The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/McKinlay, John
McKinlay, John, the famous explorer, was born at Sandbank, on the Clyde, in 1819, and in 1836 emigrated to New South Wales, to join his uncle, a prosperous squatter in that colony. He quickly became an expert bushman, and took up several runs near the South Australian border, thus becoming especially identified with that colony, the Government of which, in 1861, appointed him leader of an expedition organised to search for traces of Burke and Wills. He was also instructed to acquire a knowledge of the country between Eyre's Creek and Central Mount Stuart, and to visit the western shores of Lake Eyre. Starting in August, Mr. McKinlay penetrated to Cooper's Creek, and was shown by the natives the remains of Gray, the first victim of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. Sending back the news to Adelaide, he subsequently learnt that Mr. Howitt had already ascertained the fate of the party and found the bodies of Burke and Wills. He then determined to push on to the northern coast, and reached the Gulf of Carpentaria, after great hardships, in May 1862; but not finding, as he had expected, a vessel laden with provisions to replenish his supplies, he had to retrace his steps and endeavour to reach the settled districts of Queensland. Reduced to scant rations of horse and camel's flesh, the party ultimately reached an out-station in the valley of the Burdekin River, seventy miles from Port Denison, which place they ultimately reached without much difficulty, and thence made their way to Melbourne, where an ovation awaited them on their arrival, on Sept. 25th, 1862. The Royal Geographical Society of England presented McKinlay with a gold watch, the South Australian Parliament voted him £1000, and the public of the colony subscribed for an elaborate tea and coffee service. In Sept. 1865 the South Australian Government despatched McKinlay to explore the Northern Territory. It turned out one of the rainiest seasons ever known; and, being environed by water, but for Mr. McKinlay's ingenuity in killing the remaining horses and constructing a raft out of their skins, stretched on a framework of saplings, the whole party must have perished. As it was, they managed to drift down the Alligator River to the open sea, at Adam's Bay, where they were safe. On his return from this journey, Mr. McKinlay reverted to his former pastoral occupations, but died of ailments brought on by hardships and exposure, on Dec. 31st, 1872. A monument was erected to his memory by the residents of Gawler, S.A. Mr. John Davis, who formed one of the party on his great expedition, commemorated its incidents in an interesting work entitled "Tracks of McKinlay across Australia."