|Original minute books of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria are held at:|
State Library of Victoria, 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.
Royal Society of Victoria:
President - Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of Victoria
Vice-President - Dr Richard Eades & Professor Georg Balthasar Neumayer
Treasurer - Reverend John Ignatius Bleasdale
Honorary Secretary - Dr John Macadam M.D.
Council - Dr Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich Mueller
Council - Professor Martin Howy Irving
Council - John Walter Osborne
Council - Dr David Elliot Wilkie M.D.
Council - Dr Solomon Iffla
Council - Professor Frederick McCoy
Monday 2 January 1860.
Holiday in Victoria: in lieu of New Years Day.
It was proposed that James Smith Esq. be elected to the Committee.
• p. 30. Minutes of the EC meeting, 5 January 1860.
Monday, 9 January 1860.
At a Special General Meeting of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, held in the evening at the Institute's new hall, the Fourth Progress Report of the Exploration Committee was presented by Dr Wilkie, moved by Mr Acheson, seconded by Dr Mackenna and adopted.
Dr Mueller was in the chair and there were about 40 members present. The President stated that the Society were much indebted to Dr Wilkie for the time he had devoted, and the zeal he had manifested, in promoting the cause of exploration.
Related archives: Argus, Tuesday 10 January 1860: 5
Tuesday, 17 January 1860
Age, Tuesday 17 January 1860: 3
Parliament of Victoria: Legislative Assembly. Notice of Motions and Orders of the Day - Dr Macadam: To ask the Chief Secretary whether it is the intention of the Government to secure, with the view of furthering the exploration of the interior, the six camels recently imported by private enterprise.
Mr Nicholson replied that there were no funds at the disposal of the Government for such a purpose, and besides that the late Government had already sent to India the money voted last year for the purpose of purchasing camels, and, therefore, under these circumstances it would be injudicious to make purchases here.
Wednesday, 18 January 1860
The Philosophical Institution has received an intimation from the Duke of Newcastle through His Excellency the Governor, to the effect that Her Majesty had given permission for the Institution to assume the title of the Royal Society of Victoria.
Note: The Duke of Newcastle was the Secretary of State for the Colonies, His Grace Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 5th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne KG, PC (22 May 1811 – 18 October 1864).
Related archives: Argus, Wednesday 18 January 1860: 4
• Minutes of the EC meeting, 20 January 1860.
• p. 31. Minutes of the EC meeting, 20 January 1860.
Monday 23 January 1860.
Meeting of the Exploration Fund Raising Committee. A Public Meeting of subscribers to the Exploration Fund was held at the Mechanics Institute, Collins-street at 3.00 p.m.
Present: Hodgson (Chair), Wilkie, Macadam, (Watson?), Mueller.
About 15-20 gentlemen were present. The funds necessary to secure the £1,000 had been raised and the Fund Raising Committee was dissolved and most of its members were re-incorporated into the Exploration Committee.
The Hon. John Hodgson left the Committee and Clement Hodgkinson was elected. The Special Progress Report detailed the fund raising efforts.
Mr Watson moved the adoption of the report, and in doing so, said he was happy to be able to congratulate the members of the Committee upon the financial state of affairs. He was satisfied that he was expressing the opinions of all interested in the cause of exploration, when he stated that the warmest thanks were due to the Committee for the time and trouble they had demoted to the furtherance of their object. Mr P.H. Smith seconded the resolution, which was carried.
Mr Gillbee moved:
That the thanks of this meeting be accorded to the members of the Exploration Fund Committee for the valuable services they have rendered to the cause of exploration, and that a special vote of thanks be accorded to his Honour Sir William Foster Stawell, for the warm interest he has taken and the kind assistance he has rendered at all times as chairman of that Committee.
Mr Davies seconded the motion, which was carried.
Dr Mackenna moved:
That, as it is now essential that there should be only one Exploration Committee, and as it is believed that Her Majesty's Government in Victoria are willing to entrust to the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria the management of the proposed expedition, for which the sum of, £6,000, has been voted by Parliament, it is hereby resolved, that the Hon Treasurer, the Hon Dr Wilkie, MLC, be authorised to transfer the subscriptions to the Exploration Fund to the credit of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria, subject to this condition, that the following members of the Exploration Fund Committee, as representing the subscribers to the Exploration Fund, be added to the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society, Viz. His Honour the Chief Justice the Hon John Hodgson MLC; Professor McCoy, Dr Ferdinand Mueller, James Smith Esq; Dr Macadam MLA: the Hon Dr Wilkie MLC.
Mr Gillbee suggested that the name of Mr Hodgkinson should he added to the list. Dr Wilkie said that it could be brought under the notice of the Royal Society, which would meet that evening. Mr Davies, seconded the resolution, which was carried.
The Chairman stated that it having been decided that the funds should be handed over to the credit of the Exploration Fund, a meeting would be convened to originate the best means for carrying out the object of the report, as it was deemed advisable that no time should be lost in order to allow the expedition to start in February.
Dr Wilkie moved a vote of thanks to the Chairman, who, he stated, had taken very great trouble to collect the amount of £2,000, and to promote the object in view. Mr Hodgson had collected £300, and without his valuable assistance the Committee would not, in all probability, have met on the present occasion. Dr Mueller seconded the motion, which was carried.
The Chairman said he had been amply rewarded for any exertions he had made, by finding that the object of those exertions had been accomplished. The subscribers, generally, had come forward in the most liberal manner, and he hoped and trusted the object would be carried out for which the money had been raised, and that the result would prove that it had not been raised in vain.
The proceedings then terminated.
Argus, Tuesday 24 January 1860: 7a
Special general meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria.
That evening there was a special general meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria, held in the evening at the Hall in Victoria-street. About 30 members were present, Dr Mueller in the chair.
Dr Wilkie reported the result of a meeting of subscribers to the Exploration Fund, which had been held that afternoon at the Mechanics' Institute, and moved that the names of James Smith, Esq., and Clement Hodgkinson, Esq., be added to the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society. Dr Iffla seconded the motion, which was carried.
The President thought that, as it was advisable to take as prompt action as possible in everything connected with the exploration of the interior, the standing orders should be suspended, and the gentlemen in question elected members. The suggestion met with general approval. Dr Wilkie moved that the thanks of the Society be accorded to the gentlemen forming the Finance Committee of the Exploration Committee.
Dr Macadam suggested that, as it was necessary that the funds voted by the Legislature should be made available as early as possible, a petition should be presented to the Hon the Chief Secretary to that effect. The Rev Mr Jarrety seconded the motion.
Mr Ligar thought the Government could not give the money until after the passing of the Appropriation Act. He would, therefore, suggest that the Legislative Council be requested to arrange that the amount in question might be placed at the disposal of the Society as soon as possible.
The President thought it was high time that arrangements, which must of necessity extend over several weeks, should be commenced as early as it was possible. He thought that by judicious and economical management the sum might be made to extend over two winters.
Dr Wilkie thought it might be left to the Exploration Committee, which would meet on Wednesday morning, to act in the matter. The motion that the Society wait upon the Hon the Chief Secretary was then put, and carried.
Related archive: Age, Tuesday 24 January 1860: 6
Related archive: Argus, Tuesday 24 January 1860: 7b
• p. 32. Minutes of the EC meeting, 23 January 1860.
• p. 32. Minutes of the meeting of subscribers to the Exploration Fund, 23 Jan 1860.
It was agreed that the united Committees now be called the "Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria". Stawell was appointed Chairman, Hodgson the Vice-Chair, Wilkie the Treasurer and Macadam the Hon Secretary.
The minutes of the previous meetings having been read and confirmed, Dr Wilkie, the Hon Treasurer of the Society, reported the amount of certain outstanding subscriptions due, and mentioned that the Municipal Council of Williamstown had returned no answer to his application for the £15 voted by them to the Society. In compliance with Dr Wilkie's suggestion, that two auditors be nominated to check the accounts on the motion of Dr Macadam, Mr Francis T Gell and Mr Charles Farewell were appointed to that office.
After some discussion, on the motion of Dr Mueller, Sir William Stawell was elected Chairman and the Hon John Hodgson Vice-Chairman of the Exploration Committee, consisting of (in addition to those gentlemen) Dr Wilkie, Dr Mueller, Dr Macadam and Mr Watson. Dr Wilkie having been appointed treasurer to the Exploration Fund.
Dr Mueller rose to move that a communication be sent to Major Warburton, in Adelaide, inviting him to an early interview with this Committee, in reference to the organisation of the Victorian expedition, and stated that he had great pleasure in bringing forward this resolution. In the first place, all would agree with him that there was no one so fit to advise and consult with on the subject as that gentleman, and in the next place, there was no time to lose. It was necessary at once to appoint a leader, subject to the approval of Her Majesty's Government, who possessed the qualifications requisite for the conduct of the undertaking. In his opinion, there was no one so eminently capable of filling that important post as Major Warburton. There were, he regretted to say, but very few practical explorers left. The country had sustained a great loss in the deaths of Dr Leichhardt, Sir Thomas Mitchell, and Mr Kennedy. They could not even avail themselves of the services of Captain Sturt, who, afflicted with blindness, was now in England. Then again Mr Ayres had been appointed Governor of St Vincent, and Mr A.C. Gregory had received the reward of his exertions in being appointed Surveyor General of Queensland, whilst his brother, equally talented, was on his way to England. It was therefore necessary to bring a new man into the field. The gentleman he had named he had selected on account of his well known and extensive experience in Australian exploration, and as one who had already done a considerable amount of work in investigating the north west interior. There were also many other considerations which induced him to recommend Major Warburton. He would instance the unbounded zeal and untiring energy Major Warburton had already displayed in the cause. He was quite ready to start last season from Adelaide, and was willing to undertake the hazardous journey with only two or three troopers. He had already penetrated that country for a considerable distance, and, in addition to the valuable knowledge and experience he had already gained, he had met with no disaster, but judiciously returned before the hot season set in, thereby evincing a praiseworthy caution in conducting the enterprise which entitled him to the confidence of the society It was essential that the leader of such an expedition should be thoroughly a gentleman, also that he should be a rigorous disciplinarian. Now, where could they find those qualities so well combined, in addition to the experience he already possessed, in Major Warburton, who, as Chief Commissioner of Police and as a soldier, was accustomed to direct and to see his orders carried out. He possessed another, and, if possible, a still greater claim to the position, he had been long accustomed to travel in India with camels, and knew how to conduct an expedition with their aid. And, finally, the great interest he had shown, and the zeal he had at all times evinced for the development of science, proved his fitness to be intrusted with the command of the exploring party About six months ago, he (Dr Mueller) wrote to ask Major Warburton to kindly forward to him some flowers and plants, and his request was at once responded to with the utmost readiness and alacrity. He had not the honour of being personally acquainted with Major Warburton, but would mention that Mr Augustus Gregory had given that gentleman his warmest recommendation for the position.
Captain Cadell, who was personally acquainted with him, had also added the weight of his recommendation.
Dr Macadam, being conscious of the great importance attached to the appointment of a leader to the expedition, with much pleasure seconded the resolution.
Dr Mueller coincided with this opinion, and begged to add the words 'subject to the approval of the Government' after the word 'communication' in the resolution, which he had inadvertently omitted. The resolution was then agreed to. Dr Wilkie then moved:
1. That, in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Society of Victoria, the Exploration Committee have the honour to submit an application to Her Majesty's Government that they will be pleased to entrust the organisation and general direction of the Victorian Expedition for the exploration of the interior to the Exploration Committee, consisting of:
• His Honour Sir William Stawell, Chairman
• Hon John Hodgson, MLC, Vice-Chairman
• Hon David E Wilkie, MD, MLC, Hon Treasurer
• John Macadam, MD, MLA, Hon, Secretary
• Dr Ferdinand Mueller, President of the Royal Society
• C W Ligar Esq, Surveyor General
• Clement Hodgkinson Esq, O.E., Deputy Surveyor-General
• Dr Richard Eades Esq, MD, mayor of Melbourne
• Rev J I Bleasdale, vice-president of the Royal Society
• Dr Iffla, vice-president of the Royal Society
• Angus McMillan Esq MLA
• Professor McCoy
• Professor Neumayer
• James Smith, Esq
• Dr Mackenna
• Sizar Elliott Esq JP
• John Watson Esq JP
• Dr William Gillbee
and the Exploration Committee have the honour further to submit that it is of very great importance that immediate measures should be adopted for carrying out the proposed object.
2. That a deputation consisting of the following gentlemen be appointed to wait upon the Hon the Chief Secretary Nicholson to submit the above resolution, and to give any further information to Her Majesty's Government that may be required. Members of the deputation:
These resolutions were agreed to.
Argus, Thursday 26 January 1860: 4
There are few undertakings, other than those of a purely charitable nature, which are not obnoxious to the suspicion of having originated in a selfish motive, and of being prosecuted with a selfish object. Even in those cases where no material advantage can be shown to accrue to the projectors and conductors of an enterprise, a rigid analysis of their springs of action will enable the cynical critic to discover that personal vanity or a love of notoriety has largely influenced the conduct of men who enjoy the reputation of being actuated by higher considerations, and of being inspired by philanthropy or public spirit. But no such imputations can be fastened on those by whose zeal and liberality the project of exploring the interior of this continent has reached the present mature stage of its existence.
The scheme owed its inception to an act of rare generosity - the offer, upon certain conditions, of £1,000 by a donor who has persistently maintained his anonymity. The value of so munificent a gift was enhanced by the circumstances under which it was offered. It was not prompted by the ostentation of opulence, nor by the thirst for distinction. It was not to be applied in furtherance of an enterprise which held out, though ever so remotely, the promise of reproductiveness; nor is it possible that, in any event, the colony itself can derive any exclusive advantages from any discoveries, howsoever valuable, which may hereafter be made in the centre of Australia. The limits of our own territory are strictly defined, for we are "put into circumscription and confine" by our neighbours, who are not debarred from pushing their outposts further north and west, if the contemplated expedition should succeed in discovering tracts of country in those directions available for occupation. Victoria has little or nothing to gain by this exploration. She incurs the cost, the labours, and the perils of the enterprise, and more than atones for her past inactivity in this matter by the energy and the liberality with which Government and people have responded to the appeal made by an anonymous citizen.
And while acknowledging his modest merit, a warm tribute of praise must be paid to the persevering efforts of the Exploration Fund Committee, by whose instrumentality the stipulated £2,000 has been raised during a period of severe commercial depression, and at a time when a succession of heavy calamities - such as the bush-fires in South Australia, the great conflagration in North Melbourne, and the wreck of the Admolla - demanded and received alleviation from the bounty of the public.
Those who subscribed to the Exploration Fund - and in many instances the individual donations were considerable in amount - will have the gratification, we hope, of witnessing the accomplishment of great results by the agency of their subscriptions, of the £1,000 they have been the means of securing, and of the £6,000 voted by the Legislature for the objects indicated.
Now, if ever, we may hope for the solution of one of the very few geographical problems which remain to be solved. Now, if ever, we may anticipate the removal of that veil of mystery which shrouds the interior of this land of anomalies. Now, if ever, we shall ascertain whether it consists of "antres vast and deserts idle" and whether the accepted notion of its sterility and savage desolation is not as erroneous as the popular conceptions of Central Africa, which have been dissipated by Barth and Livingstone.
The spirit of adventure can receive no stronger stimulus than that which it may obtain from the prospect of investigating the secrets which Nature has hitherto hidden in the heart of Australia. Nowhere else upon the solid surface of the globe can imagination find such free play, or romance indulge in such fantasies, without the risk of being confronted with and rebuked by facts. If another Harrington should desire to establish another Oceana, or another Bacon wish to plant a new Atlantis, he would find no vacant spot upon the map of the world of sufficient magnitude to admit of the probable isolation of his community, except within the borders of our own continent. What ranges of mountains may emboss its central regions, what lakes and inland rivers may reflect the dazzling lustre of the tropical heavens, what sinuous rivers may fertilise its valleys, what forests may darken its surface, .what now forms of animal and vegetable life may present themselves to the observation of the explorers, what mines of mineral wealth may await development, what new phenomena in geology may be exhibited for our instruction or perplexity, and what fresh diversities of the human family may be encountered in those mysterious regions, are matters of vague conjecture and incentives to adventure. All our hypotheses may be at fault, and every one of our foregone conclusions overthrown. We may be on the eve of discoveries more startling than any we have yet made, or we may be absolutely certified of the existence of a central desert, and enabled to define with accuracy its position and extent. In any case, the gain to science will be considerable, and the domain of geographical knowledge greatly expanded.
The joint Committees entrusted with the administration of the Exploration Fund have now to commence the performance of an arduous duty, and one which will demand the exercise of no ordinary sagacity, foresight, prudence, and discrimination. They will have to select as explorers men combining varied and peculiar qualifications; to prescribe the best starting-point, and the most eligible route; to omit no precaution calculated to diminish the perils and facilitate the objects of the expedition; to discuss multitudinous points of detail, to foresee and provide for a wide range of contingencies, and so to husband the finances of the undertaking as that, while no waste is permissible, nothing which can add to the health, protect the safety, and promote the efficiency of all persons engaged in the enterprise, shall be omitted or withheld. That the joint Committees will succeed in accomplishing all that is expected of them by the public, or all that the members themselves may desire to achieve, is not probable, seeing the novelty and difficulty of the task they have undertaken, but the subscribers to the fund, the anonymous donor, and the Government, will have reason to be satisfied if the same real, earnestness, and diligence are displayed in the administration which were exhibited in the collection of the proportion contributed by the public.
Related archive: Argus, Thursday 26 January 1860: 5
Related archive: Age, Tuesday 31 January 1860: 4
• p. 35. Minutes of the EC meeting, 25 January 1860.
• Minutes of the EC meeting, 25 January 1860
• Partial minutes of a meeting of the EC, undated, but most likely 25 January 1860, 2 pages, different handwriting, but same content.
Thursday, 26 January 1860.
A deputation from the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society, consisting of the Hon John Hodgson; the Hon Dr Wilkie; Dr Macadam; Dr Ferdinand Mueller and John Watson, had an interview in the morning with Chief Secretary Nicholson at the Government Offices.
The deputation having been introduced to Mr Nicholson, Mr Hodgson said that they had waited upon him to submit what had taken place at the meeting of the Committee on the previous day, and in doing so he would hand to him the minutes of the proceedings. At the present time, a sum of over £3,000 had been collected, in addition to the Government grant of £6,000. The Committee had gone very carefully into the consideration of the whole subject, and the document produced would explain to the Chief Secretary their views on the subject of exploration. He would also allude to another matter that had been brought before them, viz., the appointment of a gentleman in charge of the expedition. The matter had been fully considered, and after much inquiry it had been agreed to invite a gentleman, well conversant with the subject, to discuss it with them, provided such a course met with the concurrence of the Government. The gentleman ho alluded to was Major Warburton, of South Australia.
Dr Macadam then read the minutes of the meeting held on the previous day, from which it appeared that a Committee, consisting of certain gentlemen, had been appointed, to whom it was requested the Government would confide the organisation and general direction of the expedition. Mr Hodgson would further submit the matter that he had previously alluded to, viz., the invitation to Major Warburton. It was not to request him to take charge of the expedition; but what they desired was, an expression of opinion on the part of the Government as to their invitation to him to discuss and consider the subject, and whether it deemed him a fit and proper person to refer to.
Mr Nicholson observed that he had read the report of their proceedings in that morning's papers, and also what had been said respecting Major Warburton. He would bring before the Cabinet the Committee's views with regard to the appointment; and he might say that, for his own part, he saw no objection to it. There was nothing so important in the carrying out of their work as their getting the right man, and he was, therefore, the more pleased that they appeared to be so unanimous in their choice. He would like, however, to submit the matter to his colleagues and the Governor, who, he had no doubt, would concur in what had been done. As to their proceeding with the dispatch that they contemplated, he was not quite so sure that it was the right course - it would be better to lose a year than to start in an unprepared state. If they started in March it was quite possible that the camels might not have arrived; and even if they were, animals like those coming from a long voyage, would probably require some time to recruit themselves and got into condition. He only mentioned this as his own opinion, though doubtless the Committee, having paid so much attention to the subject, would be better informed on it than he was. Probably, however, if they had the assistance of Major Warburton, in whom they appeared to have full confidence, they would be advised by him. The Government was very anxious to do all it could to aid them, and trusted that they would meet with every success in their scheme.
Mr Hodgson would observe that Major Warburton was simply invited over here for the purpose of discussing the subject with them before any appointment was made. After they had gone into it together, his appointment would then be a question for the Government and the Committee.
Mr Nicholson thought, from the report that he had read, that the intimation was undoubtedly with the view of finally giving him the command of the expedition.
Dr Mueller was not certain whether the views of the Committee would meet altogether with the approval of the Government; and he might say the same with regard to Major Warburton. It was a difficult thing to draw out a plan in writing and act upon it. It was quite possible that, after communicating with Major Warburton, it might be found that his views were not in accordance with those of the Committee, and that the appointment, if offered to him, might be rejected.
It was also possible that his acceptance of the appointment might cause the loss of the post he at present held in South Australia, and this might induce him to decline. It was desirable, however, as the distance between Melbourne and Adelaide was not very great, that they should have Major Warburton over here, and hear his views on the subject. Even if he rejected the appointment, his visit would still be of the greatest advantage, in enabling them to obtain information from him. He was one of the most experienced men in such matters in these colonies; and in his (the speaker's) humble opinion considerable deference ought to be shown to his views. As to what had been said by the Chief Secretary with regard to the camels, he was quite aware that they might not be here in a month, and even if they were, that they would require some time to get into proper condition; but if their plan met the approval of the Government, and was carried out, a depot would be formed at Cooper's Creek, with which communication could continually be kept up; and if the camels arrived, say in the early part of May, and were not able to start till June, still between that month and September a good deal of work could be done. That was the original plan sketched out by Dr Wilkie.
Mr Nicholson, in speaking on the subject had considerable hesitation, as he had not given the same attention to it that the Committee had; but, he had no doubt that the Government would assent to the arrangement proposed. He would remark, however, that there was no mention of Major Warburton in the document handed to him by Mr Hodgson, and read by Dr Macadam.
Dr Macadam stated that he would forward to the Chief Secretary the resolution arrived at regarding Major Warburton, which merely was 'that it was advisable to invite Major Warburton to a conference respecting the organisation of the expedition, provided such a course met with the concurrence of the Government.'
Mr Nicholson observed that they appeared agreed that he was a suitable person for the appointment, if he could be induced to undertake it,
Mr Watson thought the question of any appointment was still an open one in the Committee. Many of the members were not present yesterday, and it was only fair to them that they should receive a circular, informing them that the appointment was under discussion. Mr Nicholson was of opinion that that would be a very good course to follow.
Mr Watson said there are other opinions held by scientific gentlemen besides those who were present on Wednesday, as to the party who ought to be appointed, and they ought to be consulted. It would, however, no doubt be of great use to have the benefit of Major Warburton's practical experience and advice, even while they left the appointment an open question.
Dr Macadam said the Committee was completed before Wednesday, and all the gentlemen were requested to attend the meeting. Mr Watson, however, meant that with reference to Major Warburton's appointment, which was not fixed upon on Wednesday, they ought to be consulted.
Mr Nicholson observed that as soon as the arrangements were complete, there would be nothing in the way of the Committee proceeding. The vote for the £6,000 had already passed the House, and could be made available.
Dr Mueller observed that they probably would not require the Government grant just yet. The amount already collected was adequate, for all preliminary expenses, and the £6,000 would very likely not only be sufficient for the purposes of the expedition in 1860, but also for 1861.
