Stuart, John McDouall (DNB00)

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STUART, JOHN McDOUALL (1815–1866), explorer, the fifth son of William Stuart, a captain in the army, was born at Dysart, Fifeshire, on 7 Sept. 1815. Educated at Edinburgh, first privately and later at the Military Academy, he entered into business in Scotland, but emigrated to South Australia in 1838. There he joined the government survey, and afterwards practised as a private surveyor, chiefly in the bush; he also tried his hand at sheep-farming. On 12 Aug. 1844 he joined as draughtsman Captain Sturt's expedition to explore Central Australia [see Sturt, Charles].

In 1858 Stuart led his first expedition, equipped by William Finke, for the discovery of a path across Australia. It had little practical result, and on 2 April 1859 Stuart again started with an expedition, equipped by Finke and James Chambers, up the eastern side of Lake Torrens. Passing Mount Hamilton, his furthest point in the preceding year, he proceeded northward, discovered several springs, and named the Hanson Range and Mounts Younghusband and Kingston, returning to the settlements on 3 July. On 4 Nov. 1859 he started for the third time, named Mount Anna, and surveyed a line at the Fanny Springs. His eyes troubled him greatly during this journey, and he returned on 21 Jan. 1860.

On 2 March 1860 Stuart started, with thirteen horses and two men, on a fourth journey, in which, after crossing the Neale, he finally reached the centre of Australia, and there he named Mount Stuart in the John Range. Turning to the north-west, he pushed on, in spite of illness, through several miles of new country, till an attack by natives forced him to turn back on 26 June; he was now nearly blind, his horses and attendants were worn out, and thus he arrived on 1 Sept. at Chambers's Creek. In October he came to Adelaide, and was received with acclamation.

The government voted the funds for a fresh expedition. On 29 Nov. 1860, three months after Burke and Wills left Melbourne, Stuart started again with twelve men and fifty horses, a number reduced before the real work began. On 26 April 1861 he reached Attack Creek, where he had been turned before; he passed several new ranges and rivers, and named Sturt's Plains, which, however, he failed to cross on account of want of water. At a place named Howell's Ponds he turned on 12 July, and reached settled country on 7 Sept. On 23 Sept. he made a public entry into Adelaide.

Shortly afterwards the news of the fate of Burke and Wills reached Adelaide. But this did not deter Stuart from again starting north under the auspices of the government on 21 Oct. 1861. Though almost killed at the outset by a horse accident, he ordered the expedition to proceed, and rejoined it in five weeks. Fresh difficulties soon beset him: some of his party deserted, several horses died from the great heat, and the natives showed greater hostility than before. Striking northward across the Stuart Plains, he found water at Frew's Water, and later at King's Ponds, places which he named after two of his companions. After many further hardships, they reached a river which Stuart named Strangway. Following it, they came to the Roper, and thence, through mountain passes, to the Adelaide River, and along it to the Indian Ocean, which they struck at Van Diemen's Gulf before the end of July 1862. The return journey was almost fatal to Stuart; the distress of the whole expedition, chiefly from want of water, was intense.

Stuart received from the government of South Australia the grant of 2,000l. which was destined for the first colonist who crossed the Australian continent. John McKinlay [q. v.] had actually crossed two months earlier, but the circumstances seem not to have been considered quite parallel (see Howitt, ii. 188–9). Stuart also received a gold medal and a watch from the Royal Geographical Society. He had previously received a thousand square miles rent free in the interior. He now endeavoured to settle down to a pastoral life, but his health was broken, and in 1863 he was recommended to return to England as the only chance of recruiting his strength. Arriving here in September 1864, he settled in London in Notting (now Campden) Hill Square, where he died on 5 June 1866. He was buried at Kensal Green. He was apparently unmarried. Stuart's Creek was named after him.

[Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen, 1875; Howitt's Hist. of Discovery in Australia, ii. 158–89; Hardman's Journals of McDouall Stuart's Explorations; Journals of the Royal Geographical Society for 1861 and 1862; Eden's Australian Heroes, p. 275; Davis's Tracks of McKinlay, 1863, pp. 4–20; cf. art. Sturt, Charles.]

C. A. H.