151 years ago, an exploration party led by Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills gathered in a park, just 5 miles from the sea. Together with their 16 men, 20 horses, and 26 ‘ships-of-the-desert’ (Afghan Camels, especially imported for the expedition), they turned their backs on Melbourne Town and headed north, to map The Interior and maybe even find the fabled inland sea.
On the first day of the expedition they made it as far as Essendon...
I,445 miles from the sea sits the “Dig Tree”, at Coopers Creek, Queensland. There, desperate and starving to death, the remaining explorers missed a rescue party by a matter of hours, and all but one perished not long after that.
This image is constructed with elements of their story:
- The Cairn: Today a Cairn sits in Royal Park, Parkville, commemorating the spot where the exploration party first gathered.
- The camels: These were photographed on a recent trip to the outback, and are no longer the rare zoological spectacle that they were when they were introduced 150 years ago.
- The tree in the image is in fact the Dig Tree itself (again, photographed on my own personal outback exploration.) It still bears the engraved instructions as to where to dig for buried food supplies left by the rescue party they missed not once, but twice. It is not dissimilar to many trees of the same vintage that still stand in Royal Park today.
- The other strange elements in the image are symbolic of the ‘otherness’ of the Australian outback, as well as its danger and its menace.
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