SA Government LogoState Library of South Australia logoCharles P Mountford, photographer and ethnographer
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Search for Leichhardt remains, 1938

In 1938 Charles Mountford was asked to join an expedition to examine relics found in the north-east of the state near Mount Dare Station. The relics were found by station owner Edwin Lowe, who believed them to be the remains of a party of Europeans.

The finding was reported in the press on 3 August 1938, and soon after speculation emerged that it may have been the remains of the party of 19th century explorer Ludwig Leichhardt.

Leichhardt and his party had gone missing around 1848 during an attempt to cross the continent from Moreton Bay to Broome. The remains of the men had never been found, and it had become one of the nation's enduring mysteries. Because of this, the finding near Mount Dare Station captured the State's imagination. Experts debated the likelihood of the remains being those of the long lost explorer and his team.

Under the auspices of the State Government an expedition party was quickly put together and departed to conduct a thorough survey of the site. The party was led by Archibald Grenfell-Price, the president of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. Other members were AD Smith (surveyor), TD Campbell (anthropologist), CP Mountford (ethnologist) and AC Kinnear (press correspondent).

Upon arrival at the site, the team was disappointed to discover that what station manager Lowe had taken for skeletal remains were actually calcified tree roots. Further investigation however uncovered a collection of items, the origin of which could not be explained, including a tooth, pieces of leather, an iron ring and two coins - one from 1846, two years prior to Leichhardt's disappearance.

Grenfell-Price and his team returned to Adelaide disappointed by their inconclusive find, but eager to revisit the site and further pursue the matter. The State Government did not support this return however, and the matter was laid to rest.

Grenfell-Price summed it up, 'on the whole, the work of the South Australian search expedition deepened the Leichhardt mystery' and the items found seemed 'as likely to be remains of the Leichhardt expedition as those of any other party which had disappeared'.

01. Skeletons in the desert
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02. Dr. Grenfell Price to lead Leichhardt trip
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03. 1938 South Australian Government expedition party
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04. Sand will be sifted for metal relics
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05. 1938 South Australian Government expedition party
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06. In search of Leichhardt
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07. Alice Springs train
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08. Abminga siding
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09. Gibber pavement, near Abminga.
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10. Leichhardt party on edge of desert
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11. Leichhardt party camps 16 miles from site of skelet
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12. Camels carrying packs and water
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