IT IS an historical month for Katherine and the wider region, as this town, and the river on which it sits, marks 150 years since intrepid explorer John McDouall Stuart passed through and bestowed the name by which it is known today.
Last Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of Stuart becoming the first European to cross the continent from south to north, and return.
This month is celebrating the gruelling 15 month journey he undertook, along with nine companions and 75 horses, and it is an opportunity for Katherinites to mark the moment he came across the Katherine River.
Stuart crossed the Katherine River above the gorges, and he recorded the event in his dairy.
“Came upon a large creek, having a running stream to the south of west and coming from the north east. This I have named the Katherine in honour of the second daughter of James Chambers Esq.”
Mr Chambers had financed Stuart’s expedition, and while his daughter’s name was actually spelt ‘Catherine’, Stuart’s original spelling was never changed.
He continued north and descended from the plateau at the head of the Mary River (which he thought was the Adelaide River). Stuart followed this to the coast to what is known today as Point Stuart, and the date on which he reached the coast was Thursday, July 24 1862.
The Territory has been celebrating this landmark event in Australian history with a series of celebrations, which included the unveiling of a plaque at the Mary River Roadhouse, where the Mary River crosses the Kakadu Highway.
The success of Stuart’s journey led to the addition of the Northern Territory to the colony of South Australia in 1863, the completion of the Overland Telegraph in 1872 and the completion of the Palmerston and Pine Creek railway in 1889.