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Books about the expedition.

Question: 

Hi David
You recently hinted that Sarah Murgatroyd's The Dig Tree was incomplete in a number of ways. Can you recommend a more compelling history of Burke and Wills that improves on Sarah's publication of 2002?

Mr Lindsay Mead
Answer: 

Dear Lindsay,

The 1991 book Burke and Wills: From Melbourne to myth by Tim Bonyhady is by far the most comprehensive, detailed, accurate and well-written book on the expedition. It covers the political and social background to the establishment of the expedition, the expedition's progress and the aftermath of the expedition and how it has become part of Australian folklore. It doesn't really dwell much on the actual trudge across the continent, this book is more about the social impacts of the Burke and Wills expedition on Australia.

Bonyhady's book is a little hard to find these days, although there are second-hand copies around. The National Library of Australia's search engine Trove shows there are 105 libraries in Australia that have copies. The Burke and Wills Historical Society would be happy to assist you in finding a copy if there isn't one in a library near you.

Bonyhady

Burke and Wills : from Melbourne to myth Tim Bonyhady.
Balmain, NSW: David Ell Press, 1991.
383 pages, [20] p. of plates; ill. (some col.); maps; ports.; facsims.
ISBN-10: 0908197918
ISBN-13: 978-0908197910

* Trove listing of available copies of Bonyhady's book HERE.


Bonyhady's book is very comprehensive, but it is probably best to have a reasonable understanding of the expedition before you start reading it, and this is where Sarah Murgatroyd's The Dig Tree would make a good starting place. I think Murgatroyd's book is a very readable account of the expedition and I recommend it to anyone who would like to get a basic understanding of the expedition. Unfortunately Murgatroyd did not reference any of her sources and therefore when reading The Dig Tree it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between snippets from archive manuscripts, theories from Dr Tom Bergin's thesis, inaccurate statements which have been reproduced from secondary sources, original ideas that Murgatroyd formed on the basis of her own research, or things that may have been made up to keep the story moving. Although a large part of the book is based on Bergin's excellent thesis, The Dig Tree contains numerous errors, and so one should keep this in mind while reading the book and not take everything in it at face value.

(The views expressed here are of course my own opinion and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Library of Victoria.)


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Bibliographies and Reading Lists
* For anyone interested in reading more about the expedition, there is a short but comprehensive bibliography on this website, DIG: The Burke and Wills Research Gateway HERE.
* I have a more detailed bibliography on my website The Burke and Wills Archive HERE.
* The Burke and Wills Historical Society can send you their suggested reading list if you contact them HERE.

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Where did Burke cross the Darling River?

Question: 

At which point did Burke cross the Darling?

Brian Macdonald
Answer: 

Dear Brian,

Burke crossed the Darling at Kinchega Station at 10.40 am on Sunday, 14 October 1860.

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The expedition had been camped on the Darling at Bilbarka (just north of today's Pooncarie) for almost two weeks. Burke was anxious to make progress, but was frustrated by the delays which had been caused sorting out the stores and leaving the wagons behind - and then the camels went missing for nearly a week. On Thursday, 11 October 1860 Burke took off for Menindee with the pack-horses, leaving Landells and the camels behind. Burke took Wills, Becker, Brahe, Patton, Hodgkinson and one other man (either McDonough, McPherson or Gray) and they travelled up the east bank of the Darling, camping for three nights near Moorara, Harcourt and Keiara Stations. At 09.45 am on Sunday, 14 October 1860 they passed one of Mr McLeod's outstations (very close to where Bootingee Station is today) and there they met William Wright who had been employed for the last three years by John Baker as manager of Kinchega Station. The paddle steamer, the PS Moolgewauke, which had most of the expedition's stores on board, was at anchor here as well as it was a Sunday. Wright told Burke of a good place to cross the river opposite his station, Kinchega. At 10.40 am they swam the horses across the Darling from the east bank to the west bank about 100 metres downstream of the original Kinchega Station, and they made Camp XXXIV there on the river bank. Wills shows this in his field-book and he records the camping place as "camped in bend of Darling at crossing place." The station ruins in the National Park at Kinchega are a later station which was built in the 1870s for the Hughes family. Very little remains of Wright's original station, but it is closer to the river, about 400 metres south of the present ruins and boardwalks.

