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Taking it to the edge: Land: John McDouall Stuart - beyond Newcastle Waters

Sixth expedition: beyond Newcastle Waters

The South Australian government again provided 2000 pounds and almost immediately provisions were sent up to Chambers Creek.  Kekwick and Thring were again included in the team.  The other members of the party were: W Patrick Auld, James Frew, Stephen King, Heath Nash, John McGorrerey, Frederick Waterhouse as the government appointed naturalist, and John Billiatt. This time all the horses were supplied from the Chambers Brothers property at Cobdogla (on the River Murray) including 26 that had survived the fifth expedition. Stuart preferred the toughness of the bush-bred horses. In all there were 71 horses.

They left Chambers Creek on 8 January 1862, delayed a little by an accident to Stuart in which his hand was injured.  For the first part of the journey they party travelled through settled lands, as a number of leases had been taken up in the vicinity of the mound springs and creeks discovered by Stuart on earlier expeditions.  At Mount Margaret they rested for several days waiting for a change in the weather.  With that change they moved on, leaving behind 'all dray tracks and white men, and entirely on our own.'

Stuart had received information from Frank Helpman who had served on coastal surveys on the northern coasts that the Adelaide River was a more navigable river than the Victoria River.  Considering this advice Stuart determined to take a more easterly route than he had undertaken on previous expeditions once he had reached Newcastle Waters.

Shortly after leaving the more settled districts the party began to experience difficulties with the Aboriginal people, who were doubtless already distressed about the loss of traditional lands to the pastoralists to the south.  Stuart's policy was self defence only and 'no aggressive action' was rigorously enforced.  Water was again a problem and some of the horses were failing already.  On 11 March they were at the Centre of Australia, and a slight diversion from Stuart's previous route brought them to a fine water source which Stuart named for Thring. 

For the next six weeks good progress was made along the previous route where water sources were known. At Stuart's old camp at the northern end of Newcastle Waters he rested the horses for a week to prepare them for the next stage.  In a number of scouting trips Stuart found a series of waterholes - the first, which he named for Frew was some 40 feet wide and three feet deep.  Howell's Ponds were found next, and the base camp moved forward.  From here Stuart set out again for the Victoria River, but was forced back by lack of water.  He then tried to the north and found King's Ponds.  Still determined to strike NW to the Victoria River he tried again, hoping that special waterbags he carried would be the answer to the water problem.  These failed him and he was forced back to the depot at Howell's Ponds.  This was his last attempt in this direction.  He established a new forward base at King's Ponds.  Pushing forward he found the country improving to the north-east and then a small creek broadened into what appeared to be permanent water.  This was later named Daly Waters and the depot was moved forward again.

Shortly after Stuart found a watercourse which he named the Strangways.  The ground was becoming rockier and the hills more significant.  He decided to move the whole party forward and to have all the horses shod for travelling over the harder ground. The party found some fish in the river which provided a welcome change of diet.

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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