through the Interior of Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
|From the Journals and Letters of William John Wills, edited by his father, William Wills.|
London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street.
- Letters of sympathy and condolence from Sir Henry Barkly, Major Egerton Warburton, A J Baker Esq, P A Jennings Esq, Dr Mueller, The Council of Ballaarat East, Robert Watson Esq, John Lavington Evans Esq,
- Meeting at Totnes
- Resolution to erect a Monument to Mr Wills,
- Proceedings in the Royal Geographical Society of London
- Letter from Sir Roderick Murchison to Dr Wills
- Dr Wills's Reply
- The Lost Explorers - a poetical tribute
- Concluding Observations.
As soon as my son's death became publicly known, and there could no longer be a doubt on the subject, letters of condolence and sympathy poured in upon me from many quarters. From these I select a few as indicating the general impression produced by his untimely fate, and the estimation in which he was held by those who were personally acquainted with him. The afflicting event was communicated to his mother in Totnes, Devon, by a telegram a fortnight before the regular mail, accompanied by the following letter from Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of Victoria:
Government Office, Melbourne,
You may rely upon it that the name of William John Wills will
go down to posterity, both at home and in this colony, amongst
the brightest of those who have sacrificed their lives for the
advancement of scientific knowledge and the good of their
Yours very respectfully,
Sir Henry also moved in the committee and the motion was carried
nemine contradicente, that from the important part Mr
Wills had taken, the expedition should be called, "The Burke and
Wills Exploring Expedition." Some spiteful remarks by opposite
partisans were made in the Melbourne Argus on this very natural
and complimentary resolution. An advocate on one side said, "If
the expedition had failed would it have been called the Burke and
Wills Expedition?--We opine not." To which another replied the
following day, in the same columns, "Would the expedition have
succeeded if Wills had not been there?--We opine not." None would
have regretted these invidious observations more than the
generous, free-hearted Burke, and my gallant son, had they lived
to see them. They had no petty jealousies. Each knew his
position, and they acted throughout with unswerving confidence as
friends as well as associated explorers.
It was asserted by Burke's enemies that he was violent, and not having sufficient command over himself, was therefore unfitted to command others. This conclusion, sound enough in the abstract, is more easily made than proved, and in the present instance receives direct contradiction from the undeviating cordiality between the leader and his second. In the cases of Landells and Dr Beckler, universal opinion pronounced Burke to be in the right.
From Major Egerton Warburton.
My dear Dr Wills,
Anger and horror combine to drive us away from the contemplation of the causes of this tragic termination of a feat of heroism and endurance such as has been rarely before achieved; and we turn with deep sorrow and admiration to dwell upon that noble display of faithful, patient courage which calmly awaited an early and unbefriended grave on the spot where the foot-prints of triumph were reasonably to have been expected.
We all share in your grief; and would fain hope that this may somewhat lessen its bitterness to you; but it must be a source of pride and comfort to you to remember that your son died having DONE his duty to his country and his companions. More than this no man can do, live he ever so long, and few there are who do so much.
Permit me to subscribe myself a deep sympathiser with you in
The Major had been a candidate for the office of leader, but his conditions as to his second were objected to.
The next letter is from a gentleman who had accompanied Major Warburton as second on some explorations from Adelaide. At Totnes I knew him when a boy.
Dorset Terrace, Adelaide.
My dear Sir
I cannot believe that Wright and Brahe ever returned to Cooper's Creek. If they had done so a stockman so well experienced in tracking as Wright must be, would have detected the presence of signs that might escape the eye of one less practised; for it is ascertained now that the stores had been removed about the time that Brahe left, and before, as they say, they returned in company.
I also believe that, had Burke taken his companions' advice, and followed down Brahe's tracks, they would have been saved, for it is well known to all travellers that animals will feel cheered in following the footsteps of their late associates; but to attempt to force his party to explore new country when a well-known route was open to him was little short of madness. I have not patience to criticize Wright and Brahe's conduct. If Brahe had even left more stores, clothing especially, we should have had the pleasure of welcoming the explorers home.
But God's wise providence knows what is best, and in saying, His will be done, I pray that He may comfort you and yours in this great bereavement. Mrs. B. and my daughter unite with me in kindest regards, and believe me to be as ever,
My dear sir,
From P A Jennings, Esquire.
