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Taking it to the edge: did you know? Central Mt Stuart and the geographical centre of Australia

John McDouall Stuart reached what he had determined as the centre of Australia on 22 April 1860 and named a nearby hill Central Mount Sturt, after Charles Sturt, leader of the 1844-46 Central Australian expedition, of which Stuart was a member.  (Stuart had calculated the centre as half way between Shark Bay and Brisbane, the most western and eastern points of the continent, or 133 30' E.  The latitude of the northern coast at latitude 11 53' and the south coast at latitude 32 07'S gave a latitude of 22 S as the mid-point.). The actual location of Central Mount Stuart as given on the Geoscience Australia website is 21 54'S, 133 27'. Stuart's calculations were very accurate for the time.

Stuart and his men planted a slip of paper in a cairn on the top of the hill, where they also raised the British flag.  The South Australian Governor Sir Richard MacDonnell, declared that it should be known as Central Mount Stuart.  Later, John Ross, a surveyor for the Overland Telegraph Line, retrieved the paper in 1871. It is now part of the Archival collections at the State Library of South Australia (PRG 833)

Governments often over-rode the desire of explorers to name features after friends or supporters, in favour of what they considered to be politically astute.

The modern calculation of the centre of the continent is at 25 36' 36"S - 134 21' 17"E and is called the Lambert Centre and is marked with a plaque.  It is at Finke, home of the Aputula Aboriginal Community.

Further reading:

John McDouall Stuart's explorations, 1858-1862: South Australian parliamentary papers 1858-1863  Adelaide: Friends of the State Library of South Australia, 2001

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (South Australian Branch) volume 57, 1955/6, pages 1-4 The naming of Central Mount Stuart by G.W. Symes

Sunday Mail 22 January 2006, Escape supplement page 14 String along with Cecil

Memorandum on Central Mount Sturt
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