Peter Hedland

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Peter Hedland originally Lars Peter Hedlund, 14 March 1829 (Hudiksvall, Sweden) – 1881 (Lagrange Bay, Western Australia),[1] was a significant figure in European settlement in North-West Australia. A mariner, explorer, pearler, he was widely known as "Captain Hedland". Some contemporary accounts and some of Hedland's descendants have spelt the surname Headland, although it is not clear that he ever used this spelling.

In 1863, he and the cutter Mystery he built and captained came to prominence after Hedland informed settlers of the existence of several landing places in the Pilbara region, including Port Hedland.


After emigrating from Sweden to Western Australia in the 1850s, Hedland married Ellen Adams at Fremantle, Western Australia on 15 October 1858.

Hedland built the 16-ton cutter Mystery, at Point Walter on the banks of the Swan River. As its master, he was involved in shipping cargo for the earliest European settlers in the North-West. In early 1863, Hedland discovered the landing at Butcher's Inlet (named after the harbour master at Albany) in Tien Tsin Harbor (known later as Cossack).[2] That April, the Mystery ran aground in a natural harbour as Hedland searched for a suitable location for a port suitable for the pastoral industry.[3] (While Dutch mariners had visited the area as early as 1628,[4][5][6] there is no evidence that they saw the harbour.) Hedland also noted Mystery Landing, in the estuary of the De Grey River, which was named after his cutter.

He operated his small ship, named Mystery, along the North-West coast and made frequent journeys to and from Fremantle to ship cargo for settlers.[7]

In January 1871, Hedland and three other mariners were tried on charges of forcing Aboriginal people to work for them.[8] They were acquitted following a trial at Geraldton in March.[9]

He was allegedly killed near Lagrange Bay in 1881, by Aboriginal people.[10] His body was never found. Hedland was survived by his wife and 11 children.


The natural harbour and later town of Port Hedland were named after Hedland, after he became the first European to describe the natural harbour, in June 1863.[11][12]

External links[edit]

  1. Western Australia - Now and then
  2. Port Hedland Visitors Center
  3. Government of Western Australia


  1. ^ Bruce Hedland-Thomas & Inger Nemeth (2004), The Story of Peter Hedland; cited by Julie Arif, North-West Telegraph, 29 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Discovery of the Pilbara region". Australia Now and Then. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "History of Port Hedland" (PDF). Port Hedland Visitor Center. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  4. ^ A number of Dutch vessels bound for Batavia sailed too far south and found the Australian coast instead. In 1628 the Vianen, commanded by Gerrit Frederikssoon De Witt, ran aground near Port Hedland. [ Port Hedland Visitors Centre, 2013, History of Port Hedland (Access: 22 August 2013.)
  5. ^ "The Voyages of Gerrit Frederikssoon De Witt". Australia Now And Then. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "History of Port Hedland". Prospectors Patch. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Port Hedland". Western Australia - Now And Then. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  8. ^ The Inquirer & Commercial News, 18 January 1871, p. 3.
  9. ^ The Perth Gazette & West Australian Times, 24 March 1871, p. 2.
  10. ^ The West Australian, 19 August 1881, p. 3.
  11. ^ "History of the town of Port Hedland". Government of Port Hedland. Archived from the original on 10 December 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Doing Australia's West Coast. Little Hills Press.