Robert O'Hara Burke, a police officer, led an expedition from Melbourne in 1860 with the object of crossing the continent from south to north. W.J. Wills became second in command. These courageous explorers, accompanied by two members of the expedition, King and Gray, made a dash for the Gulf of Carpentaria from a depot they had established at Cooper's Creek in Queensland. Burke and Wills proceeded ahead of the others and succeeded in reaching the estuary of the Flinders River on the
Gulf of Carpentaria. Tragedy marked the return journey. Gray died of exhaustion. The other three, weakened by severe privations, struggled back to Cooper's Creek only to find that the depot party had left a few hours before their arrival. The party had remained there six weeks longer than they had been ordered to stay. Burke and Wills died of starvation. King was cared for by friendly aboriginal people until a relief party rescued him.
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