STOKES, John Lort (1812-1885)

explorer and admiral
son of Henry Stokes and his wife Ann, daughter of George Phillips, was born in 1812. Entering the navy as a first-class volunteer in 1824 he acted as midshipman on the Beagle from 1825 to 1830. In 1831 he became mate and assistant-surveyor while portions of the coast of South America were being surveyed. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1837 and sailed to Australia on the Beagle under Commander J. C. Wickham, the intention being to explore such portions of the Australian coast as were wholly or in part unknown to Flinders (q.v.) and P. P. King (q.v.). Leaving Plymouth early in July Fremantle was reached on 15 November 1837. After doing some surveying of the coast sail was set for the north on 5 January 1838. The Adelaide River was discovered in March 1839 and the Victoria later in the same year. While exploring this river Stokes was speared by an aboriginal on 7 December, and it was a long time before he fully recovered from the wound. About the end of March 1841 Captain Wickham was invalided home and Stokes was given command of the Beagle. In this year much surveying was done in Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Later further work was done on the coast of northern and north-western Australia, and in 1842 on the southern coast of Australia, Bass Strait and Tasmania. In May 1843 Stokes left Western Australia for England and arrived on 30 September. An account of his voyages was published in two large volumes in 1846, Discoveries in Australia; with an Account of the Coasts and Rivers Explored and Surveyed During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.
Stokes was promoted captain in 1846, in 1847 was in command of the Acheron in the East Indies, in 1860-3 was surveying off the coast of Devonshire, and in 1864 was made a rear-admiral. In 1871 he became a vice-admiral on the retired list, and was promoted admiral in 1876. He died in Wales on 11 June 1885. He was married twice, (1) to Fanny Jane, daughter of Major Marlay, and (2) to Louisa French, daughter of R. Partridge.
The Times, 13 June 1885; J. Lort Stokes, Discoveries in Australia; Crawford Pasco, A Roving Commission, chapters IX and X.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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