In the footsteps of a hero

Ten Peak Trekkers heading towards Carruthers Peak-Mike EdmondsonIn a few weeks’ time, I’ll be hiking the ten highest peaks in Australia that are all located in the Kosciuszko National Park. The combined height is 21,788 metres. My purpose is to build awareness and raise money for the charity Mental Health Association to continue saving lives, and to highlight what an awesome world in which we live. Please click here to donate. I’ll also be remembering one of the greatest heroes that the world has ever seen, in this the 145th anniversary of his death.

Sir Paweł Edmund Strzelecki (pictured below) was born the son of a nobleman in 1797 in Glausche, Prussia. Today the town is called Głuszyna in modern day Poland. He’s nominally known as an explorer and geologist, but Strzelecki is so much more.

Paweł_Edmund_Strzelecki - Wikipedia public domainStrzelecki arrived in Sydney in 1839 and visited his friend James Macarthur whose father was the founder of Australia’s sheep flock that would cloth the world. Strzelecki discovered gold in Victoria a full twelve years before the richest gold rush in history. (The governor of the time preferred the news was suppressed.) He explored the Snowy Mountains and became the first European to discover and climb the highest peak in Australia, which he named Mount Kosciuszko in honour of a Polish national hero.

Strzelecki returned to Europe where in 1846 he led the distribution of aid in famine-ravaged Ireland, and helped many impoverished families resettle in Australia. His voluntary work saved around 200,000 Irish lives.

He then became active in helping injured soldiers during the Crimean War of the 1850s, where he was personally acquainted with Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing.

Strzelecki explored the world, from Prussia, throughout Europe, China, East Indies, Egypt, and Australia where he covered 11,000 kilometres across New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Many lives were also saved by his selfless actions.

He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. Strzelecki was twice knighted by Queen Victoria, first in November 1848 as a Companion of the Order of the Bath, and then upgraded to a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Oxford. Strzelecki died in London, England, on the 6th of October 1873, aged seventy-six.

Today his memory is enshrined in Outback Australia by the famous Strzelecki Track, Strzelecki Desert, Strzelecki Creek, and the Strzelecki Regional Reserve. In 1983 his portrait appeared on an Australian postage stamp, and in 1988 a bronze statue of Strzelecki was presented by Poland on the occasion of Australia’s bicentenary. The monument stands in the Snowy Mountains, Strzelecki’s arm outstretched pointing to Mount Kosciuszko. In 2015 a plaque bearing his likeness was unveiled in Ireland, jointly by the mayors of Dublin and Poland’s Poznán. He was then truly a unique world hero who transcended nationality and politics in both global hemispheres.

Christian Lange - Descendents of Christian Lange in Australia 1838-1981My own Prussian four-times great-grandfather Christian Lange (pictured right) was a contemporary, the two men being born just three years and seventy miles apart. They arrived in Australia within months of one another.

Across four days in November, I’ll be climbing the ten tallest peaks including Australia’s highest, and will feel good walking in the great explorer’s footsteps. But just like Strzelecki the man himself, there’s so much more to this trek.

I’ll be hoping to see the beautiful nocturnal mountain pygmy-possum, once considered the rarest creature on earth. On the 11th of November, the centenary of the First World War’s Armistice, I’ll be crossing the famous Snowy River under the gaze of iconic wild Brumbies. Although not environmentally ideal, the famous horses will provide an echo to my grandfather’s Australian Light Horse and their great war Walers.

The hike is to raise awareness and money in support of better mental health. Almost one in two of us will suffer a mental health condition in our lives. The Mental Health Association helps reduce the suffering from the complex trauma of abused children, to the post-traumatic stress disorder of returned service men and women.

Strzelecki is one of the world’s great examples of achieving great things by helping others. Please join me by clicking here to donate. There is no better time than now, the centenary of the end of the First World War, the 170th anniversary of Strzelecki’s knighthood, and the 145th anniversary of the great man’s death.

Photo credits:
Ten Peak Trekkers heading towards Carruthers Peak – courtesy of Mike Edmondson
Paweł Edmund Strzelecki – Wikipedia public domain
Christian Lange – Descendents of Christian Lange in Australia 1838-1981



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