7. Alexander Forrest (1849-1901), surveyor
Alexander Forrest was born in Bunbury and was educated at Bishop Hale’s School in Perth. Surveying was one of the few careers open to young ambitious colonials, and Alexander and his older brother John both entered the Government Survey Department. Alexander worked as a contract surveyor and John as a permanent employee.
In 1870 and 1874 Alexander was second-in-command to John Forrest’s expeditions that crossed the empty centre to Adelaide. In 1871 and 1875 Alexander led his own team in exploring the land “beyond Kalgoorlie and south to Esperance” and the survey in the Roebourne area.
Of all the expeditions led by Alexander Forrest, it is the 1879 exploration of the remote north of Western Australia that is best remembered. Alexander Forrest and his party traversed the King Leopold Ranges and followed the Ord River though the region that was subsequently named the Kimberley. It took nine months instead of the expected six, and the party nearly perished. They were tormented by mosquitoes and sunstroke and were reduced to killing their horses for food as their rations ran out. Forrest’s report spoke of likely gold-bearing country at Hall’s Creek and of several million acres of good well-watered country suitable for pastoral purposes. The Kimberley soon became a much sought-after area for cattlemen and prospectors.
Alexander Forrest invested in land holdings but from 1880 until his death in 1901 he was based in Perth as a stock agent and investment advisor. He was a member for the West Kimberley in the new parliament after responsible government in 1880 and was mayor of Perth 1893-1895 and 1898-1900. Alexander Forrest was the first chairman of trustees of the Karrakatta Cemetery Board established in 1899.