VI — Crocodiles and River Cruises: The Kintore-Stirling Expedition of 1891
During the 1891 visit of the South Australian Governor and the Director of the South Australian Museum, Foelsche made one of his finest series of photographs. The images provide an insight into the 'colonial project', in which Foelsche was both participant and observer.
During early 1891 the South Australian Governor (Lord Kintore) and the South Australian Museum Director, Dr Edward Stirling, undertook a transcontinental expedition from Port Darwin to Adelaide, travelling by horse and buggy. The official purpose was to allow the Governor to assess the economic state of the Northern Territory at first hand, at a critical stage in its history. Stirling's role was to gauge the severity of 'redwater disease' (anthrax) affecting Territory cattle, and to gather a collection of anthropological and natural history specimens for his Museum.
Paul Foelsche and his influential son-in-law, H.W.H. Stevens, helped to introduce the vice-regal party to the Top End. Foelsche assisted Stirling in collecting Aboriginal artefacts at Port Essington, providing Iwaidja names for them. He and Stevens took the Governor and Stirling on a crocodile hunting expedition along the Adelaide River, by steam launch. The vice-regal party travelling by railway to the goldfields near the Adelaide River, inspecting these before continuing to the rail terminus at Pine Creek.
On 9 April the vice-regal party set off by horse and buggy for the trip south to Oodnadatta, along the Overland Telegraph Line which represented South Australia's greatest engineering and communications achievement.
Kintore-Stirling Expedition Photographs
46. Crocodile shooting on the Daly River, 5 March 1891
Before the Governor's arrival in Port Darwin on 31 March 1891, Edward Stirling spent several weeks with his museum's collector, Thomas Cornock, collecting natural history specimens. Crocodile hunting was a highlight, assisted by Paul Foelsche, his son-in-law, Hildebrand Stevens, and two Aboriginal men. On 5 March 1891, Cornock made this entry in his diary:
Doctor Stirling & Mr Stevens and another gentleman have gone down the river for Alligator, they brought back three - the largest of them 8 feet long, two smaller ones. I made a spirit specimen of the larger one's skin in pickle. The doctor and Mr Foelsche helped me with the skinning. Mr Foelsche took a photo of the party on the bank of the river just before we started to skin the alligator. (Cornock journal, South Australian Museum Archives)
Foelsche has photographed Stirling (gun in hand), Cornock (holding the axe), Stevens and their two unnamed Aboriginal assistants on the bank of the Daly River, ready to commence the task of skinning the crocodile.
47. Dr Stirling at Knuckey's Lagoon, 14 March 1891
Foelsche's study of a scientist in the landscape. Dr Edward Stirling, co-founder of the Adelaide Medical School and Director of the South Australian Museum, is seated at the reins of Foelsche's buggy.
The 1891 transcontinental expedition with the South Australian Governor was Stirling's first major foray into the bush. Their 2,000 kilometre journey south, along the Overland Telegraph Line to Oodndadatta, gave him the opportunity to make important natural history and anthropological collections. Three years later he was a member of the Horn Scientific Expedition to Central Australia. Foelsche has positioned Stirling against the tall grass surrounding Knuckey's Lagoon. Emu, their Djerimanga assistant, is holding his spear in an uncharacteristic pose, accentuating the mid-line of the buggy's harness shaft, and linking him to the rest of the image.
48. Lord Kintore and Dr Stirling in theVictoria, Adelaide River, April 1891
A vice-regal cruise on the Adelaide River, April 1891. Paul Foelsche has carefully constructed this late afternoon view of the South Australian Governor and Dr Edward Stirling, on the deck of the S.S. Victoria. Foelsche's has positioned his camera on the river bank for the best view of the Victoria and its reflection. The boat is completely still, with only the river's tidal flow creating a slight ripple around the rudder. Foelsche's son-in-law H.W.H. Stevens was the Victoria's owner and skipper. He stands shirtless at the bow. A vigilant Edward Stirling is on the watch for crocodiles - a close scrutiny of this image reveals a rifle on the bench behind. The drinks tray is also handy. Perhaps a gin and tonic is contemplated, as the Governor surveys this untamed fragment of Queen Victoria's empire.
49. Dr Stirling's party at the Beatrice Hill Jetty, Adelaide River, 8 March 1891
This photograph was taken during Dr Stirling's crocodile hunting cruise up the Adelaide River during early March 1891 The party spent two days at Beatrice Hill, where Foelsche's son-in-law H.W.H. Stevens, managed a coffee plantation and the Marrakai cattle station on behalf of the Melbourne-based Fisher and Lyons pastoral company.
Foelsche has photographed Dr Stirling's party at the Beatrice Hills jetty, about 60 kilometres from the river mouth. His vantage point was probably Stevens' steam launch, S.S. Victoria, and he has positioned it to capture the full reflection cast by the tree canopy above the group.
This view is one of Foelsche's finest landscape images. Its only flaw is the slight blurring of the figures on the jetty, possibly caused by the shudder of the Victoria's engines, as Foelsche made his exposure.