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Trigonometric survey of Port Jackson

Date: 1853
Overall: 2161 x 1650 mm, 25.2 kg
Display Dimensions: 2165 x 1650 x 60 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM collection
Classification:Maps, charts and plans
Object Name: Chart
Object No: 00017305
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    Sir Thomas Mitchells trigonometric survey of Port Jackson compiled in 1853 from eight separate sheets. The survey documents a broad view of the harbour including Manly, Middle Harbour and Balgowlah on the north side, Rose Bay and Double Bay on the eastern side, Paramatta River on the western side and the city centre of the southern side.

    SignificanceA detailed chart showing the extent of settlement and amount of maritime infrastructure built around Port Jackson by the mid 19th Century. The great rarity of this map is due to a very small original circulation and a poor survival rate on account of its large proportions. Mitchell probably saw the publication of such a large and important survey as vindication of his term as Surveyor General. It stands as the grandest and most impressive of all the 19th century maps of New South Wales, recording the colony during the gold rush years and whilst the harbour was still the focus of settlement.

    HistoryThomas Mitchell as Surveyor-General was one of the colony’s greatest surveyors and explorers travelling to the far west and south to Australia Felix. Despite an often tumultuous career and relations with successive Governors, Mitchell’s skill as a surveyor is evident in this survey of Port Jackson which was published in London just prior to his death in 1855.

    The survey was not completed until 1852 and had been undertaken by orders from the Governor General at the time, Sir Charles Fitzroy. The map is extremely detailed noting accurately all topographical contours and harbour soundings. An important feature is the clear depiction of all roads, buildings and architectural
    developments in the city and adjoining suburbs.

    Mitchell had this map issued by his publisher in London, T & W Boone in 1853. At that time he was on extended leave from Sydney under the guise of developing and promoting his invention of the "boomerang propeller". Mitchell used the efforts involved in preparing and publishing the map of Port Jackson as another reason to extend his leave from Australia. However, Governor Fitzroy was another in a succession of governors who were looking to be rid of Mitchell as they deemed him, despite his talents, to be insubordinate and difficult to work with. It was only under threat of dismissal that Mitchell returned to Sydney in 1854.

    The next year saw a Royal Commission established to look into the state of the Survey Department in New South Wales, so bad was Mitchells leadership of it perceived to be. However before its findings were to be released, Mitchell died and although the report severely condemned Mitchells administration, the trigonometric survey of 1852 is a lasting testament to his exceptional surveying skills.

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    Publisher: T&W Boone

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