Review Blog

Aug 25 2009

Dig 3ft NW:The Legendary Journey of Burke and Wills

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Louis Braille Audio, 2008. ISBN 9781742122038. (An abridged reading of Sarah Myrgatroyd's The Dig Tree, Text (2002). 6CD's, 8 1/2 hours.
(Ages: All) That Burke and Wills ever became a household phrase is beyond me after listening to this extraordinary story read so capably by Francis Greenslade. Murgatroyd details in her book the appalling beginnings of this exploration, riddled with political machinations, jealousy of South Australia, patronage and jobs for the boys. Burke, by anyone's standards, one of the most incompetent of the applicants for the position of leader of this prestigious expedition, had no idea, no surveying ability, could not read a compass, and was well known in the district where he served as a police officer, for getting lost on his way home from the pub.
Leaving Melbourne took hours, when on the first day, they travelled 11 miles, camping at Essendon, close enough for Burke to return to his mistress in Melbourne for the night. By the time the caravan of horse, camels, 20 tons of equipment, and men, reached Medindie, they had taken nearly 60 days, had lost much equipment, paid out much of the money and no longer given credit at the small store, hired and fired a dozen or so men, and divided their party. The incompetence is overwhelming. Listening to this story makes the listener gasp in amazement, as stupidity upon stupidity is piled high.
An entertaining and very informative book, Greenslade's reading makes the whole most exciting and involving. That this expedition ever got off the ground is staggering, and the mistakes made from selecting the participants to deciding what they would carry, along with ludicrous decisions made reflecting the jealousy between SA and Victoria makes the listeners shake their heads in bewilderment. A great listen for people of all ages.
Fran Knight

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