As white settlement in Australia progressed, rumours abounded in the coastal cities as to what lay in the country’s largely unexplored centre.
The scores of new arrivals brought by the gold rush heard tales of an enormous inland sea, scorching heat and vicious natives. Curiosity led South Australian John McDouall Stuart to become the first of the white settlers to reach the red centre in 1860, but no team had yet crossed the continent from South to North.
Whilst South Australia and NSW were both interested in sending teams, the larger city of Melbourne wasn’t initially enthusiastic. However, increasing media interest and a large anonymous donation led to the appointment of Edmund Burke as the leader of an 1860 expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria and back.