Maps Depicting the Explorations and Surveys of John McDouall Stuart

Sturt Map

Captain Charles Sturt With John McDouall Stuart 1844 - 1845. Map by David Kennett.

Stuart graduated as a civil engineer before emigrating to Australia. His qualification meant that he was a draughtsman and surveyor. It was those skills which he drew upon for the remainder of his life.

The tools Stuart used included artificial horizons, sextants, compasses, binocular, telescope, watch and surveying chains. Many of these items can be seen in the Stuart Collection.

Explorers and surveyors need measuring recording, map making and navigation skill; Stuart was recognised by his peers as having outstanding navigation skills. Much of Stuart’s employment was due to his survey and map making ability.

Some of his original pastoral surveys and maps are held by the Government of South Australia. A detailed map of the last expedition was made and subsequently published in Hardman’s edition of  his journals. Another source of his final route map is the excellent publication ‘Exploring the Stuart Highway and Oodnadatta Track‘.

Note: The first map (above) is of Stuart’s service with Captain Charles Sturt. Stuart was given the second in command position upon the death of Mr. Poole.

Stuart Map 01

Stuart's Track 1858. Map by David Kennett.

1858 was Stuart’s first journey as a leader, for which he received a prestigious award – a gold watch from the Royal Geographical Society, London.

Stuart Map 02

Stuart's Track April - June 1859. Map by David Kennett.

Stuart Map 03
Stuart’s Track November 1859 – January 1860. Map by David Kennett.


 The second and third expeditions in 1859-60 were focussed on surveying pastoral runs and searching for minerals.  Refer to the main menu – The  First Five Expeditions – for more detail.

Stuart Map 04

Stuart's Track 1860. Map by David Kennett.

 In the 19th Century the global community was fascinated by explorers. By 1860 the only remaining continent whose interior lay unknown was Australia. In April 1860, on his fourth expedition, with only two other Companions, Stuart became the first European to see the centre of the Continent. Thus the great riddle was solved.

Stuart Map 05

Stuart's Track 1861. Map by David Kennett.

In 1860, immediately upon returning to Adelaide from the fourth expedition, a fifth expedition was assembled. With more horses and more men, and an injection of government funds for the first time, the expedition failed to get much further north. Repelled by lack of water and thick, hostile scrub, the attempt to cross the continent was abandoned.

Stuart Map 06

Stuart's Track 1861 - 1862. Map by David Kennett.

 The sixth and final expedition became the first journey of Europeans to cross the continent from south to north through the centre and return, without loss of life.  Stuart was again rewarded by the Royal Geographical Society, this time receiving a gold medal. The only other person to receive both a watch and medal was Dr David Livingston. The party left Adelaide with 71 horses and returned with 48.

Route of all Stuart expeditions

Location and extent of Stuart's explorations. Map by Mary Quick.

 An overview of the six expeditions drawn by Mona Stuart Webster’s (author of the principal biography of John McDouall Stuart) sister.

Stuart's 1860-route

Stuart's route of 1860. Map by Bob Kessing, Desert Graphics, Alice Springs for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of reaching the centre of the continent.