Mr Nicholson expressed a hope that they would enter with great care into their financial arrangements, as it was possible that they might find their funds go a shorter way than they imagined.
The Hon the Chief Secretary having again stated that the Government was anxious to give the Committee all the assistance in its power, and hoped that the expedition might be attended with every success, the deputation withdrew.
That public intimation be given to gentlemen desirous to offer their services as leaders of the Victorian Exploration, and that they be requested to put themselves in communication with the Secretary of the Exploration Committee before the 1st of March of the present year.
It was agreed, also, that a special communication on the subject should be forwarded to Major Warburton, Commissioner of the South Australian Police.
Should the expected camels not arrive so soon as is anticipated, the expedition will set out, and they will be sent on afterwards.
Mueller asked whether Macadam had received any applications for the post of leader. Macadam replied he had received many applications for all posts, but Captain Smith, Inspecting Superintendent of Police had withdrawn his application for leader
The Star [Ballarat], Wednesday 1 February 1860: 2
The Argus states, that the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria met on Monday afternoon at the Hall in Victoria street, for the purpose of discussing various matters connected with the proposed exploration. The Hon. John Hodgson, M.L C. was in the chair. Two hours were occupied in discussing as to whom the command of the exploration party should be entrusted, not that there was a long list of aspirants for that honor before the Committee, at least of gentlemen of known experience in such matters; but because it was thought that the Committee should afford an opportunity to gentlemen in the various colonies of offering their services. A resolution to that effect, proposed by Dr Gillbee and seconded by Mr Ligar, was carried as follows:
That public intimation be given to gentlemen desirous to offer their services as leaders of the Victorian Exploration, and that they be requested to put themselves in communication with the Secretary to the Exploration Committee before the 1st of March of the present year.
It was agreed also that a special communication on the subject should be forwarded to Major Warburton, Commissioner of the South Australian Police. Should the expected camels not arrive so soon as is anticipated, the expedition will set out and they will be sent on afterwards. The most important appointment in an expedition has yet, however, to be made - that of a leader - who not only should be a thorough bushman, but a scientific man, and until that selection is accomplished all other arrangements will be delayed.
• Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 30 January 1860.
• p. 37. Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 30 January 1860. (3 copies same).
Victorian Exploring Expedition
Gentlemen desirous of offering their services for the Leadership of the forthcoming Expedition are requested to put themselves in communication with the Honorary Secretary of the Committee on or before the 1st day of March ensuing.
By order of the Committee.
January 30, 1860.
Argus; Advertisement run every day throughout February 1860.
Age; Advertisement run each Wednesday and Saturday in February 1860.
Age, Wednesday 1 February 1860: 5
The committee who have the arrangement of preliminaries for the Exploration Expedition have taken an unusual step when they agreed upon publishing the advertisement which appears this morning. Such a course may be a wise one - perhaps the best that could be suggested - but it may also be a perilous one. It involves the expenditure of another month of very valuable time, and it must be supposed that the committee weighed all the disadvantages when they decided to advertise for a leader of the expedition. They are in a strange position nevertheless. They have invited Mr Warburton to accept the appointment, and they have also asked others to apply for it. It remains to be seen whether this does not turn out to be a very characteristic blunder. Will Mr Warburton not hesitate to accept under those circumstances, and may not other persons fully competent be prevented from offering themselves while the invitation to the Major remains open? Such a dilemma is quite within the region of probability.
Age, Wednesday 1 February 1860: 4
Who is to be the leader of our Exploring Expedition? - is a question which, will so soon demand a practical reply that we do not consider it premature to offer some observations upon the subject at this moment. Indeed the matter has already been opened up by the proceedings at the meeting of the Royal Society to which we referred on Tuesday; for although the motion adopted was ostensibly nothing more than an invitation to one individual to assist the Committee with his advice, it is manifest that something more was aimed at by Dr Mueller, and tacitly acquiesced in by that gentleman's associated brethren. We shall therefore consider ourselves justified in referring to Dr Mueller's remarks in the observations we are now about to make, as embodying the sentiments of the Royal Society as to the qualifications desirable in an Australian explorer. We may further observe that our present remarks are not intended to apply to Mr Stuart and Major Warburton alone; for we believe that, even considered most eligible for the post of honor, neither of these gentlemen would be in a position to accept an invitation to that effect. The first named is still away in the far interior upon some enterprise of which the precise character is not publicly known, and to communicate with him, if practicable at all, would probably be a matter entailing great difficulty, labor, and loss of time, to say nothing of the possibility of Mr Stuart's ultimately declining to accept the proffered appointment. On the other hand, it is scarcely probable that Major Warburton would relinquish his appointment as Chief Commissioner of Police in order to assume the leadership of a temporary expedition; but as he will have the opportunity of speaking for himself on this point, it is needless to speculate further upon it.
The qualification to which we would most prominently refer is the faculty of securing from subordinates a cheerful and prompt obedience under tho most desperate circumstances. Upon this point Dr Mueller maintains that a military man, as possessing the habit of command, takes precedence of a civilian; but this we regard as a serious error. The men whom a soldier commands and those whom an explorer leads are - at all events should be - men of widely different habits of thought and tendencies of disposition. With the subordinate in the army, duty means simply obedience and independent thought as to the conduct of his superiors is little better than a crime. In an exploring party, on the contrary, every man should be chosen because of his individual capability for promoting the work in hand, inasmuch as he is liable at any moment to be thrown into a position in which his intelligence and power of observation may enable him to confer incalculable benefit upon his companions. Men of this stamp cannot be controlled by word of command alone. Surrounded, as exploratory leaders too often are, in the wildernesses of this continent, by death in many appalling shapes, nothing but the moral influence of their higher skill, experience, and force of character could enable them to maintain even the semblance of discipline. No conceivable amount of martinet power could accomplish the same result; but would, on the contrary, be the likely means of provoking open insubordination. Captain Sturt himself a soldier, insists on the necessity of a a 'mild discipline,' and Mr Eyre's book proves its writer to have been one of the gentlest and most conciliatory, as well as one of the most resolute and dauntless, of men. It is also essential that a leader should possess the art, or inure properly the instinct, of winning the affections of those with whom he may come in contact. He must rule by love rather than by fear; and the same faculty which would enable him to accomplish with his own followers, would enable him to cultivate, with native tribes which might otherwise prove hostile, those friendly relations; whose value can never be overestimated. Are the characteristics which we have thus indicated, those which are most naturally developed by the lessons of a military education?
Above all, it is indispensable that the leader of an expedition should be, both in experience and character of mind, a thorough bushman. In really bad country the safety of an expedition is commonly more dependent upon an intimate acquaintance with the minute details of bush knowledge than upon the possession of those higher branches of information which serve to guide a leader in deciding as to the best general line of route to be pursued. Nor must it be supposed that his experience alone constitutes the bushman's highest qualification as an explorer. His real strength consists in the fact, that the lesson taught by his hardy and perilous life is, never, in the most desperate circumstances, to despair. Against the petty annoyances too which beset the path of the explorer, slowly undermining his spirits and wasting is physical energies, the bushman can bear up precisely in proportion to the extent to which he has previously been compelled to endure them. There surely should be no lack of such men in the frontier districts of Victoria, although it is certain that, owing to the nature of their country, the outlying settlers of South Australia have had far better opportunities of acquiring the requisite knowledge and experience. We would only say, in conclusion, that common justice seems to demand that an effort be made to invite Mr John McDouall Stuart to take the command of the expedition, as being the man, of all those now amongst us, who has done most for the cause of Australian exploration.
Argus, Friday 3 February 1860: 6
To the Editor of the Argus.
Sir - Will you do me the favour to publish the accompanying letter, addressed by mo to the President of the Exploration Committee, Melbourne. I believe all persons will allow, with all due deference to the gentleman selected by them (the Committee) for a leader to tho expedition, but due consideration has not been paid to the great object in view.
There is Mr Babbage overlooked - not even named. My belief is, that if Mr Babbage had not been tied down by obstructive instructions he would have done more than he did, at any rate it was highly indecorous and injudicious to captured him by a police force whilst he was strictly complying with the instructions given to him.
I am, Sir, yours truly,
Melbourne, January 31.
Crown Lands Office, Melbourne, January 20.
Sir - I do myself the honour to state that my surprise was great at seeing a report in the "Argus" of this day, relative to a meeting of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society, convened for the purpose of suggesting a leader, in which my name was not even alluded to.
I may state that so early as the 11th of May last year I made application for that appointment, and on several subsequent occasions letters were forwarded to the President by me relative to this matter.
In the first letter, the names of about 20 gentlemen were given as a reference - Captain Sturt, Sir George Grey, Colonel Frome RE, &c. Since that period, although these gentlemen do not reside in these colonies, there has been ample time to have referred to them if the names of the others, residing in Melbourne and Adelaide, had not been deemed sufficient
In consequence of this apparently marked neglect, I beg to call upon the Committee to have the letters above referred to laid before them, in order that the impression upon my mind may be dispelled - that of having been treated with a studied discourtesy - which, amongst gentlemen, cannot be overlooked, the more especially as the necessity for having a gentleman to lead the expedition was so strenuously urged at the meeting.
It may be superfluous for me to add that which must be so apparent, namely, that by treating with contempt the offer of any individual, however humble he may be, and whether his services are required or not, the Royal Society cannot expect to place itself in a position to obtain that which will add to its own greatness - a free intercourse for mutual advantage with the whole world.
"La science appartient au monde entier elle n'est pas le patrimonie d'un pays ou d'une epoque".
[Science belongs to the world it is not the patromonie (inheritance) of a country or era]
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
To the President, &c., Exploration Committee, Melbourne.
Royal Society of Victoria, Victoria Street, Melbourne.
The advertisement is to the effect that gentlemen desirous of offering their services for the leadership of the forthcoming expedition are requested to put themselves in communication with the Hon Sec of the Committee on or before the first day of March ensuing.
The words added in the resolution were "and that an especial communication be forwarded to Major Warburton on the same subject".
I have the honour, sir
for Major Warburton, Adelaide.
Age, Tuesday 31 January 1860: 4
At a meeting of the Royal Society [of Victoria] on Wednesday [? sic] last, a resolution was adopted, on the motion of Dr Mueller, to the effect 'that a communication be immediately sent to Major Warburton, of Adelaide, inviting him to an early interview with the committee in reference to the organisation of the Victorian Expedition'; and in proposing this motion Dr Mueller intimated his opinion that there was no one so fit to consult and advise with as that gentleman'. The chief reasons assigned for Major Warburton's assumed preeminent fitness for the office of adviser, were his zeal, untiring energy, and past experience in Australian exploration, that "as Chief Commissioner of Police, and as a soldier, he was accustomed to direct and see his orders carried out", that he had been long inured to travel in India with camels, that he had met with no disaster in conducting his enterprise, and finally, as a grand climax, or perhaps we should say anti-climax, to his merits, that "about six months ago he (Dr Mueller) wrote to ask Major Warburton to kindly forward him some flowers and plants, and his request was at once responded to with the utmost alacrity". How far this delicate display of courtesy indicates the possession of such qualities as are needful in an Australian explorer, we must leave to Dr Mueller to decide; but a desire to prevent any hasty measures being blindly adopted in connection with this great national scheme of exploration, combined with an obligation to shield a public benefactor from injustice, forbids us to allow the entire of that gentleman's remarks to pass unchallenged. Dr Mueller speaks of Major Warburton as not only the most highly qualified practical explorer now available, but as the only one deserving special mention by name. Leichhardt, Mitchell, Kennedy, Sturt, Eyre, and Gregory, can, we are told, no longer show us a path into, or across the wilderness; there is nobody, in fact, left but Major Warburton. Mr Gregory recommended him — Captain Cadell recommended him — nothing remains but to invest him with the supreme command of the expedition and, like "an officer and a gentleman" he will forthwith convey his party in something less than no time to the Gulf of Carpentaria, where, let us trust, he may be received by the natives with a triumphant aboriginal version of that popular air, "The Camels are coming".
For, strange to say — and, we must charitably suppose, through some unintentional oversight — Dr Mueller has passed over without even the most casual reference an explorer who possesses vastly more experience, and has achieved far greater discoveries, than Major Warburton himself. It is very remarkable that any reference to South Australia in connection with a project of exploration should not instantly suggest the name of John McDouall Stuart, who so recently distinguished himself upon the very same field of exertion as Major Warburton; the only material difference, in fact, between the journeys of these explorers being that Mr Stuart showed Major Warburton the way. A few words will suffice to refresh tho memories of our readers upon this point. Mr Stuart started from Adelaide in the commencement of 1858, with a party consisting, besides himself, of one white man (Foster), one blackfellow, and five horses. He returned to the settled districts in the middle of September of the same year, having travelled over an extent of country about equal to that traversed by Mr Gregory on his trip from Moreton Bay to Adelaide. During this interval he penetrated a district which many years ago baffled the gallant Eyre — one of the most enterprising and indomitable spirits ever engaged in the pursuit of geographical discovery — and though during a great portion of his wanderings on the verge of starvation, never turned his face homeward until he had discovered 16,000 square miles of available pastoral country, where it had long been supposed that nothing existed but an inhospitable wilderness. In consideration of this valuable discovery, the South Australian Parliament voted Mr Stuart the right of free occupancy for four years, of 150 square miles of the new country, and the fact of Mr Stuart's accepting this in lieu of money compensation, was justly regarded as a safe guarantee for the worth of his discovery to the province. Mr Stuart had, however, accompanied Captain Sturt, in the capacity of draftsman, on his journey of '44 and '45, and was always spoken of by his commanding officer in terms of the warmest commendation. This expedition, it should be borne in mind, extended over a period of some sixteen months. Finally, after returning from his last exploration, Mr Stuart made a proposal to the South Australian Government to conduct a party overland to King's Sound, on the north-west coast, and by this means to solve, at least in a great measure, the problem as to the character of the interior, on condition of his receiving a sum of £6,000; but some difficulty being made by the Government as to the amount asked for, this proposal was ultimately withdrawn.
And now a word as to Major Warburton. We believe this gentleman's only attempt at exploration, properly so called, was that which he made after having accomplished his mission of superseding Mr Babbage. Major Warburton started on this duty about the end of August 1858, and came up with the expedition of which he was in search on the 7th November. At this period Mr Babbage's men knew of Stuart's discoveries, and the party was actually pressing forward to avail themselves of the information, and to advance, if possible, still further into the interior — a task which Mr Stuart represented as being by no means difficult, inasmuch as he could himself have readily advanced, had he possessed an adequate supply of provisions. Accordingly, Major Warburton started again for the interior on the 7th November, as already stated, and, after a marvelously rapid journey, returned to his camp on the 17th of the same month, having in the interval penetrated about half a degree, or some 25 miles to the north-west of Stuart's furthest point. Such is a brief and hurried abstract of what has been accomplished in the way of exploration by Mr Stuart and Major Warburton.
The exploit of Mr Stuart was regarded by all classes in South Australia, and by none more than the most experienced bush men, as a feat almost unparalleled in the annals of geographical discovery; not oven the brilliant achievement of Mr Gregory (who arrived in August) could entirely eclipse it. The Commissioner of Crown Lands spoke of it in Parliament as "one of the most extraordinary explorations ever performed by such small, indeed insignificant, means, in the Australian colonies"; and in saying so he but feebly echoed the sentiment of the public out of doors. Mr G. Hawker, the most experienced bushman in the Legislative Assembly, was still more enthusiastic in his eulogies; and for a considerable period no other topic could command the smallest share of public attention. The name of Major Warburton on the other hand was never mentioned save in unqualified condemnation of the harsh manner in which he performed the duty of recalling Mr Babbage. Such are a few facts respecting the explorers of South Australia. Let the people of Victoria form their own conclusions therefrom.
• Letter to Warburton dated 13 February 1860. ex1008-002, 1p.
Thursday 16 February 1860.
Bendigo Advertiser, Thursday 16 February 1860: 2
The Government Exploring Expedition: We understand that Mr Bourke, Chief Superintendent of Police at Castlemaine, has been appointed to the command of the proposed exploration party. From the recognised ability of the gentleman and his experience of tho country, we may augur a successful result to the undertaking.
[This article was widely reprinted in the Ballarat Star, Melbourne Age, Ovens Gazette, Mount Alexander Mail etc.]
Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 24 February 1860: 5
The Exploration Expedition: Our contemporary of yesterday committed a curious mistake, in stating that the Superintendent of the Castlemaine police, Mr Burke, had been appointed by the Exploration Committee, to the leadership of the expedition. The Bendigo Advertiser fell into a similar error a few days ego. Both journals might have seen, on referring to the advertisement issued by the committee, that applications for the onerous post of leader may be sent in up to March 1st, so that any statements as to the committee's selection must be premature and unfounded. Mr Burke, we are aware, is among the applicants, and we sincerely trust that he will be successful in obtaining the appointment.
Macadam read a list of applications for leader, 16 names. Only four had exploring experience;
- Samuel Parry had led two government surveys in South Australia. (Read his application)
- Baldwin Fraser had served as third in command in Robert Austin's Murchison Expedition.
- William Lockhart Morton had led a small expedition north of Rockhampton looking for grazing runs.
- Gustav von Tempsky had explored in the Americas. (Read his application)
The Star [Ballarat], Monday 5 March 1860: 2
The Argus states the Exploration Committee met on Friday afternoon, for the purpose of opening the applications for the leadership of the proposed expedition into the interior. About 14 applications altogether were received, some, of them accompanied with plans of the route to be followed and the manner of carrying out the expedition. A sub-committee was appointed to consider the letters, and to report to the general committee. The sub-committee will meet this day, and will probably bring up their report on Monday or Tuesday.
• Minutes of the meeting of the EC, 2 March 1860.
The business of the Committee was to solicit several gentlemen from the whole number of candidates for the leadership of the exploring expedition. Five were selected out of the following:
- Major Peter Edgerton Warburton
- Captain John Anthony Layard
- Thomas Belt
- Samuel Parry
- William Lockhart Morton
- Robert O'Hara Burke
- Fontomsky [sic: Gustav Ferdinand von Tempsky]
- Mr Boys
- Mr Wood
- John Wood Beilby
- John Frizzel
- William Welsh
- Patrick Main
- Thomas Burr
- Baldwin Fraser
The decision of the general Committee will be made known on Wednesday.
Argus, Tuesday 6 March 1860: 4
The exploration sub-committee met yesterday afternoon in the hall of the Royal Society, McMillan in the chair. The other members present were Drs Wilkie, Iffla, and Embling, the Rev. Mr Bleasdale, and Professor Neumayer. The business of the committee was to select several gentlemen from the whole number of candidates for the leadership of the exploring expedition. Five were selected out of the following 14:
Messrs. Warburton; Layard, Belt, Parry, Lockhart Morton, Burke, Fontomsky, Boys, Woods Beilby, Frizzel, Welsh, Maine, Burrs, and Frazer.
The decision of the general committee will be made known on Wednesday.
Belt: Box 2076/1, ex1004-035.
Read his application. [Original not online].
Frizzel: Box 2076/3, ex1004-190.
Read his application. [Original not online]
von Tempsky: Box 2077/4, ex1004-558.
Read his application. [Original not online]
Welsh: Box 2077/4, ex1004-588.
Read his application. [Original not online]
Argus, Thursday 8 March 1860: 4
The Exploration Fund Committee are in embarrassing position. Time presses. The season of the year at which the expedition should set out is rapidly passing away; the camels have not yet arrived; and no leader has been appointed. It is true that numerous applications have been sent in, sifted by a sub-committee, and the more eligible of the candidates have been selected for further and final elimination; but men endowed with the necessary qualifications are far from plentiful in the world, much less in this corner of it. Landors and Leichhardts, Barths and Livingstones may be driving adits at the bottom of deep sinkings, or branding cattle upon remote stations, but no one possesses the divinely intuitive faculty of discerning the undeveloped genius of these obscure men, and there is no alternative but to make a selection from the applicants who have submitted their claims to the committee. These do not include, we believe, any explorers of experience. Mr Babbage is not a candidate, nor Major Warburton. Mr Stuart is in the far north of South Australia, and only waits the approach of the rainy season to push into the interior with a celerity of movement, which will, no doubt, be stimulated by a knowledge of the contemplated expedition from this colony. Of the brothers Gregory, one is in Europe, and the other has received a Government appointment in Queensland; and, having enumerated these, we believe we have mentioned the names of all who have acquired actual experience in the work of exploration, excepting, indeed, two or three gentlemen who are now at the other end of the world, and could not be communicated with for several months.
Under these circumstances, the Committee have a delicate and difficult duty to perform. It seems to be uncertain whether Major Warburton would accept the command of the expedition if it were offered to him; and, failing him, recourse must be had to an untried man. Now, it by no means follows that, because a man is untried, his capacities may not be adequate to sustain any trial which may be imposed upon them. Heroism, endurance, energy, patience, self-reliance, fertility of resource, inflexible determination, moral influence, and scientific knowledge, may be exerted, in combination, for the first time, with as brilliant results as those which attend the exertion of similar qualities after long practice by experienced veterans; and as much may be hoped from the ardour of him who has a reputation to achieve as from the less enthusiastic conduct of the man who has merely a reputation to sustain. Hence, although the possession of experience would be of the highest value to the leader of an expedition such as that which is about to be organised, yet the absence of it ought not to be held to be a fatal objection in any case where the other qualifications are found to exist.
But supposing the committee to arrive at an agreement as to the selection of a leader, the question arises whether it would be judicious to push forward the expedition during the present season, or to postpone its departure until the close of the year, and spend the interim in organising its members, familiarising them with the duties they will be called upon to perform, and perfecting all matters of detail. If the expedition were to start within a month from the present time, the rainy season would be so far advanced before the outpost on Cooper's Creek would be reached as to forbid the undertaking of any lengthened journey into the unknown country beyond, with any reasonable prospect of success. The party must fall back upon the creek, and take up its summer quarters there. This would involve a fruitless expenditure of money, while so many months of inaction would be liable to derange and demoralise tho expedition. Lacking the excitement of novelty, and the sentiment of fellowship inspired by the pursuit of a common enterprise and the experience of a common danger, the party would run the risk of being broken up by disaffection, disunion, and disorder. Stores which had been conveyed to the halting-place at a very great expense would be wasted, and might not be easily replaced, and the leader might find himself at the end of the summer straitened in resources, and unable to re-establish the necessary discipline among his followers.
These are contingencies to be guarded against, and it appears to us that, as it is extremely doubtful whether anything could be done in the way of exploring the interior before the close of next summer, it would be politic to delay the despatch of the expedition from Melbourne until the end of the present year. The borders of the Terra incognita might thus be reached by the beginning of March, and the party would thus be prepared to take advantage of the first rains to push northward, and establish, if practicable, a more advanced outpost and depot upon which to fall back in case of need. There would be plenty to occupy the intended leader of the expedition in the meanwhile here. The greater deliberation he exercises in the selection of his subordinates, the more time he bestows upon estimating his probable wants and forecasting his possible disasters, the more wary and circumspect he is in the provision of his equipment, and the more carefully matured his arrangements for the transport and replenishment of his stores, the greater will be his probabilities of success and the fewer his liabilities to failure.
Geelong Advertiser, Wednesday 7 March 1860: 2
The mode in which government appear inclined to dispose of the money voted by the legislature for the purposes of Australian exploration is singularly at variance with commonly received notions concerning the nature of the responsibility accepted by the Executive of the colony, not only so, but it is opposed to the very spirit in which ministers must be supposed to have asked for the grant. The case for this vote for exploration is altogether different from the case of the vote for a water supply to the goldfields and the case of the vote for prospecting ... But the case of the vote for Australian exploration is of an entirely different character.
