Cape York Peninsula is a peninsula located in Far North Queensland, Australia. It is the largest unspoiled wilderness in northern Australia. The land is mostly flat and about half of the area is used for grazing cattle. The relatively undisturbed eucalyptus-wooded savannahs, tropical rainforests and other types of habitat are now recognised and preserved for their global environmental significance. Although much of the peninsula remains pristine, with a diverse repertoire of endemic flora and fauna, some of its wildlife may be threatened by industry and overgrazing as well as introduced species and weeds.

The northernmost point of the peninsula is Cape York. The land has been occupied by a number of Aboriginal Australian peoples for tens of thousands of years. In 1606, Dutch sailor Willem Janszoon on board the Duyfken was the first European to land in Australia, reaching the Cape York Peninsula.

European exploration
Commemorative stone for Edmund B. C. Kennedy, unveiled at Cardwell, 1948. In 1848, Kennedy, Assistant-Surveyor of New South Wales, led an expedition to explore Cape York Peninsula.
Tour by Willem Jansz with ship Duyfken, in 1605–1606

In February 1606, Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon landed near the site of what is now Weipa, on the western shore of Cape York Peninsula. This was the first recorded landing of a European in Australia, and it also marked the first reported contact between European and Aboriginal Australian people.

Edmund Kennedy was the first European explorer to attempt an overland expedition of Cape York Peninsula. He had been second-in-command to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell in 1846 when the Barcoo River was encountered. The aim was to establish a route to the tip of the peninsula, where Sydney businessmen were attempting development of a port for trade with the East Indies.[1]

The expedition set out from Rockingham Bay near the present town of Cardwell in May 1848, and it turned out to be one of the great disasters of Australian exploration. Of the thirteen men who set out, only three survived. The others died of fever or starvation, or were speared by hostile Aboriginal people. Kennedy died of spear wounds almost within sight of his destination in December 1848. The only survivor to complete the journey was Jackey Jackey, an Aboriginal man from New South Wales. He led a rescue party to the other two who had been unable to continue.[1]

The tip of the peninsula (Cape York) was finally reached by Europeans in 1864 when the brothers Francis Lascelles (Frank) and Alexander William Jardine, along with eight companions, drove a mob of cattle from Rockhampton to the new settlement of Somerset (on Cape York) where the Jardines' father was commander. En route they lost most of their horses, many of their stores and fought pitched battles with Aboriginal people, finally arriving in March 1865.[1]

First contact

The first known contact between European and Aboriginal people occurred on the west coast of the peninsula in 1606, but it was not settled by Europeans until the 19th century when fishing communities, then stations and later mining towns were established. European settlement led to the displacement of Aboriginal communities and the arrival of Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland.[2]

^ a b c Joy, William (1964). The Explorers. Adelaide: Rigby Limited. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-85179-112-8. ^ Cite error: The named reference Woinarski was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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