Issue 3 - 8 April 2013 enews home

Academic casts light on missing explorer


By Patrick Nelson


Dan Baschiera raises the prospect of a sinister plot to prevent Leichhardt from publishing details of colonial atrocities

A Charles Darwin University academic has shed light on the death of explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, whose disappearance in the Outback has remained a mystery for more than 150 years.

In a book released recently, CDU humanitarian lecturer Dan Baschiera argues that the enigmatic explorer may have been assassinated to prevent him from speaking about colonial atrocities.

Mr Baschiera posits that a bag of flour, laced with either strychnine or arsenic, may have been slipped into the 1848 expedition supplies by an unknown sinister hand.

“Flour bagging, as it was called, was a politically expedient method well known at the time for removing potential problems and was used to massacre thousands of our Australian first peoples,” Mr Baschiera said.

“Leichhardt was a scientific romantic and philosopher who subscribed to Rousseau’s counter enlightenment thinking and egalitarian philosophy of a good natural man. This was something he kept close to his chest as it was a source of tension with the racist colonial aristocracy of the time.”

Mr Baschiera said Leichhardt had developed skills as a bushman while living with Aborigines in the 1840s, when multiple massacres of Australia’s first people took place.

“I believe he was poised to reveal this terrible underside of colonial Australian history and its gruesome and latent political endorsement on his eventual return to London.

“Leichhardt’s biggest mistake was not getting on the first ship back to Britain after the successful Port Essington Expedition.”

Mr Baschiera said he had spent several years researching Leichhardt’s expeditions and writings and his critical analysis had a social history focus.

On Leichhardt’s Path Kakadu 1845: Reflections Bushwalking a Time Tunnel is a social history of mystery, a story full of reflective questions and speculation about Leichhardt, his approach, the controversy, and his disappearance.”

In 2008 Mr Baschiera and wife Dr Annie Whybourne discovered what he believes to be the explorer’s expedition blaze, the initials “LL”, engraved into a tree at one of the explorer’s campsites in Kakadu National Park.

“It was the exact spot where his handwritten notes state he camped on 16 November 1845,” he said.

Mr Baschiera said the third edition of On Leichhardt’s Path Kakadu 1845: Reflections Bushwalking a Time Tunnel contained about twice as much material as the first edition.