BARKER, Collet (1784-1831)


BARKER, Collet (1784-1831)
explorer
was born in 1784 (Dict.Nat.Biog.). Little is known of his early life, but he entered the army as an ensign in the 39th regiment of foot on 23 January 1806, became a lieutenant in May 1809, and captain in June 1825. He was at Sydney in 1828 and was sent to Raffles Bay in northern Australia, where he arrived on 13 September and took command. He established friendly relations with the aborigines, and showed great courage in trusting himself with them alone. In September 1829 the settlement was abandoned and Barker sailed for the Swan River where he arrived about a month later. After a stay of some days he went on to King George's Sound and took charge of the settlement there from 3 December 1829. When Sturt (q.v.) returned after his exploration of the Murray in 1830 he recommended that the coast at the head of St Vincent's Gulf should be examined to ascertain whether another channel from the Murray entered the sea there. He suggested that Barker would be a suitable man for this work, Governor Darling (q.v.) agreed, and on 13 April 1831 Barker with a small party arrived at Cape Jervis on the ship Isabella. He examined the coast on the eastern side of the gulf for over 60 miles and found that there was no channel. With four companions he made his way to the ranges, ascended Mount Lofty, and definitely fixed its geographical position. He rejoined the remainder of his companions on 21 April, and six days later with a small party left the ship at a point about 12 miles north of Cape Jervis, and went overland to trace the connexion between Lake Alexandrina and Encounter Bay. On 30 April an outlet to the sea was reached, which was comparatively narrow, and Barker swam across, went over a sandhill, and was never seen again. His companions watched from their side of the water until next day and then went back to their ship. A few days later it was learned through friendly aborigines that Barker had been speared and his body thrown into the sea, Sturt considered that he had suffered for the sins of white sealers against the blacks.
Barker was held in the highest regard by Sturt and his fellow officers. He had courage and great understanding of aboriginal races. Had he lived he would probably have done valuable work as a pioneer and explorer. There is a monument in his honour at Mount Barker, South Australia, and a tablet to his memory is in St James's church, Sydney.
T. B. Wilson, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; C. Sturt, Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia, Vol. II, pp. 231-44; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vol. XVI, ser. III, vol. VI; F, Johns, A Journalist's Jottings.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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