John McDouall Stuart was a Scottish immigrant who had trained at the Scottish Naval and Military Academy. He joined a surveying party soon after his arrival in Australia in 1839, and was invited to join his first exploring party by Charles Sturt. He became a seasoned surveyor and explorer.

At the end of 1860 the South Australian government hastily granted money to fund his journey across Australia, hoping to beat Burke and Wills, who had already left. Between January and September 1861 he attempted an exhausting journey that ultimately failed, but unlike Burke and Wills he returned to Adelaide alive. Undaunted, he set off again the following month, in late October 1861. The party reached the centre of Australia on 12 March 1862, and on 24 July 1862, suffering for exhaustion, they forced their way through thick scrub and came upon the Indian Ocean. On the return journey Stuart became ill with scurvy and nearly blind, and many horses became so weak they had to be abandoned. The party arrived in Adelaide on 17 December. A public holiday was called for 21 January, and a parade rode through the streets. Stuart was still exhausted, nearly blind and white-haired, and died four years later, aged 51.

Australian Dictionary of Biography website, accessed 11 Feb 2004

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