'South Australian history books routinely recount the founding in 1836 of what became the modern City of Adelaide, but it was the rapid European exploration and settlement of the surrounding rural districts that ensured its very survival and prosperity.
'This study of John Hill, a hitherto unrecognised explorer, exposes fresh insights into that process, against the backdrop of the frenetic and dramatic rush for special surveys from 1838 to 1841.
'The London-born Hill was an uncharacteristc explorer in that he avoided publicity. Adding to his already taciturn nature, for the most part he had commercial objectives and therefore explored discretely.
'Arriving from New South Wales in 1837, the experienced pastoralist set out to be the first livestock overlander. Toward that goal he participated in three explorations of the unknown country between Adelaide and the River Murray, revealing a great deal of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Beaten in the overlanding race, Hill then turned to exploration for potential sites for special surveys and towns secondary to Adelaide.
I'n April 1839 he explored the Mid-North, discovering the Clare Valley. In doing so he discovered and named the Wakefield River and Hutt River, and probably also the Light River and Gilbert River.
'He next explored the far western and eastern coasts of Eyre Peninsula (before Edward Eyre) and in April 1840, accompanied by Thomas Burr, was the first European to traverse Northern Yorke Peninsula. He is the namesake of Hill River in the Mid-North and Mount Hill on Eyre Peninsula.
'His personal land investments included what is today almost the entire suburb of Port Adelaide. Initially a leading member of the Adelaide colonial establishment, John Hill was crippled by the financial crises of 1842-43. Following a visit to London he became a recluse in Adelaide, where he died a pauper in 1860. He had never married.
'A mysterious character with a confusingly common name, comprehensive research has resulted in this first-ever account of the remarkable life of a long-ignored explorer.' (Publication summary)