The key to this whimsical and unusual composition is the date of 1852, the year in which the British public was gripped by 'gold fever' for the first time in its history. Men had already flocked to California in 1849 but they were predominantly American; when, in 1851, payable quantities of gold were discovered near Bathurst, New South Wales, the news reached England on the first boat back and was widely reported in the newspapers. Within a few months, other deposits had been found, including those of amazing richness at Ballarat and Bendigo and, by the year's end, gold worth over £1 million had been assayed. As 1852 dawned, the 'Gold Rush' began in earnest and soon Port Phillip Bay was crammed with ships from all over the world, particularly from the mother country, disgorging huge numbers of hopeful prospectors intent on making their fortunes in the gold fields. The unknown painter of this work has done his best to capture the mood and dreams of these men as they journey across the world and, in so doing, has produced a most amusing capriccio.