Museum acquires great explorer's pocket watchThe National Museum of Australia has acquired a pocket watch belonging to the father of the Overland Telegraph and one of Australia’s greatest inland explorers, John McDouall Stuart.
National Museum curator, Anthea Gunn said Stuart was one of Australia’s great explorers and the acquisition of the pocket watch reflected his importance to Australia’s exploration history.
Ms Gunn said the National Museum had acquired the pocket-watch presented to Stuart by the Royal Geographical Society, London, on 9 May 1859, in recognition of his feats.
She said the pocket watch and accompanying papers acquired by the National Museum have been with Stuart’s family until they were put up for auction with Bonham’s.
Ms Gunn said the watch was purchased for $70,000, plus buyer’s premium.
She said while Stuart led six expeditions from Adelaide - notably without a single fatality – he was most famous for his final October 1861- July 1862 journey, when he became the first person to successfully cross the continent from south to north.
Ms Gunn said his successful return passage between Adelaide and Chambers Bay (east of what is now Darwin) ultimately mapped the route for the Overland Telegraph – one of the great engineering feats of the 19th Century.
She said Mr Stuart’s earlier expeditions identified new pastoral lands, including 40,000 square miles of potential sheep country in south-west South Australia.
Born in Scotland, Mr Stuart immigrated to South Australia in 1839 and worked as a surveyor. Mr Stuart’s health was almost destroyed by the 1861 cross-continental expedition, and unable to walk, he spent some 900km of the return journey lying in a litter, strung between two horses.
After the expedition, he sailed for Scotland in April 1864 to visit his sister and he died in London in 1866.
Edition 406, 22 April 2014