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The online digital research archive of expedition records
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Australian Exploration Journals

On Australian expeditions the leader generally kept a detailed journal or diary. These were often published after the expedition, and Mitchell and Sturt took leave from work to travel to England to publish and promote their journals. Subordinate members of an expedition party rarely kept journals, and Sturt even forbade his men from keeping a diary. The expeditions' surveyor would kept detailed records of the party's progress, although often the surveyor was also the leader.

Records of The Victorian Exploring Expedition

The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society did not specifically request that Burke keep a diary, and he failed to keep a regular journal. Burke wrote a brief diary on the trip from Cooper Creek to the Gulf which was recovered at the end of the expedition and is now at the National Library of Australia.

Wills was appointed surveyor and navigator and he made comprehensive and extensive observations in his field-books covering astronomical calculations and observations, meteorological observations, a daily written diary and a surveyors journal with dead-reckoning observations. Not all of these records appear to have been recovered and returned to Melbourne. In addition some of the records that were recovered subsequently went missing after having been transcribed. Wills maps were recovered, but after a rough copy was made of some of them, they also went missing.

John King failed to mention at the Commission of Enquiry whether he kept a diary and none was tended as evidence. However in 1936 a 49-page notebook containing a retrospective account attributed to King was acquired by the National Library of Australia. King also gave an oral account of events to Alfred Howitt, who transcribed it as faithfully as possible under the circumstances and this is known as 'King's Narrative'.

Two of the officers, Dr Becker and Dr Beckler also kept journals and made field observations between Melbourne and Koorliatto Waterhole in Queensland.

The Expedition's Records

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