State Library of Victoria \ Dig: the Burke & Wills research gateway
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William Strutt - Burke and party setting out
Parliamentary Library of Victoria

In the mid 19th century, the interior of Australia was virtually unknown to Europeans – terra incognita. Amateur and professional explorers raced to discover new land for farming and grazing, and collect data and specimens for scientific research.

The Victorian Explorating Expedition attracted applications from a wide range of men interested in adventure and the chance to be part of a large and prestigious journey of exploration. These included bushmen, amateur naturalists, artists, stockmen, ex-military men, surveyors, scientists, doctors and horse handlers.

Applications were submitted to the Royal Society’s Exploration Committee. Eighteen men, headed by Robert O’Hara Burke, were finally appointed to the expedition.