The Dig Tree: The Extraordinary Story of the Ill-fated Burke and Wills 1860 Expedition Paperback – 6 Jan 2003
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For Australians, the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860-61 provides the great epic in the story of the European exploration of their continent. Like many epics of 19th-century European exploration across the world, it has taken on some of the elements of myth. The heroic struggle to achieve the aim of crossing the continent from north to south. The even more heroic deaths on the impossible return journey. The one survivor of the expedition staggering out of the wilderness months later, alive only because of the generosity of the aborigines. All of these elements possess a mythic quality in the imaginations of many Australians.
Sarah Murgatroyd's book looks beneath the myths to find the truth about the ill-fated expedition. Some of the truths are not very flattering, particularly to the expedition's leader, Robert O'Hara Burke. Burke was "a man who had never travelled beyond the settled districts of Australia, who had no experience of exploration and who was notorious for getting lost on his way home from the pub." Unsurprisingly, he made a series of disastrous decisions that, effectively, doomed all but one of the men who accompanied him on the last leg of the journey to death in the desert. By his blinkered refusal to accept the help offered by the aborigines of the region he turned his back on the one remote hope of survival. Yet The Dig Tree is not a simple de-bunking of a heroic myth. Murgatroyd, in a compelling, page-turning narrative, reconstructs the expedition in such a way that the genuine heroism of men striving against impossible odds and against their own limitations emerges. Her descriptions of the last days of Burke and Wills, as they realise that they cannot survive, are very moving. Her clear-sighted view of the follies and farce of much of the expedition, in the end, does more justice to those involved than any amount of mythologising.--Nick Rennison --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Sarah Murgatroyd tells an exciting story" -- The Historical Novels Review, Augsut 2002
"excellent book" -- The People 15th February
'A beautifully told story' -- Sunday Telegraph
'Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, insightful and entertaining, and will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in exploration history' -- Adventure Travel
'Murgatroyd demonstrates a profound understanding of topography and climate in this gripping tale' -- Sunday Times
'Murgatroyd picks her way with forensic care through a tangle of flawed characters, fatal near-misses, betrayals, dignified last words and dubious maps' -- Evening Standard
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Top Customer Reviews
Sarah Murgatroyd's account of the ill-fated expedition demonstrates meticulous research and a considerable capacity to imagine how the men must have felt facing dire situation after dire situation in the wild, uncharted heart of Australia. Eccentric, full of false confidence, a natural magnet for bad luck, and yet persistent in the face of anything that came his way, Burke led his team to tragic ends. Murgatroyd writes with rueful humour, describing for example their inadequate provisions which included an oak table and chairs and a bath, but pitifully few water bottles.
Woven into this fascinating story are her vivid, poetic descriptions of Australia, which have inspired me to make a trip as soon as possible.
A tragic adventure story told with humour, empathy and contagious enthusiasm.
The author relates how Burke left Melbourne, Victoria, in 1860 with several ambitions, muddled instructions and devoid of capabilities to manage the task. Behind his straggling team were a cabal of businessmen intent on extending Victoria's borders. Beyond that, they also hoped to initiate a telegraph line route to Asia, thence to London. In competition with Adelaide to the west, both cities had sponsored expeditions to traverse the continent from south to north. Others had made the attempt, but the travails of crossing a land intolerant of blundering had thwarted them all. Burke was aware of a major competitor in the figure of Charles McDouall Stuart who had nearly succeeded before turning back. Burke, among other things, saw the enterprise as a race - which he intended to win.
Murgatroyed demonstrates how that aspect, among others, doomed the expedition from the beginning. Burke's undue haste led to launching the trek at the worst time of year. He quarreled with subordinates, sacked members of the team and scorned delays occasioned by scientific studies. His fatal error was in dividing the group, ultimately leaving most of his companions behind to make a dash to the northern sea. It was the fragmenting of the expedition that led to conflicting priorities and delays.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
unexpectedly gripping story and well written so easy to read.
I can feel the heat, thirst, hunger, despair ........ Read more
I began this not expecting much, not having ever had much interest in this part of the world before, but I was pleasantly surprised. Read morePublished 1 month ago by William
A good story but mainly because I have a relation in it.
Excellent service, and a good read. The book is obviously quite old and a biit discoloured, but in good conditionPublished on 31 Jan. 2014 by margaret gibb
The similarities with the1911-1912 Scott Antarctic Polar Expedition are quite extraordinary, despite the fact that the Trans Australia
expedition by Burke and wills took place... Read more
Found book very interesting as a relative is mentioned in it book arrived prompt ANC in good condition very happy with purchasePublished on 5 Jan. 2014 by james k stockdale
I have almost written what I need to say in the title. I have just bought a 'Burke and Wills' coat and was intrigued with the name. Read morePublished on 11 Feb. 2013 by Deborah Skinner