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28 JUNE 1861

Burke and King left Wills at Breerily Waterhole and headed upstream to look for the aborigines. At Yidniminkie Waterhole Burke collapsed and died the next morning around 8 am. King left Burke and returned back down the creek. Two and a half months later, King led Howitt to the body and it was buried under a box tree which Howitt blazed :

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Although McKinlay doesn't mention it in his journal, he also blazed the tree when he visited the area in December 1861. The blaze can be seen in De Mole's 1893 drawing, which clearly shows the conjoined MK, but also some additional words, which could have been the date, 7th December 1861 , or the instructions DIG, as McKinlay buried a note at the tree giving details of the fate of Burke and Wills, should any of the rescue parties pass by that way. The note read :

To the Leader of the Party out for the remains of the lost Burke and Wills, but more especially to the officer in charge of the depot likely to be formed on this creek.

I beg to state that I have had communication with Adelaide, and have received papers from there intimating the relief of King, the only survivor of the Melbourne Gulf of Carpentaria party, and an announcement that the Melbourne Government were likely to have the remains of the late gentlemen removed from this creek to Melbourne to receive a public burial and monument to their memory; and at the same time stating their intention of establishing a depot somewhere on this creek to await the arrival of one or other of the parties (in search of the late Burke and Wills) from Rockhampton, or the Albert, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

I beg to state I am with my party stationed on a lake about eighty‑five miles westerly of this, and immediately on my return there I start northward; and for the first part of my journey a little to east of north, and will at every suitable camp on my route bury documents conveying the intelligence meant to be conveyed to either of the parties by the depot party likely to be formed here of the fate of the late party, by which means they will be put in possession of the facts, and can return to the Albert or go on through to Adelaide. There is at present, and will be for some time to come, easy access to Adelaide by my route, which the wheel tracks of my cart have clearly defined.

By this means of intimation to the parties in question, it will relieve the party about to be stationed here from the necessity of passing a summer in this hot region. My course will intersect any course either of the parties out from the northward can make between Eyre's Creek and the late Burke's depot on this creek.

I beg to remain, sir, your most obedient servant,
John McKinlay, Leader of the SABR Expedition

One of the earliest records of the Burke Tree, as it was known, was done in 1893 by Miss F E DeMole. DeMole was a naturalist and artist who toured western Queensland and South Australia during the 1890's sketching plants and features of interest.

Herbert Kenny, the manager of Innamincka Station erected a fence of wooden hurdles around the tree in 1885 and later, Sir Sidney Kidman erected a sturdier fence of wagon axles and wire.

The cairn was erected on the 14th August 1939 under the direction of Kidman Pastoral Company by the manager of Innamincka Station, Mr E Spencer. The Broken Hill Barrier Field Naturalists Club provided the plaque. The exact date of Burke's death could not be ascertained so the inscription shows the date which has generally accepted, the 28th June 1861. Burke and King they didn't leave Wills until the 28th or 29th June and Burke survived through the night of the second day, so probably died on 30th June or 1st July 1861.

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BURKE'S GRAVE on Cooper Creek

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