Ludwig Leichhardt - easier version

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Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt was born in 1713 in Prussia (now part of Germany). His parents were farmers and he studied natural science at university. He called himself Doctor, even though he did not finish his degree.  In England Leichhardt lived with another student who paid for his trip to Australia to explore the inland. This friend also gave him money to help him in his new country.

Leichhardt arrived in Sydney in 1842 and proceeded to study rocks, animals and plants around Sydney. He didn't work, but found another friend who was prepared to support him. Later he travelled to the Moreton Bay settlement in Queensland, a distance of nearly a thousand kilometres.

He travelled back to Sydney to raise money for a new journey. Most of the business people thought he was rather a strange young man and would not help him. However, in 1844, Leichhardt managed to finance an expedition to travel from the Moreton Bay settlement to Port Essington, a settlement north-east of the present site of Darwin. Leichhardt expected the journey to take 6 months, but indeed it took 14 months before he reached Port Essington. He was a poor bushman and a poor leader - even taking the biggest share of food for himself! Leichhardt did not like aboriginals and even quarrelled with two in his own party. One of them knocked out two of his front teeth.

The party travelled through eastern Queensland heading north, naming rivers and mountains as they travelled. They were forced to live off the land killing goannas, kangaroos, possums, flying foxes, emus and other birds as they went, because supplies were running low. At one stage, they had travelled only a quarter of the distance and had eaten two-thirds of the food. The journey took too long because most of the time Leichhardt didn't even know where he was.

During April and early May, they followed a river that Leichhardt named the Burdekin. At the end of May, they discovered the Lynd River and followed it towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.  Leichhardt made the mistake of camping in thick scrub and the aboriginals were able to creep up on him. On June 28, hostile aboriginals attacked the camp and one of the party, John Gilbert was speared and killed. Two other members of the party were wounded.

Water was still plentiful but supplies were low and the men were forced to boil bulllock skins to make soup and eat flying foxes and bulrushes.

Once they reached the Gulf of Carpentaria, they travelled along the Gulf and headed north-west to the Roper River, which they crossed in October. In December, they reached Port Essington, starving and naked. People had given them up for dead. When they returned to Sydney, they were given a warm welcome and treated as heroes.

Their journey had covered 4 800 kilometres and they had discovered many important rivers, including the Mitchell, Burdekin, Gilbert and Roper Rivers and large areas of land suitable for grazing. It had made possible the settlement of eastern and central Queensland.

Because of the success of this expedition, Leichhardt was now famous and had no trouble raising funds for a second expedition in which he planned to cross the whole of Australia from the east coast to the west coast. The trip was a disaster when the party caught malaria, a sickness carried by mosquitoes. Unfortunately Leichhardt had not brought any quinine needed to treat this sickness and very little other medicine.  They had covered less than 800 kilometres when he was forced to turn back.

In December 1847, he set off again from the Darling Downs with another small groups of men.  The party vanished without a trace. This is the last we know of them and what happened to Ludwig Leichhardt and his party is a mystery. He and his men were never seen again. Many of the rescue parties, however, found good land in the north of the continent.

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