Diary of Goyder survey party 1869

A diary of George Woodroffe Goyder, leader of the survey party which arrived in Port Darwin in February 1869, is now in the collection of the Northern Territory Archives Service.

Goyder and his survey team arrived on the ship Moonta on 5 February 1869 and set up camp near Fort Hill. 

This diary covers the period from 5 February to 1 March 1869 and has a daily log of activities of the party including the construction of the camp, search for fresh water, survey activities for both township and surrounding country and information about the health and livestock of the survey team.

The South Australian Government was keen to establish a permanent settlement in the Northern Territory (NT). Needing funds to do this, the government legislated to allow the sale of land prior to survey, with a five year deadline for survey and selection of lots.

By 1868, with the five year deadline looming and failed attempts to establish a settlement, the government commissioned Goyder to undertake a survey of land. Survey for both a township and surrounding country was required as each land holder was also entitled to a town block. 

After examining reports of previous explorations and surveys Goyder chose Port Darwin as the site for the proposed settlement.

George Woodroffe Goyder was born in Liverpool in 1826 and emigrated to Australia in 1848. 

In 1851 he commenced work as a draftsman in South Australia and was appointed Surveyor-General in 1861. Goyder is well known for his survey and exploration of pastoral districts in South Australia, travelling extensively by horseback and earning a reputation as a man of energy.

Surveyors' camp, Port Darwin, NTAS, NTRS 234, CP225 and CP226Surveyors' camp, Port Darwin, NTAS, NTRS 234, CP225 and CP226

Surveyors' Camp, Port Darwin, NTAS, NTRS 234, CP225 and CP226

In this diary which covers the first month of survey work, Goyder lists members of the different work teams. Work commenced on a camp, well and horse stables at once. The initial camp site was located in the saddle below Fort Hill.

On 22 February Goyder completed the design for the township at Port Darwin. Survey work commenced immediately. Many of the street names are those of the senior members of the survey party. Many of these surveyors subsequently undertook survey work in the Northern Territory for the Overland Telegraph line.

Township of Palmerston on East side of Port Darwin, Hundred of Bagot. Portion tinted green allotments selected 16.9.1870. NAA, A6128, NTR113

Township of Palmerston on East side of Port Darwin, Hundred of Bagot. Portion tinted green
allotments selected 16.9.1870. NAA, A6128, NTR113

A reference copy of the diary can be accessed in the Reading Room of the Northern Territory Archives Centre.

You can read a digitised copy of Goyder's diary (2.6 mb) or a transcript of the diary (5.4 mb).

State Records of South Australia holds another diary that Goyder wrote about the Northern Territory Survey Expedition of 1868-1870. 

For details of this diary, search the State Records of South Australia database.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) Library holds a microfilm copy of the diary held by the State Records of South Australia. For details, search the CDU Library catalogue with the search term "Northern Territory Survey Expedition".

Last updated: 18 April 2016