The Burke and Wills Expedition – Part 5 – Across Australia

Arrival of Burke & Wills at Flinders River by Edward Jukes Greig

In part 5 of our series Robert Burke and William Wills lead a small contingent of men from the supply depot at Cooper’s Creek and into the outback of Australia in an attempt to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria – and in the process become the first men to cross the continent. Meanwhile, William Wright will struggle to get the relief column from Menindee to Cooper’s Creek.


Maps

Map source: By Rocketfrog at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4173494


People and Places

  • Robert O’Hara Burke – Leader of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (VEE)
  • William Wills – British surveyor and astronomer. 2nd-in-command of the expedition.
  • Victoria Exploring Expedition (VEE) – The official name of the expedition led by Robert Burke to cross the Australian continent.
  • John McDouall Stuart – Scottish explorer who was the chief competitor with the VEE to blaze a route across Australia.
  • Hermann Beckler – German doctor and botanist.
  • Ludwig Becker – German geologist and naturalist.
  • William Wright – Bushman who joined the VEE at Menindee.
  • John King – 22-year old ex-soldier. Selected by Burke to be part of the contingent going to the north coast.
  • Dick – Aboriginal Guide who accompanied Burke – and then Lyons – to the north.
  • Thomas McDonough – VEE member who accompanied Burke and Wills to Cooper’s Creek.
  • Charley Gray – VEE member who was selected to go with Burke and Wills to the north coast of Australia.
  • Cooper’s Creek – River in central Australia. It is about halfway across the continent if someone is traveling between Melbourne and Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. About 750 miles from Melbourne.
  • Menindee – Most northerly outpost on the route of the VEE in their trek across Australia. About 400 miles from Melbourne.
  • Gulf of Carpentaria – The most direct route from Victoria to the northern coast of Australia – roughly a 1500 mile journey across the continent.
  • Selwyn Range – Rugged mountain range in the interior of Australia that the expedition would need to cross.

Select Resources

The following are some good books and links regarding the Burke and Wills Expedition.

The Dig Tree: A True Story of Bravery, Insanity, and the Race to Discover Australia’s Wild Frontier by Sarah Murgatroyd – Excellent book on the expedition.

Burke and Wills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Australia’s Most Famous by Peter FitzSimons – Another well done book on the expedition.

Burke and Wills Digital Archive – Online collection of all the original source material – as well as links to other resources – for the expedition.

The Burke and Wills Expedition – Part 4 – Cooper’s Creek

Camp at Cooper’s Creek.

In part 4 of our series, Burke and Wills travel north to Cooper’s Creek, where they establish a supply depot. Burke will spend a month scouting the area, before finally departing for the north coast in mid-December. At Menindee, William Wright waits for money to buy more horses so he can haul all the supplies to Burke’s new camp. Meanwhile, a policeman, Trooper Myles Lyons, strikes out for Cooper’s Creek carrying dispatches for Burke.

Maps

People and Places

  • Robert O’Hara Burke – Leader of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (VEE)
  • William Wills – British surveyor and astronomer. 2nd-in-command of the expedition.
  • Victoria Exploring Expedition (VEE) – The official name of the expedition led by Robert Burke to cross the Australian continent.
  • John McDouall Stuart – Scottish explorer who was the chief competitor with the VEE to blaze a route across Australia.
  • Hermann Beckler – German doctor and botanist.
  • Ludwig Becker – German geologist and naturalist.
  • William Wright – Bushman who joined the VEE at Menindee.
  • John King – 22-year old ex-soldier. Selected by Burke to be part of the contingent going to the north coast.
  • Trooper Myles Lyons – Policeman from Swan Hill bringing dispatches to Robert Burke.
  • Alexander McPherson – Saddler who would join Lyons and Dick in an attempt to reach Burke at Cooper’s Creek.
  • William Hodgkinson – Journalist who joined the expedition at Swan Hill.
  • Dick – Aboriginal Guide who accompanied Burke – and then Lyons – to the north.
  • Peter – Aboriginal Guide who accompanied Hermann Beckler to rescue Lyons and MacPherson.
  • Thomas McDonough – VEE member who accompanied Burke and Wills to Cooper’s Creek.
  • Charley Gray – VEE member who was selected to go with Burke and Wills to the north coast of Australia.
  • Cooper’s Creek – River in central Australia. It is about halfway across the continent if someone is traveling between Melbourne and Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. About 750 miles from Melbourne.
  • Menindee – Most northerly outpost on the route of the VEE in their trek across Australia. About 400 miles from Melbourne.
  • Gulf of Carpentaria – The most direct route from Victoria to the northern coast of Australia – roughly a 1500 mile journey across the continent.

