This video follows the route of the ill-fated expedition led by Burke and Wills from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria
In August 1860 Burke and Wills led an exploring expedition from Melbourne. Their aim was to be the first to cross the continent to reach the sea in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
A committee of the Royal Society of Victoria organised the expedition. The committee selected Robert O’Hara Burke as leader of the expedition, William Wills as meteorologist and surveyor and other scientists including Ludwig Becker who was an illustrator and artist. They also chose George Landells as second in command due to his experience with camels, one of the means of transport used. John King and four Muslim cameleers were also included in the expedition of 20 men.
From Melbourne the expedition headed for Swan Hill, where Burke sacked some of the men and replaced them with others, one of whom was Charlie Gray.
Finally the expedition reached Menindee, where the party rested for awhile. By now Burke and Landells had fallen out over the handling of the camels so Burke sacked him. He chose Wills as his second in command. Burke, now in a hurry to reach the Gulf, divided the party, leaving one group at Menindee under the direction of William Wright, who was familiar with the area.
From Cooper Creek to the Gulf of Carpentaria
In October, Burke took a group of seven men and headed for Cooper Creek. They set up camp in the vicinity of an ancient coolibah tree, beside the Creek. Once again Burke was in a hurry to reach the Gulf. But this was December and the most difficult time of the year to attempt to cross the continent.
Four men left Cooper Creek – Burke, Wills, King and Gray. Burke planned to reach the Gulf and return to the depot in 3 months. But the way through was more difficult than anticipated and the weather was wet and oppressive.
Now it was time to turn back to Cooper Creek, but Charlie Gray died along the way. The men at the depot couldn’t wait any longer. They buried a cache and the message, ‘DIG’, carved into a tree, and left Cooper Creek to head south.
Burke and Wills perished at Cooper Creek, while local aborigines looked after John King. A search party that came looking for the ill-fated expedition found him there.
150 years later, Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours led another group of travellers to follow a similar route. From Melbourne they travelled via Swan Hill, Mungo National Park, Menindee, Mutawintji National Park, Cooper Creek, to Innamincka and Birdsville.
This video follows the group of adventurers. It includes much of the historical information of the Burke and Wills expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria.