John McDouall Stuart - Fifth Expedition


John McDouall Stuart commenced his fifth expedition with 12 men and 49 horses but soon found it necessary to send two men back with the five weakest horses.

The party reached Stuart's former northern limit, Attack Creek, successfully.

Lack of water and feed slowed progress and the scrub to the north west blocked any progress in that direction.

Exploration north led to trafficable country and the discovery of good water at Newcastle Waters, 240km further north than Stuart's previous limit. However, for all his effort, Stuart was unable to progress further and was forced to return, the men and horses being in poor condition.

When Mr. Stuart reached Adelaide, in October, 1860, on his return from his last expedition, bringing with him the intelligence that he had penetrated to the northward almost as far as the eighteenth degree of south latitude, and had only been forced to retreat by the hostility of the natives, the South Australian Parliament voted a sum of 2500 pounds for a larger, better-armed, and more perfectly organized party, of which he was to be the leader.

The ill-fated Victorian expedition, under Burke and Wills, had already started from Melbourne, on the previous 20th of August, amid all the excitement of a popular ovation, but a messenger was instantly despatched by the Victorian Government to overtake them, in order to give them what information the South Australian Government allowed to be known.

On the 29th of November Mr. Stuart was ready to start once more, and left Moolooloo with seven men and thirty horses, arriving at Mr. Glen's station on the 1st of December, and at Goolong Springs on the 4th. He was delayed at the latter place for several days, in consequence of the horses, and more especially the town horses, being unmanageable and unequal to their work.

The party reached Welcome Springs on the 8th, and Finniss Springs on the 11th.

The water at Finniss Springs seemed to have an injurious influence on the town horses, but those that had been with Mr. Stuart on his previous journeys were not so much affected. The following evening they arrived at Chambers Creek, where they remained until the end of the month.

During their stay at Chambers Creek they were occupied in killing and drying bullocks, mending saddles, weighing rations, shoeing horses, and generally preparing to start. Several of the horses, which had been knocked up and left behind on the way, had to be brought up; others became quite blind, one was lost, and one died.

On the 31st of December four fresh horses arrived, which had been kindly sent up by Mr. Finke the moment he heard of the difficulty in which Mr. Stuart was placed. The party was also further increased, both by horses and men, so that when it left Chambers Creek, on the 1st of January, 1861, it numbered twelve men and forty-nine horses.

The following is the list of those who started:--

  • John McDouall Stuart, Leader of the Expedition.
  • William Kekwick, Second in Command.
  • F. Thring, Third Officer.
  • -- Ewart, Storekeeper.
  • -- Sullivan, Shoeing Smith.
  • -- Thompson, Saddler.
  • -- Lawrence.
  • -- Masters.
  • J. Woodforde.
  • -- Wall.
  • E.E. Bayliffe.
  • J. Thomas.
Shortly after starting, the horses that Mr. Finke sent up went off at a gallop, taking with them one of the others; but, at about a mile, they were headed by Ewart, Wall, and Lawrence, and brought back covered with sweat. Not content with this gallop, in a short time afterwards they bolted again. This last one seemed to content them, for they went very quietly for the rest of the day; they had, however, lost a pick, which could not be found. The party arrived at Mr. Ferguson's station, at Hamilton Springs, that evening. Louden Spa was reached on the 8th of January. The next day Mr. Stuart writes:

"Wednesday, 9th January, Louden Spa. I am obliged to leave two horses. I thought that I should have been able to have got them down as far as Mr. Levi's station. There are three others that I must leave behind; they are now nearly useless to me, and cause more delay than I can afford. I shall reduce my party to ten individuals, in order to lighten the horses that I take with me. I shall take thirty weeks' provisions; the rest I shall leave there (Mr. Levi's station). The two men who are to return are to have a month's provisions to carry them down. They will be here two weeks, and if the horses have not recovered by that time, they will remain another week, when they will have one week's provisions to take them to Chambers Creek, where they will get enough to carry them to the mine."

Bayliffe and Thomas were the two men selected to return, and it may not be without interest to follow them back to the settled districts. They did not arrive at Melrose, Mount Remarkable, until the latter end of March. Thomas was suffering severely from rheumatism, and had to be conveyed in a cart for the last six miles of his journey from a place where he and his companion had camped for the purpose of recruiting themselves. They had been obliged to leave two of the horses at Mr. Mather's station, and two more had died on the road. The men arrived with one horse only, which they were using as a pack-horse.
But to return to the rest of the party, who reached Mr. Levi's station the same evening (January 9th) on which they parted from the two men.

On Friday, January 11th, Mr. Stuart writes:

"I have now all put in order, and consider myself fairly started, with thirty weeks' provisions. Day extremely hot. An eclipse of the sun took place at noon. Although our poor little dog Toby is carried on one of the pack-horses, he is unable to bear this great heat. I fear he will not survive the day. Arrived at Milne Springs about 5 p.m. At sundown poor little Toby died, regretted by us all, for he had already become a great favourite."