Ludwig Leichhardt has been missing in the middle of the Australian continent since 1848. At the zenith of his career, he gave his life for his work. What happened to his third expedition remains a mystery.
Leichhardt was a keen natural scientist, broadly educated in the footsteps of Alexander von Humboldt. He chose the hardest continent to realise his ambitions, and was one of the great explorers of Australia, who set out from the continent’s edges to search for the secrets of the enormous inland. These men pushed themselves to the limit, both physically and emotionally. Leichhardt’s determined aim to be the first to cross the continent from east to west and his quest for knowledge of the flora and fauna along the way pushed him beyond these limits. His personality, dauntless courage, cultivated manners, appreciation of nature and of the unfamiliar culture of the Aboriginals, and his love for his adopted country, made him a ‘hero of romance’ and the ‘Prince of Explorers’.
Everyone who loves the Australia that lies beyond the large cities or stands in awe of this phenomenal continent knows of its two faces: the beautiful and the perilous. The impressive journeys of early settlement testify to the monotony of the Australian outback landscape and the constant need to overcome heat, thirst, danger, exhaustion and despair. The reader, following Leichhardt on his expeditions, will experience a human epic and feel the forces of nature that have shaped this land. The imagination, trained by a culture still influential today, cannot avoid the image of human inadequacy set against a breathtaking backdrop of natural grandeur.
This account draws on Leichhardt’s letters, journals, log books and his personal diaries, about 1900 pages of previously unpublished text, which also describe Leichhardt’s youth and his years in Europe.