For centuries, the vast island continent of Australia remained a blank space on the map. This film tells the story of the Scottish exploration of Australia.
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For over two centuries, a remarkable collection of Scots
blazed a trail into unknown corners of the world.
Their epic journeys in the harshest of conditions
helped forge nations and draw the maps of three continents.
From the frozen wastes of Canada to the unseen heart of Africa
and across the rolling oceans to the parched deserts of Australia,
Scottish explorers have been at the forefront of expanding the frontiers
of the world in which we live.
This is the story of the Scottish discovery of our world.
NEWSREEL: Today, seven million Australians celebrate with pride
and thanksgiving the mighty growth of the seed
planted less than five generations ago.
In 1938, Australia celebrated its 150th birthday.
The story of the arrival of Captain Cook
and Captain Phillip, of the First Fleet
first-footing an empty continent in the southern ocean,
was by then a well known one.
But behind the pageantry and backslapping
was an unspoken truth - that the country called Australia
was only just within the grasp of its white rulers.
NEWSREEL: "A white man arrives..."
A mere 80 years before these celebrations,
no white man had even seen the centre of the continent.
Parts of the continent remained blank spaces on the map.
Australians were celebrating the birth of a country they barely knew.
People are still scared by this country.
Australia's a hard place - it won't give easily,
because it's so old, so worn down
and you have to know it really, really well to survive in it.
Lachlan Macquarie, from Ulva near Mull,
became governor of New South Wales in 1809.
The young colony was not in good shape.
The life of the convicts in early Australia
was nasty, brutish and short.
People who have convict ancestors today will say,
"Oh, no, they were all sent out for stealing a loaf of bread."
This is rubbish.
Most of them were fairly crooked people
and they were thrown on very harsh times and they had to survive.
So, yes, there was a lot of nastiness going on,
not only from the convicts -
the soldiery were equally lecherous and evil.
The corruption and vice offended Macquarie's staunch Presbyterianism.
He immediately disbanded the local police force
and replaced them with his own soldiers.
He would rule New South Wales as a benevolent dictator.
He was the first military army governor.
There was always this tension going on between the armed forces
who were supposed to control what was going on
and the governor who was supposed to make the rules about what went on.
Once Macquarie was here, there wasn't that tension,
that was taken out of the equation,
and so the governor was able to make decisions and force things to happen.
And Macquarie had a vision for his dusty, unruly colony.
He thought it could become a nation, populated by free men and women,
paying its way within the British Empire.
Macquarie had a big repair job to do in the first instance
and then moved on to develop the colony
like no other governor before him had been able to.
Macquarie believed Australia needed more of three things -
more free people, more buildings
and more land...much more land.
The first two were relatively easy.
Macquarie encouraged the rehabilitation of convicts
and employed many of them in powerful positions.
He was quite good at locating convicts
who had something to offer the colony.
An outstanding example is Francis Greenway the architect,
who was very useful in many of the building projects.
Macquarie saw the need to build a proper nation
and while there were people who said, "He's getting above himself,
"this is too good, we just want slab huts,
"that's good enough for the colonials,"
Macquarie was building for a greater future.
But if Macquarie's vision were to be realised,
if New South Wales were to flourish, the people who lived there
were going to have to move beyond their little strip of coast.
Sydney is hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the west
and the ocean to the east.
When Macquarie arrived, Australia effectively stopped
only a few miles from the water's edge.
For 25 years, the Blue Mountains,
the great dividing range west of Sydney,
stopped anyone getting over to the arable lands
and the good water on the other side.
Once we had a way across,
suddenly the whole colony could expand massively
and go in all directions, but people had to map it out,
find where the good land was
and Macquarie was the one to send people out to do that.
Millions of acres of unmapped land sat on Macquarie's doorstep.
If the land could be claimed and tamed,
then the prison could become a nation.
But to unlock that land, Macquarie would need explorers.
North of Sydney is the city of Brisbane.
200 years ago, this tropical paradise
was the site of the Morton Bay penal colony.
Its commander was Captain Patrick Logan
Patrick Logan, like a lot of Scots,
found an outlet for limited employment in Scotland
by joining the army or the colonial service
and he was certainly a zealous commandant
of the Morton Bay convict establishment.
Logan was a harsh, unforgiving jailer.
He had none of Macquarie's enlightened attitude to his convicts,
who frequently suffered hundreds of lashes as punishment.
So hated was Logan
that he soon acquired the nickname The Tyrant of Brisbane Town.
But Logan was also a compulsive explorer,
sharing Macquarie's belief in opening up the country.
He charted local rivers
and travelled across a range of mountains
he named the McPherson Range.
When he ascended Mount Barney in 1827,
Logan had climbed higher than any white man on the continent.
