Leichhardt: A Scientist in a Strange Land

A Piece of Evidence

“…the Dr.himself cannot handle a gun, in fact has no idea of shooting, and being rather near sighted, never feels any interest in trying…”

John Gilbert diary entry, 25 March 1845

In about 1900, an Aboriginal man found the remains of a firearm in a boab tree near Sturt Creek in the far northeast of Western Australia, close to the Northern Territory border. The firearm was partially burned, but a brass nameplate with the words Ludwig Leichhardt attached to the butt was intact. The item eventually ended up in the collection of the National Museum of Australia, and extensive metallurgical and other scientific examinations have revealed that the brass and the working of it was contemporaneous with Leichhardt, contributing to its provenance and authentication.

While this artefact could indicate how far and in what direction Leichhardt travelled on his last expedition, it could also demonstrate possible Aboriginal trade routes. Nevertheless, this is the only definitive trace of Leichhardt’s lost expedition that has ever been found.

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