The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Cadell, Francis

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Cadell, Francis, the principal explorer of the river Murray, was the son of Hugh Francis Cadell, of Cockenzie, near Preston Pans, Haddingtonshire, and was born in 1822, and educated at Edinburgh and in Germany. He entered as a midshipman on board an East Indiaman, and took part in the first Chinese war, being present at the siege of Canton and the capture of Amoy and Ningpo. At twenty-two he was in command of a vessel, and meanwhile visited the shipbuilding yards of the Tyne and Clyde, gaining a thorough knowledge of naval architecture and the construction of steam engines. He studied the subject of river navigation after a visit to the Amazon; and in 1848, when he arrived in Australia, his attention was drawn to the practicability of navigating the Murray and its tributaries, which had till then only served for watering flocks. Encouraged by the Governor of South Australia (Sir H. F. Young), he put his project into execution. He embarked in a small boat at Swanhill on the Upper Murray, and descended the stream to Lake Victoria at its mouth, a distance of 1300 miles. Having thus proved that the Murray was navigable, he succeeded in crossing the dangerous bar at its mouth in a steamer planned and constructed under his supervision, for the Murray Steam Navigation Company, of which he was the main promoter. .This vessel accomplished 1500 miles on her first voyage from Adelaide in 1853, when Captain Cadell had on board Sir H. F. Young and Lady Young and a large party of ladies and gentlemen. Other steamers were procured, and the Murrumbidgee, the Edward, and the Darling rivers in like manner opened to traffic in 1858. Captain Cadell, although he was preceded by Mr. Randell in the navigation of the Murray in a small steamer, was awarded the bonus of £4000 offered by the Government for opening up that river to the junction with the Darling to vessels of 40-horse power and not more than 2 feet draught. He was the object of several valuable presentations, and a gold medal was struck in his honour by order of the South Australian authorities. His subsequent career was chequered and adventurous, and his end tragic and mysterious. The Murray Steam Navigation Company collapsed, and ruined others as well as Captain Cadell. He then engaged in the transport service in the New Zealand war, and, later on, failed in an attempt to establish stores at various depots along the Murray. A like fate attended him in a pastoral venture to the north of Lake Victoria. He was not more successful when he resorted to pearl-fishing on the north-east and north-west coasts of Australia. Ultimately Captain Cadell, who discovered the mouth of the Roper River in 1867, was murdered by his native crew whilst on a voyage from Amboyna to the Kei islands in June 1879. General Robert Cadell, C.B., younger brother of the late Captain Cadell, now owns the family property at Cockenzie, and another brother (Colonel Cadell, V.C.) is Governor of the Andaman Islands, where the late Earl of Mayo was murdered.