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The First Expedition

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Leichhardt’s first expedition

In 1844 Leichhardt set out on his first ambitious expedition. Bound for the Northern Territory’s Port Essington, he crossed vast areas of previously unexplored terrain on a route skirting the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

After their departure from the Darling Downs in Queensland in October, little was heard of Leichhardt’s party’s progress, and as the weeks passed they were given up for lost.

When the expedition eventually reached their destination in December 1845 they caused a national sensation. Part of the reason for their new celebrity was that Leichhardt and his party had covered nearly 5,000 miles (ca. 8,000km), discovering a number of major rivers including the Burdekin, Lynd and Mitchell. 

 Read Leichhardt's journal, or fieldbook of the expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington

A dangerous journey

The long journey was not without incident. The party met and traded with many of the Aboriginal peoples through whose lands they travelled. They lost valuable equipment including four horses at the Roper River, and suffered an ambush by one hostile party of Aborigines that left naturalist John Gilbert dead and other members of the party injured.

Despite these privations, Leichhardt carefully recorded the botany, geology and the lie of the land in his drafted fieldbooks. 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.

"Mr Gilbert was the only one, who received a deadly wound, a spear entering into the chest between the neck and the clavicle…when he was stooping to get out of his tent."
- Ludwig Leichhardt

Journal of Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt's overland expedition to Port Essington in the years 1844-45, revised by the explorer, and published with his sanction, 1846 [Copy 1]
1846
Ludwig Leichhardt, 1813-1848?
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Digital ID: 
a9545001
Journal of Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt's overland expedition to Port Essington in the years 1844-45, revised by the explorer, and published with his sanction, 1846 [Copy 1]
1846
Ludwig Leichhardt, 1813-1848?
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a9545003
Journal of Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt's overland expedition to Port Essington in the years 1844-45, revised by the explorer, and published with his sanction, 1846 [Copy 1]
1846
Ludwig Leichhardt, 1813-1848?
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a9545005
Journal of Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt's overland expedition to Port Essington in the years 1844-45, revised by the explorer, and published with his sanction, 1846 [Copy 1]
1846
Ludwig Leichhardt, 1813-1848?
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a9545010
Journal of Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt's overland expedition to Port Essington in the years 1844-45, revised by the explorer, and published with his sanction, 1846 [Copy 1]
1846
Ludwig Leichhardt, 1813-1848?
View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a9545017

This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.