Burke told Landells to follow him from Bilbarka to Menindee with the camels at his own pace. Landells was keen to show that the camels were equal to the horses in their stamina and carrying capabilities and tried his best to keep up with Burke - one day he travelled until 2.00 am so he wouldn't fall behind. It took Landells and the camels one day longer than Burke and the horses to cover the 130 km from Bilbarka to Kinchega, and they arrived at the crossing place at 9.30 am on Monday, 15 October 1860. Burke had already ridden on into Menindee, so Landells left the camels on the east bank, crossed the river and headed into Menindee to let Burke know he had arrived. Wills took the PS Moolgewauke up the river and so he arrived in Menindee on the paddle-steamer.

Burke, Wills and Landells rode back to Kinchega that afternoon, but it was too late to bring the camels across the river that evening. Burke and Landells argued about the best way of bringing the camels across, and this is what prompted Landells to resign - not the commonly held belief that it was over the camel's rum as depicted in the 1985 Jack Thompson movie. The camels swam across the river on Tuesday morning, 16 October 1860 and went on into Menindee that afternoon.

Burke left Menindee on Friday, 19 October 1860 and a week later the men, stores and animals that were left behind moved out to form the Depot Camp at Pamamaroo Creek.

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References:
* William John Wills, Surveyor's field-book 'Bilbarka to Torowoto: Field Book No. 1, 11-19 October 1860, (21 pages), Box2082/6c, MS 13071, State Library of Victoria.
* Dr Ludwig Becker (Edited by Dr Marjorie Tipping), Ludwig Becker: Artist and naturalist with the Burke and Wills expedition. Carlton: Melbourne University Press on behalf of the Library Council of Victoria, 1979.
* Beckler, Dr Hermann, Stephen Jeffries, Michael Kertesz, and State Library of Victoria. A journey to Coopers Creek. Edited and translated by Stephen Jefferies. Translated by Stephen Jeffries and Michael Kertesz. Miegunyah Press series ; no. 13. Carlton: Melbourne University Press at the Miegunyah Press in association with the State Library of Victoria, 1993.
* PS Moolgewauke - Picture at the State Library of South Australia HERE

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River crossings

Question: 

Could you please give details of river crossings in the first part of Burke and Wills journey, e.g.  from Swan Hill  where did they cross the Murray and what would be the name of the punt and the name of the crossing?

Aileen Howard
Answer: 

Dear Aileen,

Deep Creek at Bulla:
On the third day after leaving Royal Park in Melbourne, Wednesday 22 August 1860, the expedition crossed the Deep Creek at Bulla on the original wooden bridge which had been built in 1859.

Bolinda Creek:
Their next creek crossing was later the same day when they crossed the Bolinda Creek.

Deep Creek at Lancefield:
On 23 August they crossed the Deep Creek again, this time at the original wooden bridge at the town of Lancefield, which was then situated on the northern bank of Deep Creek.

Wild Duck Creek between Mia Mia and Knowsley:
On 27 August Becker described that they marched "via Wild Duck Creek to Matheson’s. With some difficulty we got the Camels through the Creek, they never before went through water worth mentioning." This creek crossing is now flooded as part of Lake Eppalock.

Campaspe River at Barnadown:
On 28 August they crossed the Campaspe at Barnadown via Edmund Kennedy's punt. The Bendigo Advertiser described the punt crossing as "a tedious, if not dangerous proceeding," and it took most of the afternoon to get the men, wagons, horses and camels across. The artist George Lacy painted the scene in Burke and Wills Expedition at the Campaspe near Barnadown, 1860.

Loddon River at Kerang:
On 4 September the expedition crossed the Loddon at the original crossing point at Kerang, which is a few kilometres south of the present town.

Murray River at Swan Hill:
On 11 September they crossed the Murray at Swan Hill and camped on the northern bank. They used the punt which crossed the river where the bridge stands today. Burke's despatch explains that the punt usually cost 2/6 for a horse and 15/- for a wagon, however "the camels and horses were taken over at a reduced charge of 2/ each, the wagons at the ordinary rate."

