Return to Cooper Creek from the Burke and Wills Expedition series by Samuel T Gill.
State Library of New South Wales
The Dig Tree is the site of the camp on Cooper Creek where Brahé and his men waited for Burke and Wills to return from their attempt to cross the continent to the north and back.
Increasingly worried, Brahe’s camp waited over four months, past the agreed time, desperately hanging on in the hope that Burke and Wills would return.
Finally Brahé left, on 21 April 1861, sure that Burke and Wills’ Party had all perished.
That evening, only 9 hours later, on the very same day, 21 April 1861, Robert Burke, William Wills and John King arrived at the abandoned Dig Tree camp. Charley Gray had died on the return journey from the Gulf.
A carving on the tree read DIG. Supplies were basic, but sustained life. Burke, Wills and King were too weak to head south in pursuit of Brahé’s party.
After resting at the Dig Tree, recovering some of their strength, Burke, Wills and King headed south in an attempt to cross the Strzelecki Desert. It was a gruelling few days staggering beside their dying camels. When eventually their camels died, Burke, Wills and King headed back to Cooper Creek. Exhausted and starving, Burke and Wills soon died. Only King survived, aided by local Aboriginal people. A search party finally arrived to find him still alive in September 1861.