Friday, 15 October 2010

Beckler's Commemorative in Germany

Bad Hindelang, Germany

Commemoration in Beckler's town

Dr Herman Beckler, Medical Director and Botanist on the Burke and Wills Expedition, returned to Germany and served as the Medical Practitioner in the town of Bad Hindelang for almost 35 years. He died in 1914, the last surviving member of the Expedition. As a tribute to Beckler, the Town Council commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the Expedition with a flag-raising ceremony on 2 October 2010.

Will's Surveyor Report

From Mr Wills, Second in Command, Astronomer & Surveyor of the Party. 
Forwarded from Torowotto, October 30th 1860
Surveyor's Report
The country, Bilbarka and Tolarno, in the immediate vicinity of the eastern bank of the River Darling, presents the most barren and miserable appearance of any land that we have yet met with. It consists chiefly of mudflats, covered with polygonum bushes, box timber, and a few salsolaceous plants, of inferior quality. Above Tolarno there is a slight improvement, and between Kinchiga and Menindie there is some fair grazing country. All agree in saying that there is fine grazing land back from the river; but the want of water will probably prevent its being occupied, except in a very partial manner, for many years; and I fear that the high sand ridges, twenty to forty feet, and in some cases more than sixty feet above the level of the river banks, will form almost insuperable barriers in the way of any one who may attempt to conduct water from the river by means of canals. It appears to me, from the information that I have been able to obtain that the difficulties with which settlers have here to contend arise not so much from the absorbent nature of the soil as from the want of anything to absorb. This last season is said to have been the most rainy that they have had for several years; yet everything looked so parched up that I should have imagined it had been an exceedingly dry one.
I noticed that the forests for about 30 miles below Menindie had been subjected to severe gales from W.N.W.  This was so striking, that I at first thought it was the effect of a hurricane; but I could find no indications of a whirling force, all the trees and branches lying in the same direction; besides which, they seemed to have been torn clown at various times, from the different stages of decay in which they were found; and Mr. Wright has subsequently informed me that almost every spring they have a gale from W.N.W., which lasts but a short time, but carries everything before it. It is this same strip of country, which is said to be more favoured with rain than that lower down.
Sand Drifting.
One can perceive everywhere in the neighbourhood of Menindie the effect of the winds in shifting the sand by the numerous logs in various stages of inhumation.
Menindie to Scrope Ranges.
The country between Menindie and Kokriega, in the Scrope Ranges, a distance of thirty-six miles in a northerly direction, is a fine open tract of country, well grassed, but having no permanent water. At Kokriega there is a well which may be relied on for a small supply, but would be of no use in watering cattle in large numbers. The ranges are composed of ferruginous sandstone and quartz conglomerate, and as to vegetation are of a very uninviting aspect. The plain to the south is covered with quartz and sandstone pebbles. About five miles to the N.E. of the Kokriega is a spot where the schist rock crops out from under the sandstone, and the rises here have somewhat of an auriferous character.

My (Beckler's) Resignation.

The Camp, western bank of River Darling
October 16, 1860
To comply with your request I hereby state the reasons for my resignation:
1. Up to the present time I had far less opportunity for doing anything in the scientific branch for which I was appointed than I anticipated, and from the remarks you made yourself I am compelled to believe that I shall have less prospect still in the future. I was anxious to accompany the expedition chiefly to come from my great interest for the vegetation of Australia, and if I hoped for any credit for myself in connections with the expedition, it was chiefly to come from the value of the botanical collections I would have made during the journey.
2. The disagreement between you and Mr Landells have brought matters to such a state, that it takes persons of much more sanguine temperament than myself to believe in a unique and harmonious working together of the party
3. From what I have seen during the journey, having been for the whole time with the camels, it is my humble opinion impossible to make the proper use of and to get the advantages expected to accrue to our expedition from the camels without a person perfectly acquainted with everything regarding their treatment under the most different and, may I add, probably most difficult circumstances.
4. The gentleman above competent to be in charge of the camels is leaving, and I therefore have reason to fear for the safety of the party.
5. Although I have taken great pains with superintending, arranging, loading and reloading our heavy stores, I have, I am sorry to say, not been able to give satisfaction.
6. But I wish to impress upon you, that the principal reason for my resignation is the way in which Mr Landells was treated by you yesterday evening and his consequent resignation, and it is these two points which determine me not to accompany the party under your charge beyond the occupied districts of New South Wales.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant
    Dr Hermann Beckler

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Posted by Mali

Our project trip is called: Beckler's Botanical Bounty - The Flora of Menindee; 150th commemorative collection.

