“Circumstances may yet arise to give a value to my recent labours, and my name may be remembered by after generations in Australia as the first who tried to penetrate to its centre. If I failed in that great object, I have one consolation in the retrospect of my past services. My path among savage tribes has been a bloodless one, not but that I have often been placed in situations of risk and danger, when I might have been justified in shedding blood, but I trust I have ever made allowance for human timidity, and respected the customs of the rudest people.”
Sturt’s health and eyesight had been greatly impaired by his last trip, but although he was for a time almost totally blind, he still managed to discharge the duties of Colonial Secretary. He was at last pensioned by the South Australian Government, and soon afterwards returned to England. He died at his residence at Cheltenham. Though the Home Office had treated him disgracefully during his life, and ignored his services, he lives for ever in the hearts of the Australians as the hero and chief figure of the exploration of their country. When he was on his death-bed, in 1869, the empty title of knighthood was conferred upon him. As he could not enjoy the tardy honour, his widow, who lived until 1887, was graciously allowed to wear the bauble.
CHAPTER 13. BABBAGE AND STUART.
13.1. B. Herschel babbage.
[Illustration. B. Herschel Babbage. Born 1815; died 1878.]
The unsolved problem of the extent and other details of that vast region of salt lakes and flat country then known under the generic name of Lake Torrens still greatly occupied the attention and excited the imaginations of the colonists of South Australia. And the accounts brought back by the different exploring parties were conflicting in the extreme. In 1851, two squatters, named Oakden and Hulkes, out run-hunting, pushed westward of Lake Torrens, and found suitable grazing country. They also discovered a lake of fresh water, and heard from the natives of other lakes to the north-west some fabulous legends of strange animals. Their horses giving in, Oakden and Hulkes returned, but although they applied for a squatting licence for the country they had been over, it was not then settled or stocked. In 1856, Surveyor Babbage made some explorations in the field partly traversed by Eyre and Frome. He penetrated through the plains that were supposed to occupy the central portion of the horseshoe formation at that time associated in the public opinion with Lake Torrens. More fortunate than his predecessors, he found permanent water in a gum-tree creek, and saw some fair-sized sheets of water, one of which he named Blanche Water, or Lake Blanche. Some further excursions led to the discovery of more fresh water and well-grassed pastoral country. The aboriginals, too, directed him to what they said was a crossing-place in that portion of Lake Torrens that had been sighted, in 1845, by Poole and Browne of Captain Sturt’s party, when Poole thought he saw an inland sea. Their directions, however, proved unreliable, or Babbage failed to find the place, for he lost his horse in the attempt to cross the lake.