Ludwig Leichhardt vanished without trace in 1848 while attempting to cross Australia from east to west through the continent’s vast, arid centre – a place unknown to Europeans.
The Prussian-born natural scientist, who arrived in Sydney in 1842, achieved fame as a daring explorer by completing 5,000 hazardous kilometres between a remote outpost on the Darling Downs and Port Essington on Australia’s northern tip.
Long given up for dead, Leichhardt was lauded as a national hero – the “Prince of Explorers” – when he and his party arrived back in Sydney in March 1846 after a remarkable journey of scientific discovery.
Leichhardt recorded his observations in numerous manuscript diaries, letters, notebooks, sketch-books and maps – an enduring legacy to Australian science.
Two hundred years after his birth on 23 October 1813, he remains a figure of intense interest – not least because of his mysterious disappearance which has entered into the nation’s mythology.