Burke & Wills Web
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Nineteenth Century Maps
Published maps and unpublished archives


Wills' plan to accompany his First Surveyor's Report.

Plan showing the route of the VEE from Balranald to the Darling.
SLV: MS13071, Map Case 1, drawer 7c.

As the party's surveyor, Wills took astronomical and dead-reckoning observations and plotted maps of the expeditions' progress. The first map that Wills drafted was sent to the Exploration Committee accompanying his First Surveyors Report. This covered the period of 16th September 1860 to 27th September 1860 while the lead party of the Victorian Exploring Expedition was traversing the country from Balranald (Camp XX) to the Darling River at Bilbarka (Camp XXX). The report was forwarded to Melbourne from the Darling by Professor Neumeyer and the astronomical observations were sent on later by mail.

Wills wrote a covering note to accompany the First Surveyors Report. In this he outlined the way his map had been drawn.

The accompanying plan has been roughly constructed in the following manner. A plot of the field notes has been made estimating the rate of progress at three miles an hour and allowing six to seven degrees for east variation (all the bearings being magnetic). By this plot we obtain very nearly the relative positions of the places although their distances may be significantly out, then by removing the stations at which astronomical observations were obtained to their respective parallels of latitude, retaining their bearings, as on the plot, we have a rough approximation to their true positions.

W J Wills.


Wills' tracing to accompany his Second Surveyor' Report.
Tracing showing the Route taken by the VEE party from Menindie on the Darling to the Torowoto Swamp.
SLV: MS13071, Map Case FB2.

The second map accompanied the Second Surveyor's Report, forwarded on the 29th October 1860 from Torowoto Swamp by William Wright. This map covered Camp XXV to Camp XLII.

Wills' map drawn to accompany his Third Surveyor's Report.
Un-named, original ms. (Wills' map of expedition's traverse from Torowoto to Cooper's Creek, November 1860)

Wills' third map accompanied his Third Surveyor's Report (Survey from Torowoto to Cooper's Creek), brought down from Cooper Creek by William Brahe in 1861.

First published map.

Tracing shewing the route of the Victorian Exploration Expedition from Bilbarka to the Depot on Cooper's Creek, and the explorations from thence towards the North.
(Signed) William J. Wills, Surveyor & Astronomical Observer, Dec.r 14th 1860.

The Crown Lands Office lithographed a map on 2nd July 1861 which combined Wills' first three unpublished maps. The map covered Bilbarka to Cooper Creek.

Scale: 20 miles to one inch.
[S.l.] : Crown Lands Office, Melbourne.
2 July 1861.
ML:ZM2 817.3/1860/1

Wills' charts drawn to accompany his field-boks from Cooper Creek to Carpentaria
Public Records Office of Victoria, Melbourne.

Wills' fourth and final map showed the party's route from Cooper Creek to Carpentaria. This map was returned to Melbourne by Alfred Howitt and copies were transcribed by the Victorian Office of Lands & Survey. The map was subsequently lost and as Wills' astronomical observations for the same period are also missing, it is not possible to verify the accuracy of the Office of Lands & Survey map.

The map is known as "EXP22" and is held by the Public Records Office of Victoria.

Office of Lands & Survey.

Map of Burke and Wills route from Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria (Copied from the map prepared by Wills). Lithographed at the Office of Lands and Survey, Melbourne, 25th November 1861. L1089.

J B Phillip and W Collis of the Office of Lands & Survey (Department of Crown Lands & Survey) made a lithographed copy of Wills map and copies were sold for 1/6'.

Scale: 20 miles to one inch.
Crown Lands Office, Melbourne
25 November 1861.
NLA:MS 34/61.
SLV: Map Case 8, drawer 3.   

De Gruchy & Leigh.

Track of the Expedition from Cooper's Creek to Carpentaria, by Burke, Wills, King and Gray, which they accomplished on the 11th February 1861. With the course of Howitt and party to trace the remains of the expedition. Carefully compiled from their diaries. Lithographed and published by de Gruchy & Leigh, 7 Flinders Lane, West.

Scale: 1, 3,000,000
De Gruchy & Leigh, West Melbourne.
Undated, c. 1861.
NLA: RM 906
SLV: Map Case FB2.

A Successful Exploration of Australia

A Successful Exploration of Australia, from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. From the journals and letters of William John Wills, Edited by his father, William Wills.

Edited by Dr William Wills Snr,
Richard Bentley, London.
Ferguson 18622.

Dr Hermann Beckler's Maps
Beckler drew three maps covering the route from Menindee to Torowoto.

These maps were published in :

  • A Journey To Cooper's Creek by Hermann Beckler, edited by Stephen Jefferies,
    Carlton, Vic., Melbourne University Press, 1993.
    ISBN: 0522844847
Route from Darling River Depot to Mootwingee, January 1861.
Route from Mootwingee Camp to Yellowintchee Creek, January 1861.
Route from Yellowintchee Creek to Torowoto Swamp, January 1861.

Dr Ludwig Becker's Maps.
Becker drew a number of maps covering various aspects of the route from Balranald to Torowoto.
These maps were published in :
  • Ludwig Becker edited by Dr Marjorie Tipping,
    Carlton, Vic., Melbourne University Press, 1979.
    ISBN: 0522841899
Sketch of route from Balranald to Scot's station, 26 September 1860.
SLV b36039.
Map showing the country between Minindie and the Depot, 15 Dec 1860.
SLV b36066.
Rough sketch of the route of Lyons and M'Pherson, 15 January 1861.
SLV b36080.
Sketchmap of area around Desolation Hill, n.d.
SLV b36106.
Sketch map of route from Desolation Hill, n.d.
SLV b36107.
Sketch map of route towards Poria Creek, n.d.
SLV b36108.
Sketch map of area around Desolation Camp, n.d.
SLV b36109.

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© 2020, Dave Phoenix