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Event Victorian Exploring Expedition (1860 - 1861)

From
20 August 1860
To
1861
Alternative Names
  • Burke and Wills Exploring Expedition (Also known as)

Summary

The Victorian Exploring Expedition was organised by the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria (later Royal Society of Victoria). The Committee, which started its work in 1857, comprised prominent members of the Institute and Society including Victoria's leading scientists. In the context of speculation about a possible overland telegraph route and inter-colonial rivalry in the matter of inland exploration, the objective of the Expedition was to make the first crossing of the Australian continent from south to north. This was the first time camels were used in Australian exploration. Under the inexperienced leadership of Robert O'Hara Bourke, the Expedition departed from Melbourne on 20 August 1860. After establishing base camps at Menindee on the Darling River and on Cooper Creek, Burke and a small party made the successful trek to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria. On the return journey Burke, Charles Gray and William Wills died of starvation while John King survived because of the care he received from the local Aborigines. Although the Expedition achieved its objective, a Royal Commission was convened which revealed the extent of mismanagement. Herman Beckler, medical officer and botanist of the Expedition, remained at the Menindee camp: the botanical specimens he collected are in the National Herbarium of Victoria. The Expedition was funded by the Victorian Government and public donations. Between June and December 1861 four relief expeditions set out to determine the fate of the Victorian Exploring Expedition. The Expedition Committee completed its final financial report in 1873.

Related Corporate Bodies

Related People

Published resources

Books

  • Bonyhady, Tim, Burke and Wills: from Melbourne to myth (Balmain (N.S.W.): David Ell Press, 1991), 383 pp. Details
  • Cathcart, Michael, Starvation in a Land of Plenty: Wills' Diary of the Fateful Burke and Wills Expedition (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2012), 213 pp. Details
  • Edmond, Martin, The Supply Party: Ludwig Becker on the Burke and Wills Expedition (Adelaide: East Street Publications, 2009), 209 pp. Details
  • Joyce, E. Bernie and Mccann, Douglas A., Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), 368 pp. Details
  • Murgatroyd, Sara, The Dig Tree: the Story of Burke and Wills (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2000), 372 pp. Details
  • Tipping, Marjorie, Ludwig Becker : artist & naturalist with the Burke & Wills expedition (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1979), 224 pp. Details
  • Willis, W. J., A successful exploration through the interior of Australia; edited by his father, William Wills (London: Richard Bentley, 1863), 396 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Allen, Harry, 'The Space Between: Aboriginal People, the Victorian Exploring Expedition and the Relief Parties' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 245-74. Details
  • Fitzpatrick, Kathleen, 'Burke, Robert O'Hara (1821-1861), explorer' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Douglas Pike, ed., vol. 3 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1969), pp. 301-303. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A030280b.htm. Details
  • Gillbank, Linden, 'The Botanical Legacy of Ferdinand Mueller and Hermann Beckler' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 97-129. Details
  • Joyce, E. Bernie and Mccann, Douglas A., 'Geology, Soils and Landscapes of the Expedition Route' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 58-96. Details
  • Leahy, Frank, 'William John Wills as Scientist' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 23-57. Details
  • Mace, Bernard, et al, 'Zoology: an Encounter With the Fauna of Australia's Unique Arid Environment' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, in Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 130-206. Details
  • McCann, Douglas A. and Joyce, E. Bernie, 'Conflicting Priorities: Exploration, Science, Politics and Personal Ambition' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, in Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 1-22. Details
  • Ninnis, Elizabeth, 'The Art of the Victorian Exploring Expedition' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 312-27. Details
  • Phoenix, Dave, 'Biographies of the Principal Scientists' in Burke and Wills: the Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, Joyce, E. Bernie and McCann, Douglas A., eds (Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing, 2011), pp. 296-301. Details
  • Saenger, P., 'Trees associated with the Burke and Wills Expedition' in Australia's Ever-changing Forests VI: Proceedings of the Eighth National Conference on Australian Forest History, STUBBS, Brett J. et al., ed. (Canberra: Australian Forest History Society, 2012), pp. 315-36. Details

Conference Papers

  • Gardner-Thorpe, D., Gardner-Thorpe C. and Pearn, J., '"Surgeon" Wills of the Burke and Wills Expedition', in History, Heritage and Health: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Conference of the Australian Society of the History of Medicine, Norfolk Island, 2-9 July, 1995 edited by Covacevich, Jeanette, Pearn, John, Case, Donna, Chapple, Ian and Phillips, Gael (Brisbane: Society of the History of Medicine, 1996), pp. 345-350.. Details

Edited Books

  • Clark, Ian D. and Cahir, Fred eds, The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills: Forgotten Narratives (Collingwood, Vic.: CSIRO, 2013), 314 pp. Details

Journals

  • Pearn, John, ed., 'Surgeon' Wills of the Burke and Wills Expedition 1860-1861: New Research and a Medical Perspective of William John Wills (1834-1861)', Queensland History Journal, 21, 2012, 522-36 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • 'Instructions furnished to the scientific observers attached to the Victorian Exploring Expedition - surveyor, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, mineralogist, zoologist and botanist Transactions and proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria', Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 5 (1860), lxviii-lxxiv. Details
  • 'Instructions to Robert O'Hara Burke, esq, Leader, Victorian Exploring Expedition', Transactions and proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 5 (1860), lxv-lxvii. Details
  • Fitzpatrick, Kathleen, 'The Burke and Wills Expedition and the Royal Society of Victoria', Historical Studies, 40 (May) (1963). Details
  • Hayes, G., 'Paper trails: the navigational records of the Burke and Wills Expedition in the State Library of Victoria', La Trobe Library Journal, 58 (1996), 14-8. Details
  • Leahy, F., 'Locating the "Plant Camp" of the Burke and Wills Expedition', Journal of Spatial Science, 52 (2) (2007), 1-12. Details
  • McLaren, I. F., 'The Victorian Exploring Expedition and Relieving Expeditions', Victorian Historical Magazine, 29 (1959). Details
  • Phoenix, Dave, ''All Burke's Books &c Have Been Saved': the Burke and Wills Papers in the State Library of Victoria', La Trobe Journal, 86 (2010), 3-22. Details
  • Phoenix, Dave, 'Burke and Wills: an Overview of the Expedition, its Preparation, Planning and Outcomes', Queensland History Journal, 21 (2012), 497-509. Details
  • Sheehan, Colin, ''It is During My Stay in This City that I learned of the Tragic Outcome of the Expedition of O'Hara Burke': Jean-Baptiste Desparmet's Account of the Burke and Wills Expedition', Queensland History Journal, 21 (8) (2012), 551-64. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'The Botany of the Victoria Exploring Expedition (September 1860-June 1861) and of Relief Contingents from Victoria (July 1861-Noveber 1862)', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 75 (1962), 247-268. Details

Resources

See also

  • Cohn, Helen M., 'Some Foundations of Science in Victoria in the Decade After Separation', MA thesis, University of Melbourne, 1990. Details
  • Feeken, Erwin H. J., Feeken, Gerda E. E. and Spate, O. H. K., The discovery and exploration of Australia (Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Australia), 1970), 318 pp. Details

Helen Cohn