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Taking it to the edge: Land: John McDouall Stuart - third and fourth expeditions

Third Expedition

William Kekwick joined Stuart for the first time on this expedition, and would remain with him for all of the remaining journeys.  Again financed by the Chambers Brothers, Stuart was this time better equipped for surveying and this added considerably to the accuracy of the maps to the west of Lake Eyre.

Stuart, Kekwick and three other men left Mount Stuart, the most northerly of the Chambers' stations on 4 October 1859.  They were provisioned for three months and had 12 horses.  They again travelled to Chambers Creek, discovering Priscilla Springs en route.  Here Stuart surveyed the lease he hoped to obtain from the government.  The party then moved north to Emerald Springs and then north to Lake Eyre (still at that time known as Lake Torrens).  More springs were discovered and their bearings laid down - Beresford Springs, Strangways Springs, William Springs and Fanny Springs.  At this point one of the men, Smith, deserted taking a horse and its gear and provisions.  Stuart was not angry at the loss of the man as he considered him lazy.  (The man eventually reached the settled regions, but without the horse which he had abandoned).  Stuart continued north, surveying as he went.  As well, some prospecting was done, but no minerals were found.  At length in late December Stuart decided to return as provisions were running low.  The expedition had reached further north into South Australia than anyone had previously.  Stuart remained at Chambers Creek while Kekwick returned to Chambers' Station at Moolooloo with the reports of the land surveyed and to seek more men.

Fourth expedition

'…it would be destruction to all my party for me to attempt to go on. All the information of the interior that I have obtained would be lost.'
Stuart, John McDouall Explorations in Australia: the journals... 1865 p. 219

Kekwick was able to find only one man to accompany him and Stuart on the next expedition to the north.  Benjamin Head was only 18 years old, but had already been out with Babbage so was not inexperienced.

The three men, Stuart, Kekwick and Head, with 13 horses, left Chambers Creek on 2 March 1860 - a bare six weeks since the return from the third expedition.  They followed the proven route from spring to spring, but two weeks after setting out the horse carrying the instruments broke away and in throwing off the saddlebags the sextant was damaged.  Stuart repaired it, but doubted its accuracy ever after.  One of the horses later became bogged in Peake Creek.  Despite trying for two days they were unable to extricate the horse and were forced to abandon him.  Kekwick Springs was reached the following day. Stuart had seen these in the distance from his previous camp.

They continued north, but somewhat more to the west than on the third expedition.  Stuart was having trouble with his eyes from continually taking sights. The Finke River, a large gum lined creek was discovered and named after Stuart's supporter and friend William Finke.  Beyond the Finke they sighted the striking sandstone formation that Stuart named Chambers Pillar. The Hugh Creek and the James Range were discovered and then the MacDonnell Ranges, Brinkley Bluff and the Waterhouse Range.

Stuart was further north from Adelaide than anyone had been before - well into what is now the Northern Territory and well beyond modern day Alice Springs.

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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