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Ludwig Leichhardt was born on this day in 1813. Amongst...

Ludwig Leichhardt was born on this day in 1813. Amongst his accomplishments, he lead the first overland expedition to Port Essington (a British settlement in the Northern Territory) from Darling Downs in Queensland in 1844-1845. Leichhardt and his party covered nearly 5000 miles, discovering a number of major rivers including the Burdekin, Lynd and Mitchell.

They lost valuable equipment at the Roper River, and tragically naturalist John Gilbert was killed by Aborigines. Leichhardt is credited as one of the few Australian explorers to watch what the Indigenous people ate and copy them by living off the land. His success in opening up a great deal of previously unknown country suitable for settlement brought him considerable fame both locally and internationally.

Like other explorers, Leichhardt understood that the lasting work of his expedition would lie in the information provided for future European settlement. In carefully drafted fieldbooks, he recorded the botany, geology and the lie of the land through which he travelled. He noted the presence of useful natural resources such as water, timber and minerals and recognised the support of friends and benefactors by naming geographical features in their honour.

This map was created by Captain Samuel Perry, Deputy Surveyor General of New South Wales.

His Journal and field book for this expedition are available to view online via the State Library of New South Wales’s catalogue of manuscripts:

In 1848 Leichhardt set out on another expedition, hoping to cross the continent from east to west and follow the coast down to Perth. In early April 1848, the expedition headed inland from the Darling Downs. Later that month the party disappeared without a trace.The expedition’s disappearance has been a mystery ever since. Many theories account for the disappearance of the party. The two most popular explanations are that the party perished in the desert or were attacked by Aboriginal people and all were killed.