Pawel Strzelecki (Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki)

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Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Scientist / Mineralogist / Explorer / Humanitarian

This Prussian native was an exemplary humanitarian who assisted the Irish during the Famine plus was an intrepid explore worldwide.

Born on 20th July 1797 Pawel Edmund to parents Francis Strzelecki & Anna (nee Raczyrýki), both of whom were Polish Szlachta who leased Gluszyna Estate near Ponzan, Western Poland (at that era under Prussian control.) (Helen Heney)  [i]

Following his early education, he briefly joined the Prussian army.  He became a successful plenipotentiary of Prince Francis Sapiehas’s Estate, who bequeathed him approximately £25,000. Following the Price’s demise; a bitter dispute ensued with the Prince’s son Eustace, that was finalised with an out of court settlement of approximately a quarter of that amount provided to Strezelecki.  He carried on a correspondence with a neighbour from Ponzan; Aleksandryna (Adyna) Turno for many years. (Helen Heney)  [ii]

Strzelecki accepted a position as Estate Manager in Poland’s eastern Borderlands.  His industry of organisation of farming, animal husbandry also plant cultivation was enormous.  He had an interest in Geology, Chemistry also Physics. His research included Minerology.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano) [iii]

This Explorer was often referred to as Count Strzelecki, though he never signed himself as such while he more or less rejected the title.  In his twenties he had met a fifteen-year-old girl, whom he planned to elope with plus marry: due to her father’s objection they continued to correspond for over thirty years (she also rejected three suitors!) [iv]

Travels

During 1830 Strzelecki left Poland; it is documented that he served as a courier in the 1830 Insurrection.  He had no formal training in Geology but like many of his contemporaries at that time was self – taught.  He left for North America during 1834 where he travelled widely as he analysed soil, examined minerals, (he is credited with the discovery of Copper in Canada) visited farms to study soil conservation plus analysed gluten content of wheat.  He visited South America’s important mineral areas also the West Coast of Chile up to California during 1836.  Strzelecki became a strong opponent of the Slave Trade whilst in South America.  As a guest on the H. M. S. Fly he visited the Pacific Islands; climbed Mount Kilauea in Hawaii, studied languages on the Marquesas Islands. [v]

During 1836 he was a guest on the H. M. S. Fly which was an eighteen – gun Royal Navy sloop that was used for the exploration plus chart making of a vast amount of Australia’s northeast coast.  He reached a height of 1,247 metres when he climbed Mount Kilauea in Hawaii.  [vi]

He was a guest of James Busby during 1839 in New Zealand; he reached Sydney in April of that year with letters of introduction to Governor George Gipps.  He encountered P. P. King & Staurt Donaldson who became close friends. [vii]

Strzelecki explored the Snowy Mountain Range of New South Wales during 1840. [viii]

During August 1893 he informed Adyna Turno that he planned a Geological Survey of the country; in December he visited the Bathurst – Wellington district.  His field – work for his maps took him in zigzags over New South Wales to the Australian Alps; alone he climbed what he considered the highest peak: then named it after the Polish democratic leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko.  His next journey took him with his party through Grippsland (the area he named after the governor).  Things went awry after the expedition, which included James Macarthur and James Riley as they passed the La Trobe River.  On the edge of starvation, they abandoned the horses and all their specimens then survived for three weeks thanks mainly to their Aboriginal guides, Charlie Tarra and Jackey, they arrived very weary & starved at Westernport. Strzelecki continued to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) where he undertook important work as explorer, geologist also scientific farmer; he also analysed coal deposits.  They reached Melbourne in May 1840, completely exhausted.  He left Sydney for Singapore during April 1843 prior to his return to London in October.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [ix]

While in Hawaii Strzelecki checked out chemical analysis, barometric calculations also altitude measurements.  He named its Volcano ‘Halemaumau.’  Whilst in Tahiti he was a guest of Queen Pomare 1V.  Following his arrival in Australia during April 1838 he discovered ore of precious minerals including gold in the Great Diving Range.  He discovered the source of the longest Australian river, the Murray.  His discovery of fertile soils in an area that stretched from the ocean to the mountains he called ‘Gippsland.’  It was a very tough expedition with the result that Strzelecki reported that following twenty – six days of trekking ‘they all looked like skeletons.’  He travelled to the Far East prior to his return to Europe when his nine – year – long adventure ended.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [x]

