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» Where did Burke cross the Darling River?

Where did Burke cross the Darling River?


At which point did Burke cross the Darling?

Brian Macdonald

Dear Brian,

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


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.


* 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