Special Sub-Topic: The Dig Tree
|The expedition of 1860-1861 was the idea of what society in Victoria?|
Royal Society of Victoria. The Royal Society of Victoria was the amalgamation of several scientific societies into one giant 'society' where research was encouraged and new information gathered. The society had its mix of trained scientists, self-trained enthusiasts or educated professionals. With Victoria little more than ten years old (Victoria only became a state in 1851), an expedition north was seen as proving Victoria was the best colony in Australia, and there was also the inter-colonial race for the Top End between Stuart from South Australia and the man chosen to lead the Victorian expedition.
|Before being chosen to lead the expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Robert O'Hara Burke was employed as what?|
Police Officer. Born in Galway County, Ireland in 1821, Burke served as an officer in the Austrian Army before emigrating to Australia in 1853. He joined the Victorian police force, and soon worked his way up to Superintendent of Police in the Castlemaine District, where he proved to be popular with the locals, despite his eccentricities.
Burke's choice as leader of the expedition was not unanimous, as he was not a professional explorer, unlike the two other men who were on the final voting ballot, Peter Warburton and Gustav von Tempsky. Burke's nomination as exploration leader had much to do with personal influence and political motivations.
|What was William Wills' official job during the exploration?|
Surveyor. Born in Devon County in 1834, Wills emigrated with his father and brother to Australia in 1853. After working in his father's medical practice, he became interested in all things scientific and soon showed a natural ability for surveying, becoming an assistant to Professor Georg Neumayer at observatories in Melbourne.
Thanks to Neumayer's help, Wills became the explorations surveyor and astronomer, as well as taking on various other scientific jobs during the journey. Wills, a quiet, hard-working individual, struck up a good working relationship with Burke, and after George Landells was dismissed, he became second-in-command.
|Who was not in the expedition party when it left Melbourne?|
William Wright. William Wright was the manager of a sheep station at Kinchega, on the west bank of the Darling River. He offered to lead the party from Menindee, the last outpost of European 'civilization' to Torowoto, and as he was an experienced bushman, this offer was accepted by Burke.
Landells was in charge of camels, Beckler was the expedition's doctor and botanist and Becker was the artist and biologist whose paintings provided an outlook into what the journey descended into.
|After tireless preparation, on what date did the Burke and Wills Expedition (although not titled that then) leave Melbourne?|
August 20 1860. Despite the preparation, it had been a hectic first day. The convoy had left Melbourne far later than planned, Burke was not keen on the wagons being part of the expedition and as such only eleven kilometres were covered on the first day, with the men setting up camp in Essendon, then the outskirts of Melbourne.
Twenty-six camels, twenty-three horses, nineteen men (well, sixteen - three men were sacked before the convoy even left Royal Park!) and six wagons were in the convoy that was to cross Australia.
|Who was the first man to leave the expedition voluntarily?|
Samla. Samla, the expedition's only Hindu and one of four sepoys, quit after the third day. Not being allowed to eat the salted beef, the staple diet of the convoy, due to his religious beliefs, he suffered through two days with little to eat before asking Landells if he could leave. With his resignation accepted, Samla headed back to Melbourne.
With four of the original recruits now departed, Burke took to hiring casual helpers and people with experience who offered their services.
|When the convoy arrived in Swan Hill, what did Burke find waiting for him in an urgent telegram?|
Warrant for his arrest. Burke and Wills arrived in Swan Hills on September 6 after a gruelling 320 kilometre trip where anything that could have gone wrong, had gone wrong. The weather was awful, with rain falling constantly. The wagons were incredibly slow, the camels unco-operative and feelings of resentment towards Burke were festering in some quarters.
The telegram waiting for Burke threatened him with imprisonment after a personal cheque of his had bounced, a serious offence in those days. To sort the matter out, Burke fired off telgrams to Melbourne and personal friends quickly to sort out the mess. Although Burke's personal financial troubles were soon solved, the expedition itself was in financial trouble with Burke at times unable to cash cheques.
Also at Swan Hill was another change in plan and also the discharging of more personnel - Esau Khan, a sepoy, was too ill to go on while three casual workers were let go. However, despite wanting to limit the party, Burke hired four more men - Alexander McPherson, a blacksmith, Williams Hodgkinson, a journalist, Charley Gray, an ex-sailor and Robert Bowman, probably the most experienced explorer in Australia, having travelled with the Gregory brothers during their expeditions.
|On October 1, as Burke was on his way to Menindee, he ordered that each man could only carry how many kilograms of personal equipment?|
15kg. Without constant reports back to the Royal Society after the departure of Neumayer, Burke was now free to do as he liked concerning anything scientific, and being completely uninterested in the scientific approach but rather wanting to get on with it rather quickly, his new order of 15kg was designed so the scientists would have to leave most of their equipment behind. Even Beckler, the convoy doctor, was not spared this new order and he had to trim his medical supplies to a minimum.
|When did Burke and Wills arrive in Menindee?|
October 12. The convoy arrived in Menindee, minus the wagons, which had been placed on the steamer 'Moolgewanke' as the convoy headed through Bilbarka, on the Darling River. Eight tonnes of various equipment was placed onto the steamer. Burke would have been happier to have left the wagons where they were.
