Kinda a mixed question there, but have you tried reading /var/log/dmesg if it exists?
Also, what happens exactly when you try to mount /dev/sda1 ? What sort of 'it wouldn't work' are we talking here?
The 'mount' command with no arguments will tell you what's mounted, though with a liveCD it's usually a long list of loops and other stuff which doesn't generally tell you much about the hardware....
If Ubuntu has the 'lshw' command, it would identify the known drives/devices.