Step by step, he was increasing European knowledge
of the land west of Morton Bay.
But this kind of exploration
inevitably brought Europeans like Logan into contact
with Australia's Aboriginal people.
The result was a clash of two very different civilisations.
The first instinct of Aboriginal people in seeing Europeans,
because of all the gear, the paraphernalia,
the boats and things like that, there was an element of fear
and a bit of aggression as well,
as has been documented time and time again.
But a lot of the time, they wanted Europeans to take their pants off.
You know, "Who are you? Oh, you're a man." They wanted to know that.
It might have seemed funny to the explorer.
For Aboriginal people, it was deadly serious.
"We need to know who you are, what sex you are
"and where you've come from."
So the whole meeting between Aboriginal people
and Europeans was generally completely misunderstood.
Craig Ross is an Aboriginal land owner from central Australia.
The experience of his ancestors
in meeting European explorers for the first time was typical.
When our great grandmother, when she was a little girl
and seen them people coming here, most of the time
they seen them coming sitting on top of the bushes, in a sense, floating.
Might have been with no shirt on.
And they're like, "What's this here, coming back? Mumoo,"
you know, monster or spirit, you know, bad one,
coming back to visit again.
So it was a "run away" job!
And the pale colour of European skin was not a good omen.
Death, in a way, is represented by white,
so our people viewing the white skins of those visitors
had some type of fear - fearing of returning spirits and so forth.
In 1830, as Logan pushed inland,
tensions with the local Aborigines were running high.
On several occasions, Logan's party was confronted
and warned not to cross the river.
Logan was a very strong commandant but he perhaps was too zealous
and too lacking in care for his own safety.
Impatient with the slow progress,
Logan abandoned his travelling companions and pushed ahead alone.
He was never seen alive again.
A search party found his lifeless body buried in a shallow grave,
his skull caved in.
Logan is said to have been killed by Aboriginal people
at the instigation of convicts.
That's one theory.
Another theory is that perhaps runaway convicts
in cahoots with Aboriginal people did the deed.
Blame for Logan's death eventually fell on the local Aborigines.
Shock, fear and anger spread through white Australia.
Logan's exploits had expanded their knowledge of their country,
but his death crystallised the dangers of their new home.
Outside their small settlements and beyond the barricades,
lurked a strange group of people they simply did not understand.
But exploration need not always open the door on a terrifying world.
Another Scottish explorer who looked beyond the city walls
saw a land ripe for cultivation and settlement,
a paradise beyond the Blue Mountains.
Thomas Livingstone Mitchell
from Grangemouth was the Scotsman
whose surveys and maps opened the way for the settlement
of much of South Eastern Australia.
"Of this Eden, I was the first European to explore its mountains
"and streams, to behold its scenery,
"certain to become at no distant date of vast importance to a new people."
Mitchell was a very dominant figure
in the survey department and perhaps domineering.
I think he's a man of enormous ambition.
I don't think I'd like him as my boss on an expedition,
but if I were travelling with the expedition and I didn't know much
about the country, I would rather have him in charge,
because he was going to get through it and he was going to survive.
Thomas Mitchell honed his surveying skills
on the battlefields of the Peninsula War.
Mitchell spent a lot of his time behind enemy lines
with a theodylite and a rifle
and he did topographic surveys where Wellington's troops were to go.
The type of surveying
was what we call reconnaissance trigometrical surveying,
where you climbed up the top of mountains
and you observed other mountains and features down the valley,
then you went to another mountain and you observed again
and put them all together like a matrix of triangles.
He put a lot of the country on the map
in a way where others could then find their way through it,
but a lot of it was finding routes.
People think it was about going out and looking for stuff,
but often it was just getting a way through,
knowing this was a direction you could travel.
The more Mitchell explored,
the more he realised the immense potential of the land.
"We were delighted with the prospect
"of so favourable a country for extending..."
"The soil of this last plain..."
"Trees grew upon it in beautiful groups..."
"The grass resembled a field of young wheat."
"The scrub beyond was close
"and consisted of a variety of dark leaves..."
"The region beyond these mountains is beautiful
"and it is sufficiently well watered
"to become an important addition
"to the pastoral capabilities of New South Wales."
In 1831, only 12 months after the death of Patrick Logan,
Mitchell began an extraordinary series of expeditions
into the Australian heartland,
journeys which would transform Australian's knowledge
of their own country and pave the way for the nation it would become.
Today, Australian artist Eliza Tree is retracing Mitchell's steps,
camping in the same sites that he did
and re-imagining, through Mitchell's eyes,
the way that Australia once was.
Well, I suppose when I discovered Mitchell's journal,
I realised that it just contained so much information
which I'm really intrigued with.
When I found out that he had taken such a huge party of people with him
and all that kind of thing, I just thought,
"This is bigger than Ben Hur
"and I need to find out what it's all about."
