Captain Charles Sturt

Australian Explorers

Captain Charles Sturt, British explorer of Australia, 19th CenturyWhen Charles Sturt and the men of the Central Australian Expedition left Adelaide in August 1844 they would have had no idea of the unbearable difficulties that lay ahead of them. Once they left the relative safety of the Murray and Darling Rivers, members of the expedition were very much on their own, save for the assistance they received from local Aboriginal groups.

Their struggles, as they attempted the first European crossing of the Barrier Ranges to the Mundi Mundi Plain, opened up large areas of the Corner Country for pastoralism, and later, mining.

For the most part, finding water provided the greatest challenge for the men. Their lives, and that of the animals (sheep, horses and bullocks), who formed the expedition, depended on finding local supplies. Without water, the expedition could not proceed, nor could it retreat.

This challenge, and the caution with which Sturt approached the life and death matter, ultimately led to the enforced encampment of the party at Depot Glen, near Milparinka in the heart of the Corner Country. In essence, this should be one of the most significant sites of Australia's inland exploration.

Ill-health, unquestionably the result of poor nutrition, also dogged many members of the group, leading to Poole's death and burial near the Depot Glen campsite, as well as the ultimate incapacitation of Sturt himself as he struggled to return to Adelaide after an absence of fourteen months.

The expedition may have failed to find an inland sea in the heart of Australia, but Sturt opened up so much of this land, identified hundreds of plants and animals, and gave the nation place-names that remain current today.

Sturt's Central Australian Expedition 1844‐1845:

On August 10th 1844 Captain Charles Sturt led the Central Australian Expedition through the streets of Adelaide, then along the Murray and the Darling Rivers before heading where no European had been before. The quest was to find the sea which Sturt and his sponsors believed occupied the heart of Australia.

The Expedition Party:

  • Captain Charles Sturt -Leader
  • James Poole - Assistant
  • John Harris Browne - Surgeon
  • M'Dougate Stuart - Draftsman.
  • Louis Piesse - Storekeeper
  • Daniel Brock - Collector
  • George Davenport - Servant
  • Joseph Cowley
  • Robert Flood - Stockman
  • David Morgan -Stockman
  • Hugh Foulkes - Bullock drivers
  • John Jones
  • Turpin
  • William Lewis - Sailor
  • John Mack
  • John Kerby

The expedition's outfit consisted of:

In addition, there were 200 sheep for food, two sheepdogs, and four kangaroo dogs.

Charles Sturt's Inland Expedition, map of the route taken looking for the inland sea. 1844‐1845

The journey failed to find the mythical lake but ultimately led to the description and interpretation of vast areas of inland Australia, which would later be opened up for pastoralism and mining. The route through western New South Wales was significantly further than the shorter distance to the centre, through South Australia. However, the commonly held belief of the time was that a series of linked horse‐shoe lakes surrounded the northern reaches of the Flinders Ranges. By taking the eastern route the impenetrable sand‐dunes and the lakes would be avoided.