Leichhardt - The Man Behind The Name
Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt was born in Trebatsch, Germany, 70km south of Berlin, on October 23, 1813. He studied Greek, Latin, English, French, German, mathematics, physics and natural history at grammar school and, whilst he studied at university, he never completed a university degree.
Leichhardt met Englishman, William Nicholson, in Berlin and it was whilst touring Europe with Nicholson that he developed an interest in natural history and exploration. It was with these interests in mind that he decided to set sail for Australia in October 1841.
Arriving in Australia in February 1842 Leichhardt was unsuccessful in obtaining the position he wanted so travelled north spending time in the Moreton Bay area near Brisbane. He became interested in exploring the country to the north of Brisbane and returned to Sydney with the idea of leading a private expedition overland from Brisbane to Port Essington – a distance of 4,800 kms.
Leichhardt subsequently undertook three major expeditions. The first was an overland expedition from Darling Downs to Port Essington (1844-1845). The journey was marked with extreme difficulties – rugged country, loss of party members, shortage of food and water, poor leadership, quarrels and inexperience. The party reached Port Essington (now known as Darwin) in December 1845 having trekked for 14 months during which they discovered many important streams and large areas suitable for settlement.
Returning to Sydney, Leichhardt was warmly received by colonial society and awarded gold medals by the Royal Geographical Society of London and the Geographical Society of Paris. It was at this time that he wrote his Journal of an Overland Expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington.
In 1846, Leichhardt set out once again from the Darling Downs with the intention of travelling northwards, then westwards and ending up moving down towards Perth. Unfortunately the expedition was only able to travel about 800km before bad weather and ill health forced them to turn back.
The third and final expedition, comprising a party of six, left from near the town of Roma in February 1848. The party was last seen on 3 April 1848 at McPherson’s Station on the Darling Downs. Leichhardt wrote his last letter on 4 April 1848. Since then nothing definite has been learnt of the fate of the party. Despite several major searches being undertaken over the years no remains have ever been found.
Leichhardt’s legacy includes his contribution to the natural sciences in Australia, detailed in his notebooks and diaries.
Connection with Leichhardt Municipality
The suburb of Leichhardt was first known as Piperston. Its name was changed in 1842 by a local businessman, Walter Beames, who originally owned much of the land of the present suburb and was a friend of Ludwig Leichhardt. When Beames subdivided the land in 1849 the area became known as Leichhardt town. Beames was also involved in assisting Leichhardt’s first expedition and on that trip Leichhardt named a tributary of the Albert River in Queensland, Beames Brook, after him.
During the Australian Bicentennial in 1988, on 15 June, the mayor of Leichhardt, Mr Nick Origlass, was presented with a bronze relief of Ludwig Leichhardt as a gift from the German Democratic Republic.
In Germany, the Ludwig Leichhardt Museum is located in his home town Trebatsch. It opened in 1988 on Leichhardt’s 175th birthday. The local school has also been renamed the Leichhardt School in his honour.
In September 2004 five councils of Queensland’s Western Downs linked up to stage the first ever “Follow the Leichhardt track” – Leichhardt Expo.
A range of events have been organised for the 200th anniversary of Leichhardt’s birth in 2013.