Prussian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt unlocked the top of Australia with his successful 1844 expedition, but his disappearance after embarking on his 1848 east-west quest remains a mystery today.

Story and photos by John Dunn

There are not too many visible reminders in Australia of the explorations across the continent by Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt, who was always known as Ludwig. There is a tree on which he carved his initials in the main street of Taroom, Qld, which is well-preserved and documented by the local council. Also in Taroom, as well as at nearby Wandoan and Jimbour, and in Darwin, there are various commemorative items, and there are memorial gates in Chinchilla, Qld. A highway running north-east across Queensland from Goondiwindi to Rockhampton is named after him, while in Sydney a suburb bears his name, having changed it from Piperston in the 1840s to acknowledge his pioneering efforts. Unfortunately, the most impressive monument of all, a large stone construction, stands by the Roper River in a remote region of the Northern Territory where only a few intrepid travellers have the chance to see it.
There’s not much else, but there is a wide range of people who have a keen interest in his journeys and his mysterious ending and who, in many different ways, are ensuring that his memory lives on. They include a group of five rural councils in Queensland, an artist in Maroochydore, a librarian in Chinchilla, a former council officer now living in Beerwah, Qld, a Brisbane journalist, a professor in Melbourne, an author and publisher in Hobart and a horsebreaker and academic in Perth.

This story excerpt is from Issue #45

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2006