Wakool River at Kyalite:
The expedition arrived at the Wakool at Kyalite at 8.00 pm on 13 September and the men crossed the river on the punt so they could have dinner at Henry Talbett's Wakool Hotel. It took four hours for the horses, camels and wagons to cross the river on Talbett's punt the next morning. The expedition's artist, Ludwig Becker, sketched the scene and his picture, Wakool River, near Talbets, 14 Sept. 60, shows the punt crossing the river. Burke paid Talbett £9.6.0 for provisions and portage across the river, but he lost the receipt and wrote to a despatch to the Exploration Committee explaining the situation.

Murrumbidgee River at Balranald:
On 15 September the expedition reached the Murrumbidgee at Balranald. At 4.00 pm that afternoon the men, camels and two wagons crossed the river on the punt. The punt was at the end of what is now Mayall Street and Becker described it as "wretched." The remaining five wagons crossed the river the following morning, and the Second-in-command, George Landells, later recalled that some of the stores were damaged by water during the crossing because Burke had "rushed" the wagons across, so it seems Burke gave up trying to get the wagons on the "wretched punt" and hauled them through the river. Landells also mentioned one of the camels had a potentially serious accident while Wills was supervising it disembarking from the punt and he feared for the animals' safety.

Darling River at Kinchega:
On 10.00 am on 14 October, Burke and the lead party of the expedition with the pack-horses swam across the Darling. They crossed from the east bank to the west bank at the river bend below Kinchega Station, just south of Menindee. Landells and the rear party with the camels crossed the Darling at the same spot the following day. The wagons had been left behind at Phelp's Tarcoola Station by this stage, so they never crossed the Darling and never got to Menindee.

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Kennedy's Punt by George Strafford

Kennedy's Punt, Campaspe River
George Straffod, Melbourne: George Slater, May 1860, H4955, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Wakool River, near Talbets by Ludwig Becker

Wakool River, near Talbet's by Ludwig Becker.
14 September 1860, H16486, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria.

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References:
* Dr Ludwig Becker (Edited by Dr Marjorie Tipping), Ludwig Becker: Artist and naturalist with the Burke and Wills expedition. Carlton: Melbourne University Press on behalf of the Library Council of Victoria, 1979.
* Bendigo Advertiser, 30 August 1860, p.2.
* George Lacy, Burke and Wills Expedition at the Campaspe near Barnadown, 1860 [picture], c.1860, National Library of Australia. View image HERE.
* George Strafford sketched Kennedy's Punt on the Campaspe in May 1860. It was published in the News Letter of Australasia, No. 45, 1860. View image HERE
* Robert O'Hara Burke, despatch, dated Swan Hill, 12 September 1860, Box 2082/1a, Item 7, MS 13071, State Library of Victoria.
* Ludwig Becker, Wakool River, near Talbets, 14 Sept. 60 [picture] / L. Becker. Accession number: H16486, Image b36036, State Library of Victoria. View image HERE
* Robert O'Hara Burke, despatch, dated Balranald, 16 September 1860, Box 2082/1a, Item 8, MS 13071, State Library of Victoria.

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Wills' hobbies

Question: 

Hi,
Did William John Wills have any hobbies that you know of in his teens?

Alfie Grummet
Answer: 

Dear Alfie,

We know a little about Wills' life when he was young. He went to boarding school when he was 11 years old and then when he was 17 he went away to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London to learn chemistry. Wills was interested in science, astronomy, algebra and mathematics and read a lots of books about these subjects. When he was 16 his father took him to London to see the Great Exhibition where he was very interested in the new scientific instruments and mechanical inventions on display. Other than that we don't really know much about what he did in his spare time, but people 150 years ago certainly didn't have as much free time as we do, and they had very limited opportunities for hobbies compared to those we have today.

When Wills was 17 he migrated to Australia with his 15 year old brother Tom. Their parents didn't come with them, so Wills had to look after his younger brother on the journey to the other side of the world. When they got to Australia they both found work as shepherds and lived in an isolated hut in the bush and worked seven days a week looking after the sheep. So even though they were only young men, they had to work full time looking after 1,400 sheep, three dogs and one horse, as well as cooking, cleaning, washing their clothes, chopping wood for the fire, catching fish, killing sheep for food, etc and generally looking after themselves.

