Burke & Wills Web
www.burkeandwills.net.au
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2012

Original item held at the National Library of Australia, Canberra. NLA MS 30/1.
Papers of Burke and Wills Expedition, National Library of Australia, MS 30.
Portion of diary kept by Robert O'Hara Burke on the expedition. 16 December 1860 – 20 Jan 1861.
Leather bound notebook with broken metal clasp.
Measures circa 9 x 16 cm, paged 1-55; writing on 26 pages (in pencil); pages 20-21 and 42-45 torn or cut out leaving only a scrap on which page numbers are written. Bought by the National Library in 1909.

 

No 69 Line of cour I ing on
bags 1, 2, 19, 20, 11,3.
Think well before giving an
answer and never speak
except from strong convictions.

16th December Left Depôt 65; followed by the creek
17th The same. 66.
18th The same. 67.
19th We made a small creek, supposed to be O'Halloran's (transcrobed as Otto Era), or in the immediate neighbourhood of it. Good water. Camp 69

20th Made a creek where we found a great many natives. They presented us with fish, and offered their women. Camp 70.
21st Made another creek. Camp 71.

Splendid water, fine feed for the camels: would be a very good place for a station. Since we have left Cooper's Creek we have travelled over a fine sheep grazing country, well watered and

and in every respect well suited for occupation.
22nd December 1860 Camp 72. Encamped on the borders of the desert.
23rd Travelled day and night and encamped in the night in the bed of a creek as

we supposed we were near water.
24th Encamped on the morning of this day on the banks of Gray's Creek called after him because he was detached on horseback from the party, and

found it good water. The third day without it. Now for a retrospective glance: we started from Cooper's Creek, Camp 66 with the intention of going through to Eyre's Creek without water.

Loaded with 800 pints of water: four riding camels carried 130 pints, each horse 150, two pack camels 50 each and 5 pints each man.
25th Christmas Day Started at 4 am from Gray's Creek and arrived at

a creek which appears to be as large as Cooper's Creek. At 2 pm Golah Sing gave some very decided hints about stopping by lying down

under the trees.
Splendid prospect.
26th December 27th Dec
28th Dec = 29th Decr.
followed up the creek
until it took a turn
to the South East
which I thought rather
too much to put up
with and therefore
left it on the morning

of the 30th of December
12.30 on the road.
Started at 7 o' clock -
travelled 11 hours -
31st started at 2.20
16½ hours on the
road, travelled 13½
hours --
1st January water
2nd January from
King's Creek

11 hours on the road
started 7 travelled
9½ hours -- encamped desert
3rd Jany 5 started
travelled 12 hours
no minutes.
4th 12 hours on the
road
5th water
at Will's or King's
Creek.

It is impossible to say the time we were up, for we had to load the camels, to pack and feed them, to watch them and the horse and to look for water: but I am satisfied that the frame

of man never was more severely taxed.
28th March - At the conclusion of the report, it 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.
Leaving Carpentaria
Flour 83 lb.
Pork 3 lb.
D meat 35 lb.
Biscuits 12 lb.
Rice 12.lb
sugar 10 lb.

[Page 15 blank]

Return party from Carpentaria arrived here last night and found that the D party had started on the same day. We proceed on slowly down the creek towards Adelaide by Mt Hopeless and shall endeavour to follow Gregory's track but we are very weak. The camels are done up and we shall not be able to travel faster than 5 miles

a day at most. Grey died on the road from hunger and fatigue. We all suffered much from hunger but the provisions left here will, I think, restore our strength. We have discovered a practicable route to Carpentaria the principal portion

of which lies on the 140th meridian of east longitude. There is some good country between this and the stony desert. From there to the Tropic the country is dry and stony between the

Tropic and Carpentaria a considerable portion is rangy but it is well watered and richly grassed

[Page 20 torn out]

[Page 21 torn out]

Flour 32
Oatmeal 27 -
Rice - 14
Meat 24 - 144
Ammunition 17 -
Water bags and
tobacco 5
Wills's by - 4
Provisions 8
Billys [?] 13
Shovel

2 oilcloths 3
3 pads 20

[Page 24 torn out]

[Page 25 torn out]

[Page 26 blank]

[Page 27 blank]

[Page 28 blank]

[Page 29 blank]

[Page 30 blank]

[Page 31 blank]

[Page 32 blank]

[Page 33 blank]

[Page 34 blank]

[Page 35 torn out]

[Page 36 torn out]

[Page 37 torn out]

[Page 38 torn out]

[Page 39 torn out]

has succeeded well. The poor camels sweating and groaning but we gave them a hot bath in Turner's Creek, which seemed to relieve them very much. At last through - the camels bleeding, sweating and groaning.