They usually travelled between 10 and 16 miles a day,
which was pretty well all they could manage with the oxen and drays.
Mitchell himself would have covered vastly more country than that.
He would have been up every hilltop, every valley.
Well, Mitchell at the time was the surveyor general of Sydney
and this was what was known as the 19 counties
which they'd spent quite a bit of time mapping
and this was the outer limits of the settlement.
Mitchell had, in 1831, taken a journey up north.
In 1835, he travelled out west but on his journey of 1836,
which is my main focus,
it was a 2,400 mile journey
over eight or nine months.
It was extensive.
So extensive, in fact, that Mitchell realised he would need help.
He developed a profound appreciation of the bush ranging skills
of the Aborigines.
"Their shrewdness shines,
"even through the medium of imperfect language,
"and renders them, in general, very agreeable companions."
Mitchell saw the great beauty of Aboriginal life.
He saw the comfort, the happiness, the produce,
the health and he was enamoured of those things
and so many other fellow explorers and settlers,
they went out of their way to demean Aboriginal people.
Mitchell pushed further and further
into the heart of South-Eastern Australia.
In March 1836, disregarding orders to return home,
he set off on what is regarded as his most significant journey -
the Australia Felix - or Happy Australia Expedition.
Mitchell had instruction to look around for any good pasture land
and pasture land was very important in those days because sheep
came into their own as a primary earner of money in Australia.
In South-West Victoria, Mitchell uncovered a region
of rich agricultural land that reminded him of home.
The land is dotted with familiar names.
To follow these place names today is to follow Mitchell's route.
He discovered very valuable pastureland
and he made his name through that in many ways.
You don't make your name as being a surveyor - you make your name
being an explorer and discovering things that people appreciate.
Mitchell's Australia Felix expedition
confirmed Lachlan Macquarie's belief
that the land beyond the cities would be the foundation of a new nation.
But Mitchell could also see the ancient way of life he so admired
was under threat.
"The kangaroo disappears from cattle runs
"and is killed by stockman merely for the sake of its skin
"but no mercy is shown to the natives who may help themselves
"to a bullock or a sheep.
"Such a state of things must infallibly lead to the extirpation
"of the Aboriginal natives unless timely measures are taken
"for their civilisation and protection."
Every time you got on a horse
and rode into new country, they knew that within days,
sometimes hours, there were other men following these footsteps.
The reports of Mitchell's discoveries in South-West Victoria
were a clarion call.
His expeditions were the first footsteps in a frantic process
which would see large parts of Victoria
become populated by like-minded Scottish pioneers.
Well, the 1830s was a period of rapid expansion of settlement
because of the development of the wool industry.
You've got huge areas of land being opened up extremely quickly
because you needed vast areas of land to run sheep
and a lot of the impetus behind exploration comes from that.
On Bannockburn Road on the outskirts of the city of Geelong
stands a blue-stone mansion house built in 1876.
Its owner was George Russell, a Fife-born sheep farmer.
Russell's descendants still live in the area today.
When he ruminates on the past, he'd hoped to earn...
something like £100 a year would be great -
his own 30-40 acres,
£100, a few heads of stock and things.
I think the last published accounts for his personal assets
was something like £280,000.
That's money, plus the land he'd accumulated.
I guess he'll be feeling pretty good about that.
George Russell's journeys are an example of how the exploration
of Australia could be the passport to riches,
if you played your cards right.
It just must have been overwhelming to have been somewhere
so absolutely different.
He talks when he goes back to Scotland about how constraining
the view is in that it's all villages
and wee little paddocks and hedgerows and everything's broken up.
He said there's no vistas like there is in Australia
where there are no fences and nothing to break the view.
I think he was riveted by what he'd found.
For Scots like Russell, Australia offered an escape
from the hard scrabble, impoverished existence they had known at home.
"The continuous hard work day after day caused me
"to be too tired for improving myself to any extent.
"My father was never in a position to put his sons on farms of their own,
"which was one of their reasons for their settling in the colonies."
When George Russell emigrated to Tasmania in 1831,
he was typical of a new wave of Scottish pioneers.
Youthful and hard-working, educated but certainly not rich.
The aristocracy didn't need to emigrate
and the really poor people couldn't,
so what you got was the upper-working class,
the lower-middle class, predominantly,
and they were very keen to get on
but they had a keen sense of their own worth.
"The principle which prevailed at the time
"in the taking up of the country for occupation by early settlers
"was that the person who was first on the ground had the prior claim to it.
"The whole country was open."
Russell boarded a schooner for Port Phillip Bay
and headed out into the uncharted bush
to claim as much land as he could.
Geelong, close to where Russell first landed,
is now a pleasant modern city.
But in 1836, it consisted of a few huts and some tents
and George Russell wasn't the only pioneer
landing livestock on the beach.
Russell watched as John Aiken, formerly of Edinburgh,
unloaded his brig full of sheep onto the beaches at Port Phillip Bay.
"Mr Aiken carried every sheep to shore from the boats himself,
"wading up to his neck in the sea.
"They continued to work day and night until all the sheep were landed -
"I think about 800."
He had to physically lift 800 sheep, he and the others,
into the lifeboats and then push them or swim them in,
I don't know how they got them to shore.
It took all day and well into the night.
Absolutely extraordinary, I can't imagine how you'd do it.
Physically, it would have been just a huge feat.
Russell found himself racing through the bush with livestock
to grab land,
leapfrogging the Scots who had already staked their claim
closer to the bay.
As he did so, he was pushing into territory
that no European had ever set foot in.
This was the era of a different sort of exploration.
Not one made with the intention of taking survey reading
with compass and sextant, but one solely motivated by land.
The main thing now is to find good farming land
and hopefully to get it and claim a big clump of it for yourself first.
If you couldn't succeed in doing that,
then you pretty well missed the boat.
The land Russell eventually selected was ideal for farming
and he set about building huts and erecting fences.
His prospects looked good.
Out they went looking for good land, good water,
and then quickly as possible to grab as much of it as they could,
get some stock, get it on the land so it was theirs.
But Russell had travelled far beyond established colonial territory.
He was, in the parlance of the day, a squatter.
Well, squatting simply means you squat on the land.
You just go and occupy the land.
But how did he accumulate 72,000 acres
without anybody saying to him, "That's far too much land?" I don't know.
It was really impossible to survey
and those that got there first got the best land on the river.
No man's land this may have been, but that didn't mean the government
passed up a chance to make money from it.
The land was put up for auction and, to add insult to injury,
Russell was outbid for the country he had discovered and improved.
So he simply upped sticks and moved further inland.
This new country became the basis of a pastoral empire
that eventually spanned 40 square miles -
one tenth of the size of his native Fife.
In the end, having got through all that and ended up owning his land
and ending up with his big bank balance
and his family and all of that around him, he must have felt pretty good.
The journeys of George Russell were central to the expansion
and taming of Victoria.
His life is a fine example of the virtues of hard work,
thrift and determination.
But whilst he and his fellow Scottish settlers flourished,
he noticed others were suffering.
"After some years, the periodical visits I had received from
"the parties of natives became less frequent and their parties smaller.
"Great numbers of them
"died from inflammation of the lungs brought on by severe colds.
"The general opinion appears to be that the natives are destined
"to become extinct as a race."
As Scots and others became ever more successful explorers
and ever more dedicated to building the Australian nation,
the predicament of the people who had lived in this land
for thousands of years grew worse day by day.
The initial reaction of the Aboriginal people was,
if someone enters your country you try to deal with them.
Your first instinct is not to kill
but to make these people respond to the law of the land
and you just expect that they will,
because in 60,000 years that's all you've known.
Accompanying the arrival of white Australia
was a whirlwind of violence.
There was a war going on in the country
and Aboriginal people were turning back Europeans all over Australia.
In Victoria, in the western district,
Aboriginal people drove the early settlers out of the country
back towards Melbourne.
On the 9th June, 1838,
the Aborigine people of Myall Creek in New South Wales
were confronted by a band of frontiersmen
intent on punishing Aborigines for rushing their cattle.
The frontiersmen rounded up nearly 30 men, women and children.
Tied together they were led into the hills.
There they were killed - their children were decapitated.
There's not only brutality happens on the Australian frontier
from time to time, there's actually depravity.
There are just appalling things happening.
Depraved is the right word for it
Even by the lawless standards of the frontier,
the Myall Creek massacre was an outrage which could not be ignored.
Seven frontiersmen were tried, found guilty and sentenced to death.
In their defence, they claimed that killing Aborigines was so common they hadn't realised it was illegal.
In all these places, it was possible to do things a bit differently
and you probably didn't need to drive people
off cliffs into the sea.
You didn't need to round them up and shoot them in water holes.
The events of Myall Creek left a profound impression
on the settlers in nearby Victoria, many of them Scottish.
The lesson was clear.
If you were going to get into a fight with the Aborigines,
best to keep quiet about it.
To the east of Melbourne is a region called Gippsland. It is remote.
Cut off from the rest of the continent by the Snowy Mountains.
Much of it today remains a wilderness.
Its discovery and mapping are largely down to one man -
a Gaelic-speaking islander called Angus McMillan.
In the 1830s, traditional Gaelic culture in the Highlands
of Scotland was in decline.
Estates were being cleared of tenant farmers
to make way for profitable sheep.
