On this day, 16th June 1869, Captain Charles Sturt, the Australian explorer, died.
Charles Sturt was born in India in 1795, came to Australia in 1827, and soon after undertook to solve the mystery of where the inland rivers of New South Wales flowed. Because they appeared to flow towards the centre of the continent, the belief was held that they emptied into an inland sea. Drawing on the skills of experienced bushman and explorer Hamilton Hume, Sturt first traced the Macquarie River as far as the Darling, which he named after Governor Darling.
Pleased with Sturt’s discoveries, Governor Darling sent Sturt to trace the course of the Murrumbidgee River, and to see whether it joined to the Darling. On this expedition, Sturt discovered that the Murrumbidgee River flowed into the Murray (previously named the Hume), as did the Darling. By following the Murray in a collapsible whaleboat, Sturt found that it flowed to the southern ocean, emptying out at Lake Alexandrina on the south coast. The expedition was valuable for opening up Australia’s inland waterways to the transportation of people and goods.
Sturt led further expeditions into Australia’s interior to determine conclusively whether there was an inland sea, but found only the desert and harsh conditions, completely unsuitable for settlement. In 1851, Sturt returned to England, where he died on 16 June 1869. Charles Sturt University in regional New South Wales, and the Sturt Highway from Wagga Wagga to Adelaide are named after him.
The State Library of New South Wales holds a diary belonging to Charles Sturt which includes sketches.