Robert O’Hara Burke

An ancestor who I’m keen to find more about is the Irishman Robert O’Hara Burke, brother of my great-great-great-grandmother. In the 1860s, with three other men, Wills, Gray and King, he went on the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north – a tremendous feat – but died on the return journey near Cooper’s Creek. They missed catching up with their relief party, who had waited months, by just one day. The tree under which supplies were left buried for them had ‘Dig’ carved on it and you can still see that tree today. Burke and Wills lived by Cooper’s Creek for some time, but eventually died of a combination of toxins and malnutrition, which seems surprising in what is apparently a very fertile place. Having watched the local aboriginal people, they copied them by eating nardoo root but didn’t realise that unless it was first soaked, it was toxic. I’d be very interested to find out more about this in my gap year.

Robert O'Hara Burke1_11447182_tcm11-18387Dig Tree V1 4-04

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