The Burke and Wills Expedition – Part 3 – Menindee

Sketch by Ludwig Becker of the VEE on the march north.

In part 3 of our series, the Victorian Exploring Expedition travels from Melbourne to the frontier outpost of Menindee on the Darling River. Along the way, the VEE will undergo a transformation as many key members will be fired (or resign), and others will join the company. Meanwhile, Robert Burke must dodge an arrest notice, criticism and his own ego to move the VEE forward.

People and Places

  • Robert O’Hara Burke – Leader of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (VEE)
  • George Landells – Horse trader who brought 25 camels to Australia, and 2nd-in-command of the VEE. Fired upon reaching Menindee.
  • William Wills – British surveyor and astronomer. Named 2nd-in-command of the expedition after the dismissal of George Landells.
  • Victoria Exploring Expedition (VEE) – The official name of the expedition led by Robert Burke to cross the Australian continent.
  • John McDouall Stuart – Scottish explorer who would be the chief competitor with the VEE to blaze a route across Australia.
  • Hermann Beckler – German doctor and botanist. mega at Menindee, but stayed on.
  • Ludwig Becker – German geologist and naturalist.
  • William Wright – Bushman who would join Burke at Menindee as a guide.
  • Georg von Neumayer – Professor and member of the Exploration Committee.
  • John King – 22-year old ex-soldier. Came from India with camels.
  • William Hodgkinson – Journalist who joined expedition at Swan Hill.
  • Cooper’s Creek – River in central Australia. It is about halfway across the continent if someone is traveling between Melbourne and Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. About 750 miles from Melbourne.
  • Menindee – Most northerly outpost on the route of the VEE in their trek across Australia. About 400 miles from Melbourne.
  • Gulf of Carpentaria – The most direct route from Victoria to the northern coast of Australia – roughly a 1500 mile journey across the continent.

Maps

 

Images

The following are a few of the sketches done by Ludwig Becker. They represent the march from Swan Hill to Menindee.

Sketch by Ludwig Becker of the VEE on the march north.

The Burke and Wills Expedition – Part 2 – Preparation and Departure

Nicholas Chevalier, “Memorandum of the Start of the Exploring Expedition”

In part 2 of our series, Robert Burke and the Exploration Committee hire men for the Victorian Exploring Expedition (VEE), including William Wills – who will serve the expedition’s surveyor, meteorologist, and astronomer. The VEE, consisting of 19 men, 26 camels, 23 horse, six wagons, and 200 tons of supplies, then prepares to depart Melbourne in August of 1860. The goal is to be the first men to cross the Australian continent.

People and Places

  • Robert O’Hara Burke – Leader of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (VEE)
  • George Landells – Horse trader who brought 25 camels to Australia, and second-in-command of the VEE.
  • William Wills – British surveyor and astronomer who was named as third-in-command of the VEE.
  • Victoria Exploring Expedition (VEE) – The official name of the expedition led by Robert Burke to cross the Australian continent.
  • John McDouall Stuart – Scottish explorer who would be the chief competitor with the VEE to blaze a route across Australia.
  • Hermann Beckler – German doctor and botanist of the expedition.
  • Ludwig Becker – German. Expedition’s geologist and naturalist.
  • Captain Francis Cadell – Steamship owner and member of the Exploration Committee. Offered to take the company’s supplies by boat to Menindee.
  • Julia Matthews – 18 year old actress who Burke had fallen in love with.
  • Cooper’s Creek – River in central Australia. It is about halfway across the continent if someone is traveling between Melbourne and Gulf of Carpentaria in the north. About 750 miles from Melbourne.
  • Menindee – Most northerly outpost on the route of the VEE in their trek across Australia. About 400 miles from Melbourne.
  • Gulf of Carpentaria – The most direct route from Victoria to the northern coast of Australia – roughly a 1500 mile journey across the continent.

