Image 'Australian exploration, an expedition on the march', 1874

TLF ID R3049

This is a black-and-white print that depicts the ill-fated expedition, led by explorer Peter Egerton Warburton, which attempted to cross central Australia in 1873. The print shows expedition members astride camels with Warburton in the lead and an Aboriginal guide on foot in the desert. The print, which measures 35.5 cm x 52.8 cm, appeared in the 'Australasian Sketcher' in 1874.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts expedition leader Peter Egerton Warburton - the British-born Warburton (1813-1889) migrated to South Australia in 1863 after a naval and military career; Commander of the South Australian police force until his retirement in 1867, he was 60 years of age when the expedition left Adelaide; he ended the journey emaciated and blind in one eye.
  • It shows an aspect of the expedition led by Warburton - the expedition was sponsored by two South Australian colonists, Thomas Elder and Walter Hughes, and set out in 1872 to find a route between South Australia and Western Australia and to survey the unexplored terrain between the two colonies; while the expedition failed to reach Perth, it was the first to cross the continent from Adelaide to the west.
  • It illustrates one of the many attempts made to explore Australia's interior in this period - in the 19th century the continent was crisscrossed by a large number of explorers, many of whom perished in the often harsh environment they encountered; by the 1870s the race was on to be the first to cross central Australia.
  • It shows the members of Warburton's expedition - the expedition included Warburton, his son Richard, the surveyor J W Lewis, a cook and assistant camel man, Dennis White, two Afghan cameleers referred to as Sahleh and Halleem, and an Indigenous boy who was given the name 'Charley'; expeditions often used Indigenous Australians as guides and relied on their knowledge of the environment; Warburton recorded that on several occasions 'Charley' led the desperate party to waterholes.
  • It indicates that camels were used on Warburton's expedition - the first camel-only expedition in Australia, the party was equipped with 17 camels (four riding camels, twelve baggage camels and one spare camel); during the journey four of the camels bolted, one died of poisoning, three were left, exhausted, to die and seven were killed and eaten when provisions ran out.
  • It indicates that the expedition travelled in the evening - the excessive heat forced the party to travel overnight and in the cooler parts of the day, with the result that Warburton did not have much opportunity to survey the country he traversed.
  • It shows the expedition crossing the desert - most of the journey was spent in scrubby and sandy desert; by November 1874 the party, which had endured great hardship, including a lack of food and water, was reduced to a diet of camel meat and abandoned the expedition at Oakover River, about 800 miles (nearly 1,290 km) north of Perth.
  • It is an artist's impression of the expedition - this illustration, taken from a wood engraving, appeared in the 'Australasian Sketcher' in 1874; the public was eager for accounts of exploration across the continent.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements