Surveyor Alexander Salmond made this drawing in 1879 – probably the earliest depiction of the Dig Tree.
Salmond Photographs and Correspondence, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
There are three significant trees at the Dig Tree Reserve:
- Dig Tree
- Brahé’s Tree
- Face Tree
Each of these trees was carved. The carvings are called blazes. All of the blazes have partially or fully grown over by bark. In 2020 replicas of the original blazes were installed at the Dig Tree. Visitors are allowed to touch the replicas.
The Dig Tree has three blazes:
- DEC 6 60 APR 21 61. Carved in 1860-61 by Brahé’s party to record their arrival and departure dates. This blaze is no longer visible.
- B LXV. This means Burke Camp 65. Carved by Brahé’s party in 1860-61. This blaze is partially visible on the south-facing side of the tree.
- AH DIG [Arrow] TO DEPOT. Carved in 1862 by Alfred Howitt’s search party who buried supplies there. AH stands for Alfred Howitt. This blaze is no longer visible.
When the first surveyors, pastoralists and settlers came to Cooper Creek in the 1870s they only saw one DIG blaze – the blaze carved on the Dig Tree by Alfred Howitt’s search party in 1862.
They mistook this for Brahe’s original DIG blaze carved on Brahé’s Tree in 1861 marking the site where he had buried a cache of provisions.
This is why the tree bearing Howitt’s Blaze became known as the Dig Tree.
Dig Tree. This blaze records the date of arrival of the Burke and Wills expedition on 6 December 1860 and departure of Brahé’s party on 21 April 1861.
John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland neg. no. 42815
Dig Tree. In 1862 Alfred Howitt’s search party buried supplies at the Dig Tree Reserve and carved the initials AH DIG with instructions where to find the store.
John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland neg. no. 42815.
Dig Tree. B LXV stands for Burke Camp 65.
Frank Clune National Library of Australia.
Brahé’s Tree has one blaze:
- DIG. It was carved by Brahé’s party in 1861. It may have included further carvings but there is no agreed record. This blaze is no longer visible.
This blaze was the one carved to leave a message for Burke and his party on their return from the Gulf.
Brahé’s Tree. DIG is the message read by Burke, Wills and King when they returned to the camp.
Artist’s impression by David Renn.
The Face Tree has two blazes.
- [Face] ROHB. Carved by John Dick in 1898, this likeness of Burke has his initials standing for Robert O’Hara Burke. This blaze is partially visible.
- [Arrow] JD.GD 21.11.98. Carved by John Dick, JD stands for John Dick and GD stands for Ghyn Dick, his wife who was known as Minnie. This is followed by the date of carving. This blaze is no longer visible.
Face Tree. Carved portrait of Burke by John Dick, 1898.
John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland neg. no. 73327.
Face Tree. JD stands for John Dick who carved the Face Tree and GD is his wife [Minnie] Ghyn Dick.
John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland neg. no. 146180.
The Dig Tree web site is presented by The Royal Historical Society of Queensland.
The Royal Historical Society of Queensland is trustee for the Dig Tree Reserve supported by Nappa Merrie Station and the Bulloo Shire Council.