Discovery and survival: an 1872 Cape York expedition revisited – and the Girramay man who saved it

William Hann’s exploration to north Queensland has been largely forgotten. But unlike others, he survived, thanks to his resourceful, multilingual guide, Jerry

In 1872 six white men led by William Hann, a pastoralist from the Kennedy district of the new British colony of Queensland, set out to determine the mineral and agricultural potential of the supposedly “empty” Cape York peninsula.

Thanks to the doctrine of terra nullius, the cape’s tens of thousands of Indigenous inhabitants were as humanly absent in colonial mindset as the seventh Hann expedition member, a young Girramay man called Jerry – the guide white history forgot.

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Having smoothed the way with his language skills among the potentially hostile tribes, it seems Jerry also saved the expedition members from themselves

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