To Henry Rawlinson1    1 February 1872

Melbourne bot. Garden


Sir Henry

The Roy. Geogr Society has always evinced such a vivid interest in the fate of the Explorer Leichhardt, that I deem it my duty to bring under the Societys notice the results of a new search after that Explorer and his party, which recently has been carried out by Mr Gilmore, Inspector of native police, under the direction of the Queensland Government. From the enclosed copy of Mr Gilmore's journal2 you will perceive, that he advanced westerly as far as Eyres's Creek, a position not reached [again]3 by any explorer since Capt Sturt discovered it in 1845, unless that locality was visited by Leichhardt's party about 1848 or afterwards. The various remnants of clothing, equipment &c of travellers, found near Eyres' Creek, render it certain, that Dr Leichhardt must have been in the vicinity. The sample of twisted goatskin, herewith forwarded,4 is a portion of the ornamentation articles, found in the camps of the natives about Eyres Creek, and can only have originated from Leichhardts party. Remnants like these were not found at Wantata,5 where Inspector Gilmore discovered human bones early last year. It requires therefore [just]6 further confirmation of the assertion of some of the natives, that the brave party of missing explorers succumbed at that spot, since moreover no bones of their many oxen and horses have as yet been found, altho' remnants such as were found by Mr Gilmore might readily have been carried from tribe to tribe as far as the Eyres Creek and beyond it.7

A new clue as regards Leichhardts movements having thus been obtained, I have solicited from the Government of South Australia, to cause enquiries to be made along their transcontinental telegraph line among the natives, whether Leichhardt advanced to that line anywhere, perhaps in 25° S. Should he not have penetrated so far, then further enquiries within Queensland territory is likely to clear early up the mystery of his fate. Strange and enigmatic remains the fact, that trees marked L and apparently indicating positions of Leichhardts were found on the upper parts of the Flinders River.8 A favourable rainy season may have however induced that unfortunate traveller, to quit the more broken and difficult country towards Carpentaria and to steer for Eyres Creek, then known to him from Sturts map, with a view of gaining a flat country for easy travelling, particularly as that line would be the shortest in the contemplated direction of his march.

A small private party is just organised on my suggestion by Mr Ernest Giles, to advance from some central Australian position in the new telegraph line to the west coast, if possible to the sources of the River Murchison during the next cool season, for which enterprise the copious rains since 2 years in the interior augur well.9 If this object should be accomplished, a passable overland line from the inland stations of Queensland, NS Wales and South Australia to W. Australia will be gained, and thus Cattle and sheep can in masses be brought to pastures near shipping places of the W. coast; besides a line for exploratory observations would be gained in the great Western half of the Australian Continent.

It is also the intention of Mr Charles Harper to proceed during the next cool season from his station on the DeGray River to the East by Termination Lake;10 and I deem it not improbable, that also the two young Explorers Mess John and Alexander Forrest, will endeavour to advance from Lake Barlee or some other inland position of W. Australia further easterly and try to reach the telegraph line, as this line gives such great facilities now for the continuation of geographic researches in the more Central portions of the Australian Continent.

I remain, dear General Rawlinson, your very regardful

Ferd von Mueller,



Lt General, Sir Henry Rawlinson,

K.C.B., D C L., FRS.,

President of the Royal Geogr. Soc


All these expeditions may give us also further clues of Leichhardts fate.

The MS was marked up for publication, but was not published.
The copy of Gilmore's journal cannot be found at the RGS.
Text obscured by editor's marking-up deletion.
The specimen is stored with the MS.
Wantata waterhole, 100 km NE of Birdsville, Qld.
Text obscured by editor's marking-up deletion.
Eyre Creek is about 180-200 km NW of Wantata waterhole.
The upper reaches of the Flinders River, which runs into the Gulf of Carpentaria, lie between Julia Creek and Richmond, Qld., over 600 km NNE of Wantata waterhole.
Giles, in his 1872 expedition, was unable to find a route across what he named the Gibson Desert to the west coast.
Termination Lake does not appear on modern maps, but M was referring to the furthest point inland reached by the Gregory expedition in 1856, now known as Lake Gregory. Harper did not undertake the expedition proposed here.

Please cite as “FVM-72-02-01,” in Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, edited by R.W. Home, Thomas A. Darragh, A.M. Lucas, Sara Maroske, D.M. Sinkora, J.H. Voigt and Monika Wells accessed on 28 January 2023,