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The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd
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The Dig Tree (2002)

by Sarah Murgatroyd

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Showing 5 of 5
Sarah Murgatroyd's "The Dig Tree: A True Story of Bravery, Insanity and the Race to Discover Australia's Wild Frontier" is really an excellent book.

The book tells the story of the Burke and Wills expedition, which aimed to cross the Australian desert and fill in the wide, blank spaces on the map. Burke is portrayed as supremely bungling, which taints the successful completion of his goal, as does the fact he managed to kill both himself and eight other men.

The book really succeeds on Murgatroyd's talent as a writer. It's an interesting story with a huge cast of characters and she manages to make them all memorable and easy to tell apart. For someone who knows little about Australia's history, I found this book pretty fascinating.

My only quibble is I would have loved to hear more about the Aborigines, who kept the only survivor of the desert crossing alive. ( )
  amerynth | Jan 13, 2014 |
Thoroughly researched story of Burke and Wills. In 1860 an eccentric Irish police officer Robert Ohara Burke led a cavalcade of camels, wagons and men out of Melbourne accompanied by William Wills, a shy English scientist. Burke was prepared to risk everything to become the first European to cross the Australian continent. A few months later the expedition had become an astonshing tragedy.

Sarah Murgatroyd retraced these ill fated steps and reveals new evidence both historical and scientific to shed some light on what led to the disaster.
Well written and generously illustrated throughout highly recommended for anyone with an interest in early Australian history. ( )
2 vote jeniwren | Jul 2, 2010 |
Very interesting history of the Burke and Wills expedition to cross Australia. The author traveled the same route as the expedition. Also, kind of bitter-sweet, because the author died not long after finishing the book from some illness. Highly recommended. ( )
  barleywine | Jan 21, 2009 |
This book is a good read, starts a little slow but pulls you in. The author is critical of the expedition's leadership - their motives and methods. She does build a good case and seems to strive to be objective at least in her analysis at the end. In all, its a nice piece of work - if you're into exploration literature like me - you'll enjoy it. I also enjoyed learning about the remarkable ecosystem of the outback - I kept mentally contrasting it with the description of the Amazon in River of Doubt. ( )
1 vote deck | Jul 8, 2008 |
I so enjoyed this account of the famous Burke and Wills Expedition that I wonder it wasn't more widely lauded, how it ended up in the bargain bin at Borders for $7.50 (hard cover) I'll never know. Perhaps Sarah Murgatroyd is not a good interview subject, Peter Fitzsimons manages to get plenty of press for his tomes on similar topics.
Putting that aside I just thoroughly enjoyed this book. The suspense, the comedy of errors and ineptitude and the slice of life of Australia in the 1860's is really priceless. I nearly wept at the end, I tried to forget the ending, well more honestly I had forgotten exactly the ending of this famous story, so I was really in suspense as to whether they would make it back. Not any more - the account of their trials and tribulations will be burned in my mind for some time to come. ( )
  booksbooks11 | Jan 15, 2008 |
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Let any man lay the map of Australia before him, and regard the blank upon it's surface, and then let me ask him if it would not be an honourable achievement to be the first to place foot in its centre - Charles Sturt, 1840
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When Captain James Cook stood on the deck of the Endeavour in March 1770 and felt the hot dry winds filling her sails off Australia's southern coast, he declared that the country's interior would be nothing but desert.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767908287, Hardcover)

The harrowing true story of the Burke and Willis expedition team who took on the Australian wilds 150 years ago--and lost.

They departed Melbourne's Royal Park in the summer of 1860, a misfit party of eighteen amateur explorers cheered on by thousands of well-wishers. Their mission: to chart a course across the vast unmapped interior of Australia, from Melbourne to the northern coast. Months later, only one man returned alive--with tales of heroism, hardships, and lost opportunities that were by turns terrifying and darkly comic.

Drawing its title from one of the few remaining traces of the expedition, The Dig Tree combines the danger of Sebastian Junger with the irony of Bill Bryson to relive the tragic journey of these completely initiated adventurers. The cast of characters includes the expeditionleader; a reckless, charming Irish policeman known for getting lost on his way home from the pub; an eccentric nature enthusiast from Germany; an alcoholic camel handler; and a rogue American horse-breaker who is just in it for the money. For nine harrowing months, their quest for glory shifts from idiocy to perseverance and then inexorably toward tragedy. The nightmare culminates in a last haunting message left behind a group of desperate and dying men--the word DIG carved into what is now Australia's most famous tree.

The Dig Tree
follows this compelling journey through a forgotten corner of history to examine a daring expedition that came unbelievably close to success only to let it slip away.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:08 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"The Dig Tree is the story of eighteen explorers - not one of them with an ounce of experience - who departed Melbourne's Royal Park on August 20, 1860, with a send-off by a crowd of ten thousand well-wishers, on a mission to chart the wild Australian frontier. Led by a mercurial police officer, an alcoholic camel handler, an American fortune hunter, and a German naturalist, this chaotic group would encounter hardships of a magnitude unheard of to that point and unmatched to this day. Only one would come back alive, bringing with him an unbelievable story of perseverance, idiocy, near-misses, courage, heroism, and utter insanity."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 192152099X, 1921922265

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