- from Explorers
In the 1850s, the pressure to explore Australia’s unknown heartland was growing, as more people wanted to know what was in this huge uncharted area. Was there gold or fertile land? Could a telegraph link be laid from the south to the north coasts? Politicians, farmers, and merchants were all eager to find out.
Irishman Robert O’Hara Burke, 40, and Englishman William John Wills, 26, set out to cross the continent. On August 20, 1860, they left Melbourne with 18 others. For six hard months, they trekked through hot deserts and steamy, mosquito-filled swamps. At times they were near death, starving and worn out. Finally, they did it—opening up the continent to generations that followed. In doing so, however, they paid a huge and tragic price.