Culture Victoria

The installation

By News Team Posted Under Burke and Wills

We’ve been quiet on the Burke and Wills blogging front... but as enthusiasts will know, 11th February is a significant date in Burke and Wills expedition history.


It was on or around this date in 1861 that Burke and Wills, the only expedition members still heading north, reached the Gulf of Carpentaria at the Flinders River.


Wills mapped the journey from Coopers Creek to the Gulf. His original chart was then traced in November 1861 using light boxes. Here’s the path they took at the ‘pointy bit’ of their journey:


Traced copy of Wills's chart
Traced copy of Wills's chart held by the Public Record Office Victoria


The full version of the chart can be viewed here.


Burke wrote of achieving their goal of crossing the Australian continent: “ would be well to say that we reached the sea, but we could not obtain a view of the open ocean, although we made every endeavour to do so.” The brief history of their journey is available at Burke and Wills Web.


So, what’s the Gulf like now? Twelve year old Kallem Newton from Karumba lives just 10 kilometers from the spot depicted on Wills's chart. In our Living with Crocodiles video, Kallem describes his life, including his parent’s boat tours:



The weather:



The birds:





And, last but not least… the crocodiles... living and also long dead:




Kallem notes that Burke and Wills were lucky to have escaped these reptiles. And in a sense we are lucky as well - if they'd perished this far north their diaries and maps would more than likely be lost to us now due to damage from the damp climate.

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