Geographical Background

Map of novel's geographic setting.

Adelaide road map.

North Adelaide road map.

The Silent Sea has three principal settings: "Lancaster House" in N. Adelaide, where Helen Paget lives (see Maps B and C, pp. 488 and 489); "Ouranie", a sheep station near "Buda", the childhood home of Doris Lindsay; and the "Colmar Mine", where Victor Fitz-Gibbon is employed as purser. In addition, a number of actual places in several Australian colonies are mentioned–including Mount Gambier, Albany, Wilcannia, Broken Hill and Bendigo (see Map A, p. 486).

Catherine Martin gave fictional names to most of the SA (South Australian) geographical locations in the novel, including the Alma and Victoria Mine and the adjacent township of Waukaringa, both of which she called "Colmar".note However, in many cases these fictional names can be identified with real geographical counterparts–e.g. "Port Callunga" (401:7) probably represents the SA seaside resort of Port Naorlunga–thus making it possible to trace the novel's geography on the map of SA c. 1890.


Lancaster House in Adelaide is described as standing "on a rise beyond the Torrens, about a mile to the north-west of the city" (31: 21); it has a view of North Terrace from a knoll to the s. of the house (466:26) and "glimpses of the sea" (i.e. Gulf St Vincent) to the w. (425:15). It is approached by a "wide plane-tree avenue" (33:27). These details suggest that Martin located Lancaster House on Montefiore Place (now Montefiore Hill) near its junction with Montefiore Road, which now heads n.n.w. to become a continuation of Jeffcott Street but then curved away to the n.e. (see Map C). Jeffcott Street can perhaps be identified with the "Jeffrey Street" where Lance Fitz-Gibbon has lodgings, "less than half a mile away" from Lancaster House (410:6). The location of Lancaster House, as well as its library, garden and fountain, further suggests that Martin may have had in mind Montefiore, the Italianate mansion of Sir Samuel Way. Chief justice of SA and Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, and a friend of Catherine Helen Spence, Way was noted for his entertainment of visitors in academic and artistic circles. (The copy of The Silent Sea at

  ― 492 ―
the Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide, contains his bookplate.)


Ouranie, the Lindsay sheep station near the little town of Buda, borders an immense plain which, "sixty miles" to the n.e., turns into arid salt-bush country (64:12). This would locate it in the general region of Booleroo Centre (see map A), and it is possible that Martin had in mind one of the sheep stations in this area. The best known of these, Pekina, was about 274 kms n. of Adelaide, near present-day Orroroo, and had a permanent water source in Mucra Springs (cf. 41:32). There was a property known as Bouda Hut in the same area. An early explorer of this region reported that, on leaving the Narien ranges (which lie e. of Bouda Hut and the Pekina run), and steering "north-east across the immense plain", his party was "quite astonished at the extent of the plain which lay in our course. In a north-easterly direction not a hill was to be seen, and the level plain in the blue distance looked exactly like the sea".note The novel's "Buda" shares the fate of Yatina, near Pekina, which dwindled after being bypassed by the Quorn-Terowie section of the Great Northern Railway line (cf. 48:16): as the Jamestown Agriculturist and Review of 23 August 1881 reported, this had the effect of "completely damning any prosperity that might ultimately accrue to the town".note The possible identification of Ouranie and Buda with this area of SA is perhaps also supported by its regional landmarks, e.g. Mt Robert and Murraytown (recalling Ouranie's manager, Robert Murray), and by its early residents, the White brothers, cattle-station owners who, like the novel's Mr White of Noomoolloo, had been unfavourably known for their dealings with Aborigines.note What connection Catherine Martin might have had with this region is not known, but there may have been a link through her brothers' pastoral ventures.

Colmar and the Railway

The Colmar Mine is the name given in the novel to the Alma and Victoria gold mine (where Frederick Martin was employed as mine accountant in 1890), whose workings, with those of several other mines, were scattered along a reef rising up to 30 m above the and saltbush plain on Melton Station, s. of Lake Frome in e. SA. These mines were known collectively as the Waukaringa goldfield. The Waukaringa township was situated c. 1 km s. of the mine site.

Although "Colmar" is in the "Hundred of Colmar" (111:3), Waukaringa, in Lytton County, was in fact outside the area of SA in which county administrative divisions were designated, on a historical English model, as Hundreds. In other respects the geography of the Colmar mine site corresponds to that of the Waukaringa goldfield,

  ― 493 ―
which was located c. 40 kms n.n.w. of Yunta railway station. Yunta ("Nilpeena" in the novel),note which is a small town on the Barrier Highway, about 325 kms n.e. of Adelaide, had a population of 58 in 1891. The novel's "Euckalowie Ranges" (125:20) derive from Buckalowie Hill, part of a range lying w. and s.w. of Waukaringa. "Yarranalla", "twelve miles further off than Nilpeena" (342:19) probably represents Mannahill, the next station on the railway line to Broken Hill, 43 kms e. of Yunta, and itself a productive goldfield (1885-90). The alluvial goldfield of Teetulpa, about 26 kms e. of Waukaringa, may have served as the model for the "Broombush Creek" diggings (although in the novel these are n.w. of Colmar, 166:5).

"Malowie", the "change-o'-gauge" station (229:34) on the Great Northern Railway line in the novel, represents Terowie: in 1887 the broad-gauge SA railway line was extended beyond Terowie to Cockburn, on the NSW border near Broken Hill, on a narrow-gauge light rail line. Terowie was advertised in the Terowie Enterprise and North-Eastern Advertiser as "the Break-of-Gauge Station" at which "the through train to the Barrier remains thirty minutes" (cf. 229:32) (31 January 1890, p. 4). According to the timetable, the Adelaide train left Terowie at 8.18 a.m. (Terowie and North-Eastern Advertiser, 24 January 1890, p. 2) and, according to the novel, it passed through "Kilmeny" at 8.30 a.m. (238:2). Kilmeny is identified as "the second railway-station beyond Malowie, and twelve miles distant therefrom"; it is "a straggling little township, its chief features being a big flour-mill and two public-houses" (232:5-7). The second station from Terowie (C. 22 kms) was Ulooloo, which is not recorded as having a flour mill or a hotel at that period; however, the intervening station (c. 9 kms from Terowie), Yarcowie (also called Whyte-Yarcowie, later its official name), did have two hotels and a flour mill. In 1891 it had 29 houses and a population of 158. Martin may have intended to create an entirely fictitious "Kilmeny" by combining aspects of the two stations, or she may simply have confused them. Further afield, the rail junction at "OswaId township" in the novel (345:11) represents the junction at Petersburg (changed to Peterborough in 1918), and the instructions given by Trevaskis to Dick for the train journey to "Port Pellew" (345: 11) make it clear that this is Port Pirie. Port Pirie at this date had six hotels, but no Kangaroo Inn (345: 13).