England

While domiciled in London he became a British Subject during 1845 with his name anglicized to Paul Edmund Strzelecki.  He published a ‘Physical Description of New South Wales & Van Diemen’s Land’ for which he received the Founders Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.  His publication laid the basis for Australian Palaeontology.  Charles Darwin in amazement at Strzelecki’s achievements wrote to him with the following: ‘I congratulate you on having completed a work which must have cost you so much labour, and I am astonished at the number of deep subjects which you discuss.’  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xi]

Famine Relief

During the Irish Famine of 1847 / 48 Strzelecki distributed relief from funds collected by the British Relief Association; his work was outstanding, many of his principles became standard procedure.  He was commended by both Houses of Parliament plus appointed a C. B.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano) [xii]

Strzelecki initially worked through the British Relief Association within Ireland which had been created by Lionel de Rothschild in London during January 1847.  From International contributions of approximately £400, 000: all were entrusted to Strzelecki.  His journey to the West of Ireland included counties of Mayo, Sligo also Donegal where along with ensuring free food, he established schools. Whilst in Ireland he wrote to his old friend that ‘At first I was only in charge of the western counties.  As the calamity was increasing the committee posted me to Dublin as their Executive Officer, giving me forty army officers to supervise operation……I strained every nerve to justify their confidence in me.’  His description of the poor – house in Carrick – on Shannon stated ‘I found the poor – house & hospital crowed with half naked & emaciated men, women & children, a prey to dysentery & fever which terminated fatally.  The number of daily deaths exceeded the supply of coffins.’  In Sligo he ‘found the streets with the distressed, clamorous through hunger, although orderly, respectful to persons.’  He noted the pressure on Workhouses plus the difficulty of admittance which he referred  to as ‘To these abodes applications are daily increasing, not only on account of the relief which is sough, but through the anxiety of those conscious of their approaching end, to die in a poor – house and thus entitled to a coffin and a Christian burial.’ (Marie Mac Sweeney)  [xiii]

Strzelecki pioneered a scheme to provide meal plus clothes to schoolchildren in the Westport Union.  Despite falling victim to typhoid fever, he managed to administer aid in sixty – five towns across Ireland.  He also helped impoverished Irish families to resettle in Australia.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xiv]

The Irish Historian W. P. O’ Brien in his ‘The Irish Famine’  1896, London (pg188) stated that ‘de Strzelecki… who from the first announcement of the Irish Famine, had thrown himself with conspicuous devotion & energy into the movement for its relief.’   The Dublin Evening Mail, 11th 1848 reported that; ‘at the close of the Relief Operations the Count remained in Ireland to supervise its management employed on the work.  He was ten months constantly employed on the work, bearing his own charges, not placing to the account of the fund one single postage stamp.  The advanced sum of £253,000 while the expenses of agency amounted only to £150.  The Count left Ireland on the 10th, carrying with him the affectionate & grateful respect of every Irishman capable of entertaining the sentiment of greeted & admiration for disinterested benevolence.’  [xv]

Other Achievements

Following Hargrave’s discovery of payable gold Strzelecki; supported by Australian friends, undertook his priority claim.  Strzelecki’s publication of ‘Gold and Silver’ 1856 London resulted in his scientific priority being acknowledged.  During his final years Strzelecki visited Russia with Lord Lyons.  His Honours included Fellowship of the Royal Geographical & Royal Societies, an Honorary D. C. L. from Oxford plus during 1869 the K. C. M. C.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xvi]

Demise

Sir Paul Edmund died of cancer aged seventy – seven during 1873.  His Will stipulated ‘destruction by burning of his Papers with his body to be buried in an unmarked grave.’  He was interred in the Church of England section of Kensal Green Cemetery.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xvii]

Tributes

His grave was moved to Poland during 1997 where in recognition of his many achievements he was buried in the Crypt of Eminent Poles at the Church of St. Adalbert. (Wojcrch).  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xviii]

A relative, the writer Naneyza Zmichowska remembered Pawel as ‘a quick & clever boy of vivid imagination & sparkling sense of humour.’  There is a Statue of Pawel Edmund Strzelecki in Jindabyne, New South Wales.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xix]

He is commemorated by a large bronze statue on the shore of Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, donated by the Polish Government in 1988. South Australia’s Strzelecki Track and Victoria’s Strzelecki Ranges also honour him.  This site has a large portrait of Pawel Strzelecki. [xx]

Strzelecki National Park on Flinders Island in Tasmania was named in his honour. [xxi]

