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Devil Been Walkabout Tonight

The Death of Burke and Wills at Cooper's Creek April-June 1861

David W. Cameron

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03 July 2024
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This book focuses on the last three months of Robert O’Hara Burke, William John Wills, and John King on Cooper’s Creek. The original expedition which set out in August 1860 was to explore the centre and northern reaches of the Australian continent. The expedition essentially concluded with the death of Burke and Wills on Coopers Creek from starvation and illness in late June and early July 1861.

The tragedy was a sliding doors moment in history. Burke, Wills, and King arrived back at the famous ‘Dig Tree’ camp site, the same day that this manned outpost decided to pack up and return south towards Menindie. They missed each other by a matter of hours.

Over the last few decades revisionist history has attempted to place Burke, Wills, and the sole survivor King, within the paradigm of ‘stupid, arrogant white fellas’ who ignored the wisdom and help of the Yandruwandha people who had successfully carved out a niche along and around Cooper’s Creek. The story as told by the participants through their diaries, letters, journals, and oral history from members of the Yandruwandha clan tells a completely different story. The three men appreciated that their very survival was dependent on the Yandruwandha and much time was spent trying to keep good relations with the local indigenous clan, with a few odd exceptions.

Overall, relations between the two groups were good, and it was for this reason that King survived with the help of the Yandruwandha people – without them he too would have died. This book places the death of Burke and Wills, and the generosity and good will of the Yandruwandha clan in its proper historical context.
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 5,334mm,  Width: 3,429mm, 
ISBN:   9781923144354
ISBN 10:   1923144359
Series:   A Shot of History
Pages:   288
Publication Date:  
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

David W. Cameron is a Canberra-based author who has written several books on Australian military and convict history, as well as human and primate evolution, including over 60 internationally peer-reviewed papers for various journals and book chapters. He received 1st Class Honours in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Sydney and later went on to complete his PhD in palaeoanthropology at the Australian National University. He is a former Australian Research Council (ARC) Post Doctorial Fellow at the Australian National University (School of Archaeology) and an ARC QEII Fellow at the University of Sydney (Department of Anatomy and Histology). He has participated and led several international fieldwork teams in Australia, the Middle East (Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates), Europe (Hungary) and Asia (Japan, Vietnam and India) and has participated in many conferences and museum studies throughout the world.

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