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During 1853 Wills wrote several letters to his parents from the Ram Station on Bulletiel Creek, near Deniliquin, New South Wales describing their situation:

We are now very comfortably situated on the bank of nice creek with a flock of sheep, which when well, we take it in turn to attend to ... We have engaged for six months at £30 a year each, but if we stay here after that, which it is most likely we shall, we shall get £40.

Our rations are as much mutton as we like, flour 10 lbs, sugar 2 or 3 lbs — I do not know exactly, but it is quite enough, and I think 1/2 lb of tea per week each. They find us frying pan, iron pot, hatchet, spade, tub for salting &c. We have a fine lot of melons here, they are not quite ripe yet. I have been preserving a part of one today just to make tarts of. We sweet pickle and smoke the legs of mutton and they make very nice ham, only there is a want of fat. But there is great difficulty in keeping meat here; we must kill and skin the sheep the last thing at night and salt it before sunrise in the morning, and then if you are not careful in keeping it well covered there will be maggots in it before night. Maggots come out here almost as soon as blown. The greatest pests here are flies and ants but the flies are much the worst. Mosquitoes here are not much harm, they bite rather sharp, but not like those in India and America, and they are easily killed.

I dare say you think we feel the heat much, but you are mistaken. Although the sun is hot here there is a beautiful breeze always blowing, and you may judge how we feel the heat when I tell you there is a nice river close by and we very seldom bathe.

There are abundance of ducks in the creeks, and up this way there are fine white cockatoos which are very nice and about the size of a small fowl; there is also a bird very plentiful here which they call a magpie; it is the colour of our magpie but larger and without the long tail it is very easily shot and is very nice food and I believe feeds [much] like wood pigeons. The latter here is a beautiful bird of a delicate brown colour tinged with pink about the neck, and the wings marked with green and (purple) gold. There are many pigeons here and they are very tame and much nicer eating than those at home.

We are very well off in the way of food; as much mutton as we like and we can make sure of getting either a duck pigeon or cockatoo at any time almost without going out of sight of the hut, besides plenty of fish in the creek; cod fish which in some of the rivers run as high as 80lbs but are generally caught in the creeks from 2 to 12 lbs; and a fish like a lobster, not quite as large, but good eating. There are also plenty of mussel fish.

William John Wills, Correspondence and press cuttings, 1839-1861. [manuscript], MS 9504, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.
View record HERE.

 

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Where were Burke and Wills buried?

Question: 

Hi Dave,
My class is doing an assignment on Burke and Wills and I watched a documentary that was shown on TV a couple of days ago for more information and am now quite confused: did they end up finding Burke and Wills' bodies as said on the TV show, or is the computer information correct in saying that their bodies were never found?

Jazmin Cullen
Answer: 

Dear Jazmin,

Burke and Wills' bodies were found by Alfred Howitt and buried at Cooper Creek in 1861. Howitt went back to the Cooper in 1862 and exhumed their remains and brought them to Melbourne for burial in Melbourne General Cemetery in 1863. So we know where Burke and Wills' remains are - they are in Melbourne - but altogether there were seven Europeans and possibly one Aborigine who died on the expedition. William Patten's grave has never been found and there is uncertainty over the location of the grave of Charley Gray.

Burke and Wills' grave in Melbourne General Cemetery.
Image © Dave Phoenix 2010.

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The Burial of Burke and Wills
By the middle of 1861 people in Melbourne were becoming concerned at the lack of news from Burke. He had last been heard of at the end of October 1860 when he left Torowoto Swamp for Cooper Creek. The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria placed Alfred Howitt in charge of the Victorian Contingent Expedition and they left Melbourne at the end of June 1861 to head to Cooper Creek to find out what had happened to Burke. Howitt took the train out of Melbourne and then the Cobb & Co coach to Swan Hill. Along the way he met William Brahe who was hurrying to Melbourne with the news that Burke had left him in charge of the Dig Tree depot camp on Cooper Creek and had headed north towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. Brahe had waited at the Cooper for four months and one week, and then, as Burke had not returned, he had come down to Melbourne to report Burke missing. Howitt, Brahe and eight other men hurried to the Cooper and on 15 September 1861 they found John King, barely alive and living with the Yandruwandha Aborigines.