Maps

The map below includes the modern borders of of most of the states of Australia, however, in 1860, the interior borders were not yet established. Most of the settlements were on the coast of the continent – even in the most populated areas (in the south and east).

 

 

The Burke and Wills Expedition – Part 1 – Australia, the Royal Society of Victoria and Robert Burke

Robert_O'Hara_Burke
Robert Burke

The first episode in the Burke and Wills Expedition series provides background to the endeavor – which was an expedition to cross Australia in 1860-61. We are introduced to the organizers of the expedition – Royal Society of Victoria – and its eventual leader, Robert Burke.

People and Places

  • Robert O’Hara Burke – Irish police superintendent from Castlemaine. Will be named leader of the expedition.
  • Royal Society of Victoria – aka The Society. Scientific society based in Melbourne. They will organize the expedition.
  • Exploration Committee – The committee of the Society which oversaw the Burke and Wills Expedition.
  • Victoria Exploring Expedition (VEE) – The official name of the expedition led by Robert Burke to cross the Australian continent.
  • Sir William Stawell – Key member of the Exploration Committee, and Chief Justice of Victoria.
  • John Macadam – Secretary of the Exploration Committee.
  • John Bruce – Wealthy Australian businessman who supported Robert Burke’s bid to lead the expedition.
  • Peter Edgerton Warburton – aka Major Warburton – Police Commissioner of South Australia and candidate to lead the VEE.
  • Gustov von Tempsky – Prussian adventurer and candidate to lead the VEE.
  • George Landells – Horse trader who would bring 25 camels to Australia to be part of the upcoming expedition. Would later be named second-in-command of the VEE.
  • Charles Sturt – British soldier who would explore Australia – discovering Cooper’s Creek in 1844.
  • John McDouall Stuart – Scottish explorer who would be the chief competitor with the VEE to blaze a route across Australia.
  • Augustus Gregory – Explorer who had gone from Brisbane to Adelaide in 1858. He turned down the opportunity to lead the VEE, but recommended any expedition go to Cooper’s Creek and set up a depot – and use it as a base for striking out to the north.
  • Cooper’s Creek – River in central Australia. It is about halfway across the continent if someone is traveling between Melbourne and Gulf of Carpentaria in the north.
  • William Wills – British surveyor and astronomer who will eventually become the second-in-command of the VEE.

Maps

The map below includes the modern borders of of most of the states of Australia, however, in 1860, the interior borders were not yet established. Most of the settlements were on the coast of the continent – even in the most populated areas (in the south and east).

Hanno the Navigator

Between 400-600 BCE, Hanno the Navigator of Carthage, conducted an epic voyage down the west coast of Africa – sailing more than 4,000 miles – reaching all the way to modern-day Gabon. It is one of the earliest recorded voyages of discovery.

Resources

There are not a lot of resources for Hanno the Navigator. Below are some links to some analysis of the Periplus of Hanno – the key source document we have about the voyage.

Vladimir Atlasov and the Exploration of Kamchatka

In this episode, Cossack Vladimir Atlasov explores the Kamchatka Peninsula in the late 1690s – claiming it for the Russian Empire.

Resources

There are not a lot of sources on Vladimir Atlasov. Below are the items that I was able to draw from for this podcast.

Russian Push Toward Japan by George Alexander Lensen.

Eastward to Empir: Exploration and Conquest on the Russian Open Frontier to 1750 by George V. Lantzeff, Richard A. Pierce

An English-language Russian military site had some details about Atlasov, including these two separate (but similar) articles:

Wikipedia page on Vladimir Atlasov

The maps below should help understand the journey of Vladimir Atlasov.

Kamchatka circa 1700, including approximate map of the route taken by Vladimir Atlasov