In this instance the government deliberately placed the sum upon the estimates, and requested parliament to grant the money for a specific purpose to which, by their placing it upon the estimates, the Ministry professed themselves desirous and ready to apply it. Parliament acceded to this demand made by the Ministry, and the vote was accordingly passed, and the Government were placed in command of the sum of £6,000 to be expended by them in exploring the continent of Australia. Having thus been granted the money they had asked for, upon the single condition that they would lay it out in the manner which themselves had proposed, the government all at once discover that they never had any real want of the cash at all, and they are mightily put to it to find out some decent mode of getting rid of it without altogether compromising their own charge of its expenditure.
Parliament had given the ministry a sum which the ministry had said was needed for purposes of exploration, and the ministry therefore felt themselves bound to make a show of spending the sum in the work for which they had said it was needed. At the same time the ministry were quite unprepared to undertake a duty of the kind, and would have been very glad indeed if the sum had never been; put by Mr George Harker upon the estimates which they had so hurriedly adopted. What then was to be done? How was the task to he avoided and yet avoided in the "constitutional mode"? This was; the difficulty in which the the government were placed. Who would release them from it ? Wanted somebody to spend £6000 !
The government were not long waiting for an answer to their appeal. As soon as it became known that there was an amount like that mentioned going a-begging, with no condition attached to its grant beyond the stipulation that something in the scientific exploration line should be done in the course of its disbursement, than the Royal Society of Victoria conceived the very natural notion that the money could not be entrusted to better hands than theirs. They had, indeed, already some time previously appointed an exploration committee; and what could be more agreeable to all scientific theories of affinity than that the exploration committee of the Royal Society and the exploration fund of the colonial government should come together? Straight away a deputation was appointed, the Chief Secretary was waited upon, the thing was mooted and the head of the executive was delighted at the idea of so opportune a relief from the embarrassment in which the ministry had been plunged by the necessity of reputably ridding themselves of the exploration incubus.
Our readers are aware of the upshot of the deputation. It can scarcely be expected that the matter will be allowed to rest where the ministry seem disposed to leave it. It will certainly be quite a new feature in the working of responsible government that a ministry skill be allowed to place sums upon the estimates, get them voted by Parliament and afterwards attempt to put from off their own shoulders all responsibility with regard to the mode of expenditure.
With respect to the committee of the Royal Society, all that can be said is that they have done precisely what they might have been expected to do. The society has not hitherto been famous for much, and for modesty least of all. Seeing the expenditure of a sum of £6,000 ready to be relinquished by the government in favor of anybody who would accept that duty and with it the direction of an exploring expedition, they were impelled to catch at the chance of so much money and glory almost within their reach. No one can blame them for their pardonable ambition; but Parliament may very reasonably ask whether the Royal Society of Victoria is a body sufficiently responsible to be entrusted with funds which the legislature has placed at the disposal of the Executive Council on the understanding that the latter body shall be answerable for the profitable outlay of the money.
Business was to debate the leadership. Embling suggested removing Burke, von Tempsky and Fraser from the list of applicants.
Elliott read applications from the five most likely candidates, and the names to be forwarded to the Government were;
It was agreed to delay the decision until a formal offer could be made to Warburton. The Committee also agreed to interview Tempsky.
• Minutes of the adjourned meeting of the EC, 8 March 1860.
Tempsky was asked a few questions and then left. Elliott suggested he be included in the list of names to be submitted to the Government.
• Minutes of the adjourned meeting of the EC, 9 March 1860.
Argus, Wednesday 14 March 1860: 5
We are informed that the Exploration Committee have resolved to defer then proposed expedition into the interior for three months. The reasons which have influenced the committee in coming to this determination are:
- First, that none of the candidates who have applied for the leadership are in all respects suitable, chiefly through the want of astronomical knowledge,
- Secondly, that the season is too far advanced for the starting of the expedition and,
- Thirdly, that the camels have not yet arrived.
In the course of three months, one or two of the candidates now applying for the leadership, and in all other aspects eligible, will have learnt, it is hoped, to take "lunars".
It is proposed that the expedition should, on starting, go no further this season than Cooper's Creek, at which point it could be usefully employed in surveying the country between it and Fort Bourke, up to this time entirely unexplored. At the beginning of next year's rainy season, the expedition will be enabled to start finally for the great unknown interior, accompanied by the camels, which at present are not to be seen for the same reason which made the Spanish fleet invisible - because they are not yet in sight.
• Letter to Chief Secretary [Nicholson] dated 13 March 1860.
Friday 6 - Monday 9 April 1860.
Holiday in Victoria: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Day, Easter Monday.
Tuesday, 10 April 1860.
At the annual dinner of the Royal Society of Victoria, held at the Criterion Hotel, Collins-street, the excellent work of the Exploration Committee was mentioned.
Age, Wednesday 11 April 1860: 5
Last evening the annual dinner of the Royal Society of Victoria was held at the Criterion Hotel, Collins-street. This dinner possessed more than usual interest, in consequence of its being the first since the original Philosophical Institute was, by permission of her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, permitted to assume the title of the Royal Society of Victoria. The large dining room at The Criterion was very tastefully decorated, and the tables were laden with the choicest products of the season. The chair was taken by the President of the Society, his Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, who was supported on his right by the Hon the Chief Secretary [Nicholson], the Hon the Attorney General [John Dennistoun Wood] and Dr Bromby; and on his left by Major General Pratt, the Hon the Postmaster General [John Robinson Bailey], and Captain Bencroft. The Mayor [Eades] and Professor Neumayer, Vice-Presidents of the Society, acted as croupiers. Amongst those present we also noticed Dr Macadam. M L A., Mr O'Shanassy M.L.A., Mr L. L. Smith M.L.A., Dr Mueller, and several other gentlemen well known in the scientific and political world. The cloth having been removed, His Excellency gave the first toast of the evening "The Queen".
The Chief Secretary [Nicholson] rose to propose the toast of the evening, He said: Your Excellency and Gentlemen, It has become my duty to propose the toast of the evening "The Royal Society of Victoria" (Cheers). And I feel it to be my duty to state that it was only at the last moment that I was pressed into the service. It was pointed out to me that there were two special reasons why I should undertake this duty. The first was, because the majority of those present are members of the Society, and consequently it would be hardly the thing for them to propose it, and the second that being entirely unconnected with any society of the kind, I was of all others the best fitted to undertake the duty. It appears to me that this meeting this evening has a peculiar significance, not only because it is the first of the association's under its new name, but also because this year the exploration of the interior will be commenced. I shall, however, not dwell at any length upon that subject, since it would be dealing rather unfairly with my Hon. friend, if he will allow me so to term him, the late Chief Secretary, to whose care a toast bearing more immediately upon that subject is entrusted.
Some difference of opinion has, however, arisen with regard to this subject, and tho Government has been charged with a desire to evade the responsibility by handing the exploration affair over to the Royal Society. This the Government have no wish to do. They must be held responsible for the expenditure of the vote, but I have the greatest confidence in the committee of the Royal Society, and I consider it is of the greatest importance that we should have their advice as regards the details of the expedition, more particularly as regards the appointment to the leadership of the expedition. This is a matter which I certainly consider may be fairly and advantageously left to them, and as a member of the Ministry I again state, that we are quite ready to take the whole share of the responsibility (Cheers) ...
... His Excellency the Governor [Barkly] was greeted with loud cheers, then rose, and in responding to the toast, delivered the following Inaugural Address (read the full address here) ... To this Society belongs the honor of first directing attention to the importance of such an expedition; it has subsequently - stimulated by the munificence of the anonymous donor of £1,000 - raised a sum of nearly £3,000 towards this object, and has by its representations induced successive administrations to obtain from Parliament funds for the purchase of camels, as well as a further liberal grant of £6,000 to supplement the private subscription. The Society must therefore feel the deepest anxiety for the successful issue of an undertaking to which it thus stands committed, and the Government has, in my opinion, acted wisely in resolving to leave its guidance and control to the committee which has been appointed for the purpose, taking care, of course, that nothing is done without its knowledge, and that proper checks are imposed on the issue and disbursement of the money voted. That Committee has prudently decided that nothing shall be attempted during the approaching winter, which would have been too far spent ere the exploring party could have reached its starting point; but I trust that every pains will be taken in the spring to organise and equip an expedition worthy of this colony, and that by the commencement of the ensuing summer it will be on its way; under a leader of approved ability to the depot selected upon Cooper's Creek as the basis of its operation, so as to be ready to take advantage of the first rains that may fall to prosecute its researches (Applause). The precise direction of these must necessarily be left a good deal to the discretion of the leader to be chosen. Were something more than a mere bush ride across the continent not aimed at, it might be the easiest course to proceed it once to the westward of Lake Torrens, where that daring veteran Stuart, and my no less gallant friend the Governor of South Australia, have already penetrated country which seems to promise a passage to the north. My own opinion has, however, always been in favor of directing the earlier efforts of the expedition to ascertaining the exact eastern limits of the Great Desert, with a view to crossing as directly as possible to the Gulf of Carpentaria, or to Arnheim's Land, the great promontory by which the western shore of that gulf is formed. These, gentlemen, are the especial questions on which I am chiefly desirous that your immediate attention should be bestowed. You will not, I feel sure, suffer them to interfere with the zealous discharge of your ordinary duties as members of the Royal Society, but will, on the contrary, devote yourselves with redoubled ardor to the task of rendering our monthly meetings profitable and agreeable. A noble field lies before us. There is ample room for all I Let every one set earnestly to work in his own sphere for the advancement of science ...
... His Excellency then resumed his seat amidst loud and continued cheering ...
... Mr O'Shanassy gave "Success to the Australian Exploration" and stated that he believed the present Ministry could not do better than leave the management and conduct of the expedition to the Royal Society. New South Wales, and South Australia had already done much toward the exploration of the interior, and it would be a degradation to Victoria if she did not do her part. Great results might follow this expedition; if on the other side of their present boundary, a new and fertile country was discovered, then they need not be so jealous of parting with the territory they already possessed. If, however, it was proved to be nothing but a barren waste, they would require to be far more careful with that already under their control. He would not longer detain them, but give them the toast entrusted to him (Cheers) ...
... after which his Excellency [Barkly] left the room, and the company immediately dispersed.
Special meeting called by Wilkie to discuss dromedaries.
• Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 14 May 1860.
• p. 46. Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 14 May 1860.
Monday, 21 May 1860.
Special meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: Stawell (Chair), Eades, Wilkie, Iffla, Mackenna, Macadam, Gillbee, McCoy, Neumayer, Bleasdale, Cadell, Elliott, Hodgkinson, Smith.
• Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 21 May 1860.
• p. 47. Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 21 May 1860.
Friday, 8 June 1860.
The camels arrived from India and were unloaded on Thursday, 14 June 1860.
Thursday, 14 June 1860.
Members of the Exploration Committee supervised the unloading of the camels at Sandridge at noon, followed by a meeting of the Exploration Committee in the afternoon. There was a full attendance.
Present: Stawell (Chair), Eades, Wilkie, Iffla, Macadam, Mackenna, Gillbee, McCoy, Neumayer, Cadell, Bleasdale, Elliott, Hodgkinson, Smith.
The subject of the expedition was fully discussed.
Eades moved, Cadell seconded, that Warburton be requested to be leader.
Bleasdale moved, Neumayer seconded, Burke as leader, Tempsky as second in command.
Wilkie moved that the decision be postponed until a special meeting, which would be convened at 1 o'clock next Wednesday, and in the interval the applications for leader could be viewed at the hall of the Royal Society.
It was expected that the expedition would set out in six or seven weeks.
• p. 49. Minutes of the EC meeting, 14 June 1860.
Age, Friday 15 June 1860: 4
Yesterday a very numerously attended meeting of the Exploration Committee, presided over by his Honor Sir W. F. Stawell, was held in the hall of the Royal Society of Victoria. The object of the meeting was to take into consideration the qualifications of those gentlemen whose names have been previously mentioned as the leaders of the exploration expedition. A long and animated discussion took place upon the subject; nothing, however, was finally determined upon, and the meeting adjourned until Wednesday next, at four o'clock, at which time his Excellency the Governor will be present, and the committee will then decide as to whom they shall recommend to the Government as the leader of the expedition.
Mount Alexander Mail, Monday 18 June 1860: 2
Argus - The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society met on Thursday afternoon, Sir William Stawell in the Chair. There was a full attendance, and the subject of the expedition was fully discussed. It was agreed that a special meeting should he convened for Thursday next, at 4 o'clock, when a leader will be chosen, subject to the approval of the government. In the interval the testimonials of the different candidates will lie upon the table for examination. It is expected that the expedition will set out in six or seven weeks.
Wednesday, 20 June 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee, including final leadership ballot.
The meeting was very well attended.
Present: Stawell (Chair), Wilkie, Eades, Macadam, Iffla, McCoy, Bleasdale, Embling, Watson, Elliott, Gillbee, Neumayer, Smith, Hodgkinson, Mackenna. Barkly was present.
Eades nominated Warburton, seconded Cadell.
Iffla nominated Tempsky, seconded McCoy.
Bleasdale nominated Burke, seconded Neumayer.
Ballot for leader, Warburton 5 votes, Burke 10 votes, Tempsky 0 votes.
Discussion over Burke's ability to take astronomical observations and suggestion that Tempsky be second in command. Neumayer stated Tempsky could not take astronomical observations either. Iffla and Elliot were in favour of Tempsky. McCoy moved that three of four names of candidates for second in command be presented to the Government in concurrence with the leader.
Geelong Advertiser, Thursday 21 June 1860: 2
The Exploration Committee met in Melbourne last evening to decide upon the appointment of a leader of the expedition. The applications are known to be numerous, and were, in the first instance, submitted to the inspection of His Excellency. The name of the successful candidate cannot transpire until a late hour this evening. Those who are in the secret say that Mr Babbage will, if an applicant, receive the appointment.
Age, Thursday 21 June 1860: 4-5
A very numerously attended meeting of the Victorian Exploration Committee, for the purpose of determining upon the gentleman to be appointed the leader of the forthcoming expedition, was held yesterday afternoon, in the Hall of the Royal Society of Victoria. His Honor Sir W. F. Stawell, presided. His Excellency Sir H. Barkly was also present, but took no part in the proceedings, not being a member of the committee. After a lengthened consideration, the names of several gentlemen, amongst whom were Mr Robert O'Hara Burke, Major Warburton, Mr Parry, Mr Lockhart Morton, and Mr Tempsky, were submitted to the committee, and recommended as those most eligible for the appointment. A ballot ensued, which resulted in Mr Burke being elected by a large majority, Major Warburton having the next highest number of votes. Mr Burke has been for the last seven years a superintendent of police in this colony, principally in the districts of the Ovens and of Castlemaine, where he is now stationed. Of course, this appointment is subject to the approval of the Government. The appointment of the other officers of the expedition will take place upon a future occasion, after the Government and the leader of the expedition have been consulted. We may mention that already 700 applications have been received from persons anxious to belong to the main body of the expedition, which will, however, only consist of from twenty to thirty individuals.
Argus, Thursday 21 June 1860: 4
A leader to the Victorian Exploration Expedition has at last been nominated. The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society met yesterday at the Society's rooms in Victoria-street, for the purpose of nominating a gentleman as leader of the proposed expedition, whose appointment should be subsequently submitted to the Governor for approval. The attendance was very numerous, and included His Excellency the Governor. The chair was taken by Sir William Stawell. It will be remembered that a delay of nearly three months has taken place in order to enable the Committee to mature their judgment in the matter, and their decision yesterday was to confer the coveted distinction upon Robert O'Hara Burke Esq, superintendent of police in the Castlemaine district. The candidate who was next highest in the poll, was Major Warburton, commissioner of police in South Australia, but we are not informed of the nature of the voting with respect to the other candidates. One thing is certain, and that is, that Mr Burke was elected by a large majority.
Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 22 June 1860: 5
The Leader of the Exploring Expedition: Our readers throughout the district will be glad to learn that Robert O'Hara Burke, Esq., the Superintendent of Police for the Castlemaine district, was on Wednesday elected by a large majority to the leadership of the exploring expedition. We have already expressed our conviction of Mr Burke's preeminent fitness for the post; we now heartily congratulate him on the appointment, and wish him the completest success in the expedition which he will have the honor and responsibility of leading. The Herald of yesterday states its unqualified approval of the choice made by the committee, and proceeds:
Before referring to those personal qualifications on the ground of which he was selected out of so large a number of candidates, we shall state the circumstances of Mr Burke's appointment. When the committee more than three months ago, invited applications from competent persons willing to undertake the leadership, there were upwards of twenty genuine ones sent in. After a strict scrutiny the number was reduced to fourteen. Those fourteen applications were placed in the hands of a sub-committee for further scrutiny. Dealing with these exhaustively, the committee reduced them to six, and the six were referred back for final choice to the general committee. Yesterday the committee met - all the members except four being present. The six candidates were put through the ballot box, and it was found that two of them - Mr Burke and Major Warburton - were far in the majority. But Mr Burke distanced his competitor as far as the latter had distanced the rest. The votes, in point of fact, stood 10 to 5. So that Mr Burke has been elected in a manner; that not only silences all cavil, but that shows conclusively the committee's conviction of his pre-eminent suitability. The method of exhaustive selection, when the competitors are numerous, is the most rigorous of all possible tests. The candidate who can stand that can stand anything. There is, therefore, in the method of choice adopted by the committee everything that is calculated to inspire public confidence. Nor will the confidence, in our opinion, be lessened when the personal qualifications of Mr Burke are passed in review.
Mr Burke is a gentleman in the prime of life, a perfect centaur as to horsemanship, they say; and accustomed to command. He has been for the last seven years n superintendent of police in this colony, the first five years in the Ovens district, and the last two in the Castlemaine district. He is an Irishman by birth, as his name very clearly indicates. He served for some years as an officer in the Austrian Cavalry, and subsequently for two years a commander of the Reserved Cavalry of the Irish Constabulary Force. His personal qualifications as an officer are thus stated by his commander, Captain Standish:
Mr Burke possesses indomitable pluck, energy, great powers of endurance, and the by no means useless talent of making himself beloved by those serving with or under him, without relaxing the rules of discipline.
These are unquestionably the chief requisites in the leader of an exploratory enterprise. We may add here that a brother of Mr Burke's, an officer in the Royal Engineers, made himself very conspicuous for his gallantry at the beginning of the Crimean war, and is celebrated in Russell's history of that campaign. Such is the man, his qualifications, and his antecedents.
That these are such as will induce public confidence in Mr Burke there cannot, we think, be a doubt. His only testing competitor Major Warburton, has also, as we believe, very many qualifications for the post he sought. He is, however, a South Australian, not a Victorian, and this fact may have led the Committee to view his claims with a somewhat colder eye than Mr Burke's. Be it as it may, the business of choosing a leader is completed now, and it certainly has been conducted throughout with strict impartiality There is no ground, as we have said, for further cavil or criticism. If Mr Burke be not the right man in the right place, the fault rests with fate, and not with the Exploration Committee. But we shall indulge the hope that the newly chosen leader will hereafter verify in act all, and more than all, the personal merits with which he is now credited. His is a proud position. It is a noble prospect for any man to have before him - that of one day enrolling his name among the Sturts, the Leichhardts, the Mitchells, and the Gregorys.
Argus, Friday 22 June 1860:5
The Cremorne beasts are to have a respectable destiny after all, and the bad habits they must have acquired during their short theatrical career are not, we are glad to learn, to interfere with their prospects in life. The Exploration Committee have decided to purchase the useful quadrupeds, which are now to join the better born and better bred arrivals by the Chinsurah in the work of exploration, and a bargain has been completed between the committee and Messrs. W P White and Co., the agents of the Parsee importers, by which the price of each camel is fixed at £50.
The exploration party may now be expected to have more of the appearance of a caravan than anything yet seen in these southern climes, the tableaux at Coppin's Olympic [Theatre] to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Star [Ballarat], Monday 25 June 1860: 2
The appointment of a leader to the Exploring Expedition seems not to have been made on the most enlightened principles, if the Examiner be correct in its hints. Speaking of Major Warburton, that journal says:
His ability, his acquirements, his experience, and his position, all pointed him out as the man. Such is the opinion of Mr Gregory, of Sir Richard MacDonnell, of Sir Henry Barkly, of Captain Cadell, and of Dr Mueller; the two latter gentlemen being peculiarly well qualified to judge of the Major's qualifications, and to estimate the magnitude of the difficulties he would have had to encounter; and we are of opinion that he consulted his self respect in declining to make a formal application, and to go cap in hand to the soi-disant savans of the Royal Society, asking to be permitted to risk his life and his reputation in a hazardous though honorable enterprise.
By the concerted action of a busy little clique in the committee, Major Warburton's claims have been set aside in favor of Mr Bourke, and while we regret the apparent importation of national and sectarian feelings into an act of this kind, and adhere to our own opinion that Major Warburton was the best man, we shall not be the less prompt to do justice to the qualifications of the selected leader, not the less cordial and sincere in our hope that he will brilliantly achieve his purpose.
Age, Tuesday 26 June 1860: 5
The Exploratory Expedition - Is the right man in the right place?
To the Editor of "The Age"
Sir,- After much ado, mingled with a good deal of by-play, deception, and shuffling, the election of a leader for the exploration party is un fait accompli. But, Sir, the public naturally begin to canvass the qualifications of this gentleman, now that he has been appointed to the task, especially as he is one who was never expected by those outside the committee room to be placed in so responsible a situation. One of your contemporaries, for some petty reason, assumes the patronising air, and talks of its protegée as a stalwart, enduring and amiable man, inured to hardship, and able to command. But there is something more than this required in the gentleman who has to lead a scientific progress through unknown portions of our continent.
I have carefully examined all that could be gleaned from newspaper reports relative to this leadership, and I have been unable to gather that the committee themselves held a proper estimate of the desired qualifications of the leader of the party. It is right for us to expect in the person chosen some acquaintance with the natural sciences; for in the course of his operations he will be called upon to make reports upon the botanical, geological, meteorological and kindred phenomena that he may meet with. It is desirable also that he should be in some degree a draftsman; and able to determine his position with tolerable accuracy. If the gentleman elected is not conversant with these branches of natural science, and with the simplest mode of determining, his latitude and longitude, he does not fitly occupy the place he has sought, nor have the Exploration Committee performed judiciously the functions assigned to
A leader must at all times, in order to command and retain the respect due to his position, be in most things superior to, or in advance of, those with whom he is associated, as it is manifestly impossible to insure obedience where the governed are conscious of their actual advantage in point of fitness over the person exercising the command. The physical element so earnestly lauded by your contemporary, is not sufficient; it is a sine qua non, [without which [there is] nothing], but it is a common and easily obtained qualification; there ought to be also a more than usual mental calibre, with considerable reading in the natural sciences specially applicable to the case, and facility in adapting his knowledge to the new conditions in which he will daily find himself placed. I apprehend that our money is not to be spent in a race across the continent, or a hurried measurement of the distance from one point to another; the scientific world expect more than this, for such a measurement can be easily made with a pair of compasses on a good map. Mr Burke may have harbored the thought that a flight on a camel in as short a time as possible across the ranges and deserts of the country is the thing sought, and deems himself especially qualified for such a scamper; but he must remember that even taking such a miserable view of the matter as this, the leader requires a large organ of locality, that he may not lose himself every time he rambles half a mile from his camp, and in order to prevent his travelling in a circle, he ought to know how to determine his latitude. Is Mr B. sure of these two essential and simple requirements ?