My dear Sir,
It was in the year 1858, from March to July, that your son stopped in this vicinity, as the promoter of the survey of this town. I was thrown much into his company, and soon learned to appreciate his amiable and noble disposition. My mother and sisters, who also found pleasure in his society, had the deepest regard and admiration for him; and the expedition in which he was engaged therefore possessed an unusual interest for us.
I assure you I can hardly find words to express our feelings, at the thought of his fate, and the base desertion of Burke and himself by those who should have endeavoured to sustain them. I had the most profound confidence in your son's ability as an explorer, knowing well the varied nature of his scientific attainments, his great practical knowledge of bush life, and the clear common sense which was his leading characteristic. Many a time we have talked about him; and every time we mentioned his name the same feeling of assurance in his safe return was always expressed, even to the last. Such was our confidence in him. A week before the sad tidings of his death reached Melbourne, I had a conversation with Mr Byerly, whom I then met accidentally, and who had just returned from Queensland. Our conversation reverted to your son, and Mr Byerly coincided with me in my faith in him, but remarked that all his exertions could be of little avail if not properly supported. Mr Byerly had at first expressed a fear that the party HAD BEEN ALLOWED TO PERISH through the remissness of those whose duty it should have been to use every possible means to rescue them in the proper time. His words were, unfortunately, prophetic.
I know, my dear sir, that almost anything like consolation for you now must come from other than man, but I could not help saying these few words to you; and I know that no persons unconnected by blood with your family, and enjoying such brief personal acquaintance with your son as myself; and mother and sisters, can be more sincerely or deeply moved at the harrowing record of his untimely fate. Indeed, it has cast a gloom over every one; and the hardest heart could not but be affected by such a noble spectacle as the last days of his glorious life present.
It is proposed here to erect an obelisk to his memory, and I am about to get one of the streets named after him. I cannot commit myself to write further on the subject, but will conclude by subscribing myself,
Yours, ever faithfully,
From Dr Mueller.
My dear Doctor,
His Excellency adds, that every thought shall be given, that the family who immortalized their name by the work of your lamented son shall not be forgotten. I hope to be in town to-morrow, and will do myself the pleasure of calling on you.
Very regardfully yours,
The Melbourne Advertiser, of December the 4th, 1861, contained the following leading paragraph:
It is the intention of Mr O'Shanassy to place a sum of £5,000 on the Estimates towards the erection of a national monument to Burke and Wills, and it is believed a like amount will be raised by public subscription in various parts of the colony; so that the aggregate amount will enable us to raise a memorial worthy of Victoria, and worthy of the heroes whom we design to honour. This is as it should be. Burke and Wills achieved a splendid exploit: their lives were the forfeit of their daring; and we owe it to their reputation, as well as to our own character, to preserve a durable record of their great achievement, and to signalize to after-ages our admiration of its simple grandeur, and our gratitude to the brave men who accomplished it.
A time will come when a belt of settlements will connect the shores of Port Phillip with those of the Gulf of Carpentaria; when, on the banks of the Albert or of the Flinders, a populous city will arise, and will constitute the entrepot of our commerce with the Indies; and when beaten roads will traverse the interior, and a line of electric telegraph will bisect the continent. The happy valley of Prince Rasselas was not more verdant or more fertile than much of the country passed through by the explorers, whose loss we deplore; and it is certain that these beautiful solitudes will be rapidly occupied by the flocks and herds of the squatter. Agricultural settlements will follow; towns and villages will be established, gold-fields probably discovered, and waves of population will overflow and will fertilize vast tracts of country which we have hitherto concluded to be a sterile desert.
These events will owe their initiation to the adventurous pioneers who first crossed the continent from sea to sea. Theirs was the arduous effort; theirs the courage, endurance, and sustaining hope; theirs the conflict with danger and the great triumph over difficulties; theirs the agony of a lingering death, and theirs the mournful glory of a martyr's crown. Defrauded, as it were, of the honours which would have rewarded them had they lived to receive the congratulations they had earned, it becomes the melancholy duty of their fellow-citizens to perpetuate the memory of Burke and Wills by a monument which shall testify to their worth and our munificence.
From Dr Mueller.
