Sturt’s Desert Drama
Charles Sturt, already a famous explorer, set out in 1844 to reach the mysterious Centre of Australia and search for the fabled inland sea. Taking into desert regions a ponderous party that would require accessing around five thousand litres of water daily appears insane to us today, but Sturt did not know what lay ahead of him and hoped to discover lakes and rivers. He had a premonition that he would not return alive. His misgivings seemed well founded when he learned that an overlanding party just ahead of them had been slaughtered by Aborigines….
I was very fortunate in preparing this book in having access to the diaries of three men who were on this significant expedition. Having three different descriptions and viewpoints on what occurred, by those who were there, is a rare treat where historical events are concerned. One diarist was Sturt himself, another the young doctor John Harris Browne and the third Daniel Brock, a general handyman and collector of biological specimens. All three were dedicated to forming good relationships with all indigenous people met during their adventures even at the price of their own safety.
These diaries enable readers to ride into the fierce, blazing deserts with the expedition, to feel what they felt and picture what they saw. When the deputy leader of the expedition died a horrible lingering death from scurvy, they were undaunted. Their duty was to peel back the nature of the inland at any peril….. and what they discovered changed the public view of inland Australia forever.
While writing this book, I came across a young Englishman, Edward John Eyre: a strange, enigmatic explorer as famous as Sturt himself. My curiosity aroused, I began researching Eyre for my current book Eyre -The Forgotten Explorer. My hope is that discussion of Eyre’s life in Australia will contribute insight to modern thinking regarding Aboriginal issues, influenced as he was by his good friend Charles Sturt.