The biggest sensation at Menindee was the sacking of camel-handler, and second-in-command, George Landells. Burke and Landells had been at each other for days, particularly concerning the 270 litres that was supposedly for medicinal purposes. The trek from Bilbarka to Menindee under a tense atmosphere and when Landells arrived, it was Wills who deliver the news to Landells that he was fired. With the news that Landells was fired, Wills was officially promoted to second-in-command.
In the 56 days and 750 kilometres since leaving Melbourne, eleven men had resigned or been sacked, eight more hired, and five of them had also departed, the most crucial departure being Bowman.
|In direct contravention of orders, Burke first split-up of his party occurred at Menindee. Who did Burke choose NOT to take with him on the trek of some 600 kilometres to Coopers Creek?|
Hermann Beckler. Already with numerous problem affecting his expedition even before it had left the edges of European civilisation, Burke's idea was to take the best elements of his party and leave behind a rear-guard to follow up later on (well, more of a vague promise to call them up later). The men to go onward to the Cooper were Burke and Wills, John King (as head camel handler), William Brahe, William Patten, Thomas McDonough, Charley Gray and Dost Mohomet. William Wright was also added after he met Burke at the local pub and after a few drinks, offered his services. Burke readily accepted.
Hermann Beckler was left in charge of the rear-guard which included Becker (who had a severly injured foot), MacPherson, Belooch and Hodgkinson.
|On October 30 at Torowoto, Burke once again changed his plans by sending a member back to Menindee with Aboriginal trackers to pick up the remainder of the stores and take them to Coopers Creek. Who was chosen?|
William Wright. With the recent rains, the lands north of the Darling were fertile with plenty of water available. Full of confidence, Burke thought it wise to send Wright back to pick up the remainder of the stores left at Menindee.
Wright was also elevated to third-in-command, but was given no written instructions by Burke (not that it would have mattered - Wright was illiterate). Only a letter explaining what was happening was sent back to the committee.
Unfortunately, the lack of issued instructions, the delay and imprecisness of the letter and failing to clarify what he, Burke, wanted, led to the catastrophe that was to happen within the next six months.
|When did Burke and Wills arrive on the red-clay shores of Coopers Creek?|
November 11. After only twenty-three days, the eight men of the Burke and Wills expedition arrived on the shores of Coopers Creek. With all the recent weather, the area was in bloom with fertile pastural lands as far as the eye could see. When Burke and Wills arrived, the area was full of life, including local Aboriginal tribes who had camped along the Cooper for thousands of years.
But this was an illusion as the recent rains had started the chain of life in the area. The centre of Australia is a hot, merciless place where rain is precious. Droughts take hold of a land very quickly, and once thriving waterways can quickly turn into nothing but mudholes, leaving explorers with little else to go on.
|At Coopers Creek, Burke split his party again. In his race for the top end, Burke thought it best to have only four men in total for the 3000 kilometre round-trip. Who was NOT chosen to go along?|
William Brahe. Burke was fully confident that he could reach the top end of Australia and return to Coopers Creek in three months. Wills was less confident, and told Brahe, who was promoted to chief of Coopers Creek, to hang on for four months.
Supplies consisted of 150kg of flour, 55kg of dried beef, 45kg of dried pork, 25kg of biscuit, 6kg of tea, 3kg of salt and tins of preserved vegetables. Burke had decided to take six camels (of twelve at Coopers) and one horse (of thirteen) on the trek north - if worse came to worse, Burke considered eating the transport.
Burke, Wills, John King and Charley Gray left for the Gulf of Carpentaria on December 16, 1860. The four men would be walking the entire way - the animals were only used for carrying supplies.
|On December 27, Burke and Wills hit the jackpot when they came across a river, part of the Georgina River system, that would take them almost directly north to the coast. What was the name of this river?|
Diamantina River. Just south of the present-day town of Birdsville, Burke and Wills latched onto a branch of the Diamantina River. The Diamantina, part of the Georgina System, was seen as the perfect way to reach the north coast - Burke and Wills could follow this and have a ready supply of water available. The only problems from now on would be the food supply, sore feet, tiredness, disease, keeping the camels alive etc.
|True or False: On January 30, 1861, Burke and Wills reached the east-west track crossed by August Gregory in 1856, thereby fulfilling the official responsibility of the expedition.|
t. Burke's instructions leaving Melbourne were to find grazing land north of the Cooper and between the 138 and 141 parallels. With his job now completed, Burke could have turned his party around and headed straight home for Melbourne, honour intact and his job done. Also a worry was the fact the party was at the 'Point of No Return'. With only ninety days supply of food, the party only had enough to make it back to Coopers if they turned around on January 30. If they continued on, their food supply would run out.
