Robert Ewart (1859 - 1929)

As descendants of Bob Ewart, we would like to honour the work that he carried out in surveying and cutting tracks in the wilderness that is Western Tasmania.

A group of us would like to meet sometime in late November or early December to advance the research done so far on Robert and his expeditions.

Suggested objectives for discussion are:
1) Confirm/identify Bob’s routes/camps
2) Identify other reference points (Innes Track, Innes Track, R. A. C. Thirkells track, J. L. A. Moore's track, and the Linda Track)
3) Identify other potential sources of information on Ewart and his routes
4) Identify proponents of new West-East walking track (similar to Overland Track) and initiate dialogue to identify proposed route/overlap with Ewart’s Routes
5) Confirm that Lake Ewart (prev. Augusta) was named after Bob and when
6) Plan reconnaissance trip, or trip to retrace route

Tracks and Expeditions

Map (PDF 2mb) showing regions where Robert made some surveys.
Plan (PDF 2.6mb)
showing traverse of track from lake Selina to Eldon Bluff- 7 Aug 1900
Report (PDF 530kb)
of 1900 Red Hills to Eldon Bluff - 27th June 1900
Report (PDF 530kb)
of Lake Selina - Lake St Clair - 1901
Report (PDF 275kb)
of Granite Tor - 1902
Plan (PDF 80kb)
of marked track from a point on Innes Track near Mt Pelion to King River Bridge near Gormanston - Jun-Jan 1902
Report (PDF 313kb)
of Mt Pelion - 20th February 1902
Report (PDF 262kb)
of Eldon Bluff - 25th March 1902
Report (PDF 388kb)
of South Eldon River - 20th April 1902

Explorers of Western Tasmania

Chris Binks, a well known local teacher and author has written numerous books about aspects of Tasmanian history. This particular one gives a description of Robert and the work he carried out.

Excerpt from "Explorers of Western Tasmania" by CJ Binks
Robert Ewart
February - May 1900 Tyndall Range - Eldon Bluff.
Report: H of A Papers 1900, No. 44.
Map: 17 tracks, Lands Dept.
Party: Robert Ewart, Marcus Hardwicke, William Johnstone.
This track began at Lake Selina, where there were prospecting sections, not far from the pack track to Red Hills. It followed the Anthony River downstream for a short distance before turning east and crossing another large tributary of the Murchison River a short distance above its junction with the Murchison. Ewart took this tributary to be the Murchison itself, and the main stream to be the Canning. The tributary was spanned by a log and handrail 10m above the water. The track was cut up the long spur which Gould had followed forty years earlier, and terminated at Lake Dorothy (Ewart thought this was Lake Augusta), which nestles into the northern side of Eldon Bluff. The work was hampered by rain and snow, and during the last seven weeks Ewart had only one man to help him.

January - April 1901 Eldon Bluff - Lake St Clair.
Report- H of A Papers 1901 No. 47.
Map: 31 Tracks, Lands Dept.
Party: Robert Ewart, Alan Pybus, James New, Leslie Ims. (Charles Roberts later replaced Ims).
A continuation of the earlier track Ewart took this across the saddle between High Dome and Pyramid Hill. Starting from Lake St Clair, he followed the route of Burgess, Gould, Moore and Counsel past Lake Petrarch onto Coal Hill and along the crest of the range west of Gould's Sugarloaf to a point between Pyramid Hill and Rocky Hill, where it swung north to High Dome. The track may still be traced through the scrub in the saddle between Gould's Sugarloaf and Pyramid Hill, and down the spur into the head of the Murchison River, and old stakes can be seen across the high ground below High Dome, though most of the large ones date from a later period when the track was restaked. On completion of the Lake St Clair track, Ewart shortened the track of the previous year by making a deviation off the main spur, across the watershed between the North Eldon and the large Murchison tributary, and over the Sticht Range to Lake Rolleston, where it joined the Lake Dora pack track.

January - May 1902 Pelion Plains - King River Bridge
Report: Corr. Ewart - Counsel LSD File 8100 G / 208 AOT.
Map: 33 Tracks, Lands Dept.
Party: Robert Ewart, Alan Pybus, William Buddon, Henry Edwards. (James O'Meara later replaced Buddon).
This was one of the link tracks connecting two main access routes: E. G. Innes's track from Liena to Roseberv and Ewart's track from Lake Rolleston to Lake St Clair. Ewart commenced work on the Innes track close to the foot of the descent from Pelion Plains to Frog Flat, about 3km from the Forth River. (Innes's track crossed the Forth 30 miles from Liena; Ewart's track left it 28 miles 28 chains from Liena). The track reached its highest point on the saddle above Frog Flat, between Mt Thetis and Achilles, before beginning a graded descent into the valley of the Wallace River, around the eastern and southern slopes of Perrin's Bluff. In the month from mid-January there were five snow-falls, and only twelve fine days. During this period Ewart went ahead and roughlv marked the route of the track as far as Eldon Bluff, but in such poor weather that for much of the way he could see for less than a hundred metres.
The track crossed the Murchison (Canning) a kilometre above its junction with the Wallace, then climbed steadily S.W. to Dome Hill, where it turned south to join Ewart's earlier track on the high ground just west of Lake Ewart (Augusta) at the end of March. Ewart and his men had a short break in Zeehan before resuming work on the second stage. While two of the men worked up the banks of the King and South Eldon rivers from the King River Bridge on the Linda track, Ewart took one man ahead and completed the high level section from Lake Ewart, between Eldon Bluff and Castle Mountain, down a spur to the South Eldon. The track kept to the south bank of the river all the way down to The Long, Marsh.
In 1909 a track was cut by Ewart from the Gordon near the mouth of the Smith River, in an attempt to connect with R. A. C. Thirkell's re-cut and extension of J. L. A. Moore's track of 1900 from the Linda Track to the lower Jane River. The season was a very wet one and the scrub in this area - the Smith River Valley - was extremely bad. The party ran out of supplies and the track was discontinued. (Survevor-General's Report 1908-9; Map 42 Tracks, Lands Dept.)

Other Explorers - Robert's fellow adventurers

JE (Ernie) Philp accompanied Bob and Eric Rumney on the trip to explore the Gordon River from its mouth to the intersection with the Innes Track.

From the introduction of the THRA publication "A solomons sojourn: JE Philp's log of the Makira"
"The expedition was beset with dangers from snakes, a narrow escape from a bush fire, and the near death of Ewart and Rumney who became lost on a two day observation trip. Nonetheless, the expedition enjoyed some success and the Field Naturalist Society credited Philp with the discovery of several new species of beetles and flies collected by him on the expedition".

Ernie kept a diary (transcribed by Jack Thwaites) during the Gordon River expedition and it provides a glimpse of the incredible hardships faced by these three men during the trip. They sailed from Hobart on 28th Dec 1908 to the mouth of the Gordon, here they transferred to a steamer and went up river some 23 miles to their starting point near the junction of the Franklin River. Ernie Philp concluded his log on 11th April 1909 saying "Reached Hobart about 11 am and found AHJ waiting with a motor boat, so was soon transported across to Beltana. The kiddies were down to meet - all well and was soon safe at home once more."

Ernie Philp had a long association with the sea and was soon off on another adventure, when in Jan 1912 he set sail in the ketch "Makira" for a two year sojourn in the Solomon Islands.

It is noted that Ernie Philp was fond of citing Ernest Shackleton's quote - "There is always a wild longing - a thing I cannot describe - which makes men want to go again to wild, unknown places". I think that Bob Ewart must also have been fond of this quote as it seems to describe him just as easily!

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