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Peach’s Explorers – The Secret of the Rivers: Captain Charles Sturt (1984)

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What’s in a name

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Captain Charles Sturt (Steven Grives) named the great and noble river he travelled down the Murray, in honour of the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir George Murray. According to Bill Peach, he should have named it to honour his brother explorer Hamilton Hume. Peach points out that the river was first discovered by Hume and Hovell on their earlier expedition, but that Hume would not have been able to offer Sturt future prizes whereas the British statesman might.

Curator’s notes

Bill Peach very effectively recreates the epic voyage of Captain Charles Sturt using a similar-sized whaleboat and a crew of hardy actors representing the extraordinary journey of this 19th century explorer who rowed with his men all the way to Lake Alexandrina and then on to the sea. When they found there was no vessel to rescue them waiting off shore, Sturt and his men were forced to row for over 1,500 kilometres against the tide, all the way back to their starting point. They barely survived.

It’s to the credit of the filmmakers that this program about a man obsessed, rowing down a river and then rowing back again, should be so interesting. Bill Peach, the presenter of the series, invites us to understand the bravery and persistence of these early explorers, most of them Englishmen of Empire who did it for Queen, country and God. And as the readings from their letters and diaries attest, they could also be sensitive men of letters.

Peach’s narration here is particularly insightful, clearly establishing Sturt’s attitudes to the British Empire, and his reasons for naming the Murray River as he did.

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