Foolishly or bravely, Burke had always stated he would see the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, then he would return to Melbourne a hero. Whether he knew of the food shortage or was ignorant of the fact, only he knew.
|Burke and Wills reached the Gulf of Carpentaria, and gazed upon the ocean and swim in its water.|
f. On February 9, Burke and Wills found themselves on the shores of the Flinders River. Tasting the salty water, they knew that the Gulf was close and they doubled their efforts to reach the coastline.
Camp 119, the most northern camp of the expedition, was made at the juncton of Bynoe and Flinders Rivers. Wills, at the time, thought they were on the Albert River, 100 kilometres to the west, but due to miscalculation due to damaged equipment, they were on the Flinders.
Leaving King and Gray at Camp 119, Burke and Wills tried for three days to find their way through the mangrove swamps, but lacking energy and resources, they did not manage to get through. They never saw the oceans of the Gulf but turned around knowing they had given it their best shot.
|Tragedy begins: Out of the four men who had travelled north, who did not make it back to Coopers?|
Charley Gray & Gray. The men left Camp 119 on February 12, 1861, with a 1500 kilometre journey back to Coopers with only a quarter of their supplies left. Along the way, one camel was left behind, Billy, the only horse, was shot and eaten while all four men started to suffer from chronic exhaustion, with pains in their back and legs from Vitamin B deficiency. Basically, there was just a lack of food.
Both Burke and Gray were suffering the most, but it was Charley Gray who was the first to perish on the trip back to Coopers. He could do little work and complained constantly about pains and weakness in his legs and back.
Spending his last few days semi-comatose strapped to the back of a camel, poor Charley Gray eventually died on April 17. Despite their weakness, tiredness and hurry to reach the Cooper, Burke stopped to give Charley a proper burial. The digging took an entire day, which would later have tragic consequences for Burke and Wills...
|On April 21, 1861, the northern group of the Burke and Wills expedition arrived back in Coopers/Camp 65 to find the campsite empty. By how much had the men missed Brahe and company?|
Brahe left the same day. In a last surge, Burke, Wills and King rode the camels full of confidence that Brahe would have waited for the four men (now three) to return. Well, Brahe had waited but not for the twenty-four hours longer that Burke required. It now seems that burying Gray, while the honourable thing to do, had used up the time.
Wills was the first to notice the carving on the coolibah tree with instructions to dig while King investigated the campsite and realised that Brahe had left the same day.
In a letter left in a trunk, dated April 21, 1861, Brahe explained that he and two companions were well (an exaggeration), although Patten had been hurt after being thrown from a horse (another exaggeration - Patten was in a terrible state). He also explained that Wright had not been up from the Darling. He stated that he had six camels and twelve horses with him when he left (none were in good condition).
|Although under instructions to head to Coopers as soon as possible, when did William Wright finally leave for Coopers Creek?|
January 26, 1861. Despite being under orders to pick up supplies and get to Coopers as soon as possible, Wright had no end of troubles with personnel, with supplies, and most importantly, with transport.
Even though Wright had waited four months to finally get going, the party was still inadequately equipped for the 600km trip to Coopers and the journey still turned into one filled with no end of horrors. The waterholes that had sustained Burke had disappeared, the horses he had were already starting to suffer after few days and all the men were exhausted having spent the past four months relaxing.
|Wright's trip north soon turned into one filled with no end of horrors. By the time they reach Bulloo Lakes, approx. 150 kilometres short of their destination, no man was in condition to carry on. Who was one of the few men not to die at Bulloo or on the journey back?|
Beckler. Stone was the first member of the Wright expedition to die, succumbing to what had been advanced stages of syphillis on April 22. His descent into madness had see his last hours with revolver in hand hurling abuse at anyone who got in his way. Purcell was next to depart the next morning. He had been fainting for several days and was suffering from beri-beri and scurvy. Becker had no end of problems, suffering delirium plus advanced scurvy and beri-beri. His last few days saw him confined to his tent with only Beckler able to do anything for him. Becker died on April 29 and was buried on April 30.
