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by Sarah Murgatroyd (1967-2002)

Melbourne: Text Publishing.

372 p., [4] p. of plates: ill., maps, ports.; 24 cm.
ISBN: 1877008087.



In 1860, Australia remained the truly dark continent. Although there were European settlements in its south, much of the north remained unknown and dangerous.

But things were changing. On 20th August, 1860 The Victorian Exploring Expedition left Melbourne to make the journey into the Gulf of Carpentaria in the northern coast. The expedition was headed by an Irish policeman called Robert O' Hara Burke - a charmer, gambler, and a man infamous for taking long baths in his back garden. Burke and his team of eighteen men made a confident start. After leaving most of the group behind in Cooper Creek (in central Australia), three of the party, including Burke, reached the Carpentaria. They were the first ever to do so. But the journey back was riddled with mishap and bad luck. By the time the three had returned to Cooper Creek, exhausted and starving, they discovered that the rest of the party had retreated, leaving behind only a carved message on a coolibah tree...

THE DIG TREE is the tale of this tragic expedition. Sarah Murgatroyd brings the story vividly alive - the political events in the background, the colourful characters, the spectacular and, often, unforgiving landscape, and the awful desperation of the final days. It is an intelligent, evocative and above all, utterly gripping book.

Also published as:

  • The dig tree : the extraordinary story of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition
    London : Bloomsbury, 2002.
  • The Dig Tree: the story of bravery, insanity, and the race to discover Australia's wild frontier
    New York : Broadway Books, 2002.
  • The dig tree: the story of Burke and Wills
    Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2003.
  • Im Land der grunen Ameisen : die erste Durchquerung Australiens
    Munchen: Goldman, c2003.


An abridged version aimed at a young adult market was published as:

  • Dig 3ft NW: the legendary journey of Burke & Wills
    Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2008.
    vii, 228 p. : ill., maps ; 20 cm.
    ISBN: 9781921351723 (papaerback)

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix