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‘Darrell Lewis addresses what he calls the greatest mystery in Australian history… the disappearance of the Leichhardt expedition somewhere in the vastness of the inland… seven men, their animals and all their equipment. He is an investigator worthy of the task. With forensic flair and admirable energy he examines all the clues, each scrap of evidence and follows the paper trail through libraries and archives all over Australia. In the end the mystery remains but in his search for answers Lewis takes us on an exhilarating journey which maintains the suspense until the last pages.’Henry Reynolds
The vast deserts of Outback Australia hold many secrets, but there’s one great mystery which stands out among all others – the mystery of the lost Leichhardt expedition.
In April 1848 Ludwig Leichhardt and six other men set out westward from the Queensland frontier, heading for Swan River settlement in Western Australia. They never arrived. Somewhere in the immensity of the Outback, then almost completely unknown to Europeans, the entire expedition disappeared.
For more than 160 years, supposed clues to the fate of the expedition have been discovered – human skeletons, old guns and rock paintings, Aboriginal stories of white men being massacred or perishing of thirst, trees marked ‘L’, or old wagon tracks beyond the frontier. Official and private expeditions have followed up leads, but nothing conclusive has been found.
This book draws together and summarises all the search expeditions and the claimed ‘Leichhardt’ relics, and assesses the validity of the claimed relics and the various theories proposed – all of the attempts to answer the perplexing question: Where is Dr Leichhardt?
Darrell Lewis is an archaeologist, historian and bushman who has worked in the Outback for over 40 years. He grew up in a house full of antique firearms, Aboriginal artefacts and other colonial relics, and stories of bushrangers, drovers and ‘wild blacks’. This led to a career in which he has driven, helicoptered, boated or walked into many remote regions to document historic sites, record natural features and photograph galleries of Aboriginal rock art. He has also worked extensively with Aboriginal people, cattle station whites, and other residents in the Northern Territory and elsewhere.
He has published books and articles on Aboriginal rock art, environmental history, cattle station technology, European exploration and settlement of the Northern Territory, and the biographies of Northern Territory cattle station people. He has also produced major reports documenting cattle station and explorer’s historic sites, historic marked boabs, Aboriginal history and Aboriginal rock art. His most recent publication is A Wild History (2012, Monash University Publishing).
The skills Darrell has acquired have given him a unique set of skills with which to assess the findings of the various expeditions sent in search of Leichhardt and the wide variety of ‘evidence’ claimed as relics of Leichhardt’s ill-fated 1848 expedition.
Listen to Darrell Lewis interviewed by Philip Adams on Late Night Live, Radio National.
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