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Joseph Beete Jukes

1811-1869

Joseph Beete Jukes (1811-1869) was born in Birmingham, England. After completed a degree in geology at Cambridge in 1836, he surveyed Newfoundland in Canada and published ‘Excursions In and About Newfoundland During the Years 1839 and 1840’. In 1842, he was employed as the naturalist on the HMS FLY expedition to the Torres Strait, New Guinea, Australia and Java under the command of Captain Francis Price Blackwood.

Over the next three years, HMS FLY circumnavigated Australia twice before visiting Java in 1845. In 1847, Jukes published detailed accounts of the expedition's activities in his ‘Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of HMS FLY Commanded by Captain FP Blackwood, RN in Torres Strait, New Guinea, and Other Islands of the Eastern Archipelago, during the years 1842-1846: Together with an Excursion into the Interior of the Eastern part of Java'. His account is a colourful narrative of the voyage; it details incidences of scurvy, shipwrecks and friendly and hostile exchanges with indigenous inhabitants.

Jukes also performed a detailed maritime study from the south-east coast of New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands to the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. In 1850, he published 'A Sketch of the Physical Structure of Australia: so far as it is at present known'. In it, he described Australia as 'the very land of uniformity and monotony, the same dull and sombre vegetation, the same marsupial type of animals....' Despite this, Juske remained enthusiastic about the mineral wealth of New South Wales, emphasising the importance of undertaking more in-depth surveys. This text remains a significant historical contribution as it was the first published geological map of Australia.

Upon his return to England in 1846, Jukes was assigned to a geological survey of North Wales Staffordshire. Three years after this post, he was offered the chance to return to Australia to perform a mineral survey of New South Wales. He declined the offer because he believed that colonial jobs lacked long-term stability. Jukes made the fateful decision to direct a geological survey in Ireland. On 29 July 1869, he was riding a horse and fell from his saddle; he died soon after from his injuries.