Science and the Victorian Exploring Expedition
The Royal Society of Victoria initiated the Victorian Exploring Expedition as a serious scientific exploration of the hitherto unexplored centre of Australia. Five scientists were included in the party, and members of the Expedition were given seven pages of detailed instructions on scientific measurement and observations to be carried out, covering eleven areas of science.
The Expedition is now known as the Burke and Wills Expedition because it became a dramatic tragedy when the surviving Gulf party members returned to the Dig Tree only hours after the depot party had left, resulting in the eventual death of the leaders. Despite this, it was not a failure. The lead party did cross the continent from south to north. More importantly for science, although none of the scientists were included in the Gulf Party, Wills continued to make scientific observations for the entire journey, and his diaries were retrieved from Cooper Creek and brought back to Melbourne. Transcriptions of the diaries are held in the Mitchell Library in NSW.
Melbourne also has a rich legacy from the work done by the scientists in the earlier part of the expedition, including Ludwig Becker's wonderful scientific drawings, held at the State Library of Victoria and since published in a book by MUP, and hundreds of plant samples now in the Herbarium.
Royal Society of Victoria Burke and Wills 150th Commemoration Events
The 150th anniversary of the Expedition gave the Royal Society of Victoria the opportunity to remind the nation that scientific discovery was a major purpose of the Burke and Wills Expedition.
During 2010-2011 scientific lectures, publications and outreach events were related to the science of the Burke and Wills Expedition.
National Commemoration Program
The Royal Society of Victoria established the Burke and Wills Advisory Committee to assist it to stimulate, co-ordinate and publicise a wider Commemoration Program covering both science and heritage. Details of this program are at http://www.burkeandwills150.info/.