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John McDouall Stuart: Fourth expedition

Explore the resources in the collections of the State Library of South Australia about South Australia's most famous explorer, who successfully crossed the continent from south to north, through the centre, and returned alive.

Journal articles

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London volume 5, 1860-61 pp. 55-60 South Australia: Exploring expedition into the interior of the continent: J.M. Stuart

Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London volume 31, 1861 pages 100-145: Journal of Australian exploration by John McDouall Stuart, Gold Medallist, FRGS. This is Stuart's diary of his Fourth expedition. The running page title is misleading from this point in time as it reads 'McDouall Stuart's last expedition'.

South Australian Parliamentary Papers 65: 1861 Diary of J.M. Stuart, esq. of an exploratory trip towards the North West coast of Australia, during the period from 2nd march to 3rd September 1860

South Australian Advertiser Wednesday 26 December 1860 pp. 4-6: progress of exploration. Extraordinary journey across the continent by John McDouall Stuart

Archival resources

PRG 833 John McDouall Stuart : includes PRG 833/2/2: Letter from Moolooloo in which Stuart writes to his friend and sponsor James Chambers about his recent expedition; PRG 833/3 Memorandum placed in a cone of stones on Central Mount Sturt, 22 April 1860, written by Stuart and signed by Stuart, William Kekwick and Ben Head

PRG 279 Gore family: includes PRG 279/31//3 letter by William Kekwick to his brother from Moolooloo station describing the recent exploration with Stuart

PRG 15/17 Somerville, J.D. The evolution of the name of Central Mount Stuart

Fourth expedition

Kekwick was able to find only one man to accompany him and Stuart on the next expedition to the north.  Benjamin Head was only 18 years old, but had already been out with Babbage so was not inexperienced.

The three men, Stuart, Kekwick and Head, with 13 horses, left Chambers Creek on 2 March 1860 - a bare six weeks since the return from the third expedition.  They followed the proven route from spring to spring, but two weeks after setting out the horse carrying the instruments broke away and in throwing off the saddlebags the sextant was damaged.  Stuart repaired it, but doubted its accuracy ever after.  One of the horses later became bogged in Peake Creek.  Despite trying for two days they were unable to extricate the horse and were forced to abandon him.  Kekwick Springs was reached the following day. Stuart had seen these in the distance from his previous camp.

They continued north, but somewhat more to the west than on the third expedition.  Stuart was having trouble with his eyes from continually taking sights. The Finke River, a large gum lined creek was discovered and named after Stuart's supporter and friend William Finke.  Beyond the Finke they sighted the striking sandstone formation that Stuart named Chambers Pillar. The Hugh Creek and the James Range were discovered and then the MacDonnell Ranges, Brinkley Bluff and the Waterhouse Range.

Stuart was further north from Adelaide than anyone had been before - well into what is now the Northern Territory and well beyond modern day Alice Springs.

Books about Stuart


Petermann, A. Karte von J. Mac Douall Stuart's reise durch das Innere von Australien, 6. Marz bis 25. August 1860 [cartographic material] Gotha : Justus Perthes, 1861. Map of Central Australia showing the route taken by John McDouall Stuart in 1860

Stuart, John McDouall Plan of discovery by John McDouall Stuart showing his route across and fixing the centre of the continent of Australia [cartographic material]: with alterations and additions to July 7th 1861 [Adelaide: Government Printer, 1861] This map shows the routes of both Stuart's fourth (1860) and fifth (1860/61) expeditions and runs from 24 degrees north to 18 degrees. There are numerous notes regarding the type of country passed over: spinifex, no water, gum tree plain, good grass scrub, sandy soil etc. Attack Creek (19 degrees) is the place where Stuart's fourth expedition was confronted by a band of angry Aboriginal men. The map is annotated to reflect this encounter.