The Legend of the Sturt Pea

There are at least three known journals of the Expedition to the Centre of Australia, Captain Charles Sturt’s own narrative, Doctor John Browne’s account and that of Daniel George Brock entitled “To the desert with Sturt”.  Published in 1975, the book reproduces the diary entries made by Brock as he accompanied the expedition from Adelaide to Fort Grey.

Brock’s primary role on the expedition was to “take care of the sheep, as well as to skin birds, look after the fire-arms, and other matters which come within my province’.

He was a deeply religious man, often at odds with the other members of the expedition, and it seems, kept largely to himself.  Of his diary entries he wrote, “I sometimes fear this journal, after all my care, will fall into the hands of those who will never suffer me to use it for the purpose I intend—the fireside book for a revered parent. As is my custom when spending an hour in dotting down the circumstances passing, I pass away from the camp—and choose the largest brushy, shady spot I can find”.

His observations of Aboriginal people, including those who accompanied the expedition, provide a valuable insight into the lives of the First Nations people that they encountered.

Although some readers may find aspects of the accounts offensive in their choice of words, Brock had high regard for the “natives” that they met, as did Sturt and Browne. Not to justify, but their language was indicative of the period and preconceptions.

Brock did not accompany Sturt further north than Fort Grey so the records are limited to the areas between Adelaide (Moorundie) and Fort Grey.

Brock was at times quite critical of Sturt’s leadership but “on 10th August 1858, there appeared in the South Australian Register the report of a speech in which he said of Captain Sturt “. . . nobody but those who had been with him on his journies could know his courage and his coolness. Often when the safety of the whole party hung upon his next movement, they knew that he would do all that was possible for man to do, and they trusted him.” As usual, time had proved a great healer”. (K. PEAKE- JONES Mt. Torrens, South Australia. 1975).