King told Howitt that Burke and Wills were dead and on 18 September 1861 he led them to Wills' remains at Breerily Waterhole. Wills had been dismembered by dingoes and his skull was missing. Howitt buried Wills and blazed a tree nearby. King was too weak to show Howitt where Burke's body was, so he described the location at Yidnaminkie Waterhole, and Howitt went there on 21 September 1861. Burke had also been dragged around by dingoes and his hands and feet were missing. However the loaded and capped Colt's revolver was still by the body. Howitt buried Burke under a coolabah tree.

Howitt then sent Brahe on ahead to Melbourne with the news of Burke and Wills' deaths. He sent the surveyor, Edwin Welch, on more slowly with King, who was very frail. Howitt returned to Melbourne in December 1861, where he found the Exploration Committee had decided that he should return to the Cooper, exhume Burke and Wills' remains and bring them down to Melbourne for burial.

Howitt returned to the Cooper in 1862 as leader of the Victorian Exploring Party which consisted of eleven men. On 13 April 1862, Howitt exhumed Wills' remains and in September 1862 he exhumed Burke. Howitt took the bodies first to Adelaide, and then by ship to Melbourne, arriving on 29 December 1862. Burke and Wills' remains were laid in state at the Royal Society of Victoria for two weeks and then on 21 January 1863 they were buried at Melbourne general Cemetery in Australia's first state funeral. It is estimated that 100,000 people watched the funeral procession pass through Melbourne.

Dingoes devouring Wills' remains by William Strutt

Dingoes devouring Wills' remains by William Srutt
Undated, Victoria the Golden Parliamentary Library of Victoria.

The Burial of Burke by William Strutt

The Burial of Burke, by William Strutt.
1911, Pictures Collection, H 13087, State Library of Victoria.

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Deaths on the Victorian Exploring Expedition, 1861.
The men that died on the expedition were:

* Charley Gray, died Wednesday 17th April 1861 at Polygonum Swamp.
* Charles Stone, died Monday 22nd April 1861 at Koorliatto Waterhole, Bulloo River.
* William Purcell, died Tuesday 23rd April 1861 at Koorliatto Waterhole, Bulloo River.
* Dr Ludwig Becker, died Monday 29th April 1861 at Koorliatto Waterhole, Bulloo River.
* William Patten, died Wednesday 5th June 1861 at Desolation Camp, Rat Point.
* William John Wills, died end of June or early July 1861 at Breerily Waterhole, Cooper Creek.
* Robert O'Hara Burke, died end of June or early July 1861 at Yidnaminkie Waterhole, Cooper Creek.
* ‘Mr Shirt’, a Bandjigali or Karenggapa Murri, shot by William Wright, Saturday 27th April 1861, at Koorliatto Waterhole, Bulloo River.

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Other links on 'DIG: The Burke and Wills Research Gateway'.
Burke’s grave at Cooper Creek:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/gpx/ga2286
Burial of Burke by William Strutt:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/burial-burke
The Burial of Burke - One of the preparatory sketches for his oil painting on the subject:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/burial-burke
Burke's death - Concept sketch for a possible oil painting:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/burkes-death
Wills revolver that Burke had in his hand when he died:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/colt-revolver-owned-wills
Piece of the tree under which Burke died:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/portion-tree-under-which-burke-was-buried
Wills’ grave at Cooper Creek:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/gpx/ga2272
Dingoes devouring Wills' remains by William Strutt:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/dingoes-devouring-wills-remains
News of Burke and Wills’ deaths reaches Melbourne:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/content-36
Burke's last notes:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/robert-ohara-burkes-last-notes
Wills' last notes:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/archive/archives/william-wills-last-note
Funeral in Melbourne:
http://burkeandwills.slv.vic.gov.au/category/archives/funeral

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Equipment planted at Camp 119.

Question: 

The book The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd speaks of an event in the journey on 13 February 1861 where 'Wills sacrificed more of his instruments and a considerable number of books. They were buried under a box tree.'

I have not yet found a reference to this in the online diaries/journals.

I am aware of the 'Plant Camp: Camp 46R', where excess equipment including instruments were supposed to have been buried or 'planted' on 3rd April 1861.