We are a group of 10 botanical artists from Melbourne and Bendigo and included in our group were 2 botanists.

The inspiration for the trip came about thru the 150th celebration of the Burke & Wills Expedition. It was originally suggested by Dr. Beverly Woods, who attends my botanical art class at Royal Botanic Gardens Melb, to go to Menindee to paint the wildflowers.
As I am a scientific illustrator I searched for scientific relevance and decided to research the roll of Dr.Hermann Beckler on the B&W trip. He was the medical doctor and botanical collector for the expedition. When the party split Dr.Beckler stayed on in Menindee for 3 months making many collections. The National Herbarium have on their record that he collected 120 taxa.
As we were collecting for our paintings I then thought that we could also collect for the National Herbarium Melb and at the same time forward a duplicate voucher to NSW Herbarium.

Our aim was to collect the same species of plants that Beckler collected in the same location. As botanical artists we proceeded to paint/illustrate some of the species we found.
As the fields were in spectacular bloom it was a challenge for us to choose which one we wanted to paint, and which ones were the same as Beckler's list.
We stopped at one site and noticed large patches of blue haze, this turned out to be hundreds of Wahlenbergia, the native bluebell ! We were hooked and there we stayed for 3 hours discovering more and more, the more we looked the more we found. Many daisies, salt bushes and blue bushes in full splendid colour.

We spent 5 days in Menindee, 2 days searching, collecting and identifying, 3 days painting and illustrating.
We found 15 plants we are now painting. Out of a list of 120 we plan to return next Oct to continue the project.

Collecting plants for scientific research is of course very important. Illustration is a valuable tool in this research in particular as we painted these plants while they were fresh with colour.
Botanical art is very detailed and very accurate for the purpose of scientific identification. It also invokes awareness and educates the general public to the importance of science and research thru its sheer beauty.
"artists make science visible" I have lived by this philosophy for nearly 20 years now. Without artists and art the world would be a much darker and duller place.

From my understanding Becker made only a few botanical illustrations on the B&W expedition, he made many sketches of the landscape and of natural history subjects like snakes and birds. The landscapes and animals were less able to be preserved and illustrated later, where as the plants were pressed and dried for future rendering. I imagine that Becker would have planned to draw the plants up into full botanical illustrations upon his return to Melbourne Herbarium. Becker died at Bulloo in 1861 (?) and so the plants were not illusrated by Becker (I will check if plants were illustrated by others)

It is our vision to fill in some of the gaps by illustrating the plants on Beckler's list. The importance of this project is immense. 
We aim to put our work on exhibition sometime in the future.

.......... Mali
My first panorama!        <= click here. PC's only.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Dear All,

Any comments, criticisms both positive and negative, ideas, proposals, suggestions, etc.

Also here is where we can all contribute what we've learned, insights, feelings, discoveries, history, anecdotes, characters met, incidents humourous or otherwise, etc.

I certainly had a ball, even if certain aspects were just a tad wanting, everyone and everything else definitely made up for those few hiccups. 

Next year's expedition will absolutely be as good or better than this one, I'm sure!

I will send you an email in the next few days with links to my photos and any other info of any relevance.

This blog should only be used for info that can be viewed by ANYONE only.  The email address is for everything else of a private nature.

...more to follow soon!

Thanks to all for your wonderful company on this all-too-short but exciting and successful expedition.



ps.  Any questions?  Don't hesitate.  Just don't be too critical of the answers, please!