Bringing the 'Independence' Back to Life!

American River is a small town on the north-east coast of Kangaroo Island, South Australia. A peculiar name for a town which is not American and doesn't have a river!

The river is actually an inlet from the sea which branches off Nepean Bay's Eastern Cove and, further south, becomes Pelican Lagoon. The American bit is more complex.

It refers to some American sealers who were here in 1803, barely a year after Kangaroo Island was so named by the British explorer Matthew Flinders during his visit in March 1802. Flinders left the area of Kangaroo Island in early April, 1802 and was bound for Port Jackson (now Sydney, NSW) when, on 8 April, he met the French explorer Nicolas Baudin. Although Britain and France were at war, the two captains decided that they were scientists and above such belligerence so shared much information. In particular, Flinders told Baudin of Kangaroo Island and how he could obtain fresh water and meat there.

Baudin visited in early 1803 when he circumnavigated the island so being the first European to see and name much of the south coast. His crew indulged in some graffiti when they carved information about their visit into a rock at what is now Hog Bay, Penneshaw. Baudin left the island around February 1803 bound for Mauritius. For more information on Baudin and his voyages, see

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, at Stonington, Connecticut, a ship, Union under Captain Isaac Pendleton, was being prepared for despatch on a sealing expedition to the southern hemisphere. In early 1803, Union was in King George Sound near what is now Albany, WA when he met Baudin. Baudin gave Pendleton copies of the charts of Australia which he had made or received from other sources and told Pendleton of the existence of Kangaroo Island (although Baudin had named it Île Borda) and how he could get many seals there. Pendleton arrived at Kangaroo Island in April 1803 and decided to spend the winter there. In addition, he decided to spend the winter fruitfully by building a smaller vessel presumably in order to increase his capacity to carry seal skins. Thus was born Independence.


American River Kangaroo Island