Mr Stuart’s Track by john Bailey
On 14 May 1858, an expedition of discovery led by John McDouall Stuart departed from a copper mine located on the very edge of the known world in the North Flinders Ranges. The Australian continent stretched for another 2,000 kilometres to the north and 2,500 to the west and no white man had the slightest idea of what was there. It was to be the first of six expeditions mounted by Stuart, then aged 42, as he sought to uncover the mysteries of the interior and forge a path to the north.
Ultimately he was to become part of a race across the continent, his rivals being the Burke and Wills expedition. In the end Stuart was to be the first European to cross Australia from south to north and return again, as the cumbersome expedition of Burke and Wills turned from farce to tragedy. Yet his hero’s homecoming was to be shortlived.
Mr Stuart’s Track is a fascinating study of a loner, an explorer of no fixed abode, who battled alcoholism and ill-health to push himself to the limits of endurance in crossing straight through the red centre to the northern seas.