When this pre-written article is published I’ll in the middle of a one month holiday on the road travelling from Adelaide to Darwin. Along the way to some extent I will have followed the route taken by an explorer that many Australians have probably not heard of: John McDouall Stuart.
In the early 19th. Century Northern Australia was imagined rather than experienced. There were visions of an inland sea, comparable to the European experience. But in the 1850s a Scots explorer, John McDouall Stuart, showed South Australians the reality and, in so doing, opened the way for the Overland Telegraph and a direct link between Australia and the rest of the world. The first European to cross Australia south to north in 1862, Stuart laid the foundation for The Track, later to become the Stuart Highway.
The Overland Telegraph cut communications times between Australian and the world from months to minutes and carried messages until the bombing of Darwin in WW II.
In 1866 Stuart died in London, with no recognition of his achievement in blazing a path through Central Australia. When the Stuart highway was built from from Port Augusta in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory it was named in his honour.
Todd’s wife Alice became one of the leading ladies of Adelaide, she died in 1898. The Todd river in Alice Springs is named after Charles Todd.
If you’re interested in the topic, it might be worth finding a book called “The Singing Line” about the man who commissioned Stuart to survey the route for the Overland Telegraph, Charles Todd as told by British journalist Alice Thomson, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles and his wife Alice Todd.