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Taking it to the edge: Land: David Lindsay

Arnhem Land

''This range, which is between us and home, has a terribly forbidding aspect, but we must endeavour to get on top of the tableland, from out of which the river comes. We cannot go east or west, as for some distance to the north we would be blocked by the same range.''
South Australian Parliamentary Paper number 239 of 1884 page 16

David Lindsay joined the South Australian Survey Department in 1873, and by 1878 was a surveyor third class and serving in the Northern Territory.  In 1883 he was commissioned by the South Australian government to explore central and eastern Arnhem Land with a view to settlement.  Leaving Katherine on 23 July the party of six men including two Aboriginal men, with 32 horses, followed the Overland Telegraph Line for some 45 miles and then travelled along the Roper River to the Wilton which was followed to its source.  The party then went east to the coast.  The land travelled over was good for both grazing and agriculture, with large accessible waterholes.  Some difficulties were experienced with some of the Aboriginal people who speared four horses. 

Along the coast Lindsay described the land as 'miserable scrub'.  The party travelled to Blue Mud Bay where well grassed places were reached, and the Aboriginal people in the area were friendly.  The Walker River was then followed upstream and was described as very suitable for the watering of stock.  Crossing a mountainous area the party then struck another river going north, the Goyder, and followed it down to the sea at Castlereagh Bay.  Again Lindsay described the land as 'magnificent, either for grazing or agriculture.' He found the Liverpool River quite different from previous reports of it. 

The next stage of the journey was through difficult broken land that was extremely hard going for the horses, with little feed.  At one stage Lindsay considered that he might need to abandon them and their equipment.  However this section was overcome and better country reached and the party returned to Katherine.  Only 13 of the original 32 horses survived the expedition.  In all over 1900 miles was travelled, and overall Lindsay considered the land good.

Great Central Exploring Expedition

In 1885-86 Lindsay led a private expedition from Adelaide to Port Darwin. This was no straight there and back trip, but encompassed many smaller trips and surveys of pastoral runs.  Members of the expedition included William Glyde, F Leech, George Lindsay and Arthur Warman. Lieutenant H Dittrich was assigned to the party as botanical collector and photographer. Lindsay led a small group from the Dalhousie Springs to the Queensland border area, skirting the northern fringe of the Simpson Desert. After another short trip, the pastoral surveys on the Barkly Tableland began and continued for some six months. From Boroloola the party went to Port Darwin by boat. Lindsay then returned to Adelaide via Sydney. During this expedition the Central Australian ruby fields were discovered but  were later identified as garnets.  The Royal Geographical Society, London elected Lindsay a Fellow of the Society at this time.

In 1887 Lindsay returned to Port Darwin to undertake some private survey work, before returning to the supposed ruby fields in central Australia, near Harts range. He surveyed these during December 1887, and during 1888 the town of Stuart (now Alice Springs).

Camel dies from eating poisonous vegetation
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Discovery of garnets
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Expedition reaches Moses Creek
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Expedition reaches Skirmish Hill
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Explorers dig for water
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Horses are daily weaker
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Instructions to the second officer and the surveyor
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LA Wells' report of his side trip, 14 to 17 July
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Lindsay continues his summary
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Model handbook for explorers
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Objectives of the expedition
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Previously discovered permanent waters
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