Have I just missed the entry or is this a puzzle?

Lance Barrett
Answer: 

Dear Lance,

The reference you refer to is at the start of Chapter 15 of The Dig Tree. Murgatroyd's book is a very readable account of the expedition but as she failed to reference her sources, it is difficult to authenticate some of the material in the book.

We do know that on the 13 February 1861, Burke, Wills, King and Gray left their most northerly camp, Camp 119 on the Bynoe River in the Gulf of Carpentaria to return to Cooper Creek. At the Commission of Enquiry, John King mentioned leaving behind some equipment at the camp:

Q.868. They [Burke and Wills] made a small plant there at their Camp 119, and left a note and left a few articles there.
Q.869. What were the articles they left there ? - A few camel pads and the camp oven, and a few other small articles, and a lot of books - a considerable quantity of books.
Q.870. Books you had used for your amusement ? - Yes.
Q.871. No memorandum books ? - None; left an expedition form.

So they buried a camp-oven, some "small articles" and a lot of reading books at Camp 119, but there is no mention in any of the archives of Wills leaving any instruments behind. An artificial horizon was "found" in the Surveyor's Office in Normanton in the 1940s, and because it had "Burke, 1865" stamped on it, it was assumed (incorrectly) to have been the one issued to Burke. The artificial horizon was sent to the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland Branch) in Brisbane, but has since been lost. It is unlikely that the artificial horizon belonged to Wills, as none of the expedition's equipment would have been stamped with Burke's name, or the date 1865 (but the surveying equipment that was sent to Burketown, which was in founded in 1865 and was in the surveying district of Burke, could account for the "Burke, 1865" stamp). There is also an unverified story that the camp oven was found some time ago in the rubbish tip at Magowra, but again this story seems to be speculative.

When Frederick Walker, Leader of the Victorian Relief Expedition, found Camp 119 in January 1862, he mentioned a tree which was marked:

SEE
14

Walker assumed the carvings on the tree indicated where to dig for a message, so the party "tried digging 14 feet from the tree south east by east, but the ground had evidently never been opened and would require a pickaxe to make much way into it." The following day, Walker re-examined the tree and this time "tried digging at 14 inches and 14 yards, but with no success."

When Camp 119 was later re-surveyed in 1909 by J P Thompson of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland Branch), he did not mention finding the SEE 14 tree, and so we have no indication where it was or what sort of a tree it was. The area around Camp 119 is now protected and listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Burke and Wills' Camp 119 at the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Image: © Dave Phoenix 2010.
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References
* James Park Thomson, Expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland Geographical Journal, Brisbane: the Society, Vol. 25, 1910.
* Frederick Walker, Journal: 1861-1862, MS 9996, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. Read online here
* Victoria: Parliament, Report of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into and report upon the circumstances connected with the sufferings and death of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills, the Victorian Explorers, Melbourne: John Ferres Government Printer, Parliamentary Paper Number 97, 1861-2. Read online here
* Queensland Heritage Register listing: Here

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Wagon driver, Alfred George Price.

Question: 

My great, great grandfather who drove one of the wagons, Alfred George Price was probably the surviving member of the expedition.
He passed away aged 75 in 1904, is this true?
Like to know more.
I have an old three page letter stating this, any knowledge will be appreciated.

Trevor Horne
Answer: 

Dear Trevor,

Hired wagons
The expedition had three of their own 'American style' wagons which had been built at Pentridge Goal. However Burke was unable to fit all the equipment into these wagons, and so two days prior to departure he hired an additional two wagons. On the day of departure the second-in-command, George James Landells, objected to the camels being too heavily laden and so, faced with even more stores to transport, Burke hired a third additional wagon. This meant the expedition departed from Melbourne with a total of six wagons.

Initially the hired wagons were only contracted to go as far as Swan Hill. Two days out of Melbourne (somewhere between Tullamarine and Sunbury) two of the hired wagons got bogged on the wet, muddy roads. The expedition went on ahead without these two wagons and waited at Swan Hill for them to catch up. The hired wagons took a different route to the expedition and followed the highways, turning up in Swan Hill two days after Burke had arrived. Burke then contracted the wagons to stay with the expedition as far as the Darling River.