Your contemporary states, as a recommendation, that the chosen leader has been accustomed to command men; but even here his experience as a captain over soldiers or police will not be of such avail as to blind us to the non-existence of more important qualifications. There are men who never ordered soldiers to move, who would be excellent in command over a band of men united under essentially different circumstances. The man at the head of this important enterprise ought to be able to exercise some intelligent observation over the conduct and operations of the scientific staff attached to his party, otherwise very little may be done, and that little imperfectly. Besides this, he alone will be held responsible for the efficient conduct of the expedition, and will be praised or blamed according to the extent and accuracy of the collected facts. Under these circumstances, the committee should have taken care to fix upon a gentleman fitted by education and practice for such responsibility. We do not positively state that they have not done so, but we have no evidence that they have. If Mr B.'s scientific attainments are equal to the task, let the public know them; if they are not, the public will protest against a piece of cliqueism in which the interests of the country are again sacrificed to please and serve the purposes of an unscrupulous and dangerous party.
[Our correspondent appears to be wholly unacquainted with the way such matters as the nomination of Mr Burke are managed. It is an affair of cliquery altogether; and if we are to give credence to all that is said in public on this particular matter, not very creditable cliquery either. A certain ex-minister, it is said, and his satellites, to wit a railway contractor, and two doctors - one learned in divinity, the other in physic - have manufactured the business in a way to insure the election of the successful candidates without reference to fitness or unfitness for the arduous post. The appointment may turn out well ; but if so, it will be a lucky accident. - Ed. "Age".]
• p. 48. Minutes of the EC meeting, 20 June 1860.
Thursday, 28 June 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: Stawell (Chair), McCoy, Neumayer, Wilkie, Iffla, Gillbee, Macadam, Elliott, Watson, Bleasdale (Secretary?), Burke.
Business, 'to confer with the Leader'.
Wilkie moved no further business be discussed as the appointment of Leader had not been officially confirmed by the Government. The meeting proceeded however.
Gillbee moved a sub-committee of five (quorum of three) plus Burke, be formed to consider applications received to join the expedition. The [employment] sub-committee was McCoy, Neumayer, Cadell, Wilkie, Watson and Burke. Macadam as secretary. This sub-committee met three times between 28 June and 5 July and reported on 9th July.
A sub-committee was appointed to confer with the leader on the arrangements for the expedition, and the details connected with it, and to report at least weekly to the general Committee. The sub-committee consists of:
- Professor Neumayer,
- Professor McCoy,
- Captain Cadell,
- the Hon Dr Wilkie,
- John Watson Esq, and
- Dr Macadam, the Hon Secretary.
Professor Neumayer will give his special attention to the meteorological, astronomical, and surveying department of the expedition, and he has now, we believe, the instruments to be used brought into thoroughly correct working order. Attached to the expedition will be a gentleman - probably from the Professor's own establishment - thoroughly competent to use those instruments with the utmost effect.
Professor McCoy will take charge of the department of natural history; Captain Cadell will look to the arrangements connected with the transport of stores and river communication generally; Mr Watson will give his care to the practical details connected with the formation and outfit of the party; and the Hon Dr Wilkie and Dr Macadam will advise generally in the business of the expedition.
The party, we understand, will comprise about 25 men, the majority of whom will be selected from upwards of 700 applicants whose names have already been sent in, and from others who will be invited to apply, if so disposed, The remainder of the party will be made up from among the picked bushmen, native and others, whose services have been volunteered through or by various gentlemen who have stations on the Murray and Darling, and who are showing great interest in the expedition.
The leader - whose appointment has not yet been officially confirmed - is desirous of making an immediate start, proposing to recruit the camels by easy stages to the Murray and Darling; and a new bush-road, just surveyed and extending from Keilor to the Darling, will be followed so that the feet of the camels will not be injured by the hardness of the roads at their first start. To a fixed point on the Darling, the great bulk of the stores will be conveyed via Adelaide, by one of Captain Cadell's river steamers, so that the 'ships of the desert' will not be too much burdened at the beginning of the journey. From the Darling, the party will make for Cooper's Creek - the last known ground on the southern side - where a large depot will be formed. From that point to Gregory's farthest south on his expedition from the Gulf of Carpentaria, is 600 miles as the crow flies, and, as far as is known, over a desert of sand. This desert the party will traverse at the first favourable opportunity. These are the plans, and we trust the expedition now about to start - on which so much forethought has been spent - will result in a splendid success.
• Rough minutes of the meeting dated 28/6/60.
• Minutes of the meeting of the EC, 28 June 1860.
Monday 2 July 1860.
Holiday in Victoria: in commemoration of separation (in lieu of 1 July 1860 being a Sunday).
Tuesday, 3 July 1860.
[Final] meeting of the [employment] sub-committee. There not being a quorum the meeting was adjourned until 3.00 pm Thursday.
• Minutes of the meeting of the sub-committee, 3 July 1860.
Tuesday, 3 July 1860
Age, Wednesday 4 July 1860: 6
Parliament of Victoria: Legislative Assembly: Tuesday 3 July 1860. The Exploration Party and Leichhardt's fate. Mr Embling called the attention of Government to the preparations now in progress for the exploration of the interior; and asked if the Government will be good enough to direct that a succinct memorandum of the discovered traces of Leichardt's party be handed to the leader of the expedition, with instructions that vigilant care be given to discover further indications of the lost party, - with a view, if possible, to ascertain their fate. The hon. member entered at some length into the history of the unfortunate expedition under Leichhardt, alluding to the fact of some horses and mules having been lately discovered at Cooper's Creek, which it was supposed had belonged to the party, and stated that his reason for directing the attention of the Government to the. subject was that some attempt might be made satisfactorily to discover the fate of the expedition, since, although attempts had been persevered in by both England, America, and Russia - until they at length proved successful to discover the fate of Sir John Franklin and his associates in misfortune, no attempt had been made to determine the fate of the unfortunate Leichhardt.
The hon. member was interrupted in his remarks by the Speaker, who reminded him that he was out of order in making a speech upon the subject (Hear, hear).
Mr Nicholson replied that the best information the Government could procure would be supplied to the leader of the expedition, Mr Burke, and that, as far as was consistent with the objects of the expedition, every effort would be made to discover the fate of the lost Leichhardt and his party. It was, however, to be remembered that that was not the principal end of the exploration expedition, which was chiefly intended to open up the interior, and to try to effect a passage across the Australian continent (Hear, hear).
Related archive: Argus, Wednesday 4 July 1860: 6
Related archive: Argus, Monday 9 July 1860: 4
Wednesday, 4 July 1860.
Burke interviews candidates for expedition at the Royal Society hall between 9.00 am and 12.00 noon. It was a wet, rainy day with thunder and lightning.
Age, Thursday 5 July 1860: 4-5
The form of selecting the fifteen men destined to accompany Mr Burke in his journey across the Australian continent, was gone through by the leader between the hours of nine a.m. and twelve yesterday morning, at the building of the Royal Society, in Victoria street, amid fitting accessories of thunder, lightning, and rain. Upwards of seven hundred written applications had been previously received by the Exploration Committee.
Some three hundred of all classes and occupations attended to make a personal claim for joining the party. Many fine stalwart men were there, evidently inured to the hardships of th bush, Many overlanders modestly solicited employment, speaking with bushy faces and bronzed skin of nights of camping and days of travel. Every applicant was promised a definitive answer with the utmost speed, so that the two hundred suitable ones whose names were taken down will not long endure the misery of hope deferred.
A Notice has been Issued by the Exploration Committee, intimating that no further applications to join the party can be entertained, and that written notices have been given to those persons whose applications are under consideration.
Argus, Thursday 5 July 1860: 4
The camels are to change their quarters to-morrow. The Royal Park is fixed upon as their place of abode till the Exploration Expedition starts. The 30 camels will start from the Parliament stables at noon, and move in procession down Bourke-street, and along Elizabeth-street, to their destination.
The nomination of Mr. Burke as leader by the Exploration Committee has been approved of and confirmed by the Government. Mr. Burke met applicants for joining the party yesterday, at the rooms of the Royal Society. Many hundreds of persons presented themselves. Notice in writing has been given to those whose claims are now under consideration, and no further applications will be received or entertained.
• Minutes of the meeting of the sub-committee, 3 July 1860.
Friday 6 July 1860:
Complimentary dinner to Mr Burke, the leader of the exploring expedition, was given at Castlemaine on Friday. The proceedings appear to have been highly satisfactory, and the reception of Mr Burke very enthusiastic.
Extract from: Mount Alexander Mail, Monday 9 July 1860: 2
On Friday evening last the complimentary dinner which had been previously arranged came off, and Mr Burke must feel highly flattered at the cordial manner in which his fellow citizens of all classes came forward to bid farewell, and wish him God speed ...
... The Chairman then rose to propose the toast of the evening. No man, he remarked, ever rose to address an audience more impressed than he then was with a sense of inadequacy to express himself in language befitting the toast, but the duty had devolved on him, and he must perform it, however inadequately. He asked them to drink bumpers to the health of Robert O'Hara Burke, their guest of that evening (much applause). He was quite prepared for that burst of cheering, for Mr Burke during his residence in Castlemaine, had gained the esteem of all (cheers). He had never heard a syllable breathed against that gentleman, whose cordiality of demeanor, and urbane and frank manner, would, ever ensure him the possession of the public respect. But it was only those who knew him most intimately, who knew his more sterling qualities - qualities which did honor to his head and heart (cheers.) He (the chairman) could relate many acts performed by Mr Burke alike honorable to his humanity and his understanding ; but they had been done privately and unostentatiously, and a public recital of them would give no pleasure to the doer. But though he was precluded from noticing these traits of Mr Burke's private character, he could not allow this opportunity to pass without publicly acknowledging the very valuable services Mr Burke had rendered to the community as superintendent of the police force, which under him had attained the highest degree of efficiency (cheers). As chairman of the municipality, he (Mr F) had had frequent occasion to remark Mr Burke's conduct. and on behalf of the municipality, he tendered to him their warmest thanks for the promptitude and heartiness which Mr Burke had evinced in responding to the calls made upon him by the Council and its officers (cheers). He (the Chairman) was sure he spoke the sentiments of all, when he said that their prayers and best wishes would accompany the leader of the expedition, in the glorious undertaking upon which he was about entering (cheers), and that the tidings of his progress through the pathless wilds, and of his success in penetrating them, would be anticipated by none more eagerly than by his friends in Castlemaine - (cheers), not only by those then around him, but by all - (renewed cheers). They recognised him as "The man for Galway" (laughter and cheers). It had keen said that Mr Burke was the second best man (no no), and as always happened when an individual became prominent, some envious people had by anonymous attacks endeavoured to detract from his good name. He had the most implicit confidence in Mr Burke's ability to answer these detractors, in the best possible way, by carrying the expedition through successfully (cheers), and he called on the company to show their concurrence by drinking the toast, they would do so, perhaps with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret - pleasure that their friend had been selected to occupy such a proud position, to head such a glorious enterprise, regret that he was to be called from among them). (The toast was then drunk, the company giving vent to their enthusiasm in several rounds of applause.)
Mr Burke rising was the signal for a renewal of the cheers. When they had subsided, he proceeded to say - This was his first appearance in public, and he was about to make his first speech. He hoped, therefore, that his friends would bear with him, and not regard his present oratorical performance as affording any indication of what his performances were likely to be in another place - (cheers). It was unnecessary for him to say how proud, how flattered, he was, by the proofs of warm sympathy with which he had that evening been honored. It far exceeded his expectations, as it did his deserts (no and cheers). He was not so weak minded as to allow himself to be inflated by vanity; he attributed the kindness that had been exhibited towards him to the generous feeling which led them to encourage a man who found himself appointed to an arduous and difficult position (cheers). The compliment was doubly gratifying to him, for it showed that a police officer might honestly do his duty, without manifesting fear, favour, or affection, and at the same time gain the esteem of his fellow citizens - (loud cheers). Mr Burke continued - I do not intend to detain you with any lengthened expression of my sentiments, but as my friend the Chairman has alluded to charges made against me, and he seems to think they require explanation, I will briefly refer to them (cheats). In the first place, my conduct in going to town before my election, has been contrasted unfavorably with that of the gentleman opposed to me. Well, gentlemen, it was fortunate for me that I did go to town, for upon my arrival there I found that a statement had been made by one of that gentleman's supporters, (cries of "name"), Captain Cadell, that I had informed him that I would accept the second place under Major Warburton. Captain Cadell subsequently explained this statement, by saying that he had mistaken me for another person; but it was a very awkward mistake, at a very critical period, and might have endangered my election if I had not been on the spot to correct it. (Cheers.) I admit that I used even effort to obtain the honourable post to which I have been appointed, but I did so fairly, honestly, and straightforwardly. (Cheers.) I defy any one to say, or rather to prove, the contrary. It is also asserted that I belong to a political party or clique, of whom I am the nominee. I really think that the presence of the gentlemen around me is sufficient answer to that charge, but the fact is that political disputes have no charm for me. I do not know the difference between one political party and the other; and the only recent attempt I have made to increase my political knowledge was in reading the Land Bill the other day - (laughter), and I must confess it was a failure, for I was as wise at the beginning as I was at the end. (Laughter.) I hope I shall not be misinterpreted. I am not expressing any opinion upon the Land Bill; not that I should be afraid to do so, if I held one but I do not. It has been stated, too, that I am an illiterate man. Well, gentlemen, if writing cowardly, scurrilous, anonymous letters (hear) is a necessary literary qualification, then I certainly admit that I am most illiterate, and glory in my ignorance (cheers); but without making any pretentions to that really most honorable title of a literary man, I hope you will bear me out in saying that I will tell the truth (cheers), and the present head of my department, Captain Standish, and my former chief Mr Mitchell will also affirm that I can put the truth before you in grammatical English, (laughter and cheers). I think a record of that sort will prove rather original as a book of travels and you shall have it (loud cheers). Gentlemen, I fear I have allowed myself to be carried away by the subject. Upon the whole I have really very little to grumble at as generally I have received the most kind and generous support (cheers). I now conclude by tendering my heartiest thanks to all, and to the people of Castlemaine particularly, for their courtesy and kindness, assuring you that I will strain every nerve to carry the expedition through successfully. (Mr Burke resumed his seat, the company rising and giving him a round of cheers).
Mr Burke proposed the health of the Chairman, and said that the estimation in which that gentleman was held by his fellow townsmen was shown by his being three times elected as their chief magistrate, and if they did wisely, in his (the speaker's) opinion, they would elect him a fourth time, as a better man it was impossible to find. Praise in the presence of the man being praised was painful, and therefore he would say no more in Mr Froomes' favor, all present knew his good qualities, and be (the speaker) believed that they loved and respected him. (Drank with great applause) ...
... Mr Burke, whose rising was the signal for a renewed ovation, responded, and thanked those assembled for their good wishes on behalf of the expedition, which had become a question of public interest, not only to Castlemaine but the whole colony. Although he could not tell them all the arrangements, he might say that the expedition would start in the course of the ensuing month, and their route would be down the Murray, up the Darling, and thence to Cooper's Creek. They would then proceed northwards, either direct to Carpentaria, or bearing to the west, in order to endeavour to meet Gregory's track. It was not certain whether they would be able to leave Cooper's Creek, or even the Darling, this year as the season was so advanced; he could not say, but must be guided by circumstances. He would not go forward for fear of being called a coward, nor remain behind to be called a fool. If he did not succeed, there should be a good reason for it. Mr Leech had done well to introduce the camel into the group which he had pictured in his speech, for no doubt the camel was really the most important portion of the present expedition. With its assistance he felt full confidence that the enterprise would he satisfactorily accomplished. The manner in which the camels had been conveyed to this colony, over a difficult country, and then by a long and perilous sea voyage, reflected the greatest credit upon the gentleman who had charge of them - Mr Landells - (cheers) - and he (Mr B.) hoped still to have that gentleman's assistance in bringing the expedition to a successful issue - (loud cheers) ...
... The meeting then separated, Mr Burke being perfectly overwhelmed with the good wishes of the departing guests.
A letter was received from the Government store-keeper, Richard Nash, inviting the Exploration Committee to attend a meeting on Tuesday, 10 July, to consider placing tenders for the stores.
A report was received from the sub-committee where a list of applicants recommended by Burke was forwarded and a long list of stores. A point of order was made on whether Chief Secretary Nicholson had given authority to Burke and Government storekeeper Richard Nash to act on certain portions of the list. The Exploration Committee questioned whether they were responsible for the expenditure of the exploration fund.
9 July 1860.
The members of the sub-committee have to report that three meetings have been held. At the last on this day, the leader brought forward a list of members of the party recommended by him and also an extended list of stores. As it appeared however that the Honorable the Chief Secretary has given direct authority to the leader and Government store keeper to act on certain portions of this list without the concurrence of the Exploration Committee having been previously obtained. The sub-committee have the honour to suggest that the postponement of the consideration of this list be deferred until the Hon the Chief Secretary may furnish a dist[?] of written instructions on the point at issue, viz. whether the exploration Committee be responsible for the expenditure of the exploration fund or not, and they beg to suggest that the Hon the Chief Secretary inform them on the matter.
I have etc.
Professor Frederick McCoy
The sum of £300 for payment for 6 camels from Cremorne and £1. 12s. to have them removed to Royal Park.
Burke submitted a list of persons to join the party:
All were subsequently employed except for Elliott. Burke proposed Wills, Neumayer's senior assistant, as surveyor and astronomer. Burke suggested Beckler as medical officer and several members suggested Becker and artist and naturalist.
• p. 52. Minutes of the EC meeting, 9 July 1860.
• Letter from Government storekeeper Richard Nash to Macadam, re: invitation to a meeting for advertising tenders for stores. Dated 7 July 1860. ex1007-041, 2p.
• Letter from McCoy, re: Burke's recommendations for stores. Dated 9 July 1860. ex1007-044, 1p.
McCoy reported on the meeting of the sub-committee which looked at the list of stores. Some amendments were made to the list and after some discussion, the list of stores, &c, was agreed to.
Drs Becker and Beckler were appointed as officers. Burke asked to employ Creber, Langan and Patten immediately to collect the stores. Several valuable contributions to the material of the party were received, and ordered to be acknowledged.
Mr Landells, who has so successfully brought the camels from India, was appointed second in command. Mr Wills, senior assistant to Professor Neumayer at the Flagstaff Observatory, was appointed astronomer and meteorologist to the expedition. Dr Becker was appointed as naturalist and artist.
A discussion ensued as to the most desirable route to be taken, which is to be resumed at a subsequent meeting. McCoy moved, Ligar seconded, that Burke talk to the master of the SS Chinsurah and ascertain the cost of transporting the expedition by sea to start at Port Augusta or Carpentaria.
Argus, Saturday 14 July 1860:4
The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society met yesterday. His Honour Sir William Stawell presided. The report of the sub-committee was brought up, and after some discussion, the list of stores, &c., was agreed to. Several valuable contributions to the material of the party were received, and ordered to be acknowledged. Mr. Landells, who has so successfully brought the camels from India, was appointed second in command. Mr Wills, senior assistant to Professor Neumayer at the Flagstaff Observatory, was appointed astronomer and meteorologist to the expedition, and Dr Becker was appointed as naturalist and artist. A discussion ensued as to the most desirable route to be taken, which is to be resumed at a subsequent meeting.
• p. 55. Minutes of the EC meeting, 13 July 1860.
• Small slip of loose paper with partial minutes of a meeting of the EC, undated, but most likely 13 July 1860, 1p.
Business: To consider the route.
Burke reported the SS Chinsurah was ₤300 per month and available until October to take the camels to Blunder Bay, but after that the monsoon would set in and it would be unsafe. It would take 6 weeks to reach Blunder Bay.
Landells said that the camels could travel 30 miles a day, 20 miles in difficult country. Some of his animals could go for 80 miles in a day. They would need a fortnight or three weeks to recover when landed at Blunder Bay.
Neumayer thought the season was against starting from Blunder Bay and Wilkie suggested the Royal Society be consulted. Selwyn discussed landing at Port Augusta and moving into Stuart's country. Mackenna suggested a delay. Ligar suggested Kings Sound in Dampier's Land as the landing place to keep the Chinsurah out of the monsoon.
Burke stated that Landells would not join the expedition for less than ₤600 pa. Burke asked to engage Ferguson.
Bendigo Advertiser, Thursday 19 July 1860: 4
From "The Argus" - A meeting of the Exploration Committee was held yesterday afternoon, Professor McCoy in the chair. The, meeting was called for the purpose of deciding upon the route the expedition is to take. Mr Inspector Burke, the leader of the exploration party, Mr Landells, the second in command, and Captain Robertson, of the Chinsurah, having been examined, Mr Angus McMillan M.L.A, moved, and Mr Ligar, the surveyor general, seconded the following resolution:
That the expedition start from Hobson's Bay, and commence the land journey from Blunder Bay, King's Sound, Dampier's Land, or wherever a good landing place can be found on the north-west coast, and proceed thence by the most direct practicable route south to Cooper's Creek, or such other point to the south or south-east as may appear desirable to the leader of the expedition for adding to our geographical knowledge, or what, may in his opinion be requisite for the safety of the party.
The resolution was adopted, and was ordered to be submitted to the Government for its approval without delay. The evidence of the captain of, the Chinsurah went to show that, in consequence of the setting in of the monsoons in October, it would be necessary for the expedition to start on its sea voyage immediately. The arrangements on board this vessel for the safe keeping of the camels have not been removed, and there is nothing to prevent their immediate reshipment.
The Star [Ballarat], Thursday 19 July 1860: 3
A radical and very important alteration has been made in the country to be traversed by the exploring expedition now about to start. It will be recollected that the last proposed route was to make for Cooper's Creek in the first instance, and from thence to strike for the Gulf of Carpentaria through the unknown interior. One of the difficulties attending this, was the possibility that when the party arrived on the shores of the gulf, there would be some considerable detention before they could be conveyed home by ship, unless the latter were constantly stationed there, to which there would be many impediments. Another objection to this route, and a very important one, too, is, that before the party reach Cooper's Creek, a large tract of country has to be crossed, the fatigue arising from which would render them less fit to combat with the more arduous task of traversing the supposed desert between that point and the Gulf of Carpentaria. To obviate these difficulties, an entire change of route has been determined upon, and the party will now be conveyed by water to Blunder Bar, King's Sound, Dampier's Land, on the north-west coast, and proceed from thence by the most practicable route southward to Cooper's Creek, or for such other point as may seem most desirable to insure the success of the expedition. By an examination of the map it will be seen that by starting from Blunder Bay, and making for the. direction of Cooper's Creek, the centre of the Continent will be crossed, and the exploration will be likely to be much more thorough than by the last proposed route from Cooper's Creek to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Argus, Friday 20 July 1860: 4
The recent determination of the Royal Society to alter the route of the Exploring Expedition, and to give a totally new character to the undertaking, will be unhesitatingly condemned by a vast majority of the Victorian public as a most unwarrantable departure from the original project. We cannot conceive what were the powerful motives which induced the committee thus to stultify itself and bring ridicule upon the Expedition. Why, after all the details of the route had been settled to the satisfaction of all practical people, has this precious committee of ours blundered to Blunder Bay? What have we to do with Blunder Bay, or Blunder Bay with us? Who has talked of Blunder 'Bay at all in connexion, with the scheme? What, in the name of all the dromedaries, has Victoria to do with an expedition to discover the interior from Blunder Bay ? And who are the great philosophers, the renowned geographers, and experienced men of travel by whose advice Blunder Bay has been substituted for Cooper's Creek as the point of departure for the Victorian national Expedition ?
