Robert O'Hara Burke
|Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2082/3a Item 1.|
Victorian Exploring Expedition Records, Instructions issued to members of the VEE by the Exploration Committee. Instructions to leader.
Manuscript, handwritten in ink on blue foolscap paper, 5 pages.
18th August, 1860.
Sir - I am directed by the Committee to convey to you the instructions and views which have been adopted in connection with the duties which devolve upon you as Leader of the party now organised to explore the interior of Australia.
The Committee having decided on Cooper's Creek, of Sturt's, as the basis of your operations, request that you will proceed thither, form a depot of provisions and stores, and make arrangements for keeping open a communication in your rear to the Darling, if in your opinion advisable; and thence to Melbourne, so that you maybe enabled to keep the Committee informed of your movements, and receive in return the assistance in stores and advice of which you may stand in need. Should you find that a better communication can be made by way of the South Australian Police Station, near Mount Serle, you will avail yourself of that means of writing to the Committee.
In your route to Cooper's Creek, you will avail yourself of any opportunity that may present itself for examining and reporting on, the character of the country east and west of the Darling.
You will make arrangements for carrying the stores to a point opposite Mount McPherson, which seems to the Committee to be the best point of departure from this river for Cooper's Creek; and while the main body of the party is proceeding to that point you may have farther opportunities of examining the country on either side of your route.
In your further progress from Mount McPherson towards Cooper's Creek, the Committee also desires that you should make further detours to the right and left with the same object.
The object of the Committee in directing you to Cooper's Creek is, that you should explore the country intervening between it and Leichhardt's track, south of the Gulf of Carpentaria, avoiding as far as practicable, Sturt's route on the west, and Gregory's, down the Victoria, on the east.
To this object the Committee wishes you to devote your energies in the first instance; but should you determine the impracticability of this route you are desired to turn west-ward into the country recently discovered by Stuart, and connect his farthest point northward with Gregory's farthest Southern Exploration in 1856 (Mount Wilson).
In proceeding from Cooper's Creek to Stuart's Country, you may find the Salt Marshes an obstacle to the progress of the camels; if so, it is supposed you will be able to avoid these marshes by turning to the northward as far as Eyre's Creek, where there is permanent water, and going then west-ward to Stuart's Farthest.
Should you, however, fail in connecting the two points of Stuart's and Gregory's Farthest, or should you ascertain that this space has been already traversed, you are requested if possible to connect your explorations with those of the younger Gregory, in the vicinity of Mount Gould, and thence you might proceed to Sharks Bay, or down the River Murchison, to the settlements in Western Australia.
This country would afford the means of recruiting the strength of your party, and you might, after a delay of five or six months, be enabled, with the knowledge of the country you shall have previously acquired, to return by a more direct route through South Australia to Melbourne.
If you should, however, have been successful in connecting Stuart's with Gregory's farthest point in 1856 (Mount Wilson), and your party should be equal to the task, you would probably find it possible from thence to reach the country discovered by the younger Gregory.
The Committee is fully aware of the difficulty of the country you are called on to traverse; and in giving you these instructions has placed these routes before you more as an indication of what it has been deemed desirable to have accomplished than as indicating any exact course for you to pursue.
The Committee considers you will find a better and a safer guide in the natural features of the country through which you will have to pass. For all useful and practical purposes it will 'be better for you and the object of future settlement that you should follow the watercourses and the country yielding herbage, than pursue any route which the Committee might be able to sketch out from an imperfect map of Australia.
The Committee entrusts you with the largest discretion as regards the forming of depots, and your movements generally, but request that you will mark your routes as permanently as possible, by leaving records, sowing seeds, building cairns, and marking trees at as many points as possible, consistently with your various other duties.
With reference to financial subjects, you will be furnished with a letter of authority to give orders on the Treasurer for the payment of any stores or their transport cattle, sheep, or horses you may require; and you will not fail to furnish the Treasurer from time to time with detailed accounts of the articles for which you have given such orders in payment.
Each person of the party will be allowed to give authority for half of his salary being paid into any bank, or to any person he may appoint to receive the same; provided a certificate is forwarded from you to the effect that he has efficiently discharged his duty.
The Committee requests that you will make arrangements for an exact account being taken of the stores and their expenditure by the person you place in charge of them.
The Committee also requests that you would address all your communications on subjects connected with the exploration to the Honorary Secretary; and that all persons acting with you should forward their communications on the same subject through you.
You will cause full reports to be furnished by your officers on any subject of interest, and forward them to Melbourne as often as may be practicable without retarding the progress of the expedition.
The Committee has caused the inclosed set of instructions to be drawn up, having relation to each department of science; and you are requested to hand each gentleman a copy of the part more particularly relating to his department.
Robert O'Hara Burke, Esq.