The Port-Essington-expedition


(from Leichhardt's Journal of an overland expedition in Australia)


The journey to Port Essington started on the Darling Downs (Jimbour station) west of Brisbane,  where they were to bid farewell to civilization. The party consisted of 10 men (apart from Leichhardt, James Calvert, John Gilbert, John Murphy, William Phillips, John Roper, the Aborigines Charles Fisher and Harry Brown, as well as C. P. Hodgson and  Caleb, an American )

  • heir stock of cattle consisted of 16 bullocks; horses they had 17 and a pack of dogs;
  • Of provisions — they had 1200 lbs. of flour; 200 lbs. of sugar; 80 lbs. of tea; 20 lbs. of gelatine and other articles of less consideration.
03/11/1844 Leichhardt saw  that his party  was too large for their provisions. He, therefore, communicated to his companions the absolute necessity of reducing their number. So Mr. Hodgson, who had perhaps suffered most by additional fatigues; Caleb, the American negro, prepared for their return to Moreton Bay.
27/01/1845 Leichhardt and Calvert were lost for 2 days. Both of them were in the most deplorable state when they finally found their camp.
28/06/1845 Natives  suddenly attacked them. They threw a shower of spears at the tents of Calvert, Roper, and Gilbert, and a few at that of Phillips, and also one or two towards the fire. Charley and Brown called for caps, which Leichhardt hastened to find, and, as soon as they were provided, they discharged their guns into the crowd of the natives, who instantly fled, leaving Roper and Calvert pierced with several spears.Gilbert died.
05/07/1845 The first sight of  salt water. They had now discovered a line of communication by land between the eastern coast of Australia, and the gulf of Carpentaria.
21/10/1845 Three of their horses were drowned. Unable to increase the load of his bullocks, Leichhardt was obliged to leave that part of his botanical collection which had been carried by one of the horses. 



They reach Port Essington. They were most kindly received by Captain Macarthur, the Commandant of Port Essington, and by the other officers, who, with the greatest kindness and attention, supplied them with every thing they wanted. Leichhardt was deeply affected in finding himself again in civilized society, and could scarcely speak, the words growing big with tears and emotion.

17/01/1846 After a month’s stay at Port Essington, the schooner Heroine, Captain Mackenzie, arrived from Bally, on her voyage to Sydney, via Torres Strait and the Inner Barrier, a route only once before attempted with success. They embarked in this vessel, and arrived safely in Sydney.
25/03/1846 Arrival and triumph in Sydney! At Sydney, a reception awaited them, "the warmth and kindness of which, it is out of my  power to describe. All classes pressed forward to testify their joy at our reappearance, which, we found, had been long despaired of, and to offer their aid in supplying our wants. A public subscription was set on foot, which, in a very few weeks, by the liberal contributions which flowed in from all parts of the Colony, amounted to upwards of Fifteen Hundred pounds; and in the Legislative Council, a motion was brought forward, which, by the unanimous vote of that House, and the ready concurrence of His Excellency, Sir George Gipps, the Governor, devoted a Thousand Pounds out of the Public Revenue to our use"

First try to Swan River


(from Eight months with Dr. Leichhardt in the years 1846-47 /​ by John F. Mann. )

01/10/1846 The Swan-River-expedition starts, Leichardt’s „favourite plan“. Leichhardt set out on his first attempt to cross Australia from the Darling Downs in Queensland to the Swan River in Western Australia, but was forced to turn back because of the heat and the drought.   The party included John F. Mann, Hovenden Hely, James Perry, Daniel Bunce, Henry Boecking, Henry Turnbull and Wommai, ‘a Port Stephens native’. 75 It was an ambitious plan to cross Australia with half the party having little experience in the Australian bush.They have in animals 14 horses, 16 mules, 40 cattle, 270 coats, 90 sheep, and 4 dogs.



Owing to the continual heavy rains they were unable to travel before the 2nd December.They moved on to Cross' station, a distance of about 20 miles. There they remained for two days. On the 5th they moved on to Ross' station, and on the 6th they arrived at Jimbour. They encamped on Charley's creek on the 12th, after a tedious journey of two days, on account of the brigalow scrub (brushwood) and the muddy country. The mules would suddenly sink in the ground, which caused them much delay. It rained heavily and they were thoroughly drenched before they could pitch their tents.



They reached the Comet. The water in this river and its tributaries overflowed the banks in many places, so that their journey during the following 22 days was a continual struggle through dense brigalow scrubs, across swollen creeks and through swamps and mud, until they finally reached the Mackenzie river. Leichhardt was taken ill the night of their arrival and for nine or ten days was in a deplorable condition. Perry was unable to stand, Bumice by no means well and  Turnbull complaining. Hely and Brown were sick, too. The others were added to the sick list the following days. 

25/03/1847 They finally crossed the Mackenzie river, but had to stay there for some more days because here every member of the party became ill again.


They managed to get away. But their journey was long and tedious; they had  difficulty in finding water, the days were hot, finally it rained heavily at night. Their position was becoming worse every day.


Mann suggests in the name of the whole team to discontinue the journey. Leichhardt refuses. But adverse weather and declining morale forced the weakened party to turn back. 

05/05/1847 They reach the camp at the Peak Range.
07/06/1847 Because more animals get lost, Leichardt is forced to return. The expedition finally fails because of illness and attitude some of the team.


They returned to Cecil Plains having achieved almost nothing. His party disbanded!

09/08/1847 Ride from Cecil Plains to Maranoa River to explore a better route for the intended renewal of the expedition.
09/10/1847 Arrival in Sydney on the Tamar.

Leichhardt´s Last Expedition

04/12/1847 Another departure to Swan River from Sydney over Port Stephens and through New-England. The journey is scheduled for up to three years and shall lead in the northern arc around Sturt’S Stony Dessert (Simpson dessert). To Leichardt’s party belongs: August Classen, Arthur Hentig, Donald Stuart, Kelly and the Aborigines Wommai and Billy, 7 horses, 20 mules, 50 cattle, furthermore flour, tea, salt, munitions, as well as a big tent for all.
04/04/1848 Over the Darling Downs and Mt. Abundance the travellers reach the Macpherson’s station within the first days of April. From the edge of wilderness the last message.
5-6/04/1848 The second Swan-River-expedition leaves the Macpherson’s station into northern direction. Since that Leichardt and his entire team is missing.


1851 - 1938

What became of the expedition remains a mystery. Some believe that the group were killed by Aboriginal people, or that they may have been caught by sudden floods or bushfires. They may have died of thirst, or of starvation because of the poor supplies they took. Many other expeditions have tried to solve the mystery. None have found any evidence or clue about what happened to Ludwig Leichhardt and his expedition.




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