its tourist attractions, Port Essington has been immortalised in print and music (yes, again! ~ see also 'Dr Leichhardt's March' for piano here). Here we have gathered three eclectic examples to whet your appetite: something for archaeologists, for sailors, and for music-lovers!

 SUP Port-Essington study FC 200W

A fascinating archaeological examination of the ruins of Victoria was undertaken by Jim Allen in 1966, and was republished as part of a series of monographs in 2008 by Sydney University Press

With broad appeal as a reference book to students and practitioners of historical archaeology and to people interested in Australian colonial history, the 140 pages of this A4-size softback include more than 110 maps, drawings and photos.

Find out more, and order your copy by clicking here.

   
CH DEC-13 COVER 200W

The December 2013 issue of Cruising Helmsman magazine included a colourful feature by Liz Coleman about a visit which she and husband Steve had made to Port Essington on their yacht, while en-route from Sydney to Darwin. "Nothing could prepare me for the surprise we encountered," wrote Liz of their first sighting of the huge waterway, before going on to describe their walk around the ruins and other features of the scenic region.

Click on the cover image to read the article PDF (3.2MB).

   
PortEssington Peter-Sculthorpe cover Russell-Drysdale painting 300W

The 15-minute, six-part Peter Sculthorpe piece titled "Port Essington" for string trio and string orchestra was commissioned by Musica Viva Australia for the Australian Chamber Orchestra and first performed at the University of Queensland in August 1977. The cover featured one of Russell Drysdale's paintings, and the score was described as "absolutely sterling ...  accessible yet boldly original, conceptually fascinating and musically compelling" by The New York Times.

It was not Sculthorpe's first musical connection, however.

   
Peter Sculthorpe ABC 300W

Peter's 1977 piece evolved from a 1974 composition, titled simply "Essington" and written for a four-part ABC TV feature film with a script by Thomas Keneally. That score was co-composed with Michael Hannan and David Matthews, and adapted from an Aboriginal melody "Djilile" (whistling-duck on a billabong) from a recording collected in northern Australia in the late 1950s.

You can find out more about the life and prolific work of Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE by clicking here.

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