The story of Australia — XXX
Stuart’s journey across Australia
In the year 1861 Stuart endeavoured to cross the continent from South to North, but the impenetrable scrub stopped his way, and he had to give up the enterprise and return to civilisation.
Within a month of his return the South Australian Government sent Stuart on his third and final expedition. Leaving the settled parts in January, 1862, he reached his old northern camping ground at the end of Newcastle Waters on April 14.
Once more he was face to face with the forbidding scrub which had proved his master in his previous expedition. With a small party he commenced to cut his way to the north-west, with the object of reaching the Victoria River. Again his efforts were wasted, and the route had to be abandoned. An attempt to the north met with no better success, although a waterhole was discovered which Stuart named Frew’s Pond. This is a well-known camping ground for travellers on the overland telegraph line.
Finally, after many excursions in all directions, Stuart discovered a succession of ponds running in a northerly direction. Following these he came to a creek which is now called Daly Waters, and, still advancing, he discovered a large waterhole on the banks of which the Daly Waters telegraph station now stands.
Stuart now worked to the east and struck an important river, which he named the Strangway, and, following its course, he came to the Roper River, which he described as a noble river, draining a magnificent country. Crossing the Roper, when it turned too far to the north, he followed up a tributary, which he named the Chambers, in honour of his great friend, John Chambers.
The welcome sea
From the Chambers there only remained only remained the intervening land until the Adelaide River was reached. The route down the Adelaide lay through some of the finest tropical country in Australia. Great bamboos, palms, and other tropical plains were seen on every side. Their presence told Stuart he was approaching the seashore, and that his efforts were to be crowned with success. He kept the knowledge a secret, as he wished the men to view the sea with their own eyes.
“At eight miles and a half (he wrote) we came upon a broad valley of black alluvial soil, covered with long grass. From this I could hear the wash of the sea. On the other side of the valley, which is more than a quarter of a mile wide, is growing a line of thick, heavy bushes, very dense, showing that to be the boundary of the beach. Crossed the valley, and entered the scrub, which was a complete network of vines. Stopped the horses to clear a way, while I advanced a few yards on the beach, and was gratified to behold the waters of the Indian Ocean, in Van Diemen’s Gulf, before the party knew anything of its proximity. Thring, who rode in advance of me, called out ‘The sea!’ which so took them by surprise that he had to repeat the call before they fully understood what was meant. They then immediately gave three long and hearty cheers.”
A space was cleared and the Union Jack hoisted. Near the foot of a marked tree was buried in a tin a paper containing the following particulars: “The exploring party, under the command of John McDouall Stuart, arrived at this spot on July 25, 1862, having crossed the entire continent of Australia, from the Southern to the Indian Ocean, passing through the centre. They left the city of Adelaide on October 26, 1861, and the most northern station of the colony on January 21, 1862.”
The return journey was made under many difficulties. Stuart, worn out with his great struggle, was failing fast, and long before he reached the first station he was in a lamentable state. After resting for some time he rode on to Adelaide. His work as an explorer was over, for he never recovered his health. He went to live in England, but his sufferings in his various journeys had been very great, and he died in 1869.
Results of expedition
This successful expedition led to three valuable results: (1) The annexation of the Northern Territory to South Australia: (2) the establishment of a settlement at Port Darwin; (3) the erection of the overland telegraph line along the route taken by Stuart.
The last-named is a memorial for all time to the work of this great explorer.
The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 20 January 1935, p. 31
[Editor: Corrected: “lastnamed” to “last-named”.]