The Journals Of John McDouall
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The Journals of John McDouall Stuart
On 14 May 1858, with financial backing from William Finke, Stuart set off on the first of his six major expeditions. His aim was to find minerals or new agricultural lands in the north-west of South Australia. (An area then unexplored, but now known to be so lacking in water and soil fertility that it remains unsettled to this day.) Stuart took two companions (another white man named Forster and a young Aboriginal man), a pocket compass, a watch, half a dozen horses, and rations for six weeks. From the Flinders Ranges, Stuart travelled west, passing to the south of Lake Torrens, then north along the western edge of Lake Torrens. He found an isolated chain of semi-permanent waterholes which he named Chamber's Creek (now called Stuart Creek). It would later become crucially important as a staging post for expeditions to the arid centre of the continent.
Landscape just north of Coober Pedy, November 2003.
Continuing to the north-west, Stuart reached the vicinity of Coober Pedy (not realising that there was a fantastically rich opal field underfoot) before shortage of provisions and lack of feed for the horses forced him to turn towards the sea 500 kilometres to the south. A difficult journey along the edge of the Great Victoria Desert brought Stuart to Miller's Water (near present-day Ceduna) and from there back to civilisation after four months and 2400 kilometres. This expedition made Stuart's reputation and brought him the award of a gold watch from the Royal Geographical Society.
About the Author
John McDouall Stuart, 1815-1866
John McDouall Stuart (7 September 1815 – 5 June 1866) was the most accomplished and most famous of all Australia's inland explorers and led the first expedition to traverse the continent from south to north successfully. (Burke and Wills were first to cross the continent but both perished on their return journey.) He achieved this despite poor backing from the South Australian government and the immense funds that were directed to the Burke expedition. His experience and the care he showed for his team ensured he never lost a man, despite the harshness of the country he encountered. The explorations of Stuart eventually resulted in the Adelaide-Darwin telegraph being built and the main route from Port Augusta to Darwin being established, which is now known as the Stuart Highway in his honour.