Burke and wills

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Burke and Wills Expedition

In 1860-61 Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills led an expedition of 19 men with the intention of crossing Australia from Melbourne in the south to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, a distance of around 3,250 kilometres (≈2,000 miles). At that time most of the inland of Australia had not been explored by non-indigenous people and was completely unknown to the European settlers.

The south-north leg was successfully completed (except they were stopped by swampland 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the northern coastline) but owing to poor leadership and bad luck, both of the expedition's leaders died on the return journey. Altogether, seven men lost their lives, and only one man, John King, travelled the entire expedition and returned alive to Melbourne.

Burke and Wills Geocaching Project

The Burke and Wills geocaching project is a collaboration between the State Library of Victoria and Geocaching Australia to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Burke and Wills expedition.

Approximately 150 specially created Burke and Wills caches have been hidden along the route taken by the Expedition, and at other related, historically significant places. You can enter the coordinates of a cache into your GPS device and hunt for them yourself. Many of the caches contain historical information and artwork from the State Library’s collections. Some of the Burke and Wills caches are physical objects, however in some instances, when the location is remote, or culturally sensitive, the object of the hunt is a virtual cache.

An easy method of identifying whether a cache is a physical cache or a virtual cache it look at the name of the cache. They will all start with B&W (?) where the ? indicates the type of cache you are looking for.

  • T = Traditional where the cache is at the listed co-ordinates
  • V = Virtual (normal virtual guidelines of a photo apply)
  • M = Multi-cache where you will need to gather information and plot the final co-ordinates
  • O = Offset cache (GPS use is minimal) to lead you to the cache
  • C = Codeword (you will find a codeword rather than a container which you will need to confirm your find)
  • U = Unknown, the usual Mystery / Unknown cache where you need to solve a puzzle

Commemorative Pathtags

For particularly keen explorers, the physical caches also contain a small number of commemorative Burke and Wills pathtags – a coin-like disc for keeping or trading that can be tracked online. If you're quick, you could be one of the lucky few to find one. Please only take one pathtag per caching team.

Publication Date

As the Expedition started off from Melbourne on 20th August 1860, this series of special caches was published on this web site 150 years later - on 20th August 2010. You can find a listing of all these caches here.