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William John Wills

In their own words

William John Wills
Audio: 2 minutes

These are probably the last lines you’ll ever get from me. We are on the point of starvation not so much from absolute want of food, but from the want of nutriment in what we can get.

We have had very good luck, and made a most successful trip to Carpentaria, and back to where we had every right to consider ourselves safe, having left a Depot here consisting of four men, twelve horses, and six camels.

They had provisions enough to have lasted them twelve months, and we had also every right to expect that we should have been immediately followed up from Menindee by another party with additional provisions and every necessary for forming a permanent Depot at Cooper's Creek. The party we left here had special instructions not to leave until our return unless from absolute necessity. We left the creek with nominally three months' supply, but they were reckoned at little over the rate of half rations. We calculated on having to eat some of the camels. By the greatest good luck, at every turn, we crossed to the gulf through a good deal of fine country, almost in a straight line from here.

On the other side the camels suffered considerably from wet; we had to kill and jerk one soon after starting back. We had now been out a little more than two months and found it necessary to reduce the rations considerably; and this began to tell on all hands, but I felt it by far less than any of the others. We got back here in four months and four days, and found the party had left the Creek the same day, and we were not in a fit state to follow them.

I think to live about four or five days.

Acknowledgements

Wills, William John (1861) Last letter to his father from Cooper’s Creek, 27 June 1861. A Successful Exploration of Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. From the Journals and Letters of William John Wills, edited by his father, William Wills, 1863, Richard Bentleigh, London

Attribution

Voiced by Christopher Baldock

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William John Wills

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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