This glorious but tragic endeavour in the annals of early Australian exploration took place in 1848, barely 15 years before Cardwell was settled, and revealed a measure of human endurance almost beyond comprehension.
The expedition was led by Edmund B. C. Kennedy who was a son of Major T. Kennedy of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Kennedy was a veteran of earlier Australian expeditions and had under him on this expedition 12 men – William Carron (botanist), Thomas Wall (naturalist), Charles Niblett (storekeeper), James Luff, Edward Taylor and William Costigan (these three were in charge of the carts), Edward Carpenter (shepherd), William Goddard, Thomas Mitchell, John Douglas and Dennis Dunn (labourers), and the unforgettable Aboriginal man, Jackey Jackey. Jackey, whose Aboriginal name was Galmahra(Galmarra), came from Patrick’s Plains in the Hunter River region of NSW.
The expedition had some 28 horses, 100 sheep and a few dogs and was equipped with three carts, packsaddles and other necessary equipment and supplies. One cart appears to have been made watertight and was capable of being transformed, with the aid of a tarpaulin, air-filled water bags and small kegs into a punt to ferry the supplies across rivers and creeks.
The expedition set out from. Sydney on April 29, 1848, in the barque Tam O’Shanter under Captain Merionberg. Its goal was to explore the country east of the Great Dividing Range as far north as Cape York and then return to Sydney by an overland route west of the Dividing Range. On May 23, 1848, the expedition arrived at the northern end of Rockingham Bay to land next day at Tam O’Shanter Point, named after theirship.