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Melbourne, 9 March 1860

Original item held at the National Library of Australia, NLA MS 236.
Papers of Burke and Wills Expedition, National Library of Australia, MS 30.
Autographed letter signed from Ludwig Becker to Ferdinand von Mueller (in German) concerning leadership of the VEE, March 1860. Translated by Marjorie Tipping.

 

[Letter was dated ca. 9 March 1860 and has been translated from the original German]

My dear friend,

A mosquito-night gave me the time to think further about the topic of our discussion last night. The committee and-more so-the subcommittee is that old spinster who has won an elephant in the lottery and does not know now what to do with it.

My plan is:
No leader has to be elected from among those 14 men as no one can be elected among them: this will become evident in the course of an examination of the candidates. The examiners should be experienced people, and I suggest Dr Mueller, McMillan, Capt Cadell, Mr Hodginson, Dr Wilkie.

The questions to be put must be answered orally or in writing, without leaving the room.

1) Astronomical knowledge, taking the meridian etc.

2) Surveying and map-making.

3) Knowledge about the nature of the country, with special reference to its dangers, and acquaintance with the means that might help to evade or lessen these dangers. The flight of certain birds to watering places. Waterplants. Well-sinking. Where to look for springs. Edible animals and plants. Etc. etc.

4) Knowledge of the meteorology of the country. Signs of changes in weather. Precautionary measures against fast change. Forms of clouds, colour of the sky in a certain direction in which to look for water if the signs pointed to thunderstorms.

5) Barometer and thermometer for measuring heights as well as for atmospheric observations.

6) Good knowledge of horses (and camels), good horsemanship (also ability to swim) are imperative. Saddles and saddling. Some knowledge of horse diseases.

7) Must have been a soldier to be able to maintain discipline and, if necessary, put up vigorous resistance to attacks by natives. A good shot.

8) A general scientific knowledge to he able to understand and support the activities of the officers.

9) He must be a gentleman of moral and physical strength.

As I am certain that there is nobody among these 14 who would obtain No 1 [highest rating] in all these 9 points; their claim falls away, time is won, and Warburton will he asked to take command, and so the damaging consequences of the stupid advertising will be avoided. I am enclosing a newspaper from Ballarat with two articles, which I would like to ask you to read.

Hoping that you are feeling better,
Ludwig Becker

 
     
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