Eyre Highway is the name given to the road between Norseman in W.A. and Port Augusta in South Australia.
Edward John Eyre made the first crossing
from east to west in 1841.
John Forrest led the first expedition from
west to east in 1870. Although Eyre had already made the crossing his party was engaged for much of the journey in just surviving and
Eyre did not bring back much of a report on the areas he had travelled through. It was thought necessary to re-trace his route and Forrest
successfully did this with no loss of life to his party.
The first known crossing by horse and cart was undertaken by Henry James Mazzini, his wife and 6 children in January 1886. With just 2 horses
and a buggy it took them seven months to complete the crossing. Even today walking this route would be quite a challenge but starting out in
January (one of the hottest months) in 1886 was a true feat of courage and endurance.
The first crossing of Australia by motor vehicle was in 1912 by Francis Birtles, long before a proper road existed.
The current route was constructed in stages from 1941 but was not fully sealed until the 1970s.
As Eyre crossed over the Bunda cliffs he wrote in his journal:
"At five we were again on our route, every moment expecting to see a break in the line of cliffs along which we had now travelled so far.
Alas! they still continued stretching as far as the eye could see to the westward, and as fast as we arrived at one point which had bounded our
vision (and beyond which we hoped a change might occur), it was but to be met with the view of another beyond. Distressing and fatal as the
continuance of these cliffs might prove to us, there was a grandeur and sublimity in their appearance that was most imposing, and which struck
me with admiration. Stretching out before us in lofty unbroken outline, they presented the singular and romantic appearance of massy battlements
of masonry, supported by huge buttresses, and glittering in the morning sun which had now risen upon them, and made the scene beautiful even
amidst the dangers and anxieties of our situation. It was indeed a rich and gorgeous view for a painter, and I never felt so much regret at my
inability to sketch as I did at this moment."