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1857

Original minute books of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria are held at:
State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071; Boxes 2075/1, 2075/2, 207/3, 2088B/1.
Mostly bound volumes, manuscript, handwritten in ink.
Some missing, some incomplete, and many generally not in chronological order.

29 April 1857 - William Clark Haines replaced O'Shanassy as Chief Secretary. This was Haines' second term and lasted from 29 April 1857 until 10 March 1858.

Wednesday, 21 October 1857.
At an Ordinary Meeting of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, held at the Mechanic's Institute in Collins-street at 7.30pm, Dr David Wilkie gave notice of a proposal for the next meeting to form a Committee to organise an Exploration Party to cross Australia from east to west and search for Leichhardt. He proposed:

That a Committee be appointed to consider and report on the practicality of fitting out in Victoria a geographical expedition, for the purpose of carrying out the great idea of the lamented Leichhardt, of exploring from east to west, and for the purpose, if possible, of gathering some tidings of the fate of Leichhardt and his party. The proposed expedition to start from Curtis Bay on the east coast [near today's Gladstone] and to make a direct course westward in the latitude of the Tropic of Capricorn to Shark Bay on the west coast, embracing at the same time, any fitting opportunity of exploring the interior both to the north and south of this line.

The meeting separated at 10.15pm.

Wednesday, 11 November 1857.
An Ordinary Meeting of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, held at the Mechanic's Institute on Collins-street. The attendance of members was numerous. Vice-President Wilkie vacated the chair to present his proposal. With Dr Solomon Iffla in the chair, the Institute debated Wilkie's proposal.

Wilkie thought that the geographical exploration of the interior was a subject of great national importance. On scientific grounds it was peculiarly the province of the Institute to promote this great object. The proposed search for Leichhardt would, he felt assured, command their warmest sympathies. In no part of the world was there so wide an extent of available country for the future settlement of the surplus population of the Old World. The exploration of the interior was, therefore, fraught with the most important results. He referred to the indomitable courage displayed by Dr Livingstone in Africa, and to his extraordinary success as an explorer. He referred to the valuable result of the exploring expeditions of Sturt, Leichhardt, Mitchell and Gregory. He recommended that the proposed expedition should follow the northern boundary of Sturt's desert, which he believed would be found not far north of the tropic of Capricorn; the beautiful country to the Victoiria River near this latitude favored this opinion. There was every probability of gaining some tidings respecting Leichhardt's fate by exploring this route. £6,000 would be necessary to organise and maintain a suitable exploring party for a period of two years, which would suffice for the proposed objects. New South Wales had fitted out many exploring expeditions. South Australia and Swan River had also had their exploring parties. The Royal Geographical Society of London and the Home Government had contributed large sums for the same end. Victoria alone, had hitherto seemed to forget the claims of science, and the future interest of Australia, but ought, from her unexampled wealth, and her large and rapidly increasing population, to take the lead in geographical discovery. The present was the most auspicious occasion for Victoria to contribute her share in this honorable work. Her Majesty's representative, Sir Henry Barkly, was the friend and patron of science and he ventured to hope that his Excellency would aid the cause of geographical discovery. Sir W Denison was at present organising an exploring party in search of Leichhardt. This expedition, being equipped for six months only, ought not to interfere with the Victorian expedition, which was intended to embrace far wider objects. He had no doubt that Victoria would now endeavor to emulate the noble example of the other colonies. If the proposed expedition should be successful in exploring the central regions of Australia, from east to west, this disinterested contribution of Victoria to the cause of science would be honotably remembered in Australian history.

Wilkie's proposal was seconded by Mr Arthur Dobree. Dr Macadam moved an amendment, seconded by J D Pinnock, that the debate should be postponed until the results of New South Wales' expedition were known [Augustus Charles Gregory's 1858 Leichhardt Search Expedition].

The Reverend Bleasdale moved a second amendment, seconded by Dr Mueller, that the Institute appoint a Committee to devise the best means to cooperate with the promoters in New South Wales.

A third amendment was moved by Dr Gilbee, seconded by Mr Broad, that the discussion be postponed until the next Ordinary Meeting.

The amendments were all out-voted and the motion carried. Although not in a financial position to run an expedition themselves, the Institute formed an Exploration Committee of 32 members.

