talbot_coverH.W.B. Talbot

Exploring the Golden West

The biography of one of the best-known exploration geologists of Western Australia

by Len Talbot

ISBN 978-0-85905-418-8, (2008 New), Soft Cover, A4, 200 pages, illustrated, 560grams

$40.00* + POST


H.W.B. Talbot was born in Ireland in 1874. Eight years later his family emigrated to New Zealand and in 1894 he and his father joined the gold rush to Western Australia. In 1899 he joined the Geological Survey of WA and learned field geology from Andrew Gibb Maitland, the Government Geologist. During the next 21 years he mapped the topographical geology of vast tracts of the inland, including a strip of country from Wiluna to Sturt Creek up to 75 miles wide each side of the Canning Stock Route, using Canning’s camps as bases. He and his assistant then trekked overland from Halls Creek to Tanami across the border in South Australia to report on the recently discovered goldfield there.

Previously in 1901 he had been a member of Fred Brockman’s exploration party of the north Kimberley. In 1916 he led a geological expedition to the border, where he and one of his party were speared in a night attack at Mt Gosse. He also examined and mapped extensive areas of the inland country between the south coast and the Pilbara.

Forced to resign from the public service on medical grounds at the end of 1920 he joined Freney Kimberley Oil’s search for oil in the Fitzroy Valley as its field superintendent from 1922 to 1930. In 1931 he was navigator to the second Lasseter Reef expedition. This party located sites which Lasseter had alledgedly pegged, but found no auriferous country at all and both Talbot and Blatchford, the WA Government Geologist, were convinced that it was most unlikely that any would be found in the area. In the following year Talbot led an excursion into the Great Victoria Desert in search of Paddy Whelan’s Reef, which turned out to be another ghost El Dorado. In 1933 he joined Western Mining Corporation as its first senior geologist. He remained with WMC until he retired in 1947 aged 73.

Len Talbot, eldest grandchild of H.W.B. Talbot, was born in 1926 and spent his childhood at Nannup, leaving school at 15 to work at the local sawmill, until 1946. He spent the next seven years travelling throughout Australia before returning to Nannup and joining the Forests Department. Except for a break of six years from 1963 to 1969 he continued with the Forests Department until retirement in 1991. From 1963 he accepted an offer from the Commonwealth Forestry and Timber Bureau as supervisor on forest projects on Aboriginal Reserves in Arnhem Land and on Melville Island. After four years he resigned to work as a volunteer at the Bathurst Island Catholic Mission before returning to W.A. at the end of 1969 and rejoining the Forests Department.

His published works include Nannup: A Place to Stop and Rest published by Hesperian Press; several articles on forest and Aboriginal history published in Forests Department and CALM publications – Forest Notes, Forest Focus and Landscope. In 1988 he won the Royal Western Australian Historical Society Lee Steere Award for an essay on the history of the sandalwood industry.