Documentary Records

Arthur Phillip

An untapped goldmine

Most of our knowledge about Australia’s climate relies on records kept over the past 100 years. Few people realise that an amazing amount of information about our climatic past is recorded in:

  • the first European explorers’ logbooks
  • Governors’ correspondence
  • early settlers’ diaries
  • newly-founded newspapers
  • the works of 18th and 19th century scholars

These works were written written decades before modern meteorological observations began. Until now, they have been largely unexplored for climate information.

Scientists and historians on this landmark linkage project will be analysing a wealth of historical documentary records, unearthing fascinating stories about Australia’s weather variations throughout history.

In combination with the palaeoclimate data and early weather records, these documents will help us to piece together a picture of Australia’s climate since first European settlement in 1788. Most importantly, the documentary records will enable us to better understand how natural variations and extreme weather events affected Australian societies over time.

Documentary record collections the SEARCH team is examining include:

A documentary records highlight from the SEARCH project’s public talk at State Library of Victoria in August 2012