The Dig Tree: The Story of Bravery, Insanity, and the Race to Discover Australias Wild Frontier by Sarah MurgatroydThe harrowing true story of the Burke and Willis expedition team who took on the Australian wilds 150 years ago--and lost.
They departed Melbournes Royal Park in the summer of 1860, a misfit party of eighteen amateur explorers cheered on by thousands of well-wishers. Their mission: to chart a course across the vast unmapped interior of Australia, from Melbourne to the northern coast. Months later, only one man returned alive--with tales of heroism, hardships, and lost opportunities that were by turns terrifying and darkly comic.
Drawing its title from one of the few remaining traces of the expedition, The Dig Tree combines the danger of Sebastian Junger with the irony of Bill Bryson to relive the tragic journey of these completely initiated adventurers. The cast of characters includes the expeditionleader; a reckless, charming Irish policeman known for getting lost on his way home from the pub; an eccentric nature enthusiast from Germany; an alcoholic camel handler; and a rogue American horse-breaker who is just in it for the money. For nine harrowing months, their quest for glory shifts from idiocy to perseverance and then inexorably toward tragedy. The nightmare culminates in a last haunting message left behind a group of desperate and dying men--the word DIG carved into what is now Australias most famous tree.
The Dig Tree follows this compelling journey through a forgotten corner of history to examine a daring expedition that came unbelievably close to success only to let it slip away.
Burke and Wills collection
The National Museum of Australia's collection of objects related to the Burke and Wills expedition include a water bottle which belonged to Burke and a breastplate awarded to the Aboriginal people who came to the explorers' assistance. National Museum of Australia. The Victorian Exploring Expedition, usually known as the Burke and Wills expedition , remains one of the most celebrated journeys of the 'heroic era' of Australian land exploration. In the s the colony of Victoria was flush with wealth from the gold fields and wanted to enter the field of exploration. Supported by the Victorian government, the Royal Society of Victoria and private citizens, the expedition hoped to be the first to cross the continent from south to north.
Burke and Wills were inexperienced explorers; Burke was a police investigator and Wills was a surveyor and meteorologist. Burke was chosen to lead the expedition across the inhospitable interior of Australia so that the state of Victoria could win the reward posted by the government of Australia for finding a north-south route. The government wanted to build a telegraph line from Adelaide to the northern coast of Australia. The two explorers left Melbourne on August 20, , with many horses, 25 camels brought from India and 3 drivers. They would travel along the Darling River and then go north to the Gulf of Carpentaria on the north coast. Brahe remained at a base camp at Cooper's Creek, waiting for more men, who were delayed by months. Quarrels between the remaining men, impatience, bad timing, spring rains, and unexpected delays marred the trip.
Robert O'Hara Burke was a British policeman and explorer who led the first expedition to cross the Australian continent. After attending Woolwich Military Academy, Burke served in an Austrian cavalry regiment until , when he joined the mounted Irish constabulary. Migrating to Australia in , he became a police inspector in the Victorian goldfields. After the outbreak of the Crimean War, he returned to Europe, hoping to distinguish himself as a soldier. Disappointed, he returned to Victoria in as superintendent of police at Castlemaine. The South Australian government offered a prize in to the first explorer to cross the continent. Spurred by intercolonial rivalry, the rich colony of Victoria financed its own scientific expedition, and the flamboyant Burke, who wanted desperately to improve his fortunes, was chosen to lead it despite his inexperience.
Information about the expedition from south to north Australia by Burke and Wills in for students K - 6. In the Government of South Australia offered a prize to the first expedition to cross the Australian continent from south to north.
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Their object was to cross the land from the South to the Northern Seas, a task which had never before been accomplished, as well as to add to the scientific knowledge of the interior. The expedition started under the leadership of Robert O'Hara Burke, who began his career as a cadet at Woolwich, but left at an early age to enter a regiment of Hussars in the Austrian service, in which he subsequently held a captaincy. When this regiment was disbanded, in , he obtained an appointment in the Irish Constabulary, which he exchanged for the Police Force of Victoria in , and in this he was at once made an inspector. A Mr Landells, in charge of the camels, went as second in command, and William John Wills, an astronomer and surveyor, as third. In the news of the wonderful gold discoveries induced him to try his fortune in Victoria; but he soon became attached to the staff of the Melbourne Observatory, where he remained until selected for the post of observer and surveyor to the exploring expedition. From the time that the expedition first took shape the names of these leaders were associated in the minds of the people with those of other brave men who had toiled to solve the mystery that lay out in the great thirsty wilderness of the interior. Some of them had tried, and, failing, had returned broken in health by the terrible privations they had met with.
It consisted of 19 men led by Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills , with the objective of crossing Australia from Melbourne in the south, to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, a distance of around 3, kilometres approximately 2, miles. The expedition left Melbourne in winter. Bad weather, poor roads and broken-down wagons meant they made slow progress at first. After dividing the party at Menindee on the Darling River Burke made good progress, reaching Cooper Creek at the beginning of summer. The expedition established a depot camp at the Cooper, and Burke, Wills and two other men pushed on to the north coast although swampland stopped them from reaching the northern coastline.