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


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.


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.


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