Poverty and hunger stalked the glens
but many Presbyterian Highlanders saw this disaster
as an opportunity to start again -
to build a promised land on the other side of the world.
There's a certain amount of imagery around the immigration
of Highlanders that calls on biblical images of Exodus.
That's not uncommon.
You know, people who were in captivity
and suffering under the Highland Clearances who were now reluctantly
leaving their homeland but they're looking for a new promised land.
Born in Skye and brought up on Barra, Angus McMillan
sailed for Australia at the age of 28.
An austere, religious young man, McMillan did not want to leave Scotland
but he believed God had a plan for him.
If Australia was to be his destiny, so be it.
McMillan arrives in Australia with not much notion
of what he's going to do but with letters of introduction to men of much more means,
much more status and probably much more education.
McMillan found work with Lachlan McAlister - a fellow islander
and owner of huge tracts of land in New South Wales.
But in 1839, a drought struck.
McMillan, the determined and resourceful new man,
was sent out to find new land to farm.
McMillan pushed on into the endless bush,
forcing his horse through forests,
into gullies, around swamps and up mountain slopes.
Finally, after weeks in the saddle, McMillan crashed through the trees -
he was delighted with what he'd found.
"It put me more in mind of the scenery of Scotland than any other country
"I had hitherto seen and therefore,
"I named it at that moment Caledonia Australis - Scotland of the South.
"It was then I keenly felt I had a noble and glorious task to perform
"and that I was only an instrument in the hands of the almighty.
"This was land sufficient to feed all my starving countrymen."
He's doing the Lord's will. He must be, it's manifest.
Why else would he be here?
Why would it be so good for cattle if it wasn't the Lord's will?
But really, while he's thinking about the Lord's will,
he also thinking how he, Angus McMillan, can grow fat.
McMillan returned to Sydney
and drove 500 of McAlister's cattle into the new territory.
He claimed a property for himself twice the size of Barra,
the island where he'd grown up.
He was soon joined by others as an almost exclusively Gaelic community
of cattlemen followed his path south.
One of them was Robert Thompson.
His great, great grandson Andrew is still there.
There's about 550 in this mob. Enough to keep busy.
Not enough to make money.
Because Macmillan was the main explorer,
everyone knows everyone in your community
so he's not going to give first heads up that there's good country
down here to the Irish, to the Poms, to the Welsh or anyone else.
It's all going to be, "Right, I'll get on the phone
"and tell all my Scottish mates this is the promised land."
"This is all good. There are acres and acres of grass,
"you're going to be able to make a quid down here."
Today, Andrew Thompson trades in a global market
and farming is a tough business.
But the greatest risk was taken by men like his great,
great grandfather who followed in McMillan's footsteps 180 years ago.
To come over those mountains with animals
and not know what's at the other end... You break a leg up there,
you got nothing. And to punt your whole life, your family's life
and all future generations on something like that
when you could have just sat at home and done nothing, that's fairly amazing.
It's a real test of character and sign of strength,
so it's kind of amazing to me.
By the 1850s, Angus McMillan owned nearly 2,500 cattle, 9,000 sheep
and had land stretching as far as the eye could see.
The Presbyterian prophecy of a Gaelic promised land was fulfilled.
The name Caledonia Australis didn't stick,
but McMillan was quickly recognised as one of early Australia's
most important explorers and agriculturalists.
Among his many positions was protector of the local Aborigines.
But on closer examination, this picture tells a different story.
My skin crawls when I see that photograph.
When I first saw it...
I felt like vomiting, because it's so plain in the photograph
that the two Aboriginal men have fear
and revulsion in their eyes.
In 1843, Aboriginal warriors ambushed
and killed a prominent local white man.
The Aborigines made one terrible mistake when they killed a man
because he turned out to be the nephew of the number one man,
Lachlan McAllister, who financed McMillan's trips.
In response, McMillan formed a posse of stockmen.
He called them the Highland Brigade.
Macmillan...got his fellows, the clans, organised
and...he was of the opinion -
and militarily, it makes for common sense -
that you hit early and you hit hard and you solve the problem
before the soft hearts get a chance to become involved.
McMillan reminded his men what had happened at Myall Creek.
Too much loose talk had alerted the authorities.
The men pledged a pact of silence.
The covenant held, for a time,
but the terrible events of that day are no longer shrouded in silence.
In 1925, an anonymous account appeared in a Melbourne newspaper.
"The brigade coming up to the blacks camped around the water hole
"at Warrigal Creek surrounded them
"and fired into them, killing a great number.
"Some escaped into the scrub, others jumped into the water hole
"and as fast as they put their heads up for breath,
"they were shot until the water was red with blood."
Estimates of the number of Aborigines killed
at Warrigal Creek range from 60 to 150.
In the case of Angus McMillan, he and his Scottish friends seemed to
have been especially savage in their reprisals.
He was prepared to do anything to get what he wanted
and he had no time for Aboriginal people at all.
He held the Aboriginal people in contempt.
I think his bible allowed him to do that.
By the mid 1850s, when Angus McMillan's
transformation from destitute cattlehand to a wealthy explorer
was complete, there were barely 100 Aborigines left in all of Gippsland.
When McMillan arrived, there had been 2,000.
The grand irony is that a lot of these people who came
and moved by force, or some other means, the Aboriginal people
off the land had been themselves moved off.
So I think that made them quite immune
to any sentiment about moving the next lot.
McMillan is the dark side of the Scottish exploration of Australia.
The thirst for new land was all-consuming
and even in one of the biggest countries in the world,
for some Scots there was no room for anyone else.
But by the mid-19th century, European knowledge of the size
and nature of Australia was still limited.
For all their achievements, Australians could not truly
regard themselves as masters of the continent
until they knew what lay at its heart.
In October 1860, a small, thin, bearded man arrived in Adelaide.
A crowd of people, including newspaper reporters, had gathered to meet him.
He looked half dead.
He told them he'd been to the centre of Australia and back.
Like a man today claiming he'd walked on Mars, his tale defied credibility.
The national library in Sydney has a tiny leather-bound notebook
and a series of hand-drawn charts.
These are the original field journals and maps
of Australia's greatest inland explorer.
Obsessive, one would say. Neat in his expeditions.
In his personal life, I think you'd describe him as chaotic.
He certainly wasn't a dandy.
John McDouall Stuart from Dysart in Fife
was not only a brilliant explorer -
he was the epitome of the Australian spirit.
His battles with this harsh land and with his own personal demons
combined to create a compelling, flawed, yet heroic figure.
He was, in the words of one historian, "A very big little man."
There's lots in his character
and his personality that appeals to Australians today
because he was tough and he was successful and he was resourceful.
He didn't consume a lot of people's efforts.
He could do it alone,
a lot of it, and that's sort of the great Australian spirit that we all aspire to.
Stuart's early prospects were not good.
Orphaned at the age of ten, he was too short for the military
and mumbled too much to be a minister.
When he washed up in Adelaide in 1839, he was only 23 years old.
What's surprising about Stuart is how quickly
he adapted to the Australian landscape.
Within a few years, he was going deep into the fringes of civilisation,
producing maps for pastoralists who were looking for land.
He was able to survive in quite arid country, leading just a few
horses and two or three helpers.
But after returning from the punishing harshness
of the outback, Stuart routinely headed straight for the pub.
He did love a drink, there's no doubt about that.
So when he got to town, he had a few.
After five years in the colony, Stuart had no money and no fixed abode.
But in 1844, he was accepted as part of explorer Charles Sturt's
expedition into the centre of Australia.
It was the job that changed his life.
Sturt was looking for a legendary inland sea believed to be
in the centre of the continent.
All societies had their dreams of the paradise,
and in Australia, that dream was of an inland sea.
That is that the rivers flowing from the east
and the west must go somewhere,
because navigators had never found an Amazon or a Nile coming out
into the ocean. Therefore, there must be a huge pond in the middle.
This was enhanced by indigenous people
relating stories of a watery paradise
surrounded by flocks of kangaroos and emus and a place where
there were no white men but there was lots of food and birds to eat.
It doesn't exist and it never did.
Sturt found no inland sea.
Instead, his expedition encountered the full harshness of the Australian climate
and the further he went, the drier and more brutal it became.
Sturt wrote in his journal that,
"Nothing can exceed the dreadful nature
"of the country we have entered."
The first thing is the physical hardship. In patches,
the scrub can be really tough and impenetrable, so that means the horses
don't go through it easily, so you've got to force them or get off them
and lead them and that can be really hard. But that's almost the easiest.
What's harder is the lack of water and
if you haven't got a drink from sun up to sun down, it's kind of tough.
Sturt's expedition was a failure
and he brought back to Adelaide the appalling prospect
that the interior of the country was one gigantic desert.
But for John McDouall Stuart, the experience was a formative one.
He had come face to face with the worst the outback had to offer
and survived, and he learned some valuable lessons
about how to navigate the interior.
What Stuart probably learns from Sturt is that there might be
another way to do it.
You don't have to take oxen and boats and water wagons and travel
quite as well provisioned and you could move more quickly, perhaps.
Stuart devised a new way of travelling,
one specifically adapted to the outback.
The way he did it was he'd get to a landmark
and he'd look ahead for water and a route,
so he'd use his telescope
and probably his binoculars to pick a point,
and you head straight for it.
