The SANDS OF TIME Collection – 2. Overland Telegraph

2. Overland Telegraph
John McDouall Stuart & Charles Sturt912 x 670 mm
© Robert Morgan


John McDouall Stuart, born at Dysart, Fife, Scotland on 7 September 1815, was educated at the Scottish Naval and Military Academy, Edinburgh.  He migrated to Australia in 1838 and joined a surveying party in early 1839.

Stuart first began to explore Australia in 1844 when he joined Sturt’s seventeen-month exploration of Central Australia. Upon his return to Adelaide he worked as an estate agent for twelve years. In 1858, accompanied only by an Aboriginal tracker and an assistant, Stuart explored across to Coober Pedy and Streaky Bay. He was rewarded with a land grant of 1000 square miles.

The following year Stuart led an expedition which explored the area to the north of Adelaide and in 1860 he mounted a further expedition which discovered the Finke River, the MacDonnell Ranges, and the place Stuart believed to be the centre of Australia.  Stuart received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Adelaide.  Late that year he made an attempt to cross the continent but was defeated by the dense scrub on Sturt’s Plain.

In 1861 Stuart tried again to cross the continent.  After months of extraordinary hardships the party reached the Indian Ocean.  He returned to Adelaide in December 1862, was once again feted, and received £2000 from the government.

Stuart returned to England in 1864, wrote his Explorations in Australia. The Journals of John McDouall Stuart (1864) and died on 5 June 1866.

CHARLES STURT (1795-1869)

Born in India on 28 April 1795, Charles Sturt, the son of an East India Company judge, was educated in England Harrow and at the age of eighteen joined the British Army.  For the next five years he fought against the French and from 1818 to 1825 served in Ireland. In 1826-27 he travelled to New South Wales with a shipment of convicts.

Upon his arrival in the colony, Sturt was appointed military secretary to Governor Darling.  He quickly befriended other explorers and within a year of his arrival he led an expedition which discovered the Darling River and traced the Bogan, Castlereagh and Macquarie Rivers. In 1829 he followed the Murrumbidgee and Murray to Lake Alexandrina and the coast.

In spite of the success of his explorations Sturt did not receive an anticipated promotion and after two years on Norfolk Island he resigned from the Army in 1833.  That year he wrote Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia 1828-1831.

In 1834 Sturt was granted 2000 hectares near present-day Canberra.  Four years later he achieved the remarkable feat of droving 330 cattle across to South Australia.  While in South Australia he carried out further explorations around Lake Alexandrina and the following year, 1839, took up his appointment as Surveyor-General to the colony.

In 1844 Sturt led his last expedition in search of the ‘inland sea’ and, although he did not reach the centre of Australia, he concluded that there was no major inland water mass.  On the journey he discovered Sturt’s Stony Desert.  In 1845-46 Sturt was mad Registrar-General and Colonial Treasurer for South Australia.  He returned to England in 1853 and died on 16 June 1869.

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