Saturday, 14 November 1857.
The Exploration Committee met for the first time.
Present: (10 of 32 members) - Wilkie (chair), James Bonwick (Secretary), Bland, Blandowski, Elliott, Gilbee, Hodgson, Knaggs, Macadam, Rawlinson.

Resolutions moved included;

• The desirability of Victoria taking a share in the labors of revealing the unexplored portion of the interior of Australia - Carried.
• The route of the expedition be from from east to west as near to the Tropic of Capricorn as the features of the country will permit - Carried.
• That an appeal to the public be made for money with the intention of an application to the government for money - Carried.
• That a public meeting be held in furtherance of the project - Carried.
• That Mr Bonwick write to Augustus Charles Gregory and he be asked for suggestions on the arrangements - Carried.
• That Lt J R Pascoe JP, and Dr J William McKenna be added to the Committee - Carried.
• That Dr John Macadam be Secretary in the event of Mr Bonwick being absent from town - Carried.

Related archive: SLV MS13071 Box 2075/1a. EC Minutes, 24p ms and printed.

• Report of the Committee appointed to consider a report upon a Victorian scheme of exploring the interior of Australia. 4p.

The Exploration Committee now consisted of 34 members.

Monday, 23 November 1857.
The second meeting of the Exploration Committee held at the Mechanics Institute.
7 of the 34 members were present: Wilkie (chair), Macadam (Assistant Secretary), Bland, Blandowski, Farewell, Mueller, Wilson.

After a discussion on the route of the expedition when Dr Mueller suggested going via the Darling rather than from Port Curtis on the east coast, Wilson proposed that business be postponed until the 30th November so the Committee could hear Dr Mueller's forthcoming paper on Australian Exploration which was to be presented to the Institute on the 25th November - Carried.

Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1a, RSV EC minutes 1857-1858.

• Minutes of the [second] meeting of the EC, 23 November 1857. 1 p.

Wednesday, 25 November 1857.
At an Extra Meeting of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, Dr Ferdinand Mueller read a paper titled "An historical review of the explorations of Australia" which was followed by an animated discussion.

Monday, 30 November 1857.
At the third meeting of the Exploration Committee, 11 of the 34 members were present.
Present: Clarke (chair), Macadam (Secretary), Blandowski, Elliott, Farewell, Hodgson, Irving, Morrison, McKenna, Mueller, Wilkie.

The letter drafted by Mr Bonwick to A C Gregory was read.

Dr Mueller moved, pursuant to previous notice, that the starting point, originally fixed to be Port Curtis should be changed for the Darling, because it seemed inadvisable to send a simultaneous expedition from Victoria to the subtropical east coast, whilst the New South Wales Government had already entrusted to Mr Gregory the command of all expedition in search of Dr Leichhardt. He pointed also to the additional chance which would thereby offer itself of gaining information as to the fate of Dr Leichhardt. By adopting the Darling as a starting point, Dr Mueller said a new and large portion of country in close proximity to the northern goldfields of the colony of Victoria, and probably in part available for pastures, would be opened. Further, it seemed preferable to explore a new tract of country, on the route to the Victoria River and situated between the Darling, Grey Range and the Warrego, than proceeding over the well-known country to the Victoria River from the eastward.

Mr Blandowski objected to this alteration in the proposed route on account of the greater distance to be traversed to the Victoria River. He explained the difficulty of obtaining horses fit for an exploring party in the northern parts of this colony, and referred to the existence of poisonous herbs on the Darling as dangerous to such animals.

Dr Mueller contended that poisonous herbs were not restricted to some portions of the country near the Darling, but had proved destructive to horses and other animals near Lake Torrens in Western Australia, Arnhem Land and other parts of this continent, and would probably be encountered on many other lines of the country.

Dr Mackenna, considering that New South Wales and South Australia were already engaged in exploration, moved that Victoria, should carry out the objects in view without the cooperation of the neighboring colonies. -Carried.

Edward Wilson's suggestion to form a depot at the junction of the Thomson with the Victoria River, about 25º S and 143º E, was agreed to, subject to to approval of the Government and colonists, and provisions should be conveyed to that locality within the space of two years.

The decision on the best route for accomplishing this object was postponed on the motion of the Hon. John Hodgson MLC, until a reply could be received from Mr Gregory.

Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1a, RSV EC minutes 1857-1858.

• Minutes of the [third] meeting of the EC, 30 November 1857, written on Philosophical Institute headed paper. 3 p.

Monday, 7 December 1857.
At the fourth meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: (11 of 34 members) - Clarke (chair), Macadam (Secretary), Blandowski, Bland, Farwell, Gilbee, Hodgson, Knaggs, Mueller, Rawlinson, Wilkie.

Dr Macadam read the letter from A C Gregory regarding his opinion of the exploration proposals.

In reference to the statement made by Mr Gregory as to the prevalence of salt water in many districts, particularly of the western interior, Mr Blandowski expressed an opinion that this should not of itself deter an explorer, since in other districts of Australia fresh and salt water lakes were frequently found in proximity to each other.

Dr Mueller explained that under the rapid evaporation in the dry atmosphere of the desert, combined with the solution of salt particles from the soil, stagnant water became entirely undrinkable, and this even after heavy thunder showers. Such waters might be comparatively fresh, and he deduced in illustration the experience in this respect of Mr Oakden in the country west of Lake Torrens. Dr Mueller at the same time admitted that drainage water collecting in a sandy or not saline ground might always afford a supply of fresh water, as in the instance of Lake Benanee. From previous experience, however, large depressed tracts of saline country of recent formation might be expected in the interior desert, which, it might be anticipated, would be but scantily provided with fresh water.

Dr Mueller thought that the "Second Darling" (The Paroo) described by the natives to Mr Blandowski, as existing to the north of the River Darling would probably prove to be a continuation of the Warrego Creek, and, if so, would greatly facilitate an expedition northward from the Darling. Such, at least, would yield an oasis in the desert, similar to those on Eyre's Creek, Cooper's Creek, and Sturt's Creek, and which will always be of the highest importance to travellers proceeding towards central Australia.

Dr Wilkie and Mr Blandowski urged that the route selected should be that from Port Curtis, proceeding to the junction of the Victoria and Thomson Rivers, at or near the junction of which a depot should be established.

Dr Mueller, in supporting the amendment to this motion, contrasted the facility for the transit of stores furnished by the Murray steam navigation, almost to the point of unexplored country, with the difficult and partially mountainous route to be traversed when transporting, under not less expense, large quantities of stores from the east coast to the junction of the rivers named. He pointed out, also, that in selecting the Darling route, a direct line of communication would most probably be established between our own colony and the Victoria River.

The amendment was supported by the Hon. John Hodgson, in consequence of Mr Blandowski's remarks on the existence of permanent water not far north of the Darling, which seemed to augur so favorably for that route. Mr Hodgson expressed himself as influenced, also, in his decision, by Mr Gregory's communication. The amendment was carried by one vote.

On the motion of the Hon John Hodgson, it was unanimously resolved to organise at once a light party for the exploration of the country from the Darling to the junction of the Victoria and Thomson Rivers. Mr Blandowski, in reply to a question from the Hon Captain Clarke R E, stated that, in his opinion, a period of eight months (five of which to be employed in actual exploration) would be sufficient for this purpose. He adverted to the necessity of immediate despatch in the necessary preparations, in order to reap the full advantage of the next rainy season. The sum of ₤2000 was deemed sufficient for efficiently carrying out this exploit.

Rawlinson moved that Mueller, Wilkie and Bonwick prepare the first report - carried.

Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1a, RSV EC minutes 1857-1858.

• Minutes of the [fourth] meeting of the EC, 7 December 1857, written on Philosophical Institute headed paper. 3 p. Rough copy
• Duplicate copy [better quality] of Minutes of the [fourth] meeting of the EC, 7 December 1857. 3 p.

Monday, 21 December 1857.
A Special General Meeting of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria was held to receive the First Report of the Exploration Committee. However, attendance was poor and the meeting was postponed until the following night.

Tuesday, 22 December 1857.
At the Adjourned Special Meeting of the Institute, held at 7.30 pm in the Scott's School-room on Collins-street, because the Mechanic's Institute had not been booked and was being used by the Philarmonica.
Present: (11 of 34 members) - Wilkie (chair), Acheson, Blandowski, Bonwick, Clarke, Elliott, Hodgson, Knaggs, Macadam, McKenna, Rawlinson.

The Committee accepted Mueller's proposal for a small, light exploring party. Mueller tabled a list of equipment that the party would need.

The First Report of the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria was adopted, which included a list of equipment drawn up by Mueller to equip a small, light exploring party.

The following members left the Committee; Haines, Hearn, Hope, Irving, Knight, McCoy, McLean, Morrison, Murphy, Neumayer, O’Shanassy, Selwyn, Turnbull, E Wilson, W Wilson.

The following members were elected to the Committee; Higginbotham, Hough, McGillvray, Shiel, Smith. The Exploration Committee now had twenty-five members.

An adjourned special meeting of the Philosophical Institute was held last night at half past seven o'clock, in the Scots' School room, Collins-street, for the purpose of receiving the report of the Committee on the subject of a Victorian Geographical Expedition. Dr Wilkie occupied the chair.

The Hon Secretary read the report to the Committee, which, from its length, we are for the present, compelled to hold over. Dr Iffla moved the adoption of the report. Dr Eades seconded the motion. The Rev Dr Shiel moved as an amendment, that a large and efficient party be fitted out, and that the Government be requested to assist it. The amendment not having been seconded, lapsed.

Mr Acheson moved an amendment to the effect that the exploring party consist of six persons and a leader, instead of four persons and a leader, as recommended by the report of the Committee. Mr Bonwick seconded the amendment, which was put and lost.

The meeting then adopted the report. Mr Bonwick moved, and Dr Macadam seconded, the following resolution:

That an Exploration Committee be appointed, with full power to act on behalf of the Institute in furtherance of the proposed expedition, the Committee to consist of the following gentlemen:

  • The Hon. Captain Clarke, RE., MLA,
  • John Hodgson Esq., MLC.,
  • Dr Ferdinand Mueller,
  • Dr Macadam,
  • E Wilson Esq.,
  • G Higinbotham Esq.,
  • R H Bland Esq.,
  • James Bonwick Esq.,
  • Rev J J Bleasdale,
  • C Farewell Esq.,
  • Dr M'Kenna,
  • Dr Knaggs,
  • S Elliott Esq.,
  • Dr Iffla,
  • Dr Gilbee,
  • Lieutenant Pasco RN,
  • Dr Wilkie,
  • F Acheson Esq.,
  • T C Rawlinson Esq.,
  • A K Smith Esq.,
  • Dr M'Gillvray,
  • W. Blandowski Esq.,
  • - Dobree Esq.,
  • The Rev Dr Shiel,
  • G S Hough Esq.

Five to form a quorum.

Dr Wilkie was voted chairman of the Committee, Mr Bonwick and Dr lffla being requested to act as secretary and treasurer respectively. The Committee will meet at four o'clock this afternoon in the Mechanics' Institute, Collins-street. The meeting adjourned at a little before ten o'clock.

Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1a, RSV EC minutes 1857-1858.

• Minutes of the [postponed] meeting of the EC 22 December 1857 1p.

Wednesday, 23 December 1857.
Ordinary Meeting of the Exploration Committee held at 4.00 pm the Mechanics Institute.
Present: (6 of the 25 members) - Wilkie (chair) Bland, Blandowski, Bonwick, Hough, Macadam.

Bland moved that they should invite the cooperation of the public in the proposed exploration of the interior and a Public Meeting should be called for the 30th December 1857 - Carried. It was agreed that meetings should terminate at 5.00 pm.

Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1a, RSV EC minutes 1857-1858.

• Minutes of the meeting of the EC, 23 December 1857. 1 p.

Tuesday, 29 December 1857.
Ordinary Meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: (11 of 25 members) - Wilkie (chair), Acheson, Bland, Bonwick, Farwell, Gilbee, Hodgson, Hough, Iffla, Macadam, McKenna.

The Public Meeting that was scheduled for 30th December was rescheduled to the 4th January 1858. - Carried.
Captain Clarke to be in the Chair at that meeting - Carried.

Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1a, RSV EC minutes 1857-1858.

• Minutes of the meeting of the EC, 29 December 1857. 2 p.

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