Day 10…”burke and willsing”

‘Burke & Willsing’
verb. (bûrk a’nd wlz-ing)
1. To participate in the often fruitless but strangely compelling activity of conducting field research into the trail of dead, bearded explorers.
e.g. 1; “I was planning on having a few days off at Cooper Creek, but on the second day I couldn’t resist doing a bit of burkeandwillsing.”
e.g. 2; “I had a great day burkeandwillsing, but I didn’t get any closer to finding the Plant Camp.”

Monday, 11th August 2008.
Today dawned much brighter and clearer than the previous few and I and just had to do a bit of burkeandwillsing. I delayed walking and we drove back onto the now drying roads of the Terrick plains to check out where Becker drew his third sketch. I hadn’t been able to check this out as I walked past yesterday as the cloud and rain had reduced the visibility. Becker painted a view of the Terrick hills that the expedition had as they approached them on the 30th August 1860. He wrote that the hills were on a bearing of North by West. NbyW is 348° 45′ 0″ but this bearing would not give the view depicted by Beckler with Mount Hope in the background. A bearing of north-west (315° 0′ 0″) gave a much better approximation, but 315° is a long way from 348° 45′. Becker’s English was good but he was known to lapse into his native German when he spoke fast or became flustered and he used German words when he couldn’t remember the English equivalent, so maybe he used NbyW to mean NW.

Once we finished running around after Becker, I got back to the task of walking. I hadn’t gone far before it was time for a bit more burkeandwillsing. Here at Terrick the expedition had taken their second day off and after all the camp chores had been completed, Wills, Becker and Beckler climbed the granite outcrop and made scientific observations. Annie and I climbed up the same hill and marveled at the view (while being careful to hold on to avoid being blown away by the gale force south-westerlies).

Back to walking and by late afternoon I had reached Burke’s eleventh camp at Mount Hope. Once again it was time for some burkeandwillsing as Wills, Becker and Beckler had climbed this granite outcrop as well. I scrambled to the top of the hill just before sunset and saw the clouds scudding by, lighting the surrounding plains just as Beckler had described;

‘It was a magnificent panorama which affected the observer not by any delightful or varied detail, but by the horizontal areas of various gentle hues and unbroken, one could almost say mathematical, lines. The play of sunlight and clouds produced wonderful effects on the wide plain; light and shadow alternated in quick succession as in a diorama. Miles of land were lit up, only to be east into deepest shadow within a few seconds. Huge clouds sailed across the sky and their shadows rolled over the land like the tatters of a gigantic, torn veil…’
Dr Hermann Beckler

As I walked down the hill past the dramatic granite outcrop of Suicide Rock the sun turned the rocks a pale pink hue and sank below the horizon ending a very good day’s burkeandwillsing.

Distance travelled today; 34.2 km.
Today Dave is at Mount Hope.
After ten days of travel, Burke was at Mount Terrick.

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