Burke, Robert O'Hara, 1820–61, Irish explorer of Australia. After service in the Belgian and Austrian armies he went (1853) as inspector of police to Melbourne. In 1860, with W. J. Wills and eight other whites, he left Menindee, on the Darling River, to cross the continent. Dissensions broke up the party, but the leaders reached the estuary of the Flinders River, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. On the return journey both Burke and Wills died from famine and exposure. Although the geographical achievements of the expedition itself were few, rescue parties seeking it added much to the knowledge of central Australia.
See C. G. D. Roberts, Discoveries and Explorations in the Century (1906); M. Colwell, The Journey of Burke and Wills (1971).
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