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

by Edwin James Welch

Edwin James Welch, The Tragedy of Cooper's Creek
ML:MSS 314/225 filed at A1928 (ML CY1115) n.d, c. 190-?, Angus & Robertson Collection.
State Library of New South Wales

Chapter II

The Expedition: Its equipment and start

During the progress of these arrangements no time was being lost in providing what was considered to be the necessary equipment for the expedition, and here again a colonial blunder, or to describe the situation more accurately, a series of blunders, were perpetrated which led directly up to heavy losses and a succession of serious troubles. A sub-committee was appointed to act in conjunction with the leader in this important matter. Public enthusiasm was high, money was plentiful, but, unfortunately, the experience which was so badly needed to guide its expenditure was non-existent. Several four and six-horse wagons were purchased for the conveyance of stores to Cooper's Creek, where a central depot was to be maintained; one of these carried a complete equipment for a blacksmith's shop, another was fitted as a boat carriage to help them across rivers, whilst others were heavily laden With various stores, clothing and medical comforts, calculated to suffice for at least twelve months, or more, with economy. Twenty-one tons of loading at a cost of nearly £5,000, and most of it on wheels, in the face of the experiences of men like Sturt, Mitchell and Stuart in the country they had to travel through!

In the meantime a camp had been formed in the Royal Park, just outside the Zoological Gardens, where men and material were concentrated in readiness for a final move. This was a favorite spot for visitors, who as well as residents, watched the proceedings with vital interest until the day of departure was finally filed, and on the 20th of August, 1860, a large crowd assembled to witness the start and shower kindly wishes and earnest blessings on the adventurers. The members of the Exploration Committee were all present, with but few exceptions, and after a short but stirring speech from Sir William Stawell had been responded to by Burke in a hopeful and determined "to do or die" strain, the cavalcade formed and commenced its momentous journey, from which few of them were destined to return alive, and in sound health.

 

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