State Library of Victoria \ Dig: the Burke & Wills research gateway
Skip to main content
» Burke and Wills Expedition

Burke and Wills Expedition

1860
20 August Departure from Royal Park.
6 September The party pauses at Swan Hill while Burke takes on extra stores, dismisses some of his men and hires new ones.
12 October At Menindie, Burke divides his party, leaving a large quantity of stores and equipment in the charge of William Wright, to be brought up to a base on Cooper's Creek.
19 October Burke leaves Menindie.
11 November Burke arrives at Cooper's Creek.
20 November Depot is established. Burke and others spend two weeks reconnoitring north for water.
16 December Burke, Wills, John King and Charlie Gray set out for the Gulf of Carpentaria, leaving William Brahe at the depot (Camp LXV), with instructions to wait three months.
 1861
11 February On, or about, this date the explorers reach swamp flats on the Flinders River. Leaving King and Gray, Burke and Wills attempt to reach the coast and gain a clear sight of the Gulf but fail to do so.
12 February The party begin their return to Cooper's Creek.
Early March With supplies running short they begin to kill their animals for food.
10 April Most of their equipment is jettisoned.
17 April Gray dies.
21 April They return to Camp LXV, Brahe's party having departed earlier the same day.
22 April They decide to follow the Creek and head towards the settled districts of South Australia rather than attempt to catch Brahe. In the ensuing weeks their condition steadily declines due to their lack of food and clothing. Their attempts to live off the land are unsuccessful - the one native food they learn to obtain, the seed of the nardoo plant, actually poisons them because they do not know how to prepare it properly.
8 May Brahe returns to Camp LXV but fails to notice any sign that the explorers had been there.
27 May Wills, at Burke's request, returns to Camp LXV to leave a note of their whereabouts. Also buries his field books.
3 June Wills returns to his companions.
Late June The explorers weaken steadily - Burke and Wills die within a few days of each other. King succeeds in joining a group of Yantruwanta and lives with them for several months.
15 September Howitt's party finds King.