The names of Embling, Macadam, and Bleasdale, have been mentioned as the leaders in this sudden revolt from the universal public opinion; but we must still ask, who are Messrs. Embling, Macadam, and Bleasdale, that they should alter a project conceived or approved by the most experienced of our practical explorers? We do not know that Mr Embling, though he is often in Blunder Bay, has explored anything deeper than the Protection question; and it is a little too much, that because he is a friend of the camels, he is to be, therefore, qualified to pronounce an opinion on the road they should take. Dr Macadam, we believe combines lecturing rudimentary chemistry with talking on rudimentary politics; but by no possible qualification, natural or acquired, is he entitled to speak with any authority on the question of exploration. Dr Bleasdale is a most respectable minister of a most respectable religion, but his claims to decide a question of this character are exactly on a par with those of Dr Macadam and Mr Embling.
For more than a year past, the question has been considered settled. We believe the resolution to form a depot at Cooper's Creek, as the centre of operations, was adopted on the suggestion of our latest explorer, Mr Gregory. At all events, it had the full approbation both of that gentleman and of Dr Mueller, who, next to him, is the most experienced of our resident Australian explorers, and it had the universal approbation of the Australian public. That approbation was not given hastily, or on unsubstantial ground, and we believe they will now as universally consider it a blunder to go to Blunder Bay.
In order thoroughly to understand this question, it is necessary to bear in mind the chief object of the expedition, and the work that has already been accomplished. The object of the exploration is not purely scientific. This colony, doubtless, has shown itself on many occasions generous and disinterested, but it would be the merest folly in our Government, in an expedition involving a heavy charge upon the public purse, altogether to overlook our material interests. The grand object of the Expedition we hold to be the discovery of new territory in the interior which maybe useful to this colony, and of an available line of good country across the continent. The discovery of available country has been the chief object of all exploring expeditions, from those of Mitchell downwards, and from his discoveries, and those of Sturt, the settlement of three flourishing colonies has been the glorious result. But the discoveries of every explorer excepting one, have at certain points been limited and baffled by an arid desert. Sturt was stopped at long. 128° lat. 24°. Mitchell, Leichhardt, Kennedy, and Gregory, made unsuccessful attempts to penetrate from the east and north. The latter was stopped on the north-west by an arid desert at long. 128° lat. 20° and having made another attempt on the westward, he could penetrate no further than 118° in lat. 26° Every explorer, with the single exception of Stuart, has been baffled, and he has apparently found a door into the interior on the line of lat. 29° in the direct route for Western Australia. When, therefore, the committee proposed Cooper's Creek as the centre from which expeditions might be sent in all directions, the plan commended itself to the common sense of the public, as combining all the objects contemplated, and as likely to be the most effective mode of attaining those objects.
It was not without good reason that Mr Gregory recommended Cooper's Creek, for he had been baffled at two points on the western side - at long.128° lat. 20° and at long. 118° lat. 26°. By despatching the expedition to the west coast, the almost certain result would be, that, after incurring a heavy and most uncalled-for expense in chartering Mr Landell's ship, the whole Expedition would be launched into a desert, and that month might be fruitlessly employed in finding the good line of country communicating with that discovered by Stuart. On the other hand, by following up the discoveries of Stuart, Gregory, Babbage, and Warburton, to the north of South Australia and west of New South Wales, there is little doubt that an extensive available country, and probably an inland sea, would be immediately discovered. We cannot understand the necessity of a vessel waiting for the Expedition on the west coast. Our explorers surely do not expect to reach that coast within a year, and it would be an act of folly to attempt to cross on a line which would lead them to a desert shore. The country to be explored in Australia is as large as India, and the exploration might be done cautiously and by degrees. The first passage across should be to the settled parts of Western Australia, and our Expedition will achieve a glorious name in the history of Australia if, in the course of a couple of years, even this should be accomplished.
In deciding on the question now before them, the Ministry are bound to consider the geographical question in connection with the interests of the colony; and in this point of view alone it is clear the change of plan proposed must be condemned. But after this specimen of their proceedings, it is probable that the confidence of the public in the present management will be seriously impaired, and it is worthy of consideration whether the Government should not go a step farther. The members of the Ministry are mostly good men of business, and as such they are certainly the best fitted to manage what, after all, is essentially a practical matter. On the other hand, a committee of honorary amateur savans is not in any case likely to be an efficient board of management; and after what has transpired, we are disposed to think it would be advisable to relieve the committee of duties, in the performance of which they have shown themselves at least vacillating, if not palpably deficient in business qualifications.
Argus, Friday 20 July 1860: 7
Excerpt from a letter to the Editor by "An Indian Officer".
... A leader for the expedition has been selected to carry out certain duties, which I believe are to cross the island from south to north ....
... If the expedition is to succeed, as it now ought, let it start from the Royal Park. Let Professor McCoy, and the other members of the committee, direct Mr Inspector Burke to meet them at the Royal Park on a certain day, and then say to him, "Here are the camels; all you require in furtherance of your journey shall be found you by us on your stating your requirements. You know our object is that you cross the island from this spot, and return so soon as practicable" ...
... One word as to the party who is selected as second in command - Mr Landells. He has performed his duty well in bringing the camels safely here, and ought to have received handsome compensation from the Government; but appointing him as second in command for exploring this island - the thing is simply absurd. What does Mr. Landells know of this island? He is totally ignorant of any of its rivers, mountains, or leading features. I doubt whether he can take the latitude and longitude; and if any accident happens to Mr Burke, what confidence can the followers of the expedition have in him?
It is not too late to rectify all these errors. Let the expedition start from here. The animals will get perfectly into their work before the severe part commences - when they quit our inhabited territory. If anything has been forgotten, it can be obtained as they go along. Let Mr. Landells be requested to accompany the expedition, as a paid employee in charge of the camels; and let Mr Burke select one or two thorough good bushmen, with some little education, to accompany him as his assistants; and then the expedition will succeed, but not as is proposed.
Argus, Saturday 21 July 1860: 5
The Party of the Exploration: To the Editor of "The Argus".
Sir, You attribute to me an active part in the change of route proposed for the party of explorers. I would simply say I knew nothing whatever of the proposition, neither did I receive a summons to the committee meeting until the meeting had been held. I am content to bear the responsibility of any vote I give, but I deny the statement in today's Argus, and I should be obliged by the name of the author of the information published by you. In conclusion, I would say I shall steadily press on and the measures I have in view which tend to the development of Australasia, or the prosperity of our own colony, and however they may be received now, rest content with the judgement which will pass on my proceedings at a future time.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
[Does Mr Embling deny that he was one of the projectors of the Blunder Bay route? - Ed. Argus.]
Age, Monday 23 July 1860: 4
Blunder Bay! Was there ever more appropriate or more significant designation?
All the, planning and projecting, altering and amending, turning back and stumbling forward, of our Victorian savans with respect to the intended Exploring Expedition have only led them, whither they desire to send the camels, — to Blunder Bay! Ominous this, decidedly; but natural at the same time - quite natural, with such a business in such hands. How came a matter of this kind to be committed to a small knot of colonial doctors ? On this Exploration Committee we find no less than seven 'general practitioners' of the healing art, who, however capable of a consultation about blisters, bleeding, blue pill, or boluses, are about the last persons with whom an exploring pioneer of 'new country' in Australia or any other part of the world would think of taking counsel. What can such men as Messrs. Eades, Gillbee, Mackenna, Wilkie, Embling, Iffla and Macadam, know, say, or do, in furtherance of the geographical exploration of an unknown territory?
The men to plan a successful expedition of geographical exploration into a Terra incognita should be men of true scientific knowledge in the largest acceptation of the word, and not merely smatterers, - men of true sagacity, of business habits, of, at least, some 'bush' experience - men, too, so impressed with a due sense of the importance of the subject as never to lose sight of the objects and purpose of the expedition, in all their preliminary arrangements affecting it. Are the learned disciples of AEsculapius [sic: Asclepius: Greek god of medicine] whom we have mentioned, men of that stamp? Have they shown by their preparatory operations that they are? The answer is to be found in 'Blunder Bay.'
The savans, too, have a chaplain at their elbow in the person of the Rev. Doctor Bleasdale. And yet, with all the Rev. gentleman's ministrations, they can only, to use an American phrase of the 'far West', 'make tracks' coast-wise for Blunder Bay - some problematical inlet on the North-West coast, 'or thereby', of this mysterious continent of Australia. The blunder comprised in this proposed coasting trip becomes the more glaringly absurd and stupid when the object of the expedition is called to mind. What are the primary objects in view in seeking thus to explore the unknown interior of Australia ? Is it not to discover, in the first place, whether it contains any tract or tracts of country which are fit for the habitation of man, or is merely in whole or in part, an uninhabitable wilderness; and in the next place, whether there is a practicable route available to these as yet undiscovered tracts, for man, and the appurtenances of man's civilization, direct from the limits of the known habitable territory already explored by men of science or by ordinary bush pioneers? In plain phraseology, 'new country', fit for settlement, and the way to it from the districts of the interior already settled, or at all events, already occupied by the pastoral 'squatters' are the grand objects of this expedition.
Scientific investigation of the phenomena of nature, as revealed on such a journey to the skilled eyes of science, forms an appropriate pendant to the expedition; but geographical exploration in continuation of the country already explored, is its grand purpose. This, however, appears to have been lost sight of altogether by the savans. They are so eminently scientific that they are no longer practical. What boots it to science or civilisation that a strip of country not absolutely arid as 'Stony Arabia' may be found for a short distance from the coast line on the North-Western shores of Australia, if at the same time it remains still unknown whether that habitable strip of land is, or is not, approachable from the most remote of the interior settled districts, just as California is now proved to be approachable 'overland' from Kansas in the United States? And how is this problem of the approachability of the North, the North-west, or the West coast of Australia from any of the farthest explored districts inland to be solved practically and effectually except by proceeding to advance from these remote inland districts onwards to others more remote, until at last the opposite coast is reached, either by this or by some future expedition? Bit by bit the known tracts of the interior of Australia have been gathered within the domain of geographical knowledge by explorers or pioneers proceeding successively from the remotest points already known to others still more remote in the interior. It was thus that that greatest and most successful of all Australian explorers - Mitchell - opened up 'new country', east, west, north, and south, starting always from the known interior onwards into the unknown. And those who succeed him in the exploration of our interior, if they mean to be successful discoverers, must adopt the same course of proceeding.
The project of the coasting voyage to Blunder Bay, however, appears to have been conceived almost with a view, to premeditated failure. Laying aside the consideration of the peril to be apprehended from a further tedious sea voyage, and the difficulties of landing on a coast still in the state of nature, to the lives of the camels, which lives are essential to the shortest land movement of the expedition, the expense should have forbade such a project, on financial grounds alone. £9,000 is the sum total of the amount at the disposal of the expedition, namely, £3,000 from private sources and £6,000 from the Government. Of this £1,800 have been already expended in the purchase and transport of the camels from India to Melbourne, and £575 on the erection of camel-sheds in the Royal Park - total present outlay £,5375; leaving a balance of £3,625 available for the further expenses of the expedition. How far would this balance go towards sending the camels, the men and their horses, on the proposed coasting voyage to Blunder Bay?
When Gregory, in 1856, landed his exploring equipage from the Tom Tough, at that same ominously named Blunder Bay, each horse landed cost him, as it there stood, £150. Will the camels cost much less? And if so, how much ? Coming from India they cost when landed in Melbourne £200 a-piece. On their proposed coasting voyage half way back to India, they will cost, say, less than half that amount. But their number is increased by the addition of those purchased from Mr Coppin. If, therefore, we set down 28 camels at £90 a-piece landed and safe on the North-West coast, we shall not be far from the time figure; and that gives us an item of £2,520 - cost of delivery of camels at Blunder Bay; leaving from the former balance of £3,625, a residue of £1,105 only, to meet the expenditure on account of horses and their fodder, men's stores, equipment, &c. - a sum scarcely sufficient for this purpose. Thus the entire funds of the Expedition - viz., £9,000 - are swallowed up in the mere conveyance of the expedition to its starting point, supposing this Yarra-Bend [lunatic asylum] notion of the savans is put into operation.
And yet these learned 'star-gazers' seem never once to have looked, into their empty purse, but went blundering on, as if they had the proceeds of an entire gold-field at their disposal; or did they, when they planned this extravagantly costly detour, count upon the Treasury making up any little deficit of theirs by means of a supplementary vote? The committee meet again this afternoon to decide upon the matter definitively; and it is to be hoped for the sake of the expedition and for the credit of the colony, that the Blunder Bay project will be scouted with all the indignation of outraged common sense.
• Minutes of the EC meeting, 17 July 1860.
• p. 58. Minutes of the EC meeting, 17 July 1860.
Friday, 20 July 1860.
Special meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: Ligar (Chair), Stawell, Neumayer, Bleasdale, Mueller, Wilkie, Iffla, Mackenna, Embling, Gillbee, Macadam, Murphy, Smith, Watson, Hodgkinson, Burke, Landells, Selwyn.
Macadam read a letter from Stawell. Stawell moved the minutes of the previous meeting not be tabled as he had not received the summons for the meeting as it had been lost in the Supreme Court. A discussion followed and the meeting was adjourned.
The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society met yesterday afternoon, to re-consider the proposed route for the expedition. The meeting was convened on Wednesday by the Hon Secretary, Dr Macadam, on his being informed that the summons sent to Sir William F Stawell had not reached its destination. C.W. Ligar Esq, the surveyor-general, presided at the meeting. There were present Mr Burke, the leader and Mr Landells, his second.
Stawell, in a lengthened speech, proposed that the minutes of the former meeting be not confirmed. Neumayer, and Messrs Embling, Mueller, Selwyn, Watson, Wilkie, and Gillbee addressed the Committee; and, after a conference of several hours, the Committee adjourned the further consideration of the subject until Monday next, at 4 o'clock pm, on the motion of Dr Embling, seconded by Dr Mueller.
Age, Saturday 21 July 1860: 5
The Exploration Committee held a meeting yesterday for the purpose of reconsidering the route to be followed by the expedition. Sir William Stawell, the Chairman of the Committee, declined taking the chair, as he wished to make some observations upon the subject to be discussed. Mr. Ligar. was accordingly selected to discharge the duties of chairman, and proceedings having been opened, Sir W. Stawell and Dr Mueller spoke at considerable length upon the question as to which route was preferable. Both gentlemen urged the disadvantages arising from landing the camels and party on the north-western coast, expressing themselves very strongly in favor of the original plan of forming a depot at Cooper's Creek, and thus rendering the expedition subservient not only to the objects of science, but also to the more material advancement of Victorian interests. If the party were sufficiently fortunate to find a practicable route from Victoria direct to the northern shores of Australia, all the benefits derivable from such route would necessarily devolve upon Victoria, without coming second hand to us from Sydney, Moreton Bay, or Western Australia. Some further discussion ensued upon the matter, after which the meeting adjourned till Monday next.
Argus, Saturday 21 July 1860: 4
The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society met yesterday afternoon, to re-consider the proposed route for the expedition. The meeting was convened on Wednesday by the Hon secretary, Dr Macadam, on his being informed that the summons sent to Sir Wm. F. Stawell had not reached its destination. C.W. Ligar Esq., the surveyor-general, presided at the meeting yesterday.
Mr Burke, the leader, Mr Landells, his second, and Mr Selwyn, the Government geologist, were also present. Sir Wm. F. Stawell, in a lengthened speech, proposed that the minutes of the former meeting be not confirmed. Professor Neumayer and Messrs. Embling, Mueller, Selwyn, Watson, Wilkie, and Gillbee addressed the committee, and, after a conference of several hours, the committee adjourned the further consideration of the subject until Monday next, at 4 o'clock p.m., on the motion of Dr Embling, seconded by Dr Mueller.
• Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 20 July 1860.
• p. 61. Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 20 July 1860.
• Minutes of a special meeting of the EC, 20 July 1860. 4 numbered pages.
Monday, 23 July 1860.
Adjourned special meeting of the Exploration Committee, including meeting of the sub-committee.
Present: Ligar (Chair), Stawell, Hodgson, Wilkie, Iffla, Watson, Burke, Selwyn, Mueller, Embling, Neumayer, Macadam, Smith, Gillbee, Bleasdale, Mackenna.
Business: To determine the route of the expedition. Embling supported Blunder Bay or Port Augusta rather than Cooper Creek. Wilkie preferred a leisurely survey to Cooper Creek. Gillbee favoured the northern route. Iffla said the Royal Society preferred Cooper's Creek and it would be better for the camels rather than the long sea voyage. Mueller retracted his support for Blunder Bay and proposed Cooper Creek. He mentioned the settlements in South Australia near Lake Torrens as a safe retreat from Cooper Creek. Smith moved expedition should start in the south and head north, but there was no seconder. Neumayer supported Port Augusta as the shortest route and he was supported by Selwyn. Hodgson questioned Landells on the ability of the camels to undertake the sea voyage and then a journey of 800 miles and Landells replied he had no doubts to their ability. Elliott supported the northern route. Bleasdale supported Cooper Creek.
The motion against Blunder Bay was carried 10 votes to 4.
Then a motion in favour of Port Augusta was rejected 8 votes to 6.
Argus, Wednesday 25 July 1860:: 1
The leaders of the Exploring Expedition have been chosen - Burke and Landers [sic].
Mr Wills, from the Melbourne Observatory, is appointed astronomer to the expedition.
Dr Becker accompanies it as naturalist.
• p. 63. Minutes of the EC [adjourned] special meeting, 23 July 1860.
• Partial minutes of a meeting of the sub-Committee, 23 July , 1p. and minutes of the adjourned meeting of the EC, 23 July 1860. 4 numbered pages, with one additional pages of rough notes [by Stawell].
Age, Tuesday 24 July 1860: 5
An adjourned special meeting of [The Exploration Committee] was held yesterday afternoon, in the Royal Society's Institute. The following numbers were present: His Honor Sir William F. Stawell, Chief Justice, and Messrs. Hodgson, Ligar, Wilkie M.D., Iffla M.D., Gillbee, Watson, Embling, Selwyn, Mueller, Mackenna M.D., Macadam M.D., Sizar, Elliott, Professor Neumayer, the Rev. J. Bleasdale, and Messrs. Burke (leader of the expedition) and Landells. Mr Ligar was unanimously voted to the chair.
The Secretary (Dr. Macadam) said that the meeting was called to consider a motion of Sir William Stawell's, that the minutes of the previous meeting be not confirmed. He also read the following note from Professor McCoy:
University, 23rd July, 1860.
My Dear Sir,
Would you kindly inform the meeting to-day that I am compelled to be absent, as at the last meeting, from the effects of an accident to my hand and arm at last Wednesday's lecture, and that I much regret being unable to join in the consideration of the grounds for disturbing the all but unanimous vote of the previous large meeting in favor of the route most acceptable also to the leader, the second, and the shipper, and most suitable for the condition and use of the peculiar feature of the expedition, the camels.
I remain, my dear sir,
Very truly yours,
The Chairman [Ligar] said the Secretary had informed them of the object of the meeting. He hoped they would come to the consideration of this all important question with the greatest care. He had laid upon the table a map with blue coloring to mark the actual desert parts of the country, which might be useful to members. He thought the meeting would do well to divide tho question into broad portions, that they should not consider each point of departure separately, but simply decide in the first instance whether the expedition should start from the north or the south, and after that was decided it would be time enough to say from what part of the north or south the departure should be taken. He would, however, remark that the decision previously arrived at was not adopted in the hasty manner that was supposed.
Dr Embling said that it was not he who had moved the adjournment, for not being very quick in perception, he thought that if they had a day or two to consider the matter, they might get out of the difficulty in which he felt himself placed. He felt that in supporting the confirmation of the minutes, he would be passing condemnation on the Blunder Bay route, and not being fully acquainted with the subject, he preferred postponing his judgement. On looking over the summons sent to every member of the committee he found that they had nothing to do with the previous minutes, but that they were met to consider the question of route. Under these circumstances ha thought it better to omit the question of the minutes altogether.
The Chairman [Ligar]: There is nothing before the meeting but the minutes. They were before the meeting at the time of the adjournment, and we have nothing else to deal with now." Dr. Macadam drew Dr Embling's attention to the fact that the meeting was convened as an adjourned meeting.
The Chairman [Ligar] did not think the question as to what the secretary did affected the meeting; Dr Embling would rather take the matter ab initio, and discuss the whole question of route without any prejudice to any plan which might be or had been proposed. If the confirmation of the minutes did not affect the question of route that would have to be settled afterwards.
Mr Hodgson inquired what was the motion before the chair. The Chairman: Whether the minutes of the last meeting be confirmed. It is moved and seconded that they be not confirmed.
The Rev. Mr Bleasdale: The confirmation of the minutes would mean nothing more than that the minutes are properly entered, but it would not amount to an affirmation of everything done at that time. Sir W.F. Stawell said that the confirmation of the minutes was the only locus penitentia remaining to the committee. They would be only stultifying themselves, if the minutes were confirmed, by going over the question of route again. If the minutes were rejected, the Blunder Bay route would be disposed of at once. The confirmation of the minutes would not, however, exclude any gentleman from proposing an alteration of the route. He was glad that the secretary had called the meeting by a notice which enabled any member, after the confirmation of the minutes, to propose any other route, but they must dispose of the question of the minutes one way or the other. If they did not confirm the minutes, the question, except so far as it related to Blunder Bay, would remain open, but if they did, the whole matter would be disposed of.
Mr Hodgson said as that was a very full meeting, he was fully impressed with the desirableness of having the question of route, finally decided. He would vote against the minutes not being confirmed, with a view to going into the question of route.
Sir Wm. Stawell said that the meeting should not go back to the question of Blunder Bay, if the minutes were not confirmed. That question should be disposed of one way or other in the first instance.
The Chairman [Ligar], as one who had voted for the Blunder Bay route, did not think that the confirmation of the minutes, strictly speaking, meant merely an acknowledgment of their correctness. Dr Wilkie remarked that if the majority were in favor of Blunder Bay, they would be foolish to vote against the minutes; but if the majority, were in favor of that route where was the good of going into the question of the other routes?
The Chairman [Ligar] thought there was sufficient reason for doing so, in order that they might come to a deliberate, and not a hasty decision. Several gentlemen were in favor of different routes, and more than half a dozen had not heard the admirable argument of Sir William Stawell, which nearly settled the question. If the minutes were not confirmed, the matter would be as Sir W. Stawell described what a military 'officer' would describe by the words ' As, you were.' They would be in the same position as they were in before.
Sir W. Stawell: It seems to me that we are fated to do nothing at all, and at every meeting I grow more desponding from the extreme dilatoriness of our proceedings. I do not wish any one to vote without hearing all that is to be said, but I think Dr Wilkie put the matter in its proper light when he said that those who were in favor of the Blunder Bay route would vote for the confirmation of the minutes, and those who were opposed to it would vote against them.
Dr Embling was not an advocate of Blunder Bay, but he hoped that all the four routes by Blunder Bay, Shark's Bay, Cooper's Creek, and Port Augusta would be considered. Dr Wilkie held that it would be ridiculous to refuse to confirm the minutes, and afterwards consider the Blunder Bay route. If such a course was taken he agreed with Sir W. Stawell that they would never do anything at all.
