Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020


The South Australian Government mounted its own rescue mission for Burke and Wills, The South Australian Burke Relief Expedition (SABRE).

The party left Adelaide on 14 August for Blanchewater, then Lake Perigundi. They established a Depot at Lake Buchanan (Lake Coogicooginna).

On 18 October 1861 McKinlay left two men at the Depot and took his second in command Hodgkinson, Middleton and an Aboriginal tracker called Bulangi to Lake Kadhi-berri. On 20 October at Polygonum Swamp, they found the remains of a white man believed to be Charley Gray. McKinlay found the remains of another partially empty grave and believed the entire VEE had been killed here so called the place Lake Massacre. He blazed a tree here before returning to the Lake Buchanan Depot. McKinlay sent Hodgkinson and three others back to Adelaide to report on the discoveries.

When they returned on 2 December, McKinlay took two men and two aborigines to the Cooper to see if Howitt had arrived. They arrived at the Cooper on 6th December and found Burkes grave, Wills grave and Howitt's abandoned camp, so returned to Lake Perigundi.

On 17 December they left to explore the lakes region around Lake Moolionburinna. McKinlay named Lake Hodgkinson and on New Years Eve 1861 he named Lake Blanche and Lake Sir Richard after the Governor of South Australia and his wife.


McKinlay explored east, west and south of these lakes until the beginning of February 1862 when he left the Cooper region following Burke and Wills track to the Eyre Creek and the Gulf before turning east to Bowen in Queensland.

1 John McKinlay, Leader
2 William Oswald Hodgkinson Draftsman and original Second-in-Command
3 Thomas Middleton in charge of camels and promoted to Second-in-Command
4 John Davis in charge of camels
5 William Bell in charge of horses
6 Paul Wylde in charge of horses
7 Robert Poole in charge of horses
8 Edward Palmer bullock driver
9 James G Kirby (-1893) cook and shephard
10 Frank Aborigine, in charge of sheep
11 Jack Aborigine, in charge of sheep
12 Peter Aborigine
13 Sambo Aborigine

• 24 horses, 4 camels, 12 bullocks, 100 sheep, 1 dog, 1 light cart,

Morning Post (Cairns)
Tuesday, 4 September 1900, p.2.

Mr Archibald Meston recently contributed a sketch of the life of the late Mr W O Hodgkinson to the Courier, and thus humorously refers to an incident in the explorer's career during the Burke and Wills expedition:

Throughout this expedition Hodgkinson was a very successful lieutenant, and McKinley's journal records consistent and effective service. This article may conclude with a specimen of his peculiar humour displayed frequently even under the most melancholy surroundings. His sense of humor was abnormally keen. He saw the ludicrous side of everything.

The expedition was about 70 miles from Lake Gnappanbarra. McKinley requested Hodgkinson to ascertain their latitude. Hodgkinson was the scientist of the party, McKinlay being a plain bushman, to whom a sextant and artificial horizon were dark and inscrutable conundrums. The instruments had been packed among the flour and sugar, and were somewhat damaged. They recorded entirely erroneous positions. McKinlay sat on a log and waited for results. "Where are we, Hodgkinson?", to which came the solemn reply, "Ten miles east of Bangkok, the capital of Siam!" "'Am I a lunatic or are you?" said McKinlay. "Am I the scientist of the party or are you?" said Hodgkinson sternly. McKinlay, went to Middleton, the only other man who could take bearings, told him that Hodgkinson had gone mad, and to take the latitude. Middleton was also a humorist. He found that they were twenty-miles west of Christchurch, New Zealand.

McKinlay poured cold water on his. head to cool it, and copiously cursed the evil fate that sent a man at his time of life meandering across the Australian continent in the company of a pair of lunatics.

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