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