Mr Selwyn inquired what was the objection to discussing the Blunder Bay route?
The Rev. Mr Bleasdale proposed that the minutes be confirmed under protest. Dr Gillbee seconded the motion. He had supported the Blunder Bay route; but he was open to conviction, and if it could be shown that there was a better route he would adopt it. Unless, however, some discussion took place on the subject, he should adhere to his original view.
The Chairman [Ligar] was in favor of discussion. Perhaps, on the whole, it was better to set aside the minutes, and leave Blunder Bay in the same position as the other routes. Unless Sir W. Stawell was afraid of discussion, he saw no objection to it. Sir W. Stawell: I am not afraid of anything that I am aware of, but I think that those who are in favor of Blunder Bay route may vote for the confirmation of the minutes, and those in favor of any other route may vote against it.
Dr Embling thought that in confirming or not confirming the minutes the meeting should only decide as to their correctness, but he wished to go into the whole question. He did not agree in all that had been said as to the honor of the colony. They were going to send men out into the desert, and they should by every possible means render the journey of these men as safe as it could be made. Since the last meeting he had read Gregory's account of his expedition, and nothing could be more damaging to the route by Cooper's Creek than that account. Gregory said that the soil was bad after rain and there was an absolute want of water when the rain passed away for even a few days. Gregory further said he had no doubt that the country about Cooper's Creek was the continuation of Sturt's Stony Desert. Cattle travelling near Cooper's Creek wore their hoofs down in a few days. Another objection was that there was no eastern route from Cooper's Creek, but a party must make wholly west or north west. Then there was the journey over a wet and heavy soil, which would cause the camels to be knocked up before they had begun their actual journey. Then, as to the proposal for a depot at Cooper's Creek, of what use would a depot be unless there was a large waterhole or reservoir, and they knew from Gregory's account that the waters were not permanent.
Dr Wilkie said that Mr Gregory did not speak of Cooper's Creek in the manner referred to by Dr Embling, but of the Thompson. Dr Embling replied that the Thompson flowed into Cooper's Creek. Dr Wilkie: If Dr Embling comes here to give us information as to previous explorers ... Dr Embling: Sir, I rise to order. Dr Wilkie has no right to indulge in these personalities. I say there is no water-shed to be depended on where it is proposed to place the depot. Dr Wilkie: That is not the fact. Dr. Embling is condemning all the previous reports of the committee, which were adopted on the assumption that Cooper's Creek is a very large sheet of water, and one which has been found to be permanent in all seasons.
Mr Watson thought that Dr Wilkie only assumed that this was the case.
Dr Embling said, that at times there were large lagoons and sheets of water, but they became dry in a few weeks, and neither the Thompson, the Alice, nor Cooper's Creek were to be relied on. Then Sturt's stony desert would have to be encountered immediately on starting from Cooper's Creek; and judging from Sturt's experience, that was the greatest obstacle to the exploration of this country. Then, in addition to the distance, the absence of water and the stony desert, there, was the fact, which could not be denied, that Leichhardt had perished in that desert; and under these circumstances, he thought himself justified in opposing that route. Gregory found it impossible to prosecute the exploration which he was to make after the party of Leichhardt; and why then should they send others into that desert. With regard to Blunder Bay he believed Gregory's greatest difficulty was that his horses were so cramped that they could not well make their way through the surf after their long coasting voyage, and the sheep had also suffered from the protracted passage. But once on shore he found plenty of fresh water and food for his cattle. The natives, too, were few in number, and although Mr Stokes was speared, there was no reason to suppose that they were particularly dangerous. The two objections to the Cooper's Creek route were - first, the great distance that it would he necessary to carry the camels; and next, that the expedition would come upon the tracks of Sturt and Gregory, and on both these grounds he preferred the route by Blunder Bay. But there was another route, by Spencer's Gulf from Port Augusta. An exploring party starting from that point would not be going as it was said after Sturt but to explore across New Holland. There was a large tract of country not yet touched upon, so that it was unnecessary to follow Sturt's track, as a course might be followed, more to the westward. Two and a-half days' sea passage would carry the expedition to Port Augusta, where they would be surrounded by civilisation, and where the Government of South Australia would do everything in its power to assist them. They would go some hundreds of miles before they lost track of civilization. If they attempted to go in the direction of Shark's Bay, they would then pass through an unexplored country, where fine sheets of water were known to exist; and, finally, by describing another segment of a circle they could return into South Australia. [ ... Some of the speaker's remarks at this point were rendered quite inaudible by the conversation carried on in a loud tone by some members of the committee ... ] Taking the four proposed points of depasture, he had come to the conclusion that whichever should be decided on Cooper's Creek should not be. If the committee agreed upon Blunder Bay he could concur with them, but not in adopting Cooper's Creek.
Dr Wilkie said that when Dr Embling objected to Cooper's Creek, he should have searched for some information respecting it. He (Dr Wilkie) denied that Mr Gregory ever stated that Cooper's Creek had dried, up, or had the tendency to do so. On the contrary, Mr Gregory supported the Cooper's Creek route, and as that gentleman was the most successful explorer in Australia, his opinion was entitled to as much weight as Dr Embling's.
Dr Embling observed that the remarks of Dr Wilkie were rather personal. Dr Wilkie: I think Dr Embling was exceedingly personal with regard to Cooper's Creek - (laughter) - which was a permanent sheet of water. They could not for a moment compare Port Augusta with Cooper's Creek, going north from which there was not a drop of water for man or beast. Cooper's Creek on the other hand was known as a permanent sheet of water, and since Sturt's time it had never dried. They were told there was an abundance, of water from Port Augusta; but let them, take the explorations of Warburton and Sturt and they would find there was no water in that country, and certainly no sheet of water nor any place for a depot.
Dr Embling objected, to the Cooper's Creek route, on the grounds that there were a great many stones on it, and that the camels' feet would be injured; but if this was the case the camels had better have remained at home. If they required soft grass to eat and to travel over, they were useless. It was because there were sandy deserts and want of water to be encountered that they were sent for. The expedition should have a sheet of water to fall back upon, and from which the explorers could start again to discover fresh sites for depots in the interior. The question was discussed under a misapprehension, when members of the committee supposed that what was wanted was a flying visit across the country, with water and food, on camels' backs sufficient to take them through and then home. This was not the idea of the Committee of the Royal Society. They had come to the conclusion that explorations had been attempted on a wrong system altogether, and they had resolved to carry out the new method of surveying and mapping the country as the party advanced. They did not expect to get to the north coast in one, or even in two years; but it was suppposed that they might reach it in the third year. They would then have established a line of communication which would be open for all time to come, and which would be available for electric telegraphs or railways, or any other purpose. Suppose a flying visit made, would science be benefited? ('Yes' from Dr Gillbee.) Would Australian settlement be promoted? ('Yes,' from Dr Gillbee) No; they would find nothing by going through in a straight line but sand hills. If anything was to be found in the shape of good country or water, it would only be discovered by seeking for it. The real bona fide intention of the expedition was a three years' survey and mapping of the country, commencing from a base of operations from which news of the progress of the exploration could from time to time be transmitted to Meloourne.
Mr Watson wished to know where Dr Wilkie intended to get the money from for the execution of this survey. They had experienced a difficulty in getting merely what would start the expedition. If Mr Sturt had found such difficulty in getting through the desert as he mentioned in his narrative, the more speedily our explorers got over it the better. It would go a long way with the people of the colony to find that the exploring party got from south to north, or from north to south, and that after that funds might be procured. He was also afraid that Dr Wilkie, in his estimate of Cooper's Creek, might be a little mistaken. He had not heard Mr Gregory's opinion about it, but he thought it might turn out what a countryman of his (Mr Watson) described as a chain of dry water holes. As he had asked at the last meeting, was Mr Burke possessed of more energy or pluck than Mr Sturt, who tried unsuccessfully to cross the desert more than once? (A member of the committee: 'Not with camels') He did not think any man would doubt Mr Sturt's pluck, and as to camels, he said they were unsuited to the place.
Dr Gillbee could not agree with Dr Wilkie, that there should be a survey made and carefully laid down on maps, nor in the argument that the expedition was not to look for available land, nor that a flying visit would be of no particular benefit. The first thing was for the party to get north or south, then, if they could, to strike out east and west, and if they found land which would support cattle, it could be surveyed and mapped down. In supporting a route from the north, he did not care whether it went from Blunder Bay or not, as long as it went from one of the northern ports. If the camels were to be taken, they must be in proper condition to start, and when they did start from the north they would always be making for the settled, district, which would be an encouragement to the men. If they succeeded in getting as far south as Sturt's farthest they might then strike to the westward for Shark's Bay. He could not see that it would be better to start from Melbourne and have the camels fatigued before they got to the commencement of their journey. One objection urged against Blunder Bay was that there was a heavy surf there, but Captain King described the place 40 years ago as being at all times accessible, that there were various rivers and no surf. The same writer said that in all his travel on the west coast he had never found a difficulty in landing, though he had known the contrary to be the case on the east coast. Again, oven forty years ago, the natives were not numerous, but lived in detached tribes of thirty or forty in one family. There was another objection raised, that in making the north coast the point of departure, the expedition would be out of the reach of help. But it was a fine voyage to the coast of Timor, the passage not occupying more than a week or ten days - so short, indeed, that the Malays came, upon the coast in search of fish. From Timor the party could obtain fresh provisions or water, or anything they might require. Again, there was fresh water all along the north coast, several rivers running into Blunder Bay. Once the point was settled that the party could cross the country, they might strike out for Shark's Bay.
Dr Iffla did not attach much importance to the objection that the camels would be knocked up by the land journey, as they would not have to travel over any difficult country. He hoped the Blunder Bay route would be altogether cast aside, as it seemed to have been adopted owing to an hallucination in some gentlemens's minds. How the camels were to be refreshed by a voyage in a small vessel he could not understand, especially as they were to be landed on a coast unknown, with a rolling surf running upon it. The disadvantages of the route were, more numerous than he need detain the committee by repeating; and again, where were they to get the funds to charter a vessel and keep her on the coast? How was she to be maintained, and to remain on that iron bound coast, with a lee shore during the greater part of the year, even supposing they could get a vessel, which was exceedingly problematical, for he did not know that they, could get a vessel insured. He believed the camels would be more injured by the. perils and hardships of the voyage than by a land journey to Cooper's Creek. Whatever route was adopted, he hoped it would not be that so unhappily designated as Blunder Bay.
Dr Mueller said that Blunder Bay was certainly not to be compared to the harbors on the southern coast. There, even under the most favorable circumstances, the expedition would be a long way from any settlement. Sir Wm Stawell had at the last meeting pointed out that it might be all right enough if no accident occurred. But supposing that anything occurred to the vessel to prevent communication with Timor. The captain of Mr Gregory's vessel was excessively unwilling to remain in the Victoria river. He said that it would not be safe with, a large vessel to remain there, but a small vessel, which could easily find refuge, might procure shelter. If the Blunder Bay line was adopted arrangements must be made for a vessel, which, however, might be a small one, and procured for a low charter. Otherwise the party would have to travel 2,500 miles to the eastward or 2,000 to the westward to obtain any aid.
Mr Burke: But, suppose the ship was kept there? Dr Iffla: She would be knocked to pieces.
Dr Mueller: Again, all the country on the Victoria [River] is very stony. It appeared to him that from Cooper's' Creek it would be easy to take advantage of any good country. He would not wish men to run any risk unless their retreat was perfectly safe. From Cooper's Creek this might be difficult, but a retreat could always be made in safety, except in the case of accidents, over which mortals had no control. As he had pointed out also at the last meeting as soon as the expedition crossed the Murray river it would be in unexplored country.
Mr Selwyn: The whole of that country is applied for for settlement.
Dr Mueller contended that it was a new route - at least in a scientific point of view. As to the permanence or otherwise of the water at Cooper's Creek, he called attention to the fact that Captain Sturt had recommended the formation of a small cattle station at the lower end of the creek, which he would not have done unless he was under the impression that the water was permanent. As to the extreme difficulty of travelling over the country to the north of Cooper's Creek, the party could get into the country where Mr Goyder was now exploring, and where Mr Stephen Hack had found a very fine, lake of fresh water. He would, therefore, have little fear if these water holes proved to be still permanent; and on this point the leader of the party would of course be aware long before he brought his party up. Again, the distance from this point to Lake Torrens, to which a road had been found by Stuart, was very short, the distance being only one-half that from the Darling to Cooper's Creek. To bring the camels to a starting point from which they could at once enter a Terra incognita was far better than bringing them to Port Augusta or Sharks Bay. One advantage of a Depot in the centre of the country was that in case of illness or accident men could be sent back and others sent up in their places, or if any of the party were disinclined or that their expectations were not realised, they could return.
Mr J. Smith read an extract from Mr Gregory's narrative, to the effect that Cooper's Creek was a most eligible starting point. The only feasible objections which he (Mr Smith) had heard urged against it were first that the camels would be seriously injured by the overland passage, and, secondly, that it bordered on the desert. It seemed to him that the animals would be benefited by the preliminary journey, as a man going to fight was improved by his preliminary training. As to the desert, that was the very purpose, for which the camels were procured. Mr Hodgson was also favor of Cooper's Creek.
Professor Neumayer called attention to the fact that on the north coast there was a rise and fall of tide of eighteen feet and this necessarily occasioned strong currents. Again, the north-west winds, which were the prevalent ones, blew in shore, and under these circumstances, he asked, was there likely to be a surf or not? As to the distances by the various routes he had made a calculation which showed that from Melbourne to Gregory's farthest point was 1,414 miles. By Cooper's Creek to Gregory's farthest, the distance was 1,707 miles, whilst from Port Augusta to the same point the distance was 1,584, allowance being made in each case of 12 per cent for curvature. The distance from Melbourne to Cooper's Creek was 774; from Cooper's Creek to the furthest of Sturt was 228; and across the desert from Sturt's furthest to Gregory's furthest was 705 miles. From Port. Augusta to the furthest of Stuart was 318 miles; and from Stuart's furthest to Gregory's furthest, 654. From the point at which Stuart gave his last report, however, there was no information as to the extent of traversable country. Dr Embling: Mr Thompson sent in a report of 170 miles farther.
Professor Neumayer continued: With respect to the opinion of Mr Gregory, as quoted by Mr Smith, it was entitled to every respect; but had the writer known a little more of Stuart's discoveries, he might have rectified his views. He thought we should economise our energies by taking the camels to Port Augusta instead of sending them 774 miles, and bringing them out very little nearer to the scene of their labors. Their principal object was to explore the interior
in as efficient a manner as possible, and they should avail of every means for this purpose. He proposed that the expedition start from Port Augusta, and proceed forward to Gregory's furthest. As to the objection to proceeding from another colony, such considerations were altogether unworthy of men engaged in so great a project. Victoria would be the leading colony in exploration, and this was sufficient for them to know. Mr Selwyn seconded the motion.
Dr Wilkie ridiculed the warm feeling towards the camels evinced by those gentlemen who would not send them into the desert after they had been specially imported for the purpose of being sent there. He also argued that the expedition was a Victorian enterprise, and as such should start from Victorian territory.
In reply to Dr Gillbee, Mr Landells expressed his strong confidence in the camels, a confidence which he believed would be shared by the public when, they had experience, of the animals. They would beat any horses in a desert without water or grass, and subsisting only on shrubs or bush. He had no objection to keep a hundred miles in advance of the expedition to ascertain whether there was water. The camels could get over a desert but not, perhaps, over mountains or rocks, as they were not pigeons or provided with wings. But he would say "land them in good condition, and do not bring them to their work at once". In India, horses landed from Australia were allowed twelve months to recruit before being put to guns or handed over to the troopers, and he thought the camels here should have a rest also. They eat the gum branches and wattles, and seemed to be quite happy when they were out, but he could not say whether this food would fatten them. They should be a little acclimatised.
After some remarks from Dr Mueller, illustrative of the character of the Australian desert, Dr Macadam, the Rev. Mr Bleasdale and Dr Mackenna, successively contradicted the statements which appeared in the press relative to their having advocated the Blunder Bay route.
The motion that the minutes be not confirmed was then put and carried by a majority of 10 to 4.
A motion in favor of Cooper's Creek, and an amendment in favor of Port Augusta were next put in succession, and the former was carried.
The meeting then separated.
Argus, Tuesday 24 July 1860: 4
A meeting of the Exploration Committee was held yesterday afternoon, in the hall of the Royal Society, for the purpose of determining upon the route to be taken by the exploring expedition. Mr Ligar, the surveyor-general, presided. The following members of the committee were present: Sir William Stawell, Messrs. Hodgson, Gillbee, Iffla, Watson, Embling, Selwyn, J. Smith, Bleasdale, Elliott, Mackenna, Macadam, and Wilkie. Mr Inspector Burke and Mr Landells were also present.
A letter from Professor McCoy was read, regretting that he was unable to attend and expressing his concurrence in the project to start from Blunder Bay, Cambridge Gulf. The discussion commenced on Sir W. Stawell's motion that the minutes of the previous meeting be not confirmed, which was in effect to negative the Blunder Bay route. Professor Neumayer proposed that the expedition should start from Port Augusta, at the head of Spencer's Gulf, which would effect a saving of 700 miles between that point and the termination of the journey on the north-west coast. This proposal was objected to on the ground that the expedition would be following on the track of Stuart, and would necessarily traverse much of the country opened up by previous explorers. It was ultimately negated and the motion of Sir Wm. Stawell, that the Expedition start for Cooper's Creek, and when arrived there, that its future course be left to the discretion of the leader, was carried by a majority.
The Empire [Sydney], Thursday 2 August 1860: 4
The Exploration Committee of Victoria have lately had an animated debate on the question of the route to be taken by the next expedition. The camels have arrived and recovered from the effects of their voyage; the party has been organised, and its leader appointed. Every thing is ready for the journey, when suddenly it is discovered that there is great difference of opinion as to what point to start from.
The contending parties may be said to have divided themselves into three sections one advocating Cooper's Creek, another Port Augusta, and a third, somewhat ominously, giving their voices for Blunder Bay. No doubt a very serious responsibility attaches to the decision. Not only the success of the expedition, but the safety of the persons composing it, may depend upon the choice. There is therefore some excuse for the long deliberation and the warm discussions to which the question has given rise; but it is certainly to be regretted, and is calculated to diminish alike the confidence of the party and of the public, that the decision apparently arrived at has not the authority of a unanimous vote to rest upon, instead of the more doubtful approbation of a mere majority in a division.
'It seems to me' said Sir William Stawell, 'that we are fated to do nothing at all; and at every meeting I grow more desponding, from the extreme dilatoriness of our proceedings.' It is a strange anomaly, but not more strange than true, that in this country of bush adventures, exploration seems to be unsuited to the genius of the people. If New Holland had been for the last seventy years in the hands of the Americans, would the centre of the continent be still a Terra incognita? It is far more likely that by this time we should have had speculators projecting a railway from the River Darling to Shark's Bay. Our explorers in general content themselves when they have, accidentally mayhap, stumbled upon a good tract of pastoral country, well grassed and watered. They prefer writing their initials in large characters on numerous wool bales, to seeing them inscribed on the roll which immortalises Parke, and Bruce, and Leichhardt. Mr De Rinzy, indeed, seems to have been imbued with the true spirit of discovery; but his health broke down on the very verge of the land of promise. Mr Stuart also has made a bold bid for a niche in the temple of fame. What these gentlemen have already succeeded in effecting is sufficient to afford great encouragement, and promises to lead to a refutation of the stereotyped official faith on the subject, that 'all is barren'.
The objections, of certain members of the Exploration Committee to the Blunder Bay route, were supported on various grounds. This route had been previously decided upon by the Committee; but on the 23rd of July another meeting was held in the Royal Society's Institute at Melbourne, for the purpose of re-considering the decision. The insecurity of Blunder Bay as a harbour was insisted upon as a valid reason against stationing a vessel there; while, without such a provision, the party would have to travel 2,500 miles to the eastward or 2,000 miles to the westward, before, they could procure any aid: the difficulty of transporting the camels so far by sea, and the great cost of maintaining a vessel to wait upon the party with supplies, were further objections. On the other hand, it was contended that an overland journey to Cooper's Creek would involve unnecessary preliminary demand upon the strength of the camels, and of the party; while neither that creek, nor the Thomson or Alice Rivers could be relied on for a permanent supply of water. The route by Spenser's Gulf, from Port Augusts, was warmly advocated by some. An exploring party starting from that point would not, it was said, be merely following on Sturt's tracks, but would strike right across New Holland. A sea passage of two days and a half could land the expedition at Port Augusta, and the party would travel some hundreds of miles before they got out of the tracks of civilisation. By shaping a course for Shark's Bay, 'they would pass through an unexplored country, where fine sheets of water were known to exist; and finally, by describing another segment of a circle, they would return into South Australia'. This route, however, like that by Blunder Bay, was open to the silly objection that it took the expedition out of the colony. 'The expedition was a Victorian enterprise, and, as such, should start from Victorian territory'. This narrow minded argument was deserved ridiculed by some of the speakers. The opinion of Professor Neumayer is worthy of attention.
As to the distances by the various routes, he had made a calculation which showed that from Melbourne to Gregory's farthest point was 1,414 miles. By Cooper's Creek to Gregory's farthest, the distance was 1,707 miles, whilst from Port Augusta to the same point, the distance was 1,584; allowance being made in each case of 12% for curvature. The distance from Melbourne to Cooper's Creek was 774; from Cooper's Creek to the furthest of Start was 228; and across the desert from Sturt's furthest to Gregory's furthest was 705 miles. From Port Augusta to the furthest of Stuart was 348 miles; and from Stuart's farthest to Gregory's furthest, 654 miles.
With respect to the opinion of Mr Gregory, as quoted by Mr Smith, it was entitled to every respect; but had the writer known a little more of Stuart's discoveries, he might have rectified his views. He thought we should economise our energies by taking the camels to Port Augusta instead of sending them 774 miles, and bringing them but very little nearer to the scene of their labours. Their principal object was to explore the interior in an efficient a manner as possible, and they should avail of every means for this purpose. He proposed that the expedition start from Port Augusta, and proceed forward to Gregory's furthest. As to the objection to proceeding from another colony, such considerations were altogether unworthy of men engaged in so great a project. Victoria would be the leading colony in exploration, and this was sufficient for them to know.
The meeting, however, seemed to be of a different opinion for, after a long and rather warm discussion, the resolution of the previous meeting was virtually rescinded by the adoption of a motion in favour of starting from Cooper's Creek. Thus the matter rested up to the beginning of last week. We have not yet heard whether any further changes have come over the minds of the Committee.
With reference to the powers of endurance of the camels, Mr Landells, who has charge of those animals, expressed the strongest confidence; and, at the same time, he made a very sensible suggestion, as to giving them fair play before those powers were put to the test:
They would beat any horses in a desert without water or grass, and subsisting only on shrubs or bush. He had no objection to keeping a hundred miles in advance of the expedition to ascertain whether there was water. The camels could get over a desert but not, perhaps, over mountains or rocks, as they were not pigeons or provided with wings. But he would say "land them in good condition, and do not bring them to their work at once." In India, horses landed from Australia were allowed twelve months to recruit before being put to guns or handed over to the troopers, and he thought the camels here should have a rest also. They eat the gum branches and wattles; and seemed to be quite happy when they ware out, but he could not say whether this food would fatten them. They should be a little acclimatised.
