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Water bottle used by explorer Robert O'Hara Burke on his 1860-1861 expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria

Object type
Water containers

Object number

Bulbous bladder-style dark leather water bottle that tapers from its reservoir to its neck. It has a seam around the edge, and a small leather loop is sewn into the seam on opposite sides. The bladder is sealed by a waxy band to a very dark brown turned animal horn spout, which has a white patch on one side. The horn cap is secured to the spout with coiled string. One face of the bladder has fine white crystalline deposits in the creases in the leather.

Collection name
Robert O'Hara Burke collection

Collection statement of significance
The Robert O'Hara Burke Water Bottle Collection is a tear-shaped water bottle of hardened leather with a cylindrical horn lid. String connects the horn lid to the bottle. Part of the spout of the bottle exhibits wear suggestive of extended rubbing. The water bottle is aged and in fair condition.

Many Australians consider the Burke and Wills story of great historical and cultural significance. The Victorian Exploring Expedition left Melbourne for the Gulf of Carpentaria in August 1860, led by Robert O'Hara Burke. An initiative of the Royal Society of Victoria, the costly and well-provisioned Expedition sought to make the first crossing from south to north of the Australian continent and claim prestige for the young and gold-rich colony of Victoria. In haphazard fashion the exploring party achieved its goal then finished in drama and tragedy with the death on Coopers Creek of Burke and his deputy William John Wills. Australians immediately invested Burke and Wills with heroic status. The men had braved the unsettling mystery and vastness of the Australian interior before dying in dramatic circumstances. As an item which helped Burke cross great stretches of dry terrain, the water bottle dramatically represents the various challenges faced by explorers and other settler Australians during the colonial period as they engaged with the natural realities of inland Australia.

Robert O'Hara Burke

Place used
Victoria, Australia

Place used
New South Wales, Australia

Place used
Queensland, Australia

Associated date
1860 - 1861

Leather, Horn, String

Length: 330mm
Width: 195mm
Height: 35mm

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