FORREST, Alexander (1849-1901)


FORREST, Alexander (1849-1901)
explorer
son of William Forrest and younger brother of John Forrest (q.v.), was born in Western Australia in 1849. He was second in command of his brother's expedition in 1870, and proved himself to be a worthy lieutenant. In 1871 he was in charge of a party which went about 600 miles south-east of Perth and found good country, and in 1874 he again did valuable work as first assistant to his brother. In 1879 he led a party of eight men from De Grey River to the telegraph line. The expedition left on 25 February and reached Beagle Bay on 10 April. The coast was then skirted to the Fitzroy River which was followed for 240 miles; but Forrest was then stopped by mountains which appeared to be impenetrable. He eventually worked round the southern end of the range and discovered some valuable country. Good water was found until the Victoria River was reached on 18 August, but great difficulties were met with before reaching the telegraph line 13 days later. From there they made their way to Palmerston, then the capital of the Northern Territory, and they arrived on 7 October. The party was often in danger of starvation, more than once a packhorse had to be killed for food, and in the last dash for the telegraph line, Forrest and one companion who had gone on ahead nearly perished from thirst. The two aboriginal assistants were quite helpless for the last 300 miles of the journey, and one of them never recovered from its effects, and died a few months later. The expedition ranks among the most valuable pieces of Australian exploration as large tracts of good pasturage were discovered. Forrest's Journal of Expedition from De Grey to Port Darwin was published at Perth in 1880. In the same year he married Amy Lennard, who died in 1897. He was elected M.L.A. for West Kimberley in 1890, and held the seat until his death on 20 June 1901. He was also mayor of Perth from 1893 to 1895 and from 1898 to 1900, and was created C.M.G. in May 1901. He was survived by four children.
Forrest was a first-rate explorer, resourceful as a leader, and absolutely dependable when second in command. His good work in public life was somewhat over-shadowed by that of his brother. A memorial to his memory was erected at Perth.
Alexander Forrest, Journal of Expedition from De Grey to Port Darwin; John Forrest, Exploration in Australia; E. Favenc, The History of Australian Exploration; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Year Book of Australia, 1901 and 1902; The Register, Adelaide and The Argus, Melbourne, 21 June 1901.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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