It was very properly observed, in the course of the discussion, that the notions of exploration entertained by some people contemplated merely a flying visit across country, with sufficient food and water on camels' backs to take the party out and home again; whereas an efficient exploration, and such as was contemplated by the Royal Society, would occupy three years, commencing from a base of operations from which news of the progress of the exploration could from time to time be transmitted to Melbourne. The answer to this, however, was that sufficient funds were not available for so extended a survey. It is, nevertheless, highly desirable that a medium course should be adopted, and that, while due regard is paid to the safety of the expedition and to the funds in hand, every effort should be made to add useful and practical information to our present slender knowledge of Australian geography.
Geelong Advertiser, Tuesday 24 July 1860: 2
The adjourned meeting of the Exploration Committee was held yesterday in Melbourne. For the first time the right of the press to be present at these committee meetings was recognised, but the result of the deliberations had not transpired at the time our reporter left. There was a rumor current that Mr Burke had resigned his position as leader, under an impression that with a divided council it would be impossible to effect any achievement calculated to redound to his credit, but this report is generally discredited.
Age, Wednesday 25 July 1860: 5
An expression of public opinion quite in accordance with that entertained in Melbourne has been made in Geelong relative to the Exploration Expedition; and there seems to be a general impression that much room exists for condemnation of the manner in which thus far the affair has been managed. The Geelong Advertiser comments on the Blunder Bay project:
The Committee have got superabundance of money, an excellent stud of camels, a leader and a party of their own choice, and an open field for their exertions. They are just beginning to find out that they know not what to do with these things, and while they have been entering upon the discussion of the matter, autumn has merged into winter, and winter is giving way to spring. The captain and his mates are hanging about Melbourne, the camels are browsing lazily with the town herd, and the money is beginning to melt away. The ships of the desert having arrived in excellent fettle, and having proved themselves first-rate sailors, what can be more natural than that the knot of wiseacres who have been entrusted with their management should strike out the bright idea of chartering a ship and sending them to sea again. By this brilliant stroke of policy not only will the animals be got rid of, but the money also. Should anything happen to the awkward brutes in rounding the Leuwin, or disembarking in Blunder Bay, the Exploring party can go to sea again, return to Melbourne, and furnish materials for another volume of Royal Society transactions of the usual valuable description.
Age, Friday 27 July 1860: 4
It is well if Victoria's grand exploring expedition docs not come to grief instead of the gulf of Carpentaria. It will hardly be the fault of those gentlemen into whose hands its fosterage has somehow or other fallen if it should happen to miss the former goal. In spite of the camels, it is, thanks to our 'philosophers', an expedition under difficulties. They have consigned its direction to leaders of whose fitness for the duty the public is something more than sceptical; and there is really no knowing what additional mistakes of the Blunder Bay complexion may not be hatched for its completer frustration in the fertile brains of the Emblings, Macadams, and Bleasdales.
The undertaking is not a caprice of the current moment, or some bagatelle of rudimentary science on which the country sets no store, that it should be at the mercy of the whims of dilletanti geniuses like the notables we mention. And neither is it a private speculation for the mere hunting up of squatters' runs - such as we see from time to time started on the South Australian border - that it should have been abandoned to the arrangement of a coterie of which rumor sayeth, that Messrs. O'Shanassy, Watson and Co. pull the strings! The project was, and still ought to be, a public one in the truest and largest sense - it was broached for the noblest public objects - it has been catered for at the public expense - and under such circumstances should not be left, surely, to amateur superintendence. We would, indeed, like to know why a matter of this importance - whose results are eagerly looked for by the scientific world everywhere - on whose success the colony has staked, not only cash, but reputation - has been handed over to the exclusive management of the Royal Society, or to speak more exactly, a mere clique of the Royal Society.
The past doings of our corporation of self-designated savans - and especially in reference to this very exploration subject - were not particularly well calculated, we all know, to inspire us with confidence in the trust. And our faith in the science of some of its members and in the public spirit of others, has not been materially increased by the strange choice of a leader for this expedition, and some of the ridiculous proposals over the choice of a route. The central desert is not, it seems, the only obstacle to the solution of our great geographical problem. The whims of supervisors who don't know what they are about, and the intrigues of others who know only too well, already imperil the triumph of the undertaking, and stand between us and the realisation of this great public purpose. And we hold that even at the eleventh hour it is the bounden duty of Government to reclaim the direction from the manipulation of amateurs, and so re-arrange the entire business as to afford it legitimate chance of success, and the country some satisfactory assurance of the end being accomplished.
The enterprise before us now is not one more nibbling at discovery with horses and bullocks; we have gone to the trouble of importing 'the ship of the desert' - the special instrument placed by Providence at man's service for traversing the arid wilderness - and, unless most reprehensibly mismanaged the present attempt is well calculated to dissipate the mystery which still shrouds the interior of a continent fringed with the settlements of the most civilized and energetic races of the human family. The citizens of the foremost Australian colony have taken care that so pre-eminently important an undertaking shall not be wanting in the means of locomotion; and it is a duty they expect from their Government that a not less important essential of success, viz., adequate leadership, shall be just as carefully looked to and provided for.
As the expedition stands just now, under the present committee of management, it is not very easy to guess its programme, or comprehend what it is intended to perform. If meant to strike through the interior to the north coast as rapidly as possible, and come back again as fast, a caravan of twenty four camels and a couple of score of men are not required, certainly. A far smaller party would not only accomplish that work as well, but judging from experience, far better. For, of course, the smaller the party the easier it can be watered and provisioned. All the boldest explorations and most valuable overland discoveries on this continent or elsewhere were achieved by small parties ... [Discussion about Sturt and Eyre] ...
These facts indicate at the same time how primarily essential is the presence of an experienced and suitable commander, and how unnecessary and even burdensome is a large party of followers when the object in view is only to penetrate and open up the wilderness for later and more detailed examination. For piercing our mysterious interior, therefore, and revealing a route from these colonies to the north coast — and such was the original object of this business, and it is the first service we expect from it — a large party' is not essential, but a capable leader most emphatically is. From the size of our contemplated expedition, and from the fact that it is to be accompanied by various officers with different scientific duties in charge, we infer that a detailed examination of our Terra incognita and its diverse natural characteristics is in meditation. We suppose, however, if this is to be satisfactorily carried out, that it can only be at such time as the main task of discovery has been duly got through - that is on the return journey, which could be appropriately devoted to wide and varied investigation of the territory laid open between us and the northern shore.
And the question then reasonably suggests itself, are the officers appointed to the purely scientific posts any better suited to their duties than those to whom the command of the expedition have been entrusted by the Royal Society? If they are to travel with the caravan in a merely dilletanti way, they will be not only superfluous but cumbersome. Bushmen will bear us out that half a dozen camels and nine or ten men under an experienced and able explorer, would constitute a band quite large enough for merely 'crossing the country', while on the other hand, if the presence of those officers is to be of use - if they are to bring us back substantial information in their several departments - there is in some, certainly, of the appointments named, strong room for doubting the adequacy of their acquirements. In a word, we only give expression to a very general feeling, when we say that this most important expedition appears, just now, in anything but a hopeful and satisfactory light.
It is altogether too large for the exclusive purpose of geographical discovery, and we fear that it is not sufficiently scientific for that of scientific investigation; the officers have been selected in what savors of the hole-and-comer fashion; while the guidance and command of the whole has been entrusted to an entirely inexperienced man, who, whatever his qualifications for so onerous a task may happen to be, has never had the opportunity of exhibiting them.
Punch, Thursday 26 July 1860: 1
As we in Victoria think that our land,
Will prove to be one that's to beat all creation,
We are now quite determin'd to put out of hand,
Our popular long-cherish'd scheme, Exploration.
The camels are ready, but then, more's the pity,
Doubts beset our acute Exploration Committee.
One thought they should start on their arduous way,
From a place call'd (significant name!) Blunder Bay.
Port Augusta was much by a second preferr'd,
Cooper's Creek was the favorite point of the third.
At length 'twas decided the leader's discretion,
The course should prescribe of our fam'd expedition :
You shall hear how they speed on their perilous way;
When I shan't have to mention, I hope, Blunder Bay.
Business: To consider and fix the day for starting.
There was a discussion on the effects of the cold weather on the camels.
Burke advised that the provisions would be ready by 15 August.
Ligar moved, Watson seconded, that the expedition start on Monday 20 August - Carried.
There was a discussion on the appointment of the second in command. Wilkie moved, Ligar seconded, that Landells be engaged at ₤50 month to proceed to and from the Darling.
Argus, Saturday 28 July 1860: 4
A special meeting of the Exploration Committee, to consider and fix the day for starting, was held yesterday, Sir W. Stawell in the chair. Drs Wilkie, Mackenna, Gillbee and Macadam, Professor Neumayer, Messrs. Selwyn, Ligar, Elliott, Watson and Burke were present.
Mr Burke stated that the expedition could be prepared to start by the 15th proximo, and that it was desirable for several reasons, that no time should be lost. After some further conversation in the details of provisioning, and other matters connected with the expedition, Mr Ligar moved, and Mr Watson seconded: "That the expedition start on the 20th of August". - Carried.
The Committee then transacted some routine business, and separated.
Argus, Saturday 28 July 1860: 4
It seems late in the day to inquire for what purpose we have organized an exploring expedition; yet it appears that this is the question which is just now beginning to dawn on the minds of some of the Exploration Committee. Having got out of Blunder Bay by a miracle, and having steered clear of Shark's Bay and the monsoons, the more practical of the committee think it as well to ask, what is the object of the journey?
Is it merely to perform the feat of crossing the island? or, is it to connect the colonies with the interior? or is it to determine what available country we have to fall back on? All very important questions, certainly, but very suggestive of another question - what has the committee been about these many months? At this rate of proceeding, we are not at all surprised that Sir William Stawell should, at the last meeting of the committee, express gloomy anticipations as to the result of the expedition.
Considering with what difficulty and delay funds for the present expedition have been raised, and what a large portion of those funds has been already expended, and considering how extremely difficult it would be to organize another exploring expedition requiring more public and private assistance and risking more life, we are justified in regarding the present attempt as, to a certain extent, final.
Under these circumstances, it is not too much to ask that the exploration should be made as complete as it is possible for an exploration to be and, with the help of previous discoveries, we think it is possible to combine all the objects for which exploration is needed. If the present funds are not sufficient for this purpose, the committee should boldly say so. Neither public nor private liberality is, we trust, yet exhausted; and it will be much more easy to raise a sufficient sum for the present expedition, than any money at all should it fail.
Judiciously availing itself of past explorations, we think the present expedition might undertake all the principal objects which it is desirable should be determined ... [Lengthy discussion about Sturt and Gregory] ... Such, at least, is our view of the case; but whether we are right, or whether we are wrong, we sincerely hope that nothing will be left undone to make the present expedition as complete as possible, and that it be regarded, as indeed it is certain to be, for some time at least, as a final effort to ascertain the nature of the interior.
Argus, Monday 30 July 1860: 4
While the exploring expedition lingers in Melbourne, the season is passing away in which a start would be attended with advantages. The Darling correspondent of the Pastoral Times (Deniliquin) says:
The road from Cooper's Creek, which was followed by Sturt in his central Australian expedition, is perfectly practicable at present, but if we have not more rain it cannot remain so for longer than two months more. A party out at the Barrier Ranges lately informed us that there was plenty of water at Murneo Urnco, which waterhole was of great use to Sturt in his outgoing.
We hope to hear that the committee have got over all the preliminary difficulties, and that the expedition is at once to start. Let the camels set out, under the charge of a detachment of the party, the remainder can follow at a swifter pace when the remaining obstacles are removed.
• p. 65. Minutes of the EC special meeting, 27 July 1860.
• Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 27 July 1860. 1p.
Argus, Tuesday 31 July 1860: 4
The appointment of Dr Hermann Beckler as medical officer and botanist to the Exploration Expedition has just been confirmed. This gentleman is highly recommended by Dr Mueller with respect to his botanical attainments, and his surgical, and medical skill is attested by the Government chief medical officer.
Wednesday, 1 August 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee, held in the hall of the Royal Society.
Present: Stawell (Chair), Wilkie, Iffla, Mackenna, Smith, Watson, Elliott, Burke.
Apologies from Macadam who was detained by Parliamentary duties.
Discussion on the appointment of Landells. Stawell had discussed the matter with Macadam and thought it was advisable to engage Landells. The fact that Landells' salary was ₤100 pa. greater than the Leaders' was discussed and Burke said that as his salary had been fixed by the Government it should be left at ₤500. A letter was drafted to Landells engaging his services.
Argus, Thursday 2 August 1860: 4
The business, which was of a private nature, related to some difficulty that had arisen in respect to the salary of Mr Landells, the second-in-command. It appears that the salary demanded by him is somewhat in excess of that paid by the Government to Mr Burke, the leader of the expedition, and it was felt that to accede to the request would be to place Mr Burke in an equivocal position as regards his subordinate. Mr Burke, however, very generously waived this point, and declined to allow a motion for the increase of his own salary to be discussed. He also expressed great anxiety to have the co-operation of Mr Landells, and, after some discussion, it was unanimously agreed that that gentleman's offer should be accepted.
The expedition will be ready to start on the 20th inst.
• p. 67. Minutes of the EC ordinary meeting, 1 August 1860, including draft of letter to Landells.
• Minutes of an ordinary meeting of the EC, 1 August 1860. 1p
Argus, Thursday 2 August 1860: 6
Parliamentary business: Legislative Assembly - Dr Embling will call the attention of the Government to the progress of the measures relative to the Exploration Expedition, and to to ask:
1. If the Government does not deem it as absolute necessity that a legally-qualified medical man should accompany the party; and if so, will the Government undertake that an officer of this description shall go with the expedition ?
2. If the Government, recognizing the severities of hardship and peril to be encountered, will insist that, as in enlistments into the army, so in this case the proposed members of the exploring party shall be submitted to a careful examination, and be medically certified of their physical qualifications for their duties.
3. If the Government (the Exploration Committee being greatly divided on the subject) propose accepting Cooper's Creek as the point of departure, or if the Government intend seeking further guidance thereupon from sources independent (if it should appear expedient) of the Royal Society, several points of departure having been canvassed, and one, Port Augusta, having only been rejected by a majority of two votes in the Committee and whether the Government will lay the papers connected with this subject, and also those referring to the importation of the camels, on the table of the House at as early a day as possible?
Argus, Thursday 2 August 1860: 4
In answer to questions from Dr Embling who contended that Cooper's Creek was not, but that Port Augusta was, the proper point from which the exploring expedition should start, and that the north-west coast, and not the Gulf of Carpentaria, was the point which the expedition should endeavour to reach.
Mr Nicholson stated that Dr Beckler had being appointed to accompany the expedition; that the members of the party would be required to submit themselves to medical examination; and that it was not the intention of the Government to set aside or interfere with the decision of the Royal Society as to the route of the expedition. Mr Embling was a member of the Royal Society, and he thought he had taken an unfair advantage of the House in bringing the question before it in the manner in which he had brought it. If he desired to have the route changed, he should place a distinct resolution on the table.
Dr Macadam complained of the irregular attendance of Mr Embling at the meetings of the Royal Society. If he had attended the recent meetings he would not have required to ask the first two questions. That Honorable Member had abundance of opportunities to advance his opinions in the society. The subject of the route had been fully discussed, and the Cooper's Creek route had been ultimately decided on. It would be unwise to interfere now with the decision, as the preparations had been made to a large extent on the strength of that decision, and the leaders of the expedition were satisfied.
Mr Snodgrass regretted that a substantive resolution had not been brought forward. He was in favour of the Blunder Bay route.
Mr King would have been extremely happy to consent to the departure of Mr Embling himself, as the legally-qualified medical officer of the expedition, that the camels might have the benefit of his parental care - and the House be saved from his long and unnecessary speeches.
Mr Embling then gave notice that he would, to-morrow, move a resolution in favour of Victoria River, North, as the point of departure of the expedition.
Age, Thursday 2 August 1860: 6
Is the Assembly chamber to become the mere arena in which hon. members are to be permitted to vent and enlarge upon their own petty grievances, and inflict long dreary speeches which are not tolerated elsewhere, upon those unhappy individuals who are so unfortunate as to be obliged to listen to them?
We ask the question partly in consequence of the course last evening pursued by the hon. member for Collingwood, Mr Embling. Not being able to carry, his pet project in the Royal Society relative to the point of departure for the exploration party, he placed a series of questions upon the notice paper of the House, ostensibly for the purpose of ascertaining the intentions of the Government upon the subject, but really for the purpose of giving expression to his own views on the matter. Mr Embling is not satisfied with his success of last evening, and therefore intends to hash the same subject up again for the edification of hon. members to-night.
Thursday, 2 August 1860.
Death of Hon. John Hodgson, member of the Exploration Committee and Royal Society of Victoria.
Monday, 6 August 1860.
Ordinary monthly meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria.
The meeting was thinly attended. In the absence of His Excellency, the President, Professor Neumayer, took the chair.
Dr Macadam called attention to the fact, that for the next four months the attention of the council would bo taken up with the exploration question, and that it would not be wise for the society to undertake a serious liability [relating to the Exhibition],
seeing that they had paid off £3,000 on account of their hall, and had received no grant from the Government this year. And yet it was quite obvious that a considerable sum would have to be expended in order to carry out the schome with anything like efficiency.
Macadam stated Landells had accepted the position.
Gillbee read the medical report stating all five officers and ten men on the expedition had undergone a medical examination and were free from disease and physical defect.
A supplementary list of supplies including 24 oilcloth coverings for the camels and 10 gallons of brandy was considered.
There was a discussion of how to transport the stores to Cooper Creek. Nash suggested the cheapest way was Cadell's offer to transport the supplies by paddle-steamer to the junction of the Murray and Darling. Burke objected strongly to Cadell being involved. Selwyn moved, Embling seconded, that Macadam contact Cadell as to his terms of transport.
Burke asked that the sepoys wages be increased from 1s a day to 2s. He also asked that Ferguson be considered a petty officer and his salary be ₤200 pa.
A sub-committee of Mueller, Neumayer, McCoy and Selwyn was appointed to draw up the instructions for the scientific officers. A sub-committee of Gillbee, Wilkie and Macadam was appointed to draw up the general instructions.
Yesterday, all the men who had been previously appointed members of the Exploration Expedition were subjected to a rigid medical examination by Drs. Gillbee and Becker. Dr McCrae had been requested to be present, but that gentleman, with the courtesy which has always marked his behaviour, refused to attend except at the special request of the hon. the Chief Secretary. Tho whole of the men were highly approved of, all of them appearing to possess excellent constitutions. Physically they seem every way adapted for the arduous enterprise they are about to undertake. All of the men are now undergoing a preparatory training prior to staring on their journey. They are living in tents in the Royal Park, and every morning at half-past five o'clock they are up attending to their camels under the immediate personal superintendence of Mr Burke. The camels are now easily controlled by the Europeans, so that only three of the Indians will accompany the expedition, the others returning to their own country.
• p. 69. Minutes of the EC ordinary meeting, 10 August 1860.
• Incomplete minutes of a meeting of the EC, 10 August 1860, including several copies of the medical certificate issued by Dr Gillbee, dated 9 August 1860. 5p.
Business: To consider and arrange the general letter of instructions and to arrange sundry details for the departure.
The letter of instruction was discussed, but there wasn't a draft to table.
Landells requested an advance of ₤100.
Landells request to take another sepoy was referred to Burke, who had full power to use his discretion.
• p. 72-3. Minutes of the EC ordinary meeting, 15 August 1860.
• p. 74. Crossed out partial minutes of the EC ordinary meeting, 15 August 1860.
• Minutes of a meeting of the EC, 15 August 1860. 4p.
Thursday, 16 August 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee, held at 4.00 pm at the Royal Society hall.
Present:Stawell (Chair), Ligar, Selwyn, Cadell, Burke, Eades, Macadam, Wilkie, McCoy, Gillbee
Business: To consider the general letter of instructions prepared by Ligar and to settle Sunday's details.
Burke requested a cheque book, drawn on the treasury, rather than carry money. A cheque book was ordered.
Macadam laid on the table a telescope promised by Mr Verdon and presented by Messrs Brush and McDonald as their contribution to the expedition.
SLV MS13071, Box 2075/1c, RSV EC minute book 1858-61, 1 bound volume, ms., pages not numbered.
• p. 75. Minutes of the EC ordinary meeting, 16 August 1860.
Friday, 17 August 1860.
The meeting of the Royal Society which was to have taken place to-day is postponed till to-morrow, at 1 o'clock p,m. It will be of an unusually interesting character, from the fact that the leador, officers, and men of the exploring expedition will be present to take leave of the committee and members.
Saturday, 18 August 1860.
Ordinary meeting [or Special meeting; see Box 2075/2c] of the Exploration Committee.
Present: Stawell (Chair), Bleasdale, Eades, Gillbee, Macadam, Embling, Neumayer, McCoy, Ligar, Selwyn, Elliott, Watson.
Letters of Instruction to scientific officers read and adopted.
Bleasdale moved, Embling seconded, that three female camels and one male camel belonging to the Committee be left at Royal Park and a sepoy should be left in charge of them with pay and rations and the Government should take charge of the camels - Carried.
• p. 77. Minutes of the EC meeting, 18 August 1860.
• Item 10b, Minutes of a special meeting of the RSV, 18 August 1860. 3p
• Item 13, Copy of leader’s instructions, 18 August 1860. 6p.
A Special General Meeting of the Royal Society was held at 1.00 pm at the Society's hall to take leave of the expedition. Vice-President, Dr Eades, was in the chair.
The deep interest taken in the expedition was evidenced by the large attendance of members and others. Among those present were Dr Eades, mayor of Melbourne; Sir William Stawell, Mr O'Shanassy, Mr Ligar, Dr Gillbee, Mr Ireland, Dr Mackenna, Mr Stephen, MLA; Dr Macadam, Mr Watson, and others. It was subject of remark, that there was not a single member of the Government present.
Punctually at 1 o'clock, the chair was taken by Dr Eades, and immediately afterwards, Mr Morton read his paper, in a tone that rendered it all but inaudible to those present. A vote of thanks having been passed to him, the real business of the day was commenced by Mr Burke, the leader of the expedition, saying, 'Members of the expedition party fall in here,' on which the whole party, numbering 15, walked up the room, and drew up in order at the back of the president's chair. The men presented a very fine appearance, and were the objects of general interest and admiration.
Dr Macadam, secretary of the society, then read over the memorandum of agreement entered into between Mr Wilkie, as treasurer of the society, and the members of the party, by which they bound themselves implicitly to obey the orders of their leader.
The agreement having been read over, Sir William Stawell addressed the party with a farewell speech. The members of the expedition were then called up to sign the agreement, commencing with Mr Landells. They all came up and signed in the most resolute manner, and without a word, except in the case of Charles Ferguson, who appeared very much excited, and entered into an apparently animated conversation with his Honour the Chief Justice. It was understood Ferguson was seeking to ascertain in what manner the half salary would be paid to his child, in the event of the party not being able to communicate with the society; but at length, striking the table with his hand, he said, 'Well, if I never get a penny, I'll go.' He then put his signature to the document.
Dr Eades then, on behalf of the Committee and the citizens at large, took leave of the party, wishing them 'God speed' on their expedition (Cheers). Three cheers having been given for the party, and for Mr, Burke, the meeting separated.
Business: To consider and arrange for having the leader of the Exploring Expedition appointed a magistrate of the several Australian colonies.
Monday, 27 August 1860.
