Burke has been much criticized for dividing his party, but at the rate they were going they would not have made it to Cooper Creek. Earlier explorers like Charles Sturt had esablished the virtue of light, fast exploring parties operating from base camps.
The ultimate price for their achievement was paid by Burke and Wills. When Gray died on the way back from the Gulf, Burke, Wills and King spent all day digging a grave. Exhausted and emaciated the three arrived at the expedition's Cooper Creek camp only to find it had been abandoned nine and a half hours earlier. Burke and Wills both died of malnutrition after two months of searching in vain for a way out. Here the body of Wills is discovered by Aborigines who later befriended King.
Establishing a Base Camp
Border of the Mud-Desert near Desolation
Camp. March 9t 1861. Ludwig Becker. [In pencil on back in Beckler's handwriting]
Noon on the mud plains. Effects of refraction
In the preface to The Poems of the Late Adam Lindsay Gordon, Marcus Clarke said that "we do not need a poet to interpret Nature's teachings, we must look into our own hearts if perchance we may find a poet there." Ironically, Clarke proceeded to look into the Australian heart and provide an extraordinary, poetic interpretation of the natural qualities of Australia.
"The Australian mountain forests are funereal, secret, stern. The solitude is desolation. They seem to stifle, in their black gorges, a story of sullen despair. No tender sentiment is nourished in their shade. In other lands the dying year is mourned, the falling leaves dropping lightly on his bier. In the Australian forests no leaves fall. The savage winds shout among the rock clefts. From the melancholy gums strips of white bark hand and rustle. The very animal life of these frowning hills is either grotesque or ghostly. Grey kangaroos hop noiselessly over the coarse grass. Flights of white cockatoos stream out, shrieking like evil souls. The sun suddenly sinks, and the mopokes burst out into horrible peels of semi human laughter. The natives aver that, when night comes, from the bottomless depths of some lagoon, the Bunyip rises, and, in form like monstrous sea-calf drags his loathsome form out the ooze. From a corner of the silent forest rises a dismal chant, and around a fire dance natives painted like skeletons. All is fear inspiring and gloomy. No bright fancies are linked to the memories of mountains. Hopeless explorers have named them out of their sufferings - Mount Misery, Mount Dreadful, Mount Despair. As when among sylvan scenes in places
the soul is soothed and satisified, so, placed before the frightful grandeur of these barren hills, it drinks in their sentiment of defiant ferocity, and is steeped in bitterness.
Australia has rightly been named the Land of Dawning. Wrapped in the mist of early morning, her history looms vague and gigantic. The lonely horseman riding between the moonlight and the day sees vast shadows creeping across the shelterless and silent plains, hears strange noises in the primeval forest, where flourishes a vegetation long dead in other lands, and feels, despite his fortune, that the trim utilitarian civilisation which bred him shrinks into insignificance beside the contemptuous grandeur of the forest and ranges coeval with an age in which European scientists have craded his own race.
There is a poem in every form of tree and flower, but the poetry which lives in the trees and flowers of Australia differs from those of other countries... In Australia alone is o be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings of nature learning to write. Some see no beauty in our trees without shade, our flowers without perfume, our birds who cannot fly, and our beasts that have not yet learned to walk on all fours. But the dwellers in the wilderness acknowledge the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes familiar withe the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad tongues of the wilderness he learns the language of the barren and uncouth, and can read the hieroglyphics of haggard gum trees, blown into odd shapes, distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped cold nights, when the Southern Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoira of that wild dreamland termed the Bush interprets itself, and the Poet of our deolation begins to comprehend why free Esau loved his heritage of desert better than all the bountiful riches of Egypt.
From Preface of Poems of the Late Adam Lindsay Gordon 1880
Clarke's poetic description offers the reader a rare insight into the world that explorers, such as Burke and Will, Sturt and Stuart, trekked through as they raced towards the Gulf of Carpentaria around 1860.
The interior of Australia had remained a mystery for over one hundred years of European settlement. Explorers left hoping to find a route for communication systems, to unravel the mystery of the inland water systems and to find new pasture for pastouralists.
Ludwig Becker's sketches, completed during the Burke and Wills expedition, reveal a vast, desolate, cruel, waterless land, the sight of which would still be enough to strike fear into the hearts of those who might seek to follow in their footsteps. The author of 'The Dig Tree', Sarah Murgatroyd found it a humbling experience to retrace the steps of Burke and Wills and marvelled at how they could have set out on such an expedition.
First camp from Duroadoo (Mud Plain Camp
/ the search for water) 18 February 1861 Ludwig Becker (c1808-1861) MS
13360, La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection,
For the creative a journey of similar magnitude is the journey deep into the interior world, into the depths of what has become known as the subconscious. Like the interior of Australia the subconscious remains largely unchartered.
By far the largest area of the mind, the subconscious, is built up with associated sense impressions and memories dating back to the womb. This submerged, interior area of mentation is the creative part of the mind is a rich wonderland of mystery. According to Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, it is the area which contains a summary and reservoir of race, memory and accumulated skills. It is the submerged part which is the powerhouse from which radiates the most illuminating inspirations of artistic genius.
Psychologists now generally regard the subconscious as the great storehouse of life's experiences. Research reveals that the ability to access and use this region of the mind directly determines the success of creative workers, whether they are scientists, authors, musicians or business leaders. The study of the beginnings of mental processes that have led to all the great inventions and insights reveals that these inspirations have emerged from a field of subconscious activity.
Many creatives fear the interior world, fear that it will be as desolate and bleak as the landscape Becker depicts in his brilliant sketches. Yet, any journey within is richly rewarded.
Are you willing to explore the interior and discover it's secrets?
Soul Food - Provides a Base Camp
The Soul Food Cafe promotes the art of writing and the creative arts as a therapeutic tool. Within the non judgemental and supportive environment of Soul Food individual well-being and creativity flourish'
The Soul Food Cafe provides a base camp for artistic explorers seeking to plumb the interior depths. Unlike the camp at Cooper's Creek, which Burke and Wills returned to find abandoned, Soul Food is open twenty four hours a day. Perhaps more importantly there is a rich abundance of material to ensure that the intrepid explorer of the pysche is well nourished for the duration of their trek. No one need face starvation in this lively camp. Patrons can seek refuge in the tranquil Lemuria, luxuriate within the House of the Muse or avail themselves of the opportunity to publish in a range of forums.
The House of the Muse
Anatomy of Creativity
Ways To Nourish Writers' Spirit
Peeling The Onion
Seek the Berried Treasure of the subconscious and learn how to access the great storehouse of life's experiences through the use of techniques such as voice dialogue and guided imagery.
This template has used elements of the famous Burke and Wills painting by Sidney Nolan (1917—1992) Collection Nolan Gallery, Cultural Facilities Corporation Canberra