"Burke Couldn't Organise a Piss-Up at a Brewery"
The following are extracts from the diary of William John Wills who tragically perished with his companion Robert O'Hara Burke while searching for an inland route from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
20 August 1860
And we're off. A long way to go still. Burke reckons it might take a year. Maybe even two. Wish he'd told me that before we left. I was hoping we'd be back by Friday. Probably going to miss the start of the cricket season. I've been working on my outswingers.
21 August 1860
Slow going. I suggested to Burke that we should jog. He said we'd be tired by lunch. Speaking of lunch, I'm looking forward to more of that salted beef. Delicious!
30 August 1860
Burke's been acting strangely. Last night he had an argument with his hat.
6 September 1860
We reached Swan Hill. I mentioned to Burke that it seems to be already well established. He said everywhere we'd been so far has already been settled. Annoying. I'd been making maps. I asked why we didn't start from here.
20 September 1860
Burke's really starting to annoy me. He's the worst bushman I've ever seen. Last night he accidentally set fire to a camel.
12 October 1860
We reached Menindee after nearly 2 months of travelling. Apparently the mail coach does it in a week. If I'd know that I could've posted myself some food. This salted beef seems rather high in sodium.
18 October 1860
Crossed a small creek today and Burke sunk. King pulled him out and Burke pretended he'd meant it. There was an eel in his pocket. We ate it for afternoon tea.
26 October 1860
I've been walking behind Burke for weeks and I conclude his pants are too high. No one wears them like that anymore. I wore them like that back in '53.
11 November 1860
We reach Coopers Creek. Still haven't set foot in territory unchartered by Europeans. Burke tripped over a horse and landed on a bullants' nest. He was badly stung and ran around shouting obscenities at King. King was brushing his teeth at the time and humming old show tunes. He didn't notice.
20 November 1860
Still at Coopers Creek. Burke is starting to move his neck like a camel.
5 December 1860
Burke has taken to drinking his own urine. King pointed out that we still have plenty of water.
16 December 1860
Burke decided just four of us would set off for the Gulf of Carpentaria. Him, me, King and another bloke who I only noticed for the first time this morning. And only because he shat on my boots. Pretty annoyed with that. I pushed him onto the fire and Burke immediately began roasting marshmallows. Don't now where he got them. What else is he harbouring?
3 January 1861
I swear I saw something moving in Burke's beard. I mentioned it and said he was was just readjusting his lips. A likely story. Whatever it was it had a tail.
11 January 1861
Burke's been complaining of sore feet. He's been wearing his shoes on the wrong feet since we left Essendon. King and I have been giggling about it for months.
18 January 1861
Burke's been randomly placing bits of cheese in his beard. Definitely something living in there. Fucking duplicitous Irish cunt. And where the fuck did he get the cheese?
29 January 1861
Burke claimed we were lost. I asked how we could be lost when all we were doing was heading north. King pointed out that we were always lost because nobody had been here before. Burke got confused and asked a swallow for directions.
9 February 1861
Reached the Gulf of Carpentaria. Yay! There was a swamp blocking the way to the ocean but, you know what, close enough. We'll just tell them we made it. King put a scorpion in Burke's trousers this morning. Hasn't been a reaction yet. Not sure why.
10 February 1861
Turns out the scorpion had died. I think Burke squashed it when he sat on a rock to eat his salted beef. Must find another one.
14 February 1861
Valentine's Day. King slipped a love letter into Burke's back pocket. Burke was furious and didn't let King use the shovel for the rest of the day.
15 February 1861
Fuck it's hot.
18 February 1861
Burke finally realised his shoes were on the wrong feet. Seriously, what a fucking nonce.
25 February 1861
I snuck a peek at Burke's diary. Every entry referred to his underpants and how well they fit. He has no fucking idea how to punctuate.
2 March 1861
Getting hungry. All I've eaten for the last 3 months is salted beef, snake and grubs the local aborigines gave us. Burke has supplemented his diet with dirt.
7 March 1861
I saw something move in Burke's beard again. Tomorrow I'm going to make a grab for it. Burke bumped into a small hill today while looking for firewood.
8 March 1861
King tackled Burke to the ground and held him down while I rummaged through his beard. Nothing. Burke didn't seem to notice.
25 March 1861
Burke gave the fourth bloke a terrible beating for stealing his porridge. He spent a lot of time lining up each slap and yelled 'rissole' with each blow. Where the fuck did that cunt find porridge?
30 March 1861
Burke squatted for a poo but forgot to pull his pants down. How King laughed. Burke was distressed and tied King to an emu.
10 April 1862
Burke shot the last horse. He'd been aiming at a cockatoo in a nearby tree. We ate it anyway. King did the butchering and distributed the meat. Burke had trouble cutting his piece before realising it was the saddle.
17 April 1861
The fourth bloke died today. I thought about eating him but didn't mention it. King suggested we dig a grave with Burke's dessert spoon. Burke ate a sock.
21 April 1861
Finally returned to Coopers Creek. The camp was abandoned. They'd left us some food buried under a tree. Fucking salted beef. Was that a joke? Turns out they'd left that morning. Burke finally ate his other sock.
4 May 1861
Nothing for it. Burke has gone mad. Tried to climb inside a camel to sleep. The camel was visibly shaken and refused to eat.