A guided journey following closely in the footsteps of explorers Burke and Wills provides insights into the famous, ill-fated expedition.

Story + Photos Don Fuchs

Tonight’s camp is on the Diamantina River. Recent rains have replenished the river and transformed the flood plain into a green expanse. It is a time of abundance. Birds are everywhere. At night, insects drift like snowflakes through spotlights. Rats rustle in the lignum clumps. Mosquitoes swarm and bite and, come daylight, clouds of flies buzz relentlessly.

The location of Robert O’Hara Burke and William Wills’ Camp 78 is close by. “That’s the point where it can all potentially fall to bits,” Dr Dave Phoenix explains. “Leaving the Diamantina, Burke sets off across these massive plains in January with no water. If he doesn’t find water, they either die up there, or they turn around in time and get back.” 

A historian and author, Dave is one of Australia’s foremost experts on Burke and Wills and the leader of an expedition following in the explorers’ footsteps. Organised by the Diamantina Touring Company, this expedition is special, promises company owner Andrew Dwyer at a function at the Royal Society in Melbourne. “You get the opportunity to travel to these places, but not just to see them,” he says. “You’ll get a real inside view of the story.” 


This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023