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Dig Tree Reserve

Source: Go to the Register of the National Estate for more information.
Identifier: 9195
Location: Nappamerry Station via Thargomindah
Bulloo Shire
State: QLD
Country: Australia
Statement of
The place is a blazed coolabah tree and its curtilage which is important as an historic feature symbolising the hardship and tragedy of the expeditions of early explorers. The site also symbolises the desire by people of Victoria to take the lead in exploration of the continent (Criterion A.4) (Historic Theme: 3.2 Surveying the continent and assessing its potential). The Dig Tree is important for its association the Robert O' Hara Burke and William John Wills, leaders of the exploration known as the Burke and Wills expedition (Criterion H.1).
As a social landmark the tree is revered by many Australians and this social importance is demonstrated by the high number of visitors to the tree every year (Criterion G.1).
The place being the site of the depot camp has research potential (Criterion C.2).
Description: It is likely that indigenous cultural values of national estate significance may exist in this place. As yet the AHC has not identified, documented nor assessed these values.


a depot known as Depot 65 (lxv) was established in December 1860 by the explorer Robert O' Hara Burke and his party on the banks of Coopers Creek. On the 16 December 1860, Burke left Depot 65, with Wills (second in command), Gray and King to find a route to the Gulf of CARPENTARIA, leaving William Brahe and four other men to man the Depot. A further group attached to the expedition and lead by William Wright followed the tracks of the initial party to the depot and was expected to arrive in January 1860. However due to sickness, dry conditions and hostility from local Aboriginals, their trip was delayed.

After four months, and as the Burke and Wills exploration party was four weeks overdue, Brahe decided to leave the depot having left a buried cache within which was a note. The location of the buried cache was identified by an inscription 'dig 3 Ft NW Apr 21 1861' bazed into the trunk of a Coolabah tree. The legend states that Burke and his party on returning from the Gulf, discovered Brahe had left nine hours before. Burke, Wills and Gray then attempted to reach the Mount Hopeless station but abandoned their attempt and Burke and Wills perished on the bank of Coopers Creek about the end of June 1861. King survived with the assistance of the local Aboriginal people.

The expedition cost $60,000.00 Althogether including the rescue expedition and was considered at that time, the most the costly expedition in the history of the exploration of Australia. It was believed to be poorly planned with the only reason for the expedition being a desire by Victorians to take the lead in exploration. It was also the first expedition to use camels.


The Dig Tree is a spreading Coolabah (EUCALYPTUS MICROTHECA) growing by Coopers Creek, 6 km from the Nappa Merrie homestead. It is in a reserve owned by the Queensland Historical Society within the Nappa Merrie property own by Stanbroke Pastoral Company. The tree has a blaze carved by the depot team waiting for Burke and Wills to return from the Gulf of CARPENTARIA in 1861.

Although the Dig tree is identified the site of the Depot camp and the stockade that was built is not known. Near the tree is another Coolabah with a face in the likeness of Robert O' Hara Burke carved out of blaze. This tree is also important and within the Reserve area.

The tree has been treated for pests and visited by Dr Ross Wiley, a tree surgeon with the Qld Department of Primary Industry. Board walks have been established around the base of the tree to prevent soil compaction. It is expected that one limb will drop soon. The blaze is gradually being overgrown. Approximately 35,000 tourists visit the site each year.

Report produced : 28/7/2015
AHPI URL : http://www.heritage.gov.au/ahpi/search.html