On the same day Becker had died, by some miracle, Wright and Brahe's companies met up with other at Bulloo Lakes. Brahe was horrified at the situation - only Brahe, Beckler and Wright were in any form of health, but that's not saying much. Smith, Patten and Belooch had scurvy and beri-beri, McDonough had been crippled by a horse and Hodgkinson was beginning to show signs of disease.
|Seeing the Brahe had left, and with next to no supplies left, Burke decided to head for where?|
Followed Coopers Creek to reach Mt. Hopeless and Adelaide. No-one really knows why Burke decided to try to reach Mount Hopeless, the South Australian police outpost 250 kilometres away to the south-west of their current position. Wills and King pleaded to Burke to just got the same way back to the Darling, but Burke was insistent on his new plan. Wills and King gave in and agreed.
Burke, Wills and King left Camp 65 on April 23 but they left no indication that they had ever returned to Coopers Creek.
By May 8, even Burke knew the trip to Mouth Hopeless was hopeless, with all the camels dead and supplies dwindling. But that was not the worst of it - on the same day, Brahe and Wright had arrived back at Camp 65 for one last search of Burke. They arrived to see that nothing had changed, and after only 15 minutes, headed back to Bulloo Lakes to head back to the Darling. Burke, Wills and King were now trapped on the Cooper and heading the wrong way.
|When did Wright's party of stragglers finally arrive back at Menindee?|
June 19. Wright, Brahe and company had left Bulloo on May 13, still unaware that Burke, Wills and King were only 60 kilometres to the west of Camp 65, camped along Coopers Creek.
Although the journey only took just over a month, the party suffered from thirst, lost and dying animals and the fact most men were on death's doorstep. William Patten was the last man to die in this group, collapsing into unconsciousness and dying on June 5. His death enabled the group to make better progess, arriving in Menindee on June 19. Wright's trek north was nothing but a shambles - four men had died needlessly and not a thing had been supplied to Coopers Creek.
With the arrival back in Menindee, Wright disbanded the rest of the men and he headed back to Adelaide. Beckler and the survivors remained in Menindee recovering from their ordeal. It was up to Brahe to ride back to Melbourne with the news of Burke's disappearance and the horrors of the relief expedition's.
|Stuck on the shores of the Cooper with no supplies, Burke, Wills and King relied on the help of Aboriginal tribes. Which tribe supplied the three men with food and shelter?|
Yandruwandha. As Brahe left for Melbourne from Menindee on June 22, the three men were relying on the help of the Yandruwandha people, who made their livelihood moving up and down the length of the Cooper. The Aboriginals bartered with Burke and company for food, but soon the Aboriginal tribe recognised their plight and were happy to help, despite some problems in communication.
Despite this help, death still stalked the shores of the Cooper, and the unfortunate Wills was the first one to depart. No-one is sure when he passed away, but his last diary entry of June 29 was probably written earlier - his last letter to his father being written on June 27. Wills had died a heroic and sacrificial death, pleading with Burke and King to leave him while they struggled to survive.
|On what date died Robert O'Hara Burke pass away?|
Date unknown. Like Wills, the exact time of Burke's death is unknown, but it would not have been too long after the death of 'his dear boy' Wills. After leaving Wills, Burke and King had struggled along the creek, but realising that Burke was in no condition to continue, King settled Burke under a coolibah tree, well aware his leader was about to die.
Burke asked for his pistol and whispered to King 'I hope you will remain with me until I am quite dead - it is a comfort to know that someone is by; but, when I am dead, it is my wish that you leave me unburied as I lie.' Respecting his wishes, King stayed with Burke throughout the night as Burke continued to deteriorate.
After struggling through the night, Burke died at approx. 8 o'clock the next morning, date unknown in 1861. For several hours King remained at his leader's side weeping, suffering from beri-beri, scurvy, malnutrition and exhaustion. He was now reliant on the Yandruwandha people for survival and would be waiting at least two and a half months for rescue.
|On what date was King discovered?|
September 15, 1861. Alfred Howitt was the men in charge of finding the remains of the Burke and Wills party. Howitt was accompanied by William Brahe, who had told Howitt of the horrors of the relief expedition and not many were confident of finding either Burke or Wills alive.
Howitt arrived back at Camp 65 after only twenty-five days of travel on September 8. Still seeing no signs of disturbance, Howitt and Brahe ignored the word DIG on the coolibah tree, unaware that Wills had buried most of his notes and diaries in the same trunk that was left for them months earlier.
King was found on September 15 by Edwin Welch. Not knowing who he was, King had to explain that he was the final men left on the Burke and Wills Expedition. He was taken back to Howitt and soon the entire horror was known.
Howitt originally buried the bodies of Burke and Wills on the shores of the Cooper, but on January 21, 1863, Burke and Wills were buried in Melbourne Cemetery in Victoria's first state funeral after their bodies had been exhumed and returned home. For the rest of his life, King celebrated his birthday on September 15.
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