Now, you can't do that with wagons all the time,
and flocks of sheep and oxen and all the rest of it.
It's too long and it's too slow.
So he got this new pattern of travel from point to point,
and it's very mobile and very quick.
Stuart's journal is all about finding water -
if he couldn't find water, he was doomed.
He was accomplished at it.
He would climb the highest mountain
and look perhaps for a dip in the land and head that way.
He knew the birds that would assemble at evening near water
such as finches and pigeons.
He would dig in the bed of dry rivers and after a metre or two down
he normally found something to drink there.
And Stuart was canny enough to pick the brains of the people
who had long ago worked out how to live in this land.
Water is the most precious resource to us.
Those first guys that came to us, our people seen them perishing
and really struggling and thought, like, "Poor bugger,
"maybe we should give them a hand". So we did.
Stuart's mastery of the outback
alerted Adelaide businessman James Chambers.
He wanted to expand his cattle empire beyond the frontier.
Between 1858 and 1859, Stuart set out on a series of ambitious expeditions,
sponsored by Chambers.
Each journey took him further into the interior
than any other European before him.
Stuart was mapping a pristine landscape
for James Chambers' cattle.
His success changed forever this part of Australia.
The next lot of people that came back, there was a little bit more,
so there had to be a little bit more water here.
Then a mob after that came back with a cow and a horse,
possibly a couple of sheep, so there was more water being used.
It got to the point where sometimes there was not even enough for us.
And Stuart had grander ambitions than just seeking out good agricultural land.
There's no doubt that Stuart saw himself on a quest
and that is to be the first European to cross the Australian continent from south to north.
In 1860, Stuart set out for a fourth time,
heading for the centre of Australia.
His party consisted of three people including himself.
Under provisioned, under equipped,
under resourced in terms of horse flesh, man power.
Travelling via springs and water holes
he'd identified on his previous expeditions,
Stuart and his two companions made their way north.
He was a hard taskmaster.
He set by example, and if they had to ride a long distance,
say 20 miles in a day, that would be what he did,
with steely determination,
and you'd better keep up because you'd be left behind.
Every day, pretty much, they're crossing a new frontier
of toughness, and it might be environment,
and it might be lack of water, and then finally it's lack of food.
He keeps on halving his rations, so he gets a bit further north
and, "Oh, I'm not going to make it back, we'll halve them again."
It was really tough - beyond any modern comprehension of tough.
Just way beyond.
Six weeks after their departure, Stuart left his tent
and took his daily readings of the sun to calculate their position.
"Today I find from my observations of the sun -
"111 degrees, zero minutes 30 seconds -
"that I am now camped in the centre of Australia."
Ascending the nearest peak, Stuart marked the momentous moment.
"I built a large cone of stones, in the centre of which
"I placed a pole with a British flag nailed to it,
"then gave three hearty cheers."
Stuart decided to push north
to complete the crossing of the continent, but as the land beneath his feet dried up, doubt crept in.
"We are expecting every moment to come upon a gum creek,
"but hope is disappointed.
"How far this country may continue is impossible to tell.
"It is very alluring, and apt to lead the traveller into serious mistakes.
"I wish I had turned back earlier,
"but I am almost afraid I have allowed myself to come too far."
As Stuart inched towards the north coast, the landscape changed,
and so did the native people he encountered.
"I heard the voice of a native.
"He made the sign that natives generally do
"if wanting something to eat, and pointed towards me.
"Whether he meant to ask if I was hungry,
"or to suggest that I should make a very good supper for him, I do not know."
The days passed, and Stuart and his men realised they were being followed.
At night, fires lit the horizon.
When those people were observing those new explorers,
it was a way to signify that you're not alone and you're being watched,
and that's the same thing what happens as an Aboriginal person
at that same time going into another's area.
It's also signifying danger.
"Suddenly, from behind some scrub,
"upstarted three, tall, powerful fellows,
"fully armed, having a number of boomerangs, waddies and spears.
"In a few minutes, their numbers had increased to upward of 30.
"We received a shower of boomerangs accompanied by a fearful yell.
"They then set fire to the grass."
Stuart named the place of the skirmish Attack Creek.
Why the attack occurred on this particular location
is not quite clear.
It could well be that it was a dispute about water,
because Stuart had been taking his number of horses from water hole
to water hole and emptying them,
and it's also extremely likely that he had crossed sacred ground.
The attack shook Stuart and his men. Their rations were running low.
They were experiencing the first signs of scurvy,
and, with no sign of rain,
they risked death should they continue into the unknown.
Reluctantly, Stuart decided to head for home.
"It would be madness and folly to attempt more.
"If my own life were the only sacrifice,
"I would willingly risk it to accomplish my purpose,
"but it seems I am destined to be disappointed."
