On their return journey, Burke, Wills and King had missed their relief party at Cooper’s Creek by a few hours. As their supplies ran low, they tried to survive by eating nardoo. The sporocarps (seed-like spore cases) of the nardoo fern were an important food for the local Yandruwandha aboriginal people but the explorers did not know the correct way to prepare it. Unless roasted, the nardoo paste contained an enzyme that broke down thiamine in their bodies causing beriberi, a condition caused by deficiency of vitamin B1. Burke and Wills died in late June 1861 but John King was cared for by the Yandruwandha and was still alive in September when search parties finally arrived.
Dr Beryl Carmichael from Menindee speaks of Nardoo and other aboriginal bush foods in the video: Beryl's supermarket
. See also the video of Jack Thompson
December 22, 1862
Wood engraving published in The illustrated Australian mail.
print : wood engraving.
Accession no(s) IAM22/12/62/213
State Library of Victoria