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The First Fleet of ships from England arrived in Sydney in 1788. This represented the first European settlement of the continent, although aborigines had already been living in Australia for tens of thousand of years. For the first twenty-five years the new inhabitants were confined to the coastal strip around Sydney as no way could be found across the Blue Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range which runs parallel to the east coast of Australia for almost the coast's entire length.

When, in 1813, a way across the Blue Mountains was found, a wave of inland exploration was unleashed which continued for the next fifty years. New areas were opened up for settlement and several expeditions were commissioned by the government and by private backers to ascertain whether an inland sea existed. This remarkable period in Australian history was documented by many of the explorers themselves, who kept journals of their exploration. These journals were usually published soon after the conclusion of each expedition, and particularly appealed to people in England who took quite an interest in the "opening up" of the "new" continent. Moreover, many of those journals have been reprinted in facsimile editions, which mean that they are accessible to the modern reader, though they are by not readily available at all public libraries.

A number of Project Gutenberg volunteers in Australia have transcribed these Australian exploration journals and most are now available at Project Gutenberg, including a a number of HTML versions, with illustrations and maps from the original publications. These ebooks provide a wonderful resource for students, researchers anfd general readers. Links to these ebooks, together with reproductions of maps showing the extent of the exploration undertaken, and other information relating to Australian land and sea exploration are available from links on the exploration timeline on this page.