The Strzelecki Track
is steeped in history: discovered and named by Charles Sturt in 1845 the Strzelecki Creek and the subsequent discovery of the Cooper Creek opened the area. The actual "track" was originally blazed by Harry Redford, a cattle thief droving 1000 stolen cattle over untracked country from central Qld to Adelaide. The thief was caught out, but due to his heroic efforts in establishing a new stock route he was let off and became one of the greatest drovers in Australian history.
But the tragic death of explorers
Burke and Wills on the banks of the Cooper Creek near present day Innamincka is the region's most famous incident. In 1861 the South Australian government offered 2000 pounds to the first explorer to reach the top end
of the continent.
The Victorians at that time were brashly rich and with much pomp and ceremony Robert O'Hara Burke left Melbourne with his team of 20 men, 18 camels, 22 horses and 20 tonnes of food bound to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria. Unfortunately, Burke was not a bushman, had absolutely no tracking or surveying experience and was extremely hot tempered. His second in command was not initially Wills but a fellow who had an unfortunate habit of feeding the horses rum! When Burke discovered this he sacked the man, smashed their entire supplies of rum and appointed William John Wills to the position.
Their race to be the first to reach the top of Australia
was fraught with incident but amazingly three of them actually made it to the top and returned to their supply depot at Cooper Creek. They were Burke, Wills and King. The tragedy is that they were over a month overdue and the supply team had retreated south only 9 hours before their arrival. The supply team had left supplies buried beneath a tree which bore the markings "Dig 3ft NW" and various other markings. The tree is now called the Dig Tree and is protected by the Qld pastoral commission. It's just a half day drive from Innamincka to visit the tree and the surrounding area where plaques mark the grave sites of Burke and Wills who died of a combination of starvation and poisoning from eating berries after the supplies ran out and they couldn't make their way south. Only King survived - he had the sense to befriend the aborigines and when Burke and Wills died they cared for him until he was rescued in 1861.
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