My very dear Doctror,
Having been duly authorized by you to secure the pistol of your late son, I will take an early opportunity to claim it for you and bring it to your son Thomas. I will also very gladly do what I can in restoring to you any other property I may hear of as belonging to your lamented son William. As soon as Professor Neumayer returns, we can learn with exactness what instruments were your son's. I will also inquire about the telescope. I believe I forgot mentioning to you, that it would be a source of the highest gratification to me to call some new plant by the name of the family, who claim as their own, one of now imperishable fame. But I will not be unmindful that, in offering an additional tribute, humble as it is, to your son's memory, it will be necessary to select, for the Willsia, a plant as noble in the Australian flora as the young savant himself who sacrificed his life in accomplishing a great national and never-to-be-forgotten enterprise.
Trusting, my dear and highly valued friend, that the greatness of the deed will, to a certain extent, alleviate your grief and sorrow for an irreparable loss, and that Providence may spare you long in health and happiness, for your family.
Melbourne Botanical Gardens,
My dear Dr Wills,
We can only now deeply deplore the loss of SUCH a man, and award that honour to his memory which his great exploit for ever merits.
With the deepest sympathy for you,
The plant is thus registered in the Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae:
Emophilla Willsii : Speciem Eremophilae Goodwinii (F. M. Report on the Plants of Babble's Expedition, page 17.) propinquam tesqua Australiae centralis ornantem, elegi ut botanicis recordarem gloriam nunquam obliviscendam intrepidi et ingeniosi sed infelicissimi Gulielmi Wills, qui primo terram Australiae continentalem a litore ad litusperagravit, sua morte praecocissima in tacito eremo triumphum aeternum agens.
[Footnote: I have chosen a species of Eremophila resembling Goodwin's, which adorns the deserts of central Australia, to record by botany the glory never to be forgotten of the intrepid and talented, but most unfortunate, William Wills, who was the first to traverse the continent of Australia from shore to shore, winning for himself, by his too early death in the silent wilderness, an eternal triumph.]
From Dr Mueller.
Dear Dr Wills,
With the deepest solicitude for your health and happiness,
At an earlier period, the Municipal Council of Ballaarat East paid me the compliment of the subjoined address:
To W Wills, Esquire MD.
I am, sir,
A proclamation in a supplement to one of the
Melbourne Gazettes, towards the end of November, announced that
the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, had
directed that the portions of Main-street, Ballaarat East, lying
between the Yarrowee River and Princess Street, shall hereafter
be designated Wills Street, in memory of the companion of
The two following letters, written by Devonians settled in Victoria, appeared in the Totnes Weekly Times:
Nothing that has occurred here for many years has thrown such a gloom over the whole of the Australian Colonies. We are generally, perhaps, a cold, unfeeling people, but there are few whose hearts have not been touched by this sad event.
It is scarcely possible that you, accustomed as you are to the green pastures, the shady lanes, and crystal springs of dear old Devon, can realize to the full extent the sickening hardships they had to endure, or the cruel disappointment under which even they at last gave way. I cannot conceive a situation more heartrending than theirs must have been on their return to Cooper's Creek, to find the Depot abandoned. They had succeeded in accomplishing the glorious feat which so many brave men had tried in vain to accomplish; they had endured hardships which might make the stoutest heart quail; they had returned alive, but footsore, worn out and in rags, to where they might have hoped for help and succour; they were on their way to where honour and glory, well and nobly earned, awaited them; and now they must lie down in the dreary wilds of an almost unknown country, and die that most horrible of all deaths, starvation, They must have felt, too, that, worse than even this death itself, the fruits of their labours would, in all probability, perish with them, their fate remain unknown, and the glorious page of the world's history which they would have written would be buried in oblivion, and all this--ALL this because 'Some one had blundered.'
It has been decided that the remains are to be brought to Melbourne and have a public funeral. Monuments are also to be erected to the memory of the brave fellows:
"These come too late, and almost mock whom they are intended to honour."
Poor Wills! you will remember him as a boy. It has occurred to me that Totnes may wish in some way to perpetuate the memory of one who perished so young and with such honour in a noble cause. Should it be so, I have asked my brother to be there with something from me. Every good man must deeply regret his loss, and sincerely sympathize with his relatives and friends.
Your hero has passed to no ignoble grave;
I am, dear Sir,
To the editor of the Totnes Weekly
By this mail, I have sent you the public journals of this city, containing detailed accounts of the Exploring Expedition, despatched hence on the 20th August last, to find its way to and return from the Gulf of Carpentaria. Only one of the party has succeeded in accomplishing this unparalleled undertaking, three having fallen victims to hunger and disease. R O'Hara Burke was the leader of the Expedition, and W J Wills, a native of Totnes, and son of a physician from your locality, was the second in command, observer and astronomer.
The Expedition had visited the Gulf, and had returned to Cooper's Creek, where a Depot had been formed, but unfortunately broken up only six hours before the return of the weary travellers. Their disappointment at finding such to be the case, you must gather from Wills's journal, which was the best kept of the party, and is replete with information of the country through which they passed.
To Mr Wills, senior, the loss of his favourite son is a sad blow, under such distressing circumstances; yet, amid all, young Wills was full of spirit to the last, and his final entry in his journal must have been made just six hours before he breathed his last. For him and for them, the colonists in Australia have shed tears of sorrow, and the Government have given instructions that their remains are to be brought to the city, and interred with all the pomp and solemnity befitting such an occasion.
A sum of money is voted by Parliament to mark specially the event by erecting an obelisk in some conspicuous part of the city, most probably in face of one of our Parliament Houses. A number of Devonians, however, have resolved to subscribe, and with the consent of the municipal authorities, wish to mark the event more especially in his native town; and it is thought the Plains, at Totnes, is a suitable place for the erection of such a monument. To that end, subscription lists will be opened in our principal towns, and by next mail I hope to report that satisfactory progress is being made.
The school where he was educated (Ashburton), conducted, too, by a Totnes man, Mr Paige, has not been forgotten; and as there are schoolfellows of Wills's in this colony, they also intend bearing testimony to his worth by placing a tablet, with the consent of the trustees, in the Grammar School of St. Andrew's. None more worthy exists in that ancient hall of learning.
In conclusion, I would just remark that the continent has been traversed from north to south, but there is yet the important feat of crossing from east to west. For whom is this wreath reserved? Is it to be won by a Totnes or an Ashburton man, or one from this country? Time will decide.
A correspondent to the Bendigo Advertiser concluded a long letter with the subjoined paragraph:
Poor Wills, the martyr, whose history of the journey is all that is left to us, is deserving of a nation's tears: his youth--his enduring patience--his evenness of temper, which must have been sorely tried--his lively disposition even in extremities--his devotion to his leader--all tend to stamp him as the real master-mind of the expedition, and as such let Victoria be justly proud of him--let no false delicacy keep the memory of the noble youth from the pinnacle it is so justly entitled to.
The Mayor of Totnes, J Derry Esquire, in compliance with a requisition from many of the principal inhabitants, convened a meeting at the Guildhall on the 31st of January, 1862, which was most numerously attended. Eloquent speeches were made, extracts from the letters of Mr Watson, and Mr Lavington Evans, were read, and the following resolutions were unanimously passed:
1. That this Meeting is of opinion that a Memorial should be erected in Totnes to the late Mr William John Wills, who perished at Cooper's Creek on his homeward journey, after, with three others, having for the first time successfully crossed the great Island Continent of Australia.
Perhaps when the subscriptions were received they would be able to decide what form the memorial should assume. It had been suggested that a tablet should be placed in the church, but he, Mr Cuming, the mover, rather demurred to this: the church would not be a conspicuous place for it; and as many would subscribe who did not attend the parish church, he thought the Plains, or some other public site, should be chosen, but it would be well to leave this matter for the present an open question.
2. That a committee be now formed to solicit subscriptions for the purpose of carrying into effect the last resolution, and that such committee consist of the following gentlemen:--The Mayor, Messrs. Bentall, Kellock, Cuming, Presswell, Heath, Windeatt, Watson, Michelmore, Condy, Clarke, Ough, Endle; with power to add to their number.
3. That as soon as the subscription list is completed, and the Devonshire men resident in the colony have communicated their wishes and intentions to the committee, according to the intimations expressed by them, the committee be requested to call a meeting of the subscribers to decide on the character of the memorial to be erected.
The subscriptions at Totnes have been very
liberal, and are still open. Mr Watson and his family contributed
most liberally. The Duke of Somerset gave ten pounds. Each of the
members, Admiral Mitchell, and various others five pounds; but
the character of the monument has not yet been decided on. At
Ashburton Grammar School a memorial has been erected, Mr.