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland, Christy Burke unveiled a Commemorative Plaque during 2015 in his honour at Sackville Place, Dublin. (Marie Mac Sweeney) [xxii]

‘Strzelecki belonged to that great band of men which made the Nineteenth Century so remarkable…..  He must be regarded as one of the great leading scientific explorers of his time.’  The Strzelecki Awards recognise companies that are looking sustainable development beyond what is required through Legislation & showing a genuine commitment to the communities & environment where they operate.’ (Energy & Resource Minister Peter Batchelor 2009)  [xxiii]

He was known as ‘a complex character, energetic, ambitious. Capable with a gift for friendship.’   His work brought him success & pride.  The identification of himself with his adopted country brought him lasting satisfaction.  Geographical features that honour him include the Strzelecki Desert also the 475 Kilometre Strzelecki Track that links Lyndhurst with Innamincka in Australia’s far north; pioneered during 1871.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xxiv]

Geoffrey Rawson in his publication ‘The Count’ 1953 stated that Strzelecki had ‘a retentive memory & a capacity for absorbing facts, & he had an orderly & rational mind…..  Strzelecki, it is clear, was no dry -as – dust student of the rocks, but a profound far sighted observer of the contemporary scene.’  [xxv]

A report of Strzelecki’s Will is covered at a Court case in the Sydney Morning Herald, 6th August 1877, (p 2.)

Several publications recall Strzelecki’s life & work including the following:

Letters to Adyna Turno 1839 –51, Strzelecki P. E., State Library of New South Wales.

Manuscripts Catalogue under Paul Edmund Strzelecki, State Library of New South Wales.

Strzelecki Journal, 1840, State Library of New South Wales. (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xxvi]

Footnotes

One may see list of publications pertaining to Pawel Strzelecki on his site.  (Karolina Dyimira – Zarzycka, translated by Aga Zano)  [xxvii]

This site includes disputes of H. M. E. Heney for her portrayal of this man in her publication ‘In a Dark Glass: The Story of Paul Edmund Strzelecki’, 1961. [xxviii]

Bibliography

[i] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strzelecki-sir-paul-edmund-de-2711 ) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[ii] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strzelecki-sir-paul-edmund-de-2711) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[iii] Pawel Edmund Strzelecki – Intrepid Explorer (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 11th February 2020]

[iv] Pawel Edmund Strzelecki – Intrepid Explorer (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 11th February 2020]

[v] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strzelecki-sir-paul-edmund-de-2711) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[vi] A Single Pole Among the Starving Irish (Ireland’s Own’) Edition 14th February 2002

[vii] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strzelecki-sir-paul-edmund-de-2711) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[viii] Paul Strzelecki Polish Explorer (https://www.britannica.com/place/Snowy-Mountains#ref79321) [assessed 14th February 2020]

[ix] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[x] Pawel Edmund Strzelecki – Intrepid Explorer (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer ) [assessed 11th February 2020]

[xi] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xii] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer ) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xiii] A Single Pole Among the Starving Irish (Ireland’s Own’) Edition 14th February 2002

[xiv] Pawel Edmund Strzelecki – Intrepid Explorer (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 11th February 2020]

[xv] People about Pawel Edmund Strzelecki (http://mtkosciuszko.org.au/english/people-about-strzelecki.htm) [assessed 12th February 2020]

[xvi] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xvii] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xviii] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xix] Pawel Edmund Strzelecki – Intrepid Explorer (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 11th February 2020]

[xx] Paul Edmund de Strzelecki – The Australian Museum (https://australianmuseum.net.au/about/history/exhibitions/trailblazers/paul-edmund-de-strzelecki/) [assessed 12th February 2020]

[xxi] Strzelecki National Park (https://visitflindersisland.com.au/) [assessed 14th February 2020]

[xxii] A Single Pole Among the Starving Irish (Ireland’s Own’) Edition 14th February 2002

[xxiii] People about Pawel Edmund Strzelecki (http://mtkosciuszko.org.au/english/people-about-strzelecki.htm) [assessed 12th February 2020]

[xxiv] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xxv] People about Paul Edmund Strzelecki (http://mtkosciuszko.org.au/english/people-about-strzelecki.htm) [assessed 12th February 2020]

[xxvi] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xxvii] Biography – Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki (https://culture.pl/en/article/pawel-edmund-strzelecki-intrepid-explorer) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[xxviii] People about Paul Edmund Strzelecki (http://mtkosciuszko.org.au/english/people-about-strzelecki.htm) [assessed 12th February 2020]

 

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