“What’s in a Name?” 1839 or 1840?
Eyre gave dates that contradicted for his naming of certain features. Amongst other examples, we find the naming of Mount Remarkable, near today’s town of Melrose, and also of Spring Hill, including the description of a dying elderly Aborigine there. The South Australian Government dates the discovery and naming of both as being in the 1840s , which means they have taken his Journals, describing his second expedition, as their standard. However, if Eyre’s Autobiography is correct, they were actually discovered and named in 1839 during his first expedition.
How might these contradictions have arisen?
Eyre visited the same district twice in successive years, so it would have been easy for him to confuse details of the first visit with the second, particularly as the published texts were prepared later – in 1845 for the Journals and around 1859 for the Autobiography.
Because the Autobiography was written nearly 20 years after the events and the Journals only 4 years after, it may be assumed the Journals were more likely to be accurate. However, he admits he wrote the Journals in a great rush on board ship and owns to making mistakes. Perhaps he relied too heavily on his memory in composing the Journals rather than referring to the notes made during the expedition? On the other hand, he acknowledged relying on his field notes when composing his Autobiography, and consequently might it be more accurate regarding detail?
If only we had his field notes, these and other questions would be resolved. However, my searching for them, which has included the questioning of his descendants and checking libraries and collections overseas, including some in the West Indies, has failed to find them.
Logic, though, would suggest that a feature as prominent as Mount Remarkable would have been discovered and named by him during the first expedition in 1839, especially considering the route he followed.