Lavington Evans and his brother contributing ten pounds from
At the annual meeting of the Royal Geographical Society of London, held on the 26th of May, 1862, Lord Ashburton awarded the founder's Gold Medal to the representative of the late Robert O'Hara Burke, and a gold watch to King. These were handed to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, who attended in his public capacity as Secretary of State for the Colonies, and undertook to deliver them to the respective parties, with many justly eulogistic observations. Lord Ashburton read a paper on the progress of geographical science, and Sir R Murchison, in the course of a notice on Australia, suggested that that portion which had been explored by Mr Burke should be hereafter called Burke's Land. But it so happened that my son's name was neither mentioned nor alluded to in the published proceedings.
At the first meeting of the Society for the present season, held on the 10th November, 1862, and at which I was present, Sir Roderick Murchison introduced the subject of Australian exploration in his address, in a manner quite unexpected by me. The next day I received the following official communication, which embodied the substance of what he had said, and nearly in the same words.
To Dr Wills.
Permit me to assure you that when the award of the gold medal was made, every member of the Council, as well as myself, who proposed it, felt that to your son alone was due the determination of all the geographical points, by his astronomical observations, and that therefore the honour should be shared between the leader and himself.
Continuing to entertain the same sentiments, and regretting that the rule of the society prevented them from granting more than one gold medal for an expedition, the Council have authorized me to offer this explanation to you, in order that it may be preserved as a memorial.
As nothing less than a medal could have been adjudicated to so good a geographer as your lamented son, so I trust that this explanation, and the words, which fell from me last evening at the general meeting, in eulogizing his valuable services, may prove satisfactory. Rely upon it, that his merits will never be forgotten by my associates and myself.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
PS. This letter shall be printed in the Proceedings of the Society.
I replied thus:
To Sir Roderick Murchison,
I am not surprised that it should have so happened under the
circumstances. The motto 'Sic vos non vobis', would be
appropriate for him in memoriam. The clothes, for the want of
which he died, so amply provided by himself, were worn by
others; the land discovered has been called exclusively by
another name;--the Gold Medal should follow.
I have the honour to be,
Several poetical tributes in honour of the adventurous dead were published in Victoria. I select one which appeared in the Melbourne Herald, on the 1st of December, 1861.
The Lost Explorers.
'Tis but a little lapse of time
Since they passed from out our sight;
Their hearts with hope were buoyant,
And each face with gladness bright;
And many were the fervent prayers
That in safety they might go,
Through a hidden land to the distant strand
Where ocean billows flow.
Theirs was no gay adventure
In some softly pleasant place:
They left home's quiet sanctitude
To meet a hostile race;
To carve a passage through the land,
That down its channels wide,
With a joyous start might flow a part
Of the restless human tide.
Across bleak stony deserts,
Through dense scrub and tangled brier,
They passed with hearts undaunted,
And with steps that would not tire;
Through morass and flooding waters,
Undismayed by toil and fears,
At their chief's command, with salient hand,
Fought on the pioneers.
Battled with cold and famine,
Battled with fiery heat,
Battled o'er rocks till a trail of blood
Was left by their wounded feet;
Battled when death with his icy hand
Struck down the body of Gray;--
'Onward!' they said, as they buried the dead,
And went on their gloomy way.
Now gather round your household hearths,
Your children by your knee;
'Tis well that they should understand
This tale of misery.
'Tis well that they should know the names
Of those whose toil is o'er;
Whose coming feet, we shall run to meet
With a welcome NEVER MORE.
Tell how these modern martyrs,
In the strength and pride of men,
Went out into the wilderness
And came not back again;
How they battled bravely onward,
For a nobler prize than thrones,
And how they lay, in the glaring day,
With the sun to bleach their bones.
Tell how their poor hearts held them up
Till victory was won;
How with fainting steps they journeyed back,
The great achievement done.
But of their anguish who may know,
Save God, who heard each groan,
When they saw no face at the trysting place,
And found themselves alone!
Left alone with gaunt starvation,
And its sickly brood of ills,
Stood Burke the sanguine, hopeful King,
And the hero-hearted Wills;
Sad and weary stood the pioneers,
With no hand to give relief,
And so each day winged on its way
As a dark embodied grief.