And so he says that, "Because of my manpower, my lack of supplies,
"because we're so far from anywhere
"and because of the Aboriginal situation, I'm going to retreat."
Stuart returned to Adelaide a hero.
It's internationally hugely important,
because, at that time, geography and travels
were very much the popular press of the day
and the great unknown was what's in the centre of Australia.
Today, tourists can complete the journey from Adelaide to the centre in a matter of hours.
The railway tracks run close to the route originally mapped by Stuart.
But Stuart, so confident in the outback, did not enjoy his new fame.
He retreated to Adelaide's pubs and, at a dinner given in his honour,
was so nervous that someone else had to deliver his speech.
He was an isolate. He preferred his own company,
the isolation of the Australian bush.
He preferred being in a bush tavern drinking
than high society in Adelaide.
In response to Stuart's success, the state of Victoria decided to send an expedition north
to complete the crossing of the continent -
the last great prize of Australian exploration.
The Victorian exploring exhibition is completely different
because it's funded by a very wealthy colony, Victoria,
and they took everything, including the kitchen sink
and the dining room table, and they were very well equipped -
perhaps the best equipped expedition in Australia ever.
The expedition was led by Irish policeman Robert O'Hara Burke.
It consisted of 27 camels, two dozen horses,
six wagons carrying food for two years, and six tonnes of firewood.
The Burke expedition is a case study in how not to do things.
They had tables, they had desks, they had huge amounts of stuff,
most of which never made it out of Victoria,
including the lime juice, which would have been quite good,
because scurvy in the end was what undid the whole expedition.
Burke is a joke. He was useless in the bush.
He couldn't fend for himself,
he couldn't eat, and when Aboriginal people gave him food
and water, he shot over their head because he was afraid of them.
Burke's expedition never made it across the continent.
Instead, he vanished into the interior and was never seen alive again.
Despite Burke's death,
the goal of crossing Australia was closer than ever.
Stuart resolved to make one last attempt to cross the continent.
And by now, the Australian interior was John McDouall Stuart's true home.
He understood its dangers. He embraced its silence.
He knew its landmarks - he had discovered and named many of them.
Finally, after seven months of trekking
and a lifetime of trying, the sound of the sea confirmed his triumph.
"I came upon a broad valley covered in long grass.
"From this, I can hear the wash of the sea."
"I advanced a few yards onto the beach, and was gratified
"and delighted to behold... the ocean."
Stuart turned back towards Adelaide almost immediately,
however, within days, his iron will and indomitable constitution began to fade.
Ulcers blistered his mouth. Sharp shooting pains wracked his chest.
His eyes, blasted by the glare of the desert sun for so many years,
blurred and faded.
"I am in the grasp of death - a cold clammy perspiration
"with a tremulous motion creeping over my body during the night.
"Everything near me has the smell of decaying mortality.
"My limbs so weak and painful that I am obliged to be carried about.
"My body reduced to that of a living skeleton.
"My strength an infantile weakness. A sad wreck of my former days."
At the end of his sixth expedition,
Stuart was really a mental and physical wreck.
He had to be carried back all the way
from the northern part of Australia to Adelaide.
It took Stuart six months to reach Adelaide.
His greatest achievement had nearly killed him.
But his crossing of the continent has had a profound legacy.
The way he went is the way we still go.
In other words, the route he used became the stepping stone
for all the European development.
And Stuart's notebooks provided the route map for the telegraph line
that linked Australia to the rest of the world.
But whilst John McDouall Stuart may have conquered Australia,
Australia had perhaps also conquered him.
He had his moment of fame, he was celebrated,
but once in the town he began to drink heavily.
It's almost as if he'd achieved what he wanted to out of life
and had nothing to replace it.
When he was aged 50, he died,
and only seven people attended his funeral.
And most of those were strangers
who had come along to pay their respects to this great man.
Modern Australia has many fathers.
People from every corner of the globe
have made this country what it is today,
but the mark of Scottish explorers on Australia has been profound.
Resourceful, tough, successful.
They're forming this Australian character.
It didn't matter how you were born or what you were,
these Scottish travellers, explorers,
simply went out and got on with it and did what they wanted to do
because they wanted to get on in life.
And in opening this country to European eyes,
Scottish explorers have helped make Australia what it is today.
Because of where they came from in Scotland being a fairly hard
country itself, they were probably set up better to handle it
than a lot of other nations that came here,
because Scotland's a tough bit of dirt, you know,
and Australia's a tough bit of dirt.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
For centuries, the island continent of Australia remained a blank space on the map. Its fierce climate and vast empty interior remained untouched and untamed.
Among the explorers who opened up the country were a remarkable collection of Scots. This film tells the story of the Scottish exploration of Australia - a tale of astonishing skill, bravery and fortitude in one of the most difficult environments on earth.