Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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In the footsteps of Burke and Wills … kind of

Last Friday was the 150th anniversary of the departure of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition, famous in Australia not so much for what they did achieve (completing the first south to north crossing of mainland Australia) as for what they didn’t achieve (completing the return north to south crossing without dying). They left Melbourne on 20 August 1860, with camels and tonnes of equipment (some of it ludicrously inappropriate), and experienced leadership issues as they navigated, surprisingly accurately, across a hostile dry continent. Some ten months after departing, and poignantly, Burke and Wills arrived at a rendezvous point mere hours after the resupply party had left. In all, seven of the original party of 19 died in various places, and only one of the four who made it to the north (where mangrove swamps prevented them from reaching the actual ocean) returned to Melbourne alive after being rescued by Aborigines.

Now the fact of the matter is that the Burke and Wills expedition went nowhere near Tasmania. But when plans were mooted to place commemorative caches to celebrate the route of the expedition my brother SG-3 had a wild idea and, in the belief that Tasmania should not miss out, hatched some plans … and then, lo and behold, discovered that when Burke first arrived in Australia from Ireland he actually landed in Hobart.

Thus it is that there is a Burke and Wills anniversary cache in Tasmania, and because I chanced to be in Tassie this weekend for the graduation of one of my sisters, I had the opportunity to find it on Saturday. Even better, we were able to make a serious expedition of it, since my nephew came along, plus our caching friend Snuva and her husband.

There were, however, no camels.

One of the nice things about this cache is that it involves a journey through the bush, and although the Tasmanian bush is a little different from its mainland counterparts (and thus to what Burke and Wills would have experienced), it was still easy to get a sense of what the expedition might have been like in the early phases. The other nice thing about this cache is that there is a completely unexpected and totally cool but appropriate surprise in the middle of nowhere thanks to my brother’s sense of the whimsical and his general creativity.

Along the journey we went through all the exploring cliches we could think of (from “Are we there yet?” to “I am just going outside and I may be some time”), and generally had an enjoyable morning (oh, and we channelled the Beatles at one point). The weather, which had been miserable on Friday and had left snow on Mt Wellington, was both dry and not too cold, and so the trip was hardly arduous.

And, thanks to Snuva’s thoughtful provision of lemon tarts (clearly essential supplies for any self-respecting expedition), none of us starved on the return journey.

6 comments to In the footsteps of Burke and Wills … kind of

  • Linda

    I recently walked to Shag Bay for the first time (amazing how you can live so near something for soooooo long (let’s not count the actual years) and never actually see it. It was Ali who took me, having been walked there herself by school. We had a lovely day. And so did you by the look of it!

  • In my ward book club we’ve read a historic explorer-disaster story each of the past two years (the most recent being about the Shackleton expedition in which nobody died). Maybe we could continue the tradition next year and read about Burke and Wills.

  • Dan

    It’s one of our long term goals to move to Tasmania. I have an Australian citizenship (via my Aussie mother) and I want to take advantage of it for at least a few years of my life.

    Tasmania has always appealed to me due to the climate and the scenery, and your photos certainly don’t do anything to dissuade me.

  • Helen

    Lynda: I’d been in the vicinity a couple of times in my past but had never dropped down into Shag Bay itself or gone beyond. I’m ashamed to have had it on my doorstep for so long without visiting.
    Helena: The Shackleton story is cool (pun originally unintended, but kept intentionally once noticed!) and if you haven’t seen Frank Hurley’s photographs they are worth looking up. I’m sure you’ll have seen some, but it’s worth searching for more … and one can only wonder at what he was forced to leave behind.
    Dan: Tassie is definitely the place! I’m hoping I’ll get back there some day. (I LOVED the Kevin Arnold post — definitely full of awesomeness)

  • Twas a great expedition! I’m so glad you happened to be down and we could do it together. πŸ™‚

  • I didn’t manage to get out for one of the B&W anniversary caches but enjoyed reading about your exploits, and being close to lunch time, wish I had a lemon tart waiting in the fridge.

    PS. I hadn’t realised I had a problem with my feed to your blog, so I’m off now to catch up on the others.

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