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This Day in History

Australian Explorers

Saturday, August 10, 1844. :   Charles Sturt sets out on his final expedition to search for an inland sea in Australia.

     For decades after New South Wales was first settled, the people of Australia believed the rivers in the east emptied into an inland sea as the great majority of waterways flowed away from the coast. When Sturt filled in the gaps in knowledge of the network of rivers in NSW, and determined that the Murray River emptied out at the southern coast, he seemed to solve the mystery of the inland rivers. That is, he solved it to the satisfaction of everyone but himself.

Dissatisfied with Eyre's reports of salt lakes and arid desert in central Australia, Sturt determined to settle the question and find out for himself. He was given permission to explore as far north as latitude 28 degrees. On 10 August 1844, Sturt departed Adelaide with 16 men, 11 horses, 30 bullocks, a boat and carriage, a spring cart and several drays, 200 sheep, two sheep dogs and four kangaroo dogs. Rather than heading directly northward, Sturtís party first travelled to the Murray River and up the Darling, in an attempt to avoid the horseshoe lakes which Eyre had reported.

During the arduous journey, Sturtís men suffered terribly from scurvy, heat and lack or water. Remarkably, only one man was lost Ė James Poole. Sturt discovered no inland sea; he did, however, find much forbidding countryside and desert, and he added greatly to the understanding of Australiaís arid interior. Today, his name lives on in Sturt's Stony Desert.

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