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» Burke and Wills' sites at Cooper Creek.

Burke and Wills' sites at Cooper Creek.


I am planning a month long expedition around Innamincka later this year and I am trying to narrow down the coordinates of the "Dig Tree".
If I have my information correctly, this is the original burial place of Burke, and Wills is a few miles further downstream from Burke.
There are several photos floating around and I am curious to have these clarified, i.e. the tree with the engraved face of Burke, also the pole that denotes the location of Wills.
Could you please assist me with this information, as the coordinates I have found so far put me about 300 miles from the actual sites.
Thanks for your time and in depth detail of their fated expedition.

Daniel Neal

Dear Dan,

There are four sites along the Cooper near Innamincka with memorials commemorating the expedition:

The Dig Tree, Queensland.
27°37'25"S, 141° 04'32"E
The Dig Tree is the site of Camp 65, also known as Fort Wills. This was the second depot camp established on the Cooper. Burke arrived here on 6 December 1860 and left for the Gulf on 16 December 1860. William Brahe was left in charge of the depot with instructions (variously recalled) to wait for three months, or four months, or as long as his provisions would last. Brahe waited for four months and one week before marking the date, camp number and dig message on a tree, and on Sunday, 21 April 1861, he left to return to Menindee. Burke, Wills and King returned to the Dig Tree that evening to find the camp deserted.

The blaze showing B-LXV (Burke, Camp 65) is still visible as it has been kept open by cutting back the overgrowing bark. The other blazes, the Dig blaze and the Date blaze have overgrown and are no longer visible. There is some uncertainty exactly what Brahe carved on the Dig blaze, and the interpretive signs recall it variously as "AH Dig under", "Dig 3FT NW" and "DIG 40FT West." Brahe recalled marking the Dig blaze on a different tree to the one with the camp number and date blazes, and evidence from Howitt's relief party confirms this, indicating that Brahe actually marked two trees at the site.
Face Tree
The Face Tree is 30 metres from the Dig Tree. It has a carving of Burke's face with the (overgrown) initials R O 'H B. The carving was done by John Dick and his wife Minnie Ghyn Thompson in November 1898. Dick originally wanted to carve the face into the Dig Tree, but John Conrick, owner of Nappa Merrie Station objected to him marking the Dig Tree. Dick carved his initials and his wife's initials into the Face Tree, and these days tourists often mistake this carving as the original Dig blaze.
Burke's Tree, South Australia.
27°43'21"S, 140°46'42"E
This is the site where Howitt buried Burke's remains on 21 September 1861. Howitt marked a tree here and the tree still stands, although the blaze has overgrown and has been buried by river sand.
Wills grave, South Australia.
27°45'20"S, 140°35'59"E
This is the site where Alf Towner blazed a tree and erected a metal post in 1948 to mark Will's grave. Mike Steel and Red Rover Tours erected a monument here in 1973. The original tree that Howitt marked at Wills' grave on 18 September 1861 has disappeared, its location is unknown and there are no known photographs of images of the tree. David Corke, former President of the Burke and Wills Historical Society, replotted Howitt's field notes and showed that Wills was in fact buried about 2.5 kilometres away from Towner's and Steel's memorials.
King's site, South Australia.
27°46'30"S, 140°40'42"E
This is the site where Howitt's surveyor, Edwin Welch, discovered John King living with the Yandruwandha on 15 September 1861. Alf Towner marked a tree here in 1948 and also erected a metal post. Joe Mack and Eric Loeffler erected a cairn here in 1973.

I have made a Google Earth .kmz file showing these locations, which you can download HERE. You will need Google Earth to view this file.