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Leichhardt Letters p1

READERSVOICE.COM aims to sample some out of print or even forgotten books. This issue features a collection of letters by the German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt who disappeared on an expedition in Australia in 1848.  

The German explorer and naturalist Dr Ludwig Leichhardt disappeared while trying to cross Australia, from the Darling Downs in the east, to the Swan River, or Perth, in the west..

He had already completed one expedition of 5000 kms. He’d travelled from the Darling Downs to Port Essington, now a set of ruins in the Northern Territory near Darwin. Then in 1846 he made a failed attempt to reach Perth in Western Australia, from the Darling Downs. Then he made another attempt, in 1848. He was never seen again.

Leichhardt Letters is a thin paperback consisting of letters he wrote while in Australia, during the years March 23, 1842, to April 3, 1848. It was translated by L.L. Politzer and published in 1944 by Pan, Melbourne. It’s a good insight into Ludwig Leichhardt and the Australia of the time.

Leichhardt describes leaving London on October 1, 1841:

We experienced exceedingly stormy weather from London to Cork, but the longing to go abroad was so great that dangers and hardships were forgotten and, in the midst of the howling storm and the roaring ocean, protected by coats and canvas, we sang jolly Wander Lieder into the moonlit nights.

Ludwig Leichhardt was a scientist, but he sometimes shows a poetic turn of phrase in his letters: 

Oh, if I could but express in words to you all how deeply I was moved by the grandiose spectacle of nature at sea. On the sky the magnificient phenomena of the horizon moved majestically across the ever-active ocean and sank gradually down in the west. After we had crossed the Equator, the old familiar constellation of the stars disappeared and unknown, more brilliant ones, greeted us. Our ship, a frail work of human hands, often occupied my thoughts and caused my admiration.

-continued next page…