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Taking it to the edge: Land: John McDouall Stuart - fifth expedition

Fifth expedition

'We are all nearly naked, the scrub has been so severe on our clothes; one can scarcely tell the original colour of a single garment, everything is so patched. Our boots are also gone. It is with great reluctance that I am forced to return without a further trial.'
Stuart, John McDouall Explorations in Australia: the journals...  1865 p. 321

An advance party left Adelaide two weeks after Stuart's return.  Stuart himself left on 2 November 1860 and the whole expedition was united at Chambers Creek on 12 December. They did not leave however until 1 January 1861. The party to accompany Stuart north from here consisted of William Kekwick, Francis William Thring, John Wall, JN Ewart, John Woodforde, Albert Lawrence, W Masters, David Thompson and Sullivan.  Of the 49 horses Stuart was equipped with, some were town bred horses which he considered unsuitable for the arduous journey, and he sent these back.  There were provisions for 30 weeks.

Progress was swift as they moved forward along the line of Stuart's prior expeditions.  The country was so dry that their tracks were still visible.  At Brinkley Bluff it rained.  The soft ground made the going difficult, but they were still grateful for it.  The Centre was passed and then Bonney Creek.  Now the real work of the expedition began.  On 13 April the party turned to the north-west - to unexplored country.  But the creek petered out into the desert and Stuart was forced back to the north-east and the creeks in the McDouall and Murchison Ranges.  They were approaching the area where they had turned back on the last expedition, but somewhat more to the west.  An area that Stuart named Sturt's Plains after his former leader was crossed - a mixture of partly wooded, partly grassed-covered plains - but the ground beneath was full of holes in which the horses stumbled.  

Stuart and his party proceeded to the north-west but was turned back by an impassable waterless barrier that prevented them reaching the Victoria River, as Stuart aimed to.  During May, June and early July, Stuart made 11 attempts to break through the waterless plain and the dense scrub that barred his path to the north-west and the north-east.  The discovery of Glandfield Lagoon in late May had hopes rise.  This extensive chain of ponds was later named Newcastle Waters, after the Secretary of State for the Colonies.  Eventually Stuart had to admit defeat - provisions were low, their clothes and shoes were in shreds.

They had dug wells in the hope of finding water and had found none.  Stuart and party had been out 26 weeks with original supplies intended for 30 weeks - the effects of reduced rations was telling on the men, and there was little feed for the horses.  They began the return trek on 12 July 1861.  By 30 August they were south of the MacDonnell Ranges and saw the first white man other than each other for many months and on 7 September reached Chambers Creek where they rested for a few days.  Stuart was back in Adelaide on 22 September.  He offered to lead another expedition north.

Central Mt Stuart
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Confrontation with Aboriginal men: diary 26 May 1861
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MacDonnell Ranges to Kekwick's Ponds
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Memorandum on Central Mount Sturt
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Planting the flag on the shore of the Indian Ocean
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Stuart continues to search for a path forward
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Stuart's Glandfield Lagoon: diary 25 May 1861
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Stuart's path is blocked by a marsh
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Stuart's route to the Hugh
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Stuart's route to the north
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The flag is raised at Chambers Bay
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The north coast of Australia is reached
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