Centenary of John Darke`s ExpeditionPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Stephen Warren
The plaque commemorates the centenary of John Darke`s expedition which left Adelaide on the 12th August 1844. 

In 1844 Darke was named as the leader of a privately funded expedition to explore the country west and north-west of Port Lincoln and Spencer Gulf. On 12 April, he and three other men left Adelaide on the Governor Gawler and sailed for Port Lincoln. The party left Port Lincoln on 29 August to begin their exploration.

Led by Darke, the party comprised Darke's friend and second in command, surveyor John Henry Theakston (d.1878), plus two men hired as tent-keepers and cooks. One was named James Howard, the other is unidentified. They travelled though an ocean of scrub to beyond the Gawler Ranges, Darke having found no land suitable for settling. The party began their retreat from this waterless area on 16 October.

Darke's final diary entry was on 22 October: "Accompanied by the [three] blacks who were joined by nine others, I proceeded to the waterhole, about three miles, but more easterly than our course; and came about 2 o'clock to a large gritstone rock where I found abundance of feed and water on a plain about 200 yards wide by half a mile long, surrounded by thick scrub. The natives accompanied us until just before encamping. I gave them all I could spare for taking us to the water. They seemed very friendly disposed..."

The diary continues in the hand of Darke's second-in-command, John Theakston, and describes how Darke was speared in the stomach and knee by three natives. His death is recorded by Theakston: "I here dressed the wounds of Mr Darke, and bled him, but found his extremities getting cold, and I informed him. I feared the event. At 10 o'clock he told me he was dying, that mortification had taken place, he was out of pain; he gave me his last commands and died at five minutes to twelve, quite calm to the last minute. I carried the body of Mr Darke to the Table Topped Peaks and buried him on a small grassy plain at the foot of them, in a grave five feet deep."

THREE CENTENARIES.— The centenaries of the exploring expeditions of Capt. Sturt, Darke, and Governor Grey will all be celebrated this year. Plans are in hand to erect plaques and memorials in commemoration. A plaque showing where Sturt left on August 10, 1844, will be erected on the King William facade of the Bank of Adelaide. 
Mail (Adelaide, SA), 25 March 1944.

To celebrate the centenary of Capt. Sturt's journey to Central Australia, the scholars of Grange school will march at 3.45.pm today to the house which the explorer owned. His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor (Sir Mellis Napier) will unveil two plaques to Capt. Sturt and John Charles Darke in King William street, city, on Sunday. The ceremony will be held under the auspices of the SA Historical Memorial Committee of the Royal Geographical Society. The plaque to Capt. Sturt will be placed outside the Bank of Adelaide premises, where the bullock drays were waiting after Sturt had attended his farewell luncheon in Grenfell street. The plaque to Darke will be placed on the AMP Building, the spot from which his ill-fated expedition set off. 
Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 August 1944.



Address:King William Street, CBA Building, Adelaide , 5000
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -34.922447
Long: 138.599267
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Landscape
Actual Event Start Date:12-August- 1844
Actual Event End Date:12-August-1944


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Sunday 13th August, 1944
Front Inscription

          Hereabouts On 12 August 1844
              JOHN CHARLES DARKE
Set Forth On His Journey Of Exploration To The "
Gawler Ranges Via Port Lincoln. Speared By The Natives
At Waddikee Rocks On 23 October 1844. He Died Next Day
And Was Buried At The Foot Of Darke Peak, Eyre Peninsula.
                                                                            Unveiled 1944

Source: MA, ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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