undignified manner
Names for places

Thackeray Wrixon
Barry Cope
Bindon Turner
Lyons Scratchley
Forbes Ligar
Archer Griffith
Bennet Green
Colles Roe
C.S. Nicholson Hamilton
Wood Archer
  Colles

names for
18th January - still
on the ranges - the
camels sweating
profusely from fear
20th January
I determined today to
go straight at the
ranges and so far
the experiment

bully or bounce us and were repulsed, although the leaders appeared to be in earnest, the followers and particularly the young ones, laughed heartily and seemed to be amused at

their leaders' repulse. The old fellow at King's Creek who stuck his spear into the ground and threw dust into the air, when I fired my pistol, ran off in the most

January 13th 1860 - As I find it impossible to keep a regular diary, I shall jot down my ideas when I have an opportunity and put the date. Upon two occasions at Cooper's Creek and at King's Creek on New Years Day, whenever the natives tried to

[Page 42 torn out]

[Page 43 torn out]

[Page 44 torn out]

[Page 45 torn out]

Provenance: A note from Burke & Wills Web.
Burke's notes were written in a 55-page leather bound notebook. Several pages were torn out and not every page is written on. Burke either gave this notebook to Wills to bury in the wooden camel-box cache at the Dig Tree on 30 May 1861 or he gave it to John King shortly before his (Burke's) death at the end of June or early in July 1861.

King gave this note-book to Alfred Howitt of the Victorian Contingent Party and Howitt sent it on to Melbourne with William Brahe and Weston Phillips. The Royal Society of Victoria's Exploration Committee received it on 3 November 1861. A 16 page transcript was made by William Henry Archer, Registrar General of Victoria on the evening of 5 November 1861.

The transcription is held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2083/2b.
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, Journals and diaries of members of the VEE - Robert O'Hara Burke.
Transcription of the last pencillings of Robert O'Hara Burke in his notebook,
Depot 65 [Cooper's Creek], 16 December 1860 – [Cooper's Creek] 21 April 1861].


The original field-book was subsequently lost until 1909 when the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library (now the National Library of Australia) purchased this note-book at auction from Mrs Grace Gavan Dufy, Archer's daughter, for £25. It is held at NLA: MS30/1.

Burke's Dig Tree Note

Depôt No2 Cooper Cr
Camp No LXV.

The returned party from Carpentaria consisting of Burke myself Wills and King (Grey dead) arrived here last night and found that the depôt party had only started on the same day.
We proceed on slowly down the creek towards Adelaide by Mt Hopeless and shall endeavour to follow

2.
Gregory's track but we are very weak. The two camels are done up and we shall not be able to travel faster than four or five miles a day.
Grey died on the road from exhaustion and fatigue.
We have all suffered much from hunger. The provisions left here will, I think, restore our strength.

3.
We have discovered a practicable route to Carpentaria the chief portion of which lies on the 140th meridian of east longitude.
There is some good country between this and the stony desert. From there to the Tropic the country is dry and stony between the Tropic and Carpentaria

4.
a considerable portion is rangy but it is well watered and richly grassed. We reached the shores of Carpentaria on the 11th of Feby 1861.
greatly disappointed at finding the party here gone.
R O'Hara Burke
Leader

April 22nd 1861.
P.S. The camels cannot travel and we cannot walk or we should follow the other party. We shall move very slowly down the creek.

Provenance: A note from the webmaster.
Burke wrote this note on five pages detached from a notebook on 22 April 1862 and buried it in the wooden camel-box cache at the Dig Tree. Alfred Howitt dug up and recovered the note on 28 September 1861 and returned it to Melbourne.

Burke's Last Note (The last pencillings of Burke)

I hope we shall be done justice by. We fulfilled our task but we were aband not followed up as I expected and the Depôt party abandoned their post

ROH Burke

For the Committee

Cooper's Creek 26th June 1861.

King has behaved nobly and I hope he will be properly cared for.

ROH Burke

and he goes up the creek in accordance with my request

June 2[?]th 1861

Provenance: A note from the webmaster.
Burke's last notes are written on four pages detached from a notebook. Burke read these notes to John King shortly before Burke died. King looked after the notebook and gave it to Sir William Stawell, President of the Royal Society of Victoria, in Melbourne on 5 December 1861. Stawell read the three pages to a meeting of the Exploration Committee on the same day and it is possible this was when Stawell detached the pages from the notebook.

The Royal Society of Victoria donated the three pages to the State Library of Victoria in 1874, but the contents and whereabouts of the rest of the notebook in Stawell's possesion is unknown.

------------------------
www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2014, Dave Phoenix