Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Coulthard’s Water Canteen

This water Canteen is emblematic of the unforgiving nature of the interior of Australia and the risks people took to reconnoitre the country. Pioneer William Coulthard died of thirst in 1858 while searching for pastoral country north of Port Augusta. He scratched his tragic last words on this canteen.

Coultards Water Canteen Top View

Benjamin Herschel Babbage discovered Coulthard’s remains on 16 June, 1858, his canteen beside him having inscribed on it the pathetic message of his last hours.  His dying message says, (in part) “I never reached water. I do not know[how] long it is since I left Scott and Brooks [his companions], but I think it Monday bleeding pomp [his horse] to leive on his blood. I took his black horse to look for water and the last thin I can remember is pulling the saddle off him and letting him go -……altho feeling exu- for want of water – my eyes – to my tong – I can see no way I get help-“.  The canteen was presented to the Society by Coulthard’s son.

Prior to his pastoral explorations Coulthard had surveyed the town of Nuriootpa. The Uniting Church in that town commemorates his name.

William Coulthard of Nuriootpa had set out in March 1858 with two companions, William Scott and Henry Brooks, to look for pastoral lands to the north of Spencer Gulf. Unable to find a water source, the men separated. Scott and Brooks were saved when they fell in with a major South Australian exploration party led by Benjamin Herschel Babbage. Babbage's party immediately set about searching for the missing Coulthard. It was however months before he found him, in the unlikeliest of places. Babbage hastened back to his camp to arrange for Coulthard's burial. 

On permanent display in large bookcase on eastern wall of library

Coultard's water canteen with engraving