Albany, Western Australia - History

History

The Albany region was first home to the Menang Noongar people, who made use of the area during the summer months for fishing and other activities. They called the area Kinjarling which means "the place of rain". Many town names in South-Western Australia end in "up" or "ing", which means "place of" in the Noongar language. Early European explorers discovered evidence of fish traps located on Emu Point and on French, now Kalgan, River and a small "village" of bark dwellings that were, at the time, deserted.

Albany is also the oldest continuous European settlement in Western Australia, founded in 1826, three years before the state capital of Perth. The King George Sound settlement was a hastily dispatched British military outpost, intended to forestall any plans by France for settlements in Western Australia.

The first European explorers to visit the area around Albany were on the Dutch ship Gulden Zeepaert (Golden Seahorse) skippered by François Thijssen in 1627. They sailed along the south coast towards South Australia.

In 1791, English explorer George Vancouver explored the south coast including entering and naming King George Sound. Albany was the site at which, on 27 September 1791, Vancouver took possession of New Holland for the British Crown. Vancouver went out of his way to establish good relationships with the local Aboriginal people.

In 1792, Frenchman Bruni d'Entrecasteaux, in charge of the Recherche and L'Esperance, reached Cape Leeuwin on 5 December and explored eastward along the southern coast. The expedition did not enter King George Sound due to bad weather.

In 1801, Matthew Flinders entered King George Sound and stayed for about a month before charting the rest of the southern Australian coastline. By 1806 he had completed the first circumnavigation of Australia.

French explorer Nicolas Baudin visited King George Sound from 18 February – 1 March 1803, in the Géographe and Casaurina. He surveyed Princess Royal Harbour, Oyster Harbour and the coast as far as Bald Island, to the east. During this visit, the Casaurina was beached in Princess Royal Harbour for repairs.

Australian-born explorer Phillip Parker King visited King George Sound in 1822 on the Bathurst.

On 26 October 1826, Frenchman Dumont d'Urville in the L'Astrolabe visited King George Sound before sailing along the south coast to Port Jackson.

Later in 1826, on Christmas Day, a British Army expedition, led by Major Edmund Lockyer arrived on the Amity, from Sydney, and founded a military base. Lockyer rescued Aboriginal women from offshore islands, who had been kidnapped by sealers operating in the Great Australian Bight as sexual slaves, and apprehended the culprits, sending them east to stand trial. As a result, the local Minang Noongar organised a corroboree in his honour, cementing the good relationships established earlier between local Aboriginal groups of the area and European explorers.

On 7 March 1831 the King George Sound and colony was made part of the Swan River Colony and a free settlement.

Albany was officially named by Governor Stirling at the beginning of 1832, at the time that political authority passed to the Swan River colony. It is named after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, and son of King George III.

Albany was also the final destination in 1841 of explorer Edward John Eyre, after being the first person to reach Western Australia by land from the East (Adelaide).

Until the opening of the Port of Fremantle in 1900, Albany was also home to the only deep-water port in Western Australia, Princess Royal Harbour. This is the largest natural harbour in Western Australia and also on the entire south coast of the Australian mainland, outside of Melbourne. This facility meant that, for many years, the first port of call for the mail from England was at Albany. This put Albany in a privileged position over Perth and it remained that way until C. Y. O'Connor used dynamite on the reef that was blocking the entrance into the Swan River in Fremantle, thus establishing this port as Western Australia's major harbour.

Since that time, Albany has become popular with retirees, with inhabitants enjoying the fresh air, clean beaches, and fine views over the Southern Ocean It is still also a thriving regional centre.

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