I am almost certainly going to write a young adult steampunk novel this year, set mainly in Australia. At the moment, I’m in the research stage – very carefully not writing the plot until I know the world. I’m reading up on convicts, bushrangers, crinolines, gold, shipwrecks, Victoria, Australia’s inland lake (which doesn’t exist), manners, steam trains, and so on.
Wikipedia is really useful for getting an overview, and showing up the areas of my greatest ignorance. TV tropes are good for getting more familiar with the genre (I am of course also reading steampunk fiction). Cracked is good for mad science. Here’s some of what I’ve discovered so far (much of it will need confirmation from more reliable sources):
Rollerskates were invented some time before 1743 and were mildly popular in Victorian times (inline ones, at that).
Approximately 20% of Australia’s transportees were women.
In 1824, permission was granted to change the name of the continent from “New Holland” to “Australia”
Ned Kelly was hung in 1880, the same year as a major exhibition in Melbourne.
Before being officially named Melbourne, the town had several interim names — including Batmania, Bearbrass, Bareport, Bareheep, Barehurp and Bareberp (in June 1835).
Modern scientists are working on making:
a) Mice that travel (and breed) at super speeds.
b) Monkeys that glow in the dark.
And then there’s this story:
The Loch Ard departed England on 2 March 1878, bound for Melbourne, commanded by Captain Gibbs and with a crew of 17 men. It was carrying 37 passengers and assorted cargo. On 1 June, the ship was approaching Melbourne and expecting to sight land when it encountered heavy fog. Unable to see the Cape Otway lighthouse, the captain was unaware how close he was running to the coast. The fog lifted around 4am, revealing breakers and cliff faces. Captain Gibbs quickly ordered sail to be set to come about and get clear of the coast, but they were unable to do so in time, and ran aground on a reef. The masts and rigging came crashing down, killing some people on deck and preventing the lifeboats from being launched effectively. The ship sank within 10 or 15 minutes of striking the reef.
The only two survivors of the wreck were Eva Carmichael, who survived by clinging to a spar for five hours, and Thomas (Tom) R. Pearce, an apprentice who clung to the overturned hull of a lifeboat. Tom Pearce came ashore first, then heard Eva’s shouts and went back into the ocean to rescue her. They came ashore at what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge and sheltered there before seeking assistance. Ironically, Tom Pearce was the son of James Pearce, captain of the ill-fated SS Gothenburg.
And here’s a pretty pretty picture taken from http://brassbolts.blogspot.com/ today.