Photographer and Author: Edward Stokes
Publisher: Century Hutchison (Melbourne), 1986
Format: Hardback, 280mm x 250mm, 256pp.
To The Inland Sea was Edward Stokes’ first book on Australian exploration. It records the expedition of Charles Sturt in 1844 – 45. Like Stokes’ two following publications, the book combines the explorer’s writings with Stokes’ photos of the country explored.
In August 1844 Charles Sturt left Adelaide with heavily equipped bullock wagons to search for an “inland sea”. Evidence indicated that no such feature could exist. Yet Sturt was buoyed by deep if misguided hopes. Sturt’s journey led directly into the forbidding wastes of the Simpson Desert, Australia’s most arid desert.
The expedition was the first attempt to penetrate the continent’s heart. Desolate and waterless country was the norm, isolated watering places the exceptions. Hunger and thirst soon became daily ordeals. On one occasion the expedition was trapped by an ever-diminishing waterhole for months. Sturt’s hopes of discovering an “inland sea” crushed, he finally was forced to retreat. Yet, despite often being desperate to survive, he maintained considerate relations with the Aborigines.
“An old black woman, shriveled and emaciated, came down to our pool to get water”, Sturt wrote. “All but exhausted, she drank deeply at the water’s edge. The men gave her something to eat, and made a bed for her by their fire.”
In 1984 Edward Stokes spent three months following the route of Sturt’s expedition. He covered thousands of kilometres by 4WD, crossing remote, difficult terrain – photographing the landscape along Sturt’s line-of-march. His images, together with quotations from Sturt’s hitherto unseen field journal, discovered by Stokes, form the heart of the book.
Edward Stokes’ To The Inland Sea manuscripts, and his other Australian exploration book manuscripts, are held by the National Library of Australia. The NLA is linked on this site’s With Thanks page.
The launch of To The Inland Sea was held at The Grange, Sturt’s beautifully restored, red-brick 1840s home in Adelaide. Here, Ed Stokes signs a book for one of Sturt’s descendants.