Who can guess the depth of agony--
That no mortal tongue may tell--
Which each felt when slowly dying
At the brink of hope's dry well!
Deserted, famished garmentless,
No voice of friendship nigh,
With loving care, to breathe a prayer
When they settled down to die.
Yet God be praised, that one dear life
Was held within His hand,
And saved, the only rescued one
Of that devoted band
Who went into the wilderness,
In the strength and pride of men:
The goal was won and their task was done,
But they came not back again.
We cannot break their calm, grand sleep,
By fond endearing cries;
We cannot smile them back again,
However bright our eyes;
But we may lowly bend the head,
Though not asham'd of the tears
We sadly shed, for the lowly dead,
Cut down in their bloom of years.
And laurel garlands, greener
Than war's heroes ever bought
With the blood of slaughtered thousands,
Shall by loving hands be brought;
And sanctified by many prayers,
Laid gently in their grave,
That the coming race may know the place
Where sleep our martyr'd brave.
--F M Hughan.
The narrative I have felt called upon to give to the public, founded on an unexaggerated statement of facts, with many of which no other person could have been so well acquainted, is now concluded,--with the natural anguish of a father for the loss of a son of whom he was justly proud, and who fell a victim to incapacity and negligence not his own. Still, I have no desire to claim merit for him to which he is not entitled, or to abstract an iota from what is justly due to others. The Report of the Royal Commission is to be found at full in the Appendix; unaccompanied necessarily by the mass of conflicting evidence, trustworthy, contradictory, misinterpreted or misunderstood, on which it was based. The members who composed that court were honourable gentlemen, who investigated patiently, and I have no doubt conscientiously. But there were many present, with myself, who witnessed the examinations, and wondered at some points of the verdict. We find the judgment most severe on the leader who sacrificed his life, and whose mistakes would have been less serious and fatal had his orders been obeyed. There is also a disposition to deal leniently with the far heavier errors and omissions of the Exploration Committee; and an unaccountable tendency to feel sympathy for Brahe, whose evidence left it difficult to decide whether stupidity, selfishness, or utter disregard of truth was his leading deficiency.
It now only remains to sum up a brief retrospect of the active spirit of discovery set astir, and not likely to die away, as a sequel to the great Burke and Wills Expedition, for by that name it will continue to be known. We have already seen that the Victoria steamer, under Commander Norman, was sent round to the Gulf of Carpentaria to search for the missing explorers, had they reached that part of the coast; and to expedite and assist land parties in advancing, southwards, to their aid. Captain Norman suffered some delay by the unfortunate wreck of the Firefly, a trader, laden with horses, coals, and straw; and having on board Mr Landsborough and party, who were to start from the Albert river, or thereabouts. This wreck occurred on the 4th September, 1861, on one of the group of islands to the north, called Sir Charles Hardy's Islands. On the 7th, they were found by Commander Norman, and through his great personal exertions, ably seconded by his officers and crew, he got the ship off, with the greater part of the horses and coals, and nearly all the stores.
On the 1st of October, they reached the mouth of the Albert. On the 14th of the same month, Landsborough started for the head of that river, as far as it was navigable, in the Firefly, under the command of Lieutenant Woods of the Victoria; and on the 17th they were landed about twelve miles up the stream. It was past the middle of November before Mr Landsborough resumed his onward course; and as his explorations had little to do with an endeavour to discover the tracks of the Victorian Expedition, although he gained much credit by his exertions, it is unnecessary to detail them more minutely here. I shall merely say that he followed a course south by east, skirting the country rather more to the westward than the track followed by previous explorers, and eventually reached Victoria.
