John McDouall Stuart - First Expedition


John McDouall Stuart commenced his first expedition accompanied by Mr Barker.

About six days into the expedition, it seems that Mr Baker pulled out in conditions considered too dry to travel in the arid region of South Australia.

View Larger Map

Three weeks later Stuart recommenced the expedition, accompanied by George Forster and an unnamed Aboriginal youth.

Seven weeks into the expedition, the Aboriginal guide deserted, perhaps convinced of failure ahead.

Two and a half months after the recommencement of the expedition, Stuart and Forster struggled into Mr. Gibson's station at Streaky Bay, suffering scurvy, starvation and dehydration.

Among the key elements of this, and in fact all of Stuart's expeditions, are his ability to survive in atrocious conditions and his determination to proceed in apparently impossible environments.

Stuart and Forster traveled about 2400km over the three months of the expedition, starting and finishing in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

They traveled north along the west coast of Lake Torrens an on to the region of Lake Eyre South, then west to present day Coober Peedy and then south to Ceduna, on the coast, before turning east, back toward the Flinders Ranges.

Indeed a remarkable feat of navigation and endurance.

On the 14th of May, 1858, Mr. Stuart started from Oratunga (the head station of Mr. John Chambers), accompanied by Mr. Barker, with six horses, and all that was requisite (with one important exception, as will be seen hereafter), for an excursion to the north-west of Swinden's Country. They arrived at Aroona the same evening. On the following day (the 15th) they made Morleeanna Creek, and reached Ootaina on the 16th, about 7 p.m. Here they remained for a couple of days, as sufficient rain had not fallen to enable them to proceed. On the afternoon of the 19th they arrived at Mr. Sleep's, who informed them that Mr. M. Campbell had returned from the West, being hard pushed for water; very little rain having fallen to the west. The next day (20th) Mr. Stuart arrived at Mr. Louden's, but, in consequence of some difficulties about the horses, he returned to Ootaina. Various preparations, combined with want of rain, compelled him to delay his start until the 10th of June. Here the journal commences:--
Thursday, 10th June, 1858. Started from Ootaina at 1 p.m. for Beda. Camped on the plain, about thirteen miles from Mount Eyre.
Friday, 11th June, West Plain. Made Mudleealpa at 11 a.m. The horses would not drink the water. Proceeded for about five miles towards Beda. The plains are fearfully dry; they have the appearance as if no rain had fallen here for a long time, and I am very much afraid there will be no water at Beda. If such should be the case, the horses will suffer too much in the beginning of their journey to be without a drink to-night. I think it will be best to return to Mudleealpa, leave our saddles, rations, etc. there, and drive the horses back to water. I sent Mr. Forster back with them, telling him if he can find no water between this and Mr. Sleep's, to take them there, remain for the night, give them a drink in the morning, and return; we shall then be able to make a fresh start to-morrow. Bearings: Mount Arden, 154 degrees 30 minutes; Mount Eyre, 77 degrees 30 minutes; Beda Hill, 272 degrees; Mount Elder, 64 degrees 50 minutes; Dutchman's Stern, 162 degrees 15 minutes.
Saturday, 12th June, Mudleealpa. In examining the creek a little higher up, we found another well. By cleaning it out, the water is drinkable. The horses did not arrive until it was too late to start, and having water here now, that they can drink, we camped here another night.