The hired wagons arrived at Tarcoola Station on the Darling (which is just south of Pooncarie) on 3 October 1860 and then the stores were loaded onto a streamer, the PS Moolgewanke, to be taken to Menindee. The hired wagons then returned to Melbourne and the expedition's wagons were abandoned. At Swan Hill on the return, one of the wagons picked up, Hissan Khan, a sepoy camel handler who had left the expedition, and returned him to Melbourne.

Payments for the hire of these three additional wagons and the carriage of stores were made to George Price, William Cole and M O’ Brien. The cost of the extra wagons was around £38 per week each, which was a considerable additional cost and almost double the wages bill for all 19 of the men on the expedition. The State Library of Victoria has eight vouchers which were drawn up by Robert O'Hara Burke as payment for "carriage of stores." Three of these vouchers are made out to George Price who either owned or drove one of the three hired wagons which travelled with the expedition from Royal Park, Melbourne to Tarcoola Station on the Darling River. The vouchers are in the State Library of Victoria at MS 13071, Box 2083, Folder 6, VEE vouchers 7 July–10 September 1860 (29 pages), and Box 2084, Folder 1, VEE vouchers 11 September–30 December 1860 (34 pages).


Crossing the Terrick Terrick Plain by Ludwig Becker.
29 August 1860
H16486, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria.
(Becker's famous painting of the expedition crossing the Terrick Terrick Plains north of Bendigo shows four wagons with the expedition. Three of these are the expedition's own wagons and one is a hired wagon. The other two hired wagons took a different route through Victoria and caught up with the expedition at Swan Hill).

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Longest surviving / Oldest surviving expedition member.
If you were asking whether Alfred George Price was the oldest surviving member of the expedition at the time of his death in 1904, then there were several expedition members who were still alive in 1904. William Brahe who was in charge of the Depot Party at the Dig Tree died in 1910; the expedition’s surgeon Dr Hermann Beckler died in 1914; and the expedition’s foreman, Charles David Ferguson, appears to be the oldest surviving member of the expedition, dying in 1925 at the age of 93.

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Government storekeeper, Richard Nash

Question: 

Interested if you have found any letters written by Richard Nash, the Government Storekeeper, or his wife Mrs Richard Nash, as they were in contact with Burke, I believe, based on an Argus article (The Argus, Saturday 5 February 1926, p. 7). Read Argus article HERE.

Mrs Nash (nee Sarah Ann Agg) was the sister of my great great grandfather, Thomas Mosley Agg, who wrote for the Australian Journal under the pseudonym T.M.A.  Not interested in Burke and Wills so much, as the Agg family connection.  One of the collections in the State Library of NSW mentions a ball ticket belonging to Mrs Nash.

Regards,

Janette Agg
Answer: 

Dear Jeanette.

Richard Nash was the Victorian Government Storekeeper in Melbourne in 1860 and was responsible for supplying the government stores for the Burke and Wills Expedition. He became good friends with Burke, and Burke gave Nash power of attorney over his affairs while away on the expedition. Nash later became Secretary for Railways and subsequently left Australia for the Otago goldfields in New Zealand.

The letters mentioned in the 1926 Argus article were purchased by the Mitchell Library in Sydney in 1941. The collection contains a number of letters from Burke to Nash including letters referring to a dishonoured cheque and Burke's debts in Melbourne. There is also Nash's diary of his time in New Zealand. As far as I am aware, the only reference to Mrs Nash is Item 13A "Admittance card for Mrs Nash to St Kilda Ball, 3 October 1961."

The collection is at: State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Library, ML D179, Burke and Wills Expedition 1860-1, (Items are on microfilm CY 885, frames 1-434). See the full record HERE.

Account ledger book, (Robert O'Hara Burke's outfit...showing some of the stores supplied by the Government of Victoria through the Government Storekeeper, Richard Nash).
Royal Society of Victoria, Exploration Committee Account Book 1858-1873, Box 2088B, Folder 2, MS 13071, State Library of Victoria.

First camp from Duroadoo by Ludwig Becker
(Becker's image shows some of the equipment the expedition carried at the Rat Point Camp, northern New South Wales).
18 February 1861, Image ms000063, MS13360, State Library of Victoria.

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