When did 'The Walk' happen ?
'The Burke & Wills Walk 2008' started in August 2008 and finished
by New Year 2009.
Burke departed Melbourne in the winter, crossed the desert in spring and summer and reached the Gulf of Carpentaria in the wet season. In order to fully appreciate the landscape and environment that Burke experienced, Dave Phoenix will also leave Melbourne in the winter, cross the desert in spring and summer and arrive in the Gulf in the wet season.
Burke took 175 days to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria and he traveled on 121 of those days. Dave traveled on 114 days during a period of 152 days. Walking six days a week, it will take nearly six months to cross the continent.
It is difficult to imagine the range of conditions experienced on the expedition. The departure from Melbourne in the winter was cold and wet, causing the wagons to become bogged in the mud and the camels to suffer greatly from the cold;
'...it commenced raining, and ere night had set in it came down in torrents. No tea, no fire, we slept in the wet.'
Becker, 22 August 1860.
The temperatures on the Cooper during summer were extreme;
'...it is dry work traveling in the middle of the day here with the thermometer swinging from...140ºF in the Sun. I can assure you there is nothing like a walk of this sort to make one appreciate the value of a drink of cold water.'
Wills, Cooper Creek, 4 December 1860.
And the men suffered from the heat and humidity of the summer monsoonal wet season while in the tropics;
'The evening was most oppressively hot and sultry, so much so that the slightest exertion made one feel as if he were in a state of suffocation. The dampness of the atmosphere prevented any evaporation, and gave one a helpless feeling of lassitude that I have never before experienced to such an extent.
Wills, 23 February 1861
Burke was warned not to travel in the desert in the summer time by the experienced Australian explorer, Augustus Charles Gregory, who recommended the party arrive at Cooper Creek in the autumn and cross the desert during winter.
Due to a number of reasons the expedition left Melbourne in the winter and arrived at Cooper Creek in spring. They crossed the desert in the summer and arrived in the Gulf during the monsoonal wet season, experiencing the toughest conditions imaginable.
In 1977, Dr Tom Bergin postulated that Burke would have found winter travel easier and he set out to prove this by walking with camels from Cooper Creek to the Gulf and back. However despite favourable conditions, Bergin did not arrive in the Gulf any faster than Burke and he was unable to make the return journey. Bergin's attempt highlighted the exceptional hardships experienced by Burke and Wills.
In order to fully understand the conditions and connect with the landscape, Dave traveled at a similar time of year to Burke.
'The Burke & Wills Walk 2008' will depart in
Dave will leave from Royal Park, Melbourne,
at 4.00 pm on Friday, 1st August 2008.