Mr Walker, despatched overland from Queensland, reached the Gulf on the 7th of December, 1861; and reported that he had, on the 24th of November, found well-defined traces of three or four camels and one horse, undoubtedly belonging to the Victorian Expedition, and making their way down the Flinders. With his usual characteristic, he started again on the 11th of December. Mr Walker, with his party, consisting chiefly of natives, did good service in his progress through Queensland; for when the report reached Melbourne, through Captain Norman, that he had discovered the tracks of the camels so near the sea, it furnished satisfactory evidence of the correctness of my son's journals, although the fatal news of his death and that of his commander had been long received. There were not wanting ungenerous cavillers to insinuate doubts that he and Burke had been at the Gulf. This inference they sought to establish from an expression in one of the few of Burke's notes preserved, to this effect: "28th March.--At the conclusion of 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 effort to do so." At the extreme point they reached, about fifteen miles down the Flinders, the tide ebbed and flowed regularly, and the water was quite salt. The very simplicity of Mr Burke's remark shows that it was made by a man not given to lying or deceit. Mr Walker followed the return tracks for some distance, but lost them at about 20 degrees of south latitude, and then struck off direct east for the Queensland district, to inquire, and get further supplies for a new start. At Rockhampton he received the fatal intelligence which had been sent round by sea from Melbourne; and also the news of the discovery of King by the gallant Howitt, to whom all honour is due for his labours in the cause.
But Mr McKinlay, leader of the South Australian Expedition, of whom I have already spoken more than once, has performed the most extraordinary exploit of all, and has traversed by far the greatest quantity of new ground, but not in the direction originally intended by the government that sent him. Failing in finding the traces of Burke and his expedition, McKinlay took more to the north and north-west between the 120 and 140 degrees of eastern longitude. Yet from some floodings which my son, it will be remembered, pointed out in his journal as occurring from indications on trees, McKinlay changed his course to north and by east until he reached the Gulf of Carpentaria, and then to south and by east, and crossed to Queensland, returning from Rockhampton to Adelaide by water. A glance at the map will show the courses of these respective explorers sufficiently for general purposes. Thus Queensland, by some mysterious influences in its favour, has reaped the whole benefit of these explorations at the least apparent cost. The land discovered by the Burke and Wills Expedition, now named Burke's Land, has been handed over to Queensland by the Home Government, up to Cape York, on the extreme north, in Torres Straits. This vast continent, west of 140 degrees, in which the South Australian, and West Australian governments have so much interest, is, with the exception of Stuart's Line, quite unexplored.
It has been a subject of congratulation by some, that the misadventures, or more properly speaking, the gross errors connected with the Victorian Expedition, have led to results that amply compensate for the loss sustained. It is truly painful to hear, and not very easy for those who are deeply interested, to believe this; and I think the majority of all readers will consider that these losses might have been easily avoided.
The relatives of the sacrificed explorers have to mourn their fate, and the colony of Victoria has spent large sums of money, not for her own benefit, immediate or indirect, present or prospective. She, too, may exclaim "Sic vos non vobis." Lucky Queensland derives the benefit; her boundaries are extended to 140 degrees of east longitude. A great part of this country, formerly supposed to be of a doubtful nature, is now known to be the finest land in the Australias, capable of producing cereals, wines, and tropical fruits; also a vast extent of ground fitted for the growth of cotton. A source of unbounded wealth is thus opened to that fortunate young colony: coals had previously been discovered there. She is also better supplied with timber and forests than the more southern districts. Victoria, with her capital, Melbourne, will have to wait for the extension of railways, marking her position as the centre of commerce, and will in time reap her well-merited reward. Melbourne will always represent the metropolis of the various colonies of Australia.
South Australia, so happy in her abundant produce of corn, wine, and mineral ores of copper and iron, is a most desirable colony, but a great portion of her interior being yet unexplored, her full capabilities cannot at present be estimated. There is no man more likely than John McKinlay, with his robust frame, his energy and activity, to carry out this great object, if the opportunity is supplied to him.
The Australias altogether comprise a country capable of conferring happiness upon countless thousands of the Saxon race. Everything is to be found, if the right people only are selected. Let them comprise youth, vigorous health, temperate habits, persevering industry, and morals based on sound Christianity, and their success and advancement in life is as certain as anything can be pronounced in this world of uncertainty.
While these pages are going through the press, the last mail from Melbourne informs us that Mr Howitt was expected to arrive in that capital towards the middle of December, 1862, with the remains of Messrs. Burke and Wills. Arrangements are being made for a public interment of the most imposing character. If numbers can add to the effect, they are not likely to be wanting. Circulars have been officially addressed to nearly 250 public bodies and societies throughout the colony, inviting the different members to join in the ceremony. Replies have been received from by far the greater portion, stating their willingness and desire to join in this last testimony of respect for the lamented explorers. The monument, for which 5000 pounds has been voted by Government, is to be erected in the Reserve surrounding the Parliament House.