An ordinary meeting of the Royal Society was held at half-past 7 o'clock in the Society's house.
Governor Barkly in the chair.
Mia Mia, via Heathcote, 26th August.
The exploring party arrived here last night. We halt to-day (Sunday), and proceed on to-morrow. All well. The roads very bad. Fuller report forwarded by post to-day.
R. O'Hara Burke, Leader.
He might mention that Mia Mia was about six miles from Heathcote, and 100 [miles] from Melbourne. The fuller report to which Mr Burke had alluded he was sending by post had not yet arrived, but he expected it in the course of the following day. It would be gratifying to the society to know, that notwithstanding all the difficulties attendant on the start of the expedition, it had, since leaving Essendon on Tuesday morning, been proceeding at the rate of 20 miles a day (Hear, hear). The party were taking the old bush road, and intended to move westerly to Swan Hill. He might also mention that he had that day seen a gentleman who met the party on Friday last, who informed him that it was moving forward steadily, and in the most perfect order (Applause).
• Letter to Burke dated 3rd September 1860 enclosing instructions and National Bank cheque book.
• Copy of letter to Burke dated 3 September 1860. 3p.
The Treasurer, Wilkie, was authorised to expend a sum not exceeding £5 on books bearing on the exploration of Australia, to include Gregory (both brothers), Sturt, Leichhardt and Mitchell, for the use of the exploring party.
The Secretary read Dr Becker's letter (from Terrick Terrick, dated 31 August 1860).
It was decided to pay half of Mr Willian Oswald Hodgkinson's coach fare to Swan Hill, £3. 7s. 6d.
• Letter to Burke dated 6 September 1860.
• p. 81. Minutes of the EC meeting, 5 September 1860.
• Letter to Burke dated 10 September 1860.
• Copy of letter to Burke dated 10 September 1860. 3p.
Monday, 17 September 1860.
The ordinary meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria was held in the society's house, Victoria-street, at 7 o'clock.
In the absence of His Excellency the Governor, the chair was taken by the mayor, Dr Eades.
Dr Macadam, Hon Secretary, laid on the table three snakes presented by Dr Sommaur [sic: Gummow], Swan Hill, transmitted by Dr Becker.
Dr Macadam then stated that he had had several communications from Mr Burke, the leader of the exploring expedition, from which it appeared that the party left Swan Hill on the 11th inst., and were then supposed to be at Balranald, about 50 miles on the other side of the River Murray. From that place it was the intention of Mr Burke to push on at once for the first main depot of the expedition, on the River Darling. It was expected that spot - which was 300 miles from Melbourne - would be reached by that day week. Hitherto, the expedition had progressed most favourably. There had not been the slightest accident to either man or beast, and Mr Burke stated that he was most highly pleased with both the officers and men under his charge, and that the greatest harmony and unanimity existed among them.
Mr Burke had engaged the drays that accompanied the party to convey the baggage further than Swan Hill, as the party were unanimously of opinion that it was most desirable to push on as rapidly as possible, in order to reach Cooper's Creek this year, which it was feared they would not be able to do it the warm weather set in before they had advanced a considerable distance It was at first supposed that the party should proceed to the junction of the Murray and the Darling, with the view of receiving stores via Adelaide. It had subsequently, however, been considered more advisable to proceed direct for the station upon the Darling, thus cutting off the whole angle of the Junction, and greatly lessening the distance.
A diary of the whole of the proceedings of the party since it left Melbourne had been received from Dr Becker, together with four sketches [sic. - should have been five sketches]:
State Library of Victoria, MS13071, Box 2084/3j: List of articles and services…supplied…by the Government storekeeper on account of the VEE. Signed by Robert Nash, government storekeeper and dated 17 September 1861. 13p.
• Letter to Landells from his wife, E R Landells, dated 17 September 1860. 3p.
• Memorandum to Landells from Macadam. 1p.
• Memorandum to Dr Becker from Macadam. 1p.
• Letter to Wills from Richard Birnie, dated 14 September 1860. 5p.
• Notice of RSV meeting to be held on 17 September 1860 where it was intended to read communications received from the expedition and also exhibit Becker's sketches. 1p.
• Letter to Burke from William Christie requesting to join the expedition, dated 7? September 1860. 7p.
• Letter to Burke dated 17 September 1860.
• Letter to Burke dated 17 September 1860. 3p.
Wednesday, 19 September 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee, including special report of the sub-committee.
Present: Embling (chair), Stawell, Macadam, Gillbee, Mackenna, Cadell and Elliott.
The Secretary tabled a letter regarding the lascars and another one from Ligar requesting their passage back to India be paid.
The meeting adjourned to the 22 September.
• p. 83. Minutes of the EC meeting, 19 September 1860.
• Minutes of a meeting of the EC, including special report of sub-committee, 19 September 1860. 6p
• Letter to Burke dated 20 September 1860.
• Letter to MacLelan & Taylor dated 20 September 1860.
• Letter to Burke dated 20 September 1860. 3p.
The sub-committee reported that the exploration fund stood at £800, which was sufficient to pay salaries to 1st January 1861. They also recommended that a delegation consisting of Stawell, Wilkie, Eades, Embling, McMillan and Ligar, meet the Chief Secretary [O'Shanassy] to ask him to place £6,000 on the estimates for 1861 in order to cover wages (£4,070), stores and freight( £1,500) and contingencies (£430).
• p. 85. Minutes of the EC adjourned meeting, 22 September 1860.
• Minutes of an adjourned meeting of the EC, 22 September 1860. 4p.
Monday, 8 October 1860.
Ordinary monthly meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria was held in the society's house, Victoria-street.
In the absence of His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, the chair was taken at 8 o'clock by the vice-president of the society, Dr Eades, mayor of Melbourne.
Dr Macadam laid the following contributions on the table, viz:- A cabinet of fossils, shells, &c. and a glass case of fossils, &c.; several small cases of curiosities, drawings, books, bottles with specimens of natural history, &c being the contents of Dr Becker's museum, presented by subscription.
Dr Macadam said, for the last eight or ten days no communication had been received from the exploration party, and, therefore, the amount of information he had to give the society was very slight. The last communication from Mr Burke was dated the 19th September, from Parka, on the Murrumbidgee River.
It thus appeared the party had three stages - first to Swan Hill, next from Swan Hill to Balranald, and then to Meninda. He might observe that Professor Neumayer, who accompanied the party to Swan Hill, was expected in town in eight or ten days, and doubtless the society would be favoured by him with a full account of the proceedings of the party to that place (Hear, hear).
Mr Aplin wished to know if the Hon Secretary was in a position to give the society any information with regard to the return of some members of the exploring party, as it was generally stated some of them had returned to Melbourne.
Dr Macadam said he had very little information to give on the subject. He might state, however, that, taking the names of those who joined the party in Melbourne, and signed the original agreement, there were but three cases of separation from the party (Hear, hear). He was aware the numbers of those who had left had been exaggerated in some of the papers, but it should be borne in mind that men had bean engaged for special work and for short stages up the country. Of the three men who belonged to the original party, and who had left, one was dismissed for a reason known to the Committee, but which it was not necessary to make public. In respect to the other two-Ferguson, and a man, he believed called Langan - the only information he possessed with regard to them was the simple circumstance of their being separated from the party. There was no reason assigned for their separation, nor any misconduct attributed to them, but cheques had been simply drawn for their pay. It had been stated in the press that the Committee had instructed Mr Burke to reduce the party, on the ground of expense. Recollecting the fact that Mr Stuart had to return from want of men, he thought it was necessary, and would be desirable, to read to the society, an abstract from a letter which had been sent to Mr Burke - the only one connected with finance that had been sent, and from which it would at once be apparent that no instructions for the reduction of the party had been sent to Mr Burke (Hear, hear). The circumstances under which the letter was sent were these: A large amount of expenditure had been incurred, and an account came from the Government storekeeper, amounting to over £4,000. When the Committee found that Mr Burke was using hired carriage to a large extent, they considered it advisable, to give him a hint, and suggested it would be as well to do without hired carriage beyond the Darling. Mr Burke at that time was carrying 18 tons of flour, which, for a long distance, at £7 or £8 a ton, would soon run up to a large amount. Mr Burke gave the following explanation: [Burke's despatch]
The Camp, Swan Hill,
I have made arrangements with the draymen for conveying on the stores to the Darling, 18 tons, at the rate of £8 per ton from here to Balranald, and £8 per ton from Balranald to the Darling; and I consider it absolutely necessary to make this arrangement, notwithstanding my being in possession of the resolution of the Committee objecting to the transfer of the stores by hired assistance, for the following reasons, viz: The resolution of the Committee, though an expression of opinion, did not amount to a positive order. If I had lost this opportunity of conveying on the stores, it would have retarded the progress of the expedition, and might prove fatal to it. It would be impossible for us to move them without assistance. Within the next month or six weeks the road will be impracticable for drays, for want of food and water, and will continue so, in all probability, for the next eight or ten months. I called a meeting of the officers of the expedition, and they were unanimously of my opinion, that it would be dangerous to the undertaking to adopt any other course. I am well aware that our baggage is too cumbersome, and that a time will, I hope, soon come when we shall be obliged to leave the greater part of it behind us, but to do so now before having established our depot upon the Darling, where every article may be of the greatest service, would, I think, be a most injudicious proceeding.
In reply to that letter, the Committee sent the following despatch:
Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne.
That of the 10th, stating your reasons for departing from the resolution of the Committee in reference to the transport of stores to the Darling, via Balranald, was especially considered. The Committee decided that your reasons for so doing were well founded, and instructed me, at the same time, to state to you that so large an additional expenditure was to be much regretted.
The Committee has been called upon to supply the colonial storekeeper with no less a sum than £1,500 sterling to supplement £3,000 originally intended to cover all expenses of outfit. This claim, with the numerous cheques now being presented to the bank for payment of current expenses incurred by the party during its march, will soon exhaust the available means at the disposal of the Committee.
The members of the Committee have every confidence that all unavoidable expenses for the successful prosecution of this great national undertaking will be cheerfully paid by the Legislature. But it is nevertheless the desire of the Committee to keep the expenditure within the amount voted for the purpose from time to time.
A sub-committee has been appointed to inquire into our financial condition, and to report on the same at a special meeting to be held on Saturday. In the meantime, I feel confident that it is only necessary to bring the matter under your notice in order to insure the greatest economy in carrying out the objects of the expedition consistent with the safety of the party and the success of the expedition.
It would be for the members to judge whether the statement - if at all made by Mr Burke, which he very much questioned (hear) - that special instructions had been given to reduce the party, was at all borne out by that letter (hear). He had no doubt an explanation would be forthcoming at the proper period; but; in the mean time, it was only fair to Mr Burke that members should not come to any conclusion until Mr Burke was in a position to make his reply (Hear, hear).
There was just one other subject he wished to refer to. One of the persons who returned brought forward a statement that a cheque drawn by the Committee had been dishonoured - a statement which had been freely circulated in certain papers, with a view, doubtless, of injuring the expedition. The facts were simply these - when the expedition started, a sum of money was placed to Mr Burke's credit in the bank, against which he was to draw for small amounts Unfortunately, it turned out that their squatting friends up the country did not prove so generous as had been anticipated, the fact being, that, except in three places, Mr Burke was not only charged to the full, but most exorbitantly (Hear, hear). At one particular place he was charged £20 a ton for hay, 18s. 6d. a bushel for oats, and no less than 8s a lb for beef (Oh! oh!).
The consequences of these things was that Mr Burke had to give more cheques than was anticipated, and the amount lodged to his private account happening to run out, one cheque came down, and the party holding it was disappointed for a single day. It ought, however, to be borne in mind that at the very day that cheque was so dishonoured on the private account, there was £2,000 in bank to the general account (Applause.)
Business: As there was not a quorum, the meeting was adjourned to tomorrow.
• 2075/2c (10) a EC meeting, 12 October 1860. 1p.
Business: To consider the propriety of communicating to Mr Burke the results obtained by Stuart.
• Minutes of the EC meeting, 13 October 1860, signed by Wilkie.
• p. 88. Minutes of the EC meeting, 13 October 1860.
• Minutes of a meeting of the EC, 12 October 1860 and the adjourned meeting of 13 October 1860. 3p.
Monday, 15 October 1860.
Professor Neumayer, having accompanied the Exploring Expedition as far as the Darling, has returned to Melbourne. He met the exploration Committee of the Royal Society [today] and we understand that the members of the Society will be called together this evening, for the purpose of hearing from the professor a detailed account of the progress of the expedition from Melbourne to the Darling. Professor Neumayer is in full possession of the circumstances under which the dismissal of certain members of the expedition took place recently, and these will, no doubt, be laid before the meeting.
The propriety of putting Mr Burke in possession of the facts that have been published in connexion with the late journey of Mr Stuart, the South Australian explorer, has already been discussed by the Committee of the Royal Society, and a resolution in favour of this step has been unanimously agreed to. A special messenger was accordingly despatched for this purpose [on Sunday] afternoon.
Business: To receive despatches from the Exploring Party [brought down to Melbourne by Neumayer who had arrived back in Melbourne from Bilbarka on the evening of the 13th].
• Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 16 October 1860.
• p. 90. Minutes of the special meeting of the EC, 16 October 1860.
• Minutes of a special meeting of the EC, 16 October 1860. 3p
An extraordinary meeting of the members of the Royal Society was held for the purpose of hearing from Professor Neumayer an account of the progress made by the Exploring Expedition up to the date on which he left it. Consequent upon the hall being thrown open to the public, a large number of persons was present. The Mayor of Melbourne, the vice-president of the society, being in the chair.
Several good sketches of the country passed through by the party, and of the blackfellows met with in their route, made by Dr Becker were laid upon the table [also various botanical specimens collected by Dr Beckler].
The Chairman opened the business of the evening by making some remarks of an explanatory nature. All present were, no doubt, aware of the distance attained by Mr Stuart in his late expedition; and the Committee of Exploration, thinking that the experience of Mr Stuart might affect the journey of Mr Burke, had convened the present meeting. They thought that it would be advisable to communicate with Mr Stuart on the subject as early as possible, in order to forward as much information as possible to Mr Burke, and a telegram was sent to that gentleman. A deputation waited upon the Chief Secretary [O'Shanassy] to obtain his cooperation in the matter, and Mr Nicholson not only gave his consent to the telegram being forwarded, but expressed in a most cordial way a hope that the thing would be done as soon as possible.
The Chairman called upon the Professor to address the meeting. Professor Neumayer (who was most warmly received) then proceeded to state that upon his return to Melbourne, and after he had been made aware of the various rumours circulated concerning the Exploring Expedition, he considered it was the best course to inform the public as to the actual state of things, inasmuch as personal observation had put him in possession of all the facts. He considered that by so doing he would be only fulfilling his duty (hear). Although his time was so limited that he was not in a position to put his remarks on paper. He, therefore, hoped those present would forgive him if he did not come up to the mark they expected him to arrive at, but his time had been so much occupied. The reasons which had induced him to follow the expedition for a certain time were, that his heart and soul were fully in the matter, and he thought that Mr Burke might require some assistance in some scientific matters connected with the journey. He had made up his mind to render every assistance in his power, and that was the sole reason why he had accompanied the expedition. The remarks he was about to make were not only founded upon personal observation, but upon what be had heard from Mr Burke, and he should make them with a view to answer any question that might be put to him. Upon joining Mr Burke at the camp at Swan Hill, he found that he had made arrangements by which all the stores would be conveyed to the Darling - not to a certain point either, near to the junction of the Darling, but leaving the question open. For that purpose vehicles were required, and Mr Burke expressed his regret that he would be compelled to differ from the Committee. His reasons for taking such a step were, that he saw there was no time to spare to allow him to wait for an answer from the Committee, because the settlers in the neigbourhood all told him to 'rush' as quickly as possible to the Darling, or he would be unable to go there for some months. That was the reason why Mr Burke acted as he had; and he showed wisdom in so acting, because had he delayed eight days it was quite certain that the stores would not have reached half way between the Murray and the Darling. The party left Swan Hill with the best wishes of the inhabitants, and great kindness was shown to it, as no doubt all present were aware from the reports in the public journals. The speaker then proceeded to describe the journey from Swan Hill, but stated nothing of any interest except that the camels were rather refractory when crossing the punts over the rivers. No horses could be seen for weeks afterwards in the neighbourhood, or blacks either, so frightened were both bipeds and quadrupeds at the camels. The expedition then reached the Murrumbidgee, after crossing the great swamp, in which the water was up to the horses' knees. However it was most successfully crossed. He would not pass over his stay at the camp, without referring to a subject which had been much discussed in the public journals - namely, the reduction of his party by Mr Burke. The reasons for that reduction were most simple. On the one hand it was thought desirous to reduce the expenses of the expedition; and on the other, Mr Burke considered the party was too bulky to secure a speedy and successful expedition. He also resolved to leave a portion of his stores at Balranald, in order to make the whole machinery of the party more movable. Certain men were sent to take charge of and protect the stores, in company with Dr Becker and other gentlemen, and were to follow afterwards. Considering that something might occur which would compel him to leave that party for some time behind him, Mr Burke selected the best men for the purpose, and his decision was approved of by the whole of the officers. Receiving additional information that he had better push on as speedily as possible, he made up his mind to bring the matter to an issue, especially as some of his men had said they would sooner leave him than go on further. Mr Burke immediately agreed to allow them to leave, and accordingly Ferguson and Langen were discharged, and Dr Becker and the others were sent for to follow the party - the goods being left with a storeman of the name of Sparkes, That was the state of things, and he (Professor Neumayer) would be most happy to answer any questions concerning it after he had finished his lecture. He would proceed further. After the party had been reduced, and made more moveable, and after the stores had been reduced and the camels well tried, they proceeded to Lake Merumboo. He might say that during the whole time, with one or two exceptions, they were well received by the settlers - in fact, in a most friendly and hospitable manner. He could not give a description of the townships through which they passed, as they consisted mostly of a hut and a waterhole; but upon their arrival at the camp between the Darling and the Murrumbidgee they found fine grass and splendid feed, and the weather being exceedingly fine it was really a pleasure to pass through the valleys. After that the country was densely scrubbed, and it was thought they would have to carry water as they might not find any for 24 hours; but the state of things proved not to be so bad as that, as they found some mud holes with water in them at the next camping place. Upon proceeding further they found the water to be getting much scarcer, and for nearly 30 hours the supply was very small indeed. He then left the expedition, as he wished to make some observations. Up to that time the party had to cross nothing but plains; but eventually they had to cross a ridge of sandy plains, reaching the Darling on the 25th September, and pitching their camp in the immediate neighbourhood of Phelps's station, but they afterwards removed it in consequence of the feed not being good. Mr Burke then determined to send back a messenger to the people in charge of the waggons, telling them how to proceed, but as there was hardly any feed, it was resolved to send back the camels and horses, in order to relieve the camels [sic - wagons?] as much as possible. He (Professor Neumayer) thought it was then time for him to return, and he left the party in most excellent spirits, steps being taken to organize them in a manner which would ensure success. With regard to the officers and men, he might say that he was highly pleased with the position the officers held towards each other. They were all on excellent terms with each other, and he might say there was not one man who was not pleased with the excellent leader placed over him. He could not refrain from making a remark touching the scientific gentlemen who had been appointed to accompany the expedition. He thought sufficient provision had not been made to enable them to carry out the objects of the expedition - for instance, Mr Wills, a young man whom he had known for two years, had done all he could to accomplish the task allotted to him, but there was a great deal to do in order to survey that country, and the scientific features of it could not be attended to. All this the Committee had forseen, but were unable to obtain a second surveyor, a fact he regretted very much. With reference to the other gentlemen he would make no remarks, but he was certain they would do all in their power to realize the expectations formed of them by the Committee and public at large (hear). The men were thoroughly fit and suitable for the work. He might take that opportunity of stating that Mr Burke had selected while on the road two or three men well adapted to perform the duties required of them. One was Mr Hodgkinson, who was not only a well educated young man, but was always most willing to do his duty; and another was a sailor of the name of Charlie. With regard to the animals, the camels had been kept by Mr Landells in most wonderful trim, and that gentleman stated that he believed no difficulty would be experienced in obtaining feed for them. The black fellows used to call them white emus, and said they would sooner ride any 'buck jumper' than mount them. The horses, as he before remarked, had also a special dislike to them. The camels thrived exceedingly; well upon the salt bush, and appeared to , like it very much. With regard to the horses, they had all arrived in excellent condition, and proved themselves equal to the work. The average stage per diem, after the waggons were left behind, was about 25 miles, sometimes as high as 32 miles, but afterwards only short stages were made. With regard to his return to Victoria, immediately after leaving the camp the wet weather set in, which proved how judicious it was on the part or Mr Burke to make the Darling as quickly as possible, and some of the plains were almost impassable; and it would have been impossible far the waggons to have crossed the swamp, as he was compelled to swim his horse across. With those few remarks he would conclude, and at the same time it would give him great pleasure to answer any questions which might be put to him.
A gentleman from the body of the room asked Professor Neumayer whether any practical information had been obtained from the exploring party since it had left Melbourne - what was the nature of the land they had gone over? Was it well-watered and suitable for settlement? Professor Neumayer said that he had refrained from making any observations on the subject mentioned, inasmuch as his time had been hardly sufficient to enable him to arrange any facts arising from his recent journey, his only object having been to state the progress of the expedition.
In reply to Dr Iffla, Professor Neumayer stated that the ground was chiefly of a sandy nature, and not stony. The camels had travelled over it with apparent ease to themselves, one or two only having shown symptoms of weariness.
Dr Mueller asked whether there was any difficulty in making the camels go through the scrub? He had been informed that they were timid at entering it. Professor Neumayer said that, generally speaking, there was no difficulty whatever experienced. On one occasion one of the camels broke loose, and got away into the scrub, which seemed to prove that they were not timid. The camel in question was not recovered for several days afterwards, when he was found by Mr Landells quietly grazing, with his pack still upon him undisturbed. Mr Landells, he might observe, seemed thoroughly to understand the camels, as also did Mr King, who accompanied him.
Dr Macadam asked whether there was any truth in the reports which appeared in a newspaper of the 26th ult., which referred to the dismissal of several of the party? Professor Neumayer said that so far as he knew, Mr Burke had endeavoured to keep the party together, as far as possible, as it had been originally organized. One man named Bowman, who followed the expedition to the Darling, had asked for his discharge, on the ground that the mode of payment did not suit him. With reference to the newspaper statement in question, he did not think that Mr Burke had ever decided upon the list of names mentioned.
Mr Ferguson proceeded to make a statement relative to his dismissal from the party, in which he was interrupted by the Chairman, who informed him that, not being a member of the society, he could only he allowed to put a question to Mr Neumayer through a member.
Professor Neumayer stated that his policy had been never to interfere with the business of Mr Burke at all. Professor Neumayer, in reply to Dr Macadam, said no feeling of dissatisfaction existed in the camp.
In answer to a question put by Mr Osborne, Professor Neumayer said that the weather was exceedingly propitious during the whole time he was with Mr Burke. The mornings were rather cool, but the evenings were mild, and the breeze was generally genial and pleasant. On turning his steps homeward there were thunder showers, and the weather was rather inclement.
Professor Neumayer said it was not his intention to join the expedition, but merely to go as far as Swan Hill, from which place he would forward despatches to Mr Burke.
Thursday, 18 October 1860.
Related archive: State Library of Victoria, MS13071, Dispatches sent to Burke by the RSV EC, Box 2082/2b (1-3):
Dispatches sent to Burke, dated Melