Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig LeichhardtLudwig Leichhardt was born at Trebatsch, Prussia on 28 October 1813. His father was an inspector of peat-cutters, who also worked his own small farm. Leichhardt was a bright student at school and special efforts were made to send him to the University of Gottingen. It was there that he met Englishmen John Nicholson and his brother William. They formed a great friendship which saw Leichhardt travel to London with William, and then onto Paris in 1838. In the three years that followed, Leichhardt lived at the expense of William in France, Italy and Switzerland. In October 1840 he became a military deserter after he avoided duty for Germany. It was then he decided to travel to Australia, and he arrived in Sydney on February 14 1842.
Leichhardt made a name of himself when he travelled alone from Glendon in northern New South Wales to Moreton Bay in Queensland, by a route 600 miles long with no equipment. His lack of fear succeeded anything else and he came to the end of his journey without injury or disaster.
Leichhardt continued to make many excursions into the country, taking him as far as Wide Bay, 100 miles into the north. But it was his privately organised expedition to Port Essington that gave him true recognition as an explorer. Leichhardt and his party of seven left Sydney on 13 August 1844. For a long period a course was generally set in a north-westerly direction and on July 5 they reached salt water. Leichhardt recorded that they had discovered a road from the eastern coast of Australia to the Gulf of Carpentaria. After a long and weary march round the Gulf, the exhausted party reached Port Essington on 17 December 1845.
After resting and working for almost a year, Leichhardt decided to try and cross the continent from Brisbane to Perth and started from Jimbour station on 7 December 1846. But this expedition was doomed from the start, with insufficient food and medicine supplies provided. Heavy rain set in and nearly every member of the party suffered from malaria. On June 22 1847, the hopelessness of the position became apparent and the expedition turned back. Leichhardt returned to Sydney a few months later and towards the end of 1847, learned he had been awarded gold medals by Geographical Societies of London and Paris, and that he had been pardoned by the German government for his evasion of military service.
Leichhardt began his final journey in February 1848, with an intention to find his way across the continent to Perth. Once again, the party consisted of seven men, again ill equipped and short of sufficient food supplies. In April, they passed through Macpherson's station and the party were never heard of again.
No trace of Leichhardt has ever been found except possibly a marked tree near a river. He was known to have courage and a great belief in himself, and in spite of bad mistakes made in his later expeditions, his early journey to Moreton Bay suggests he had a certain ability to be able to find his way around. His best journey was still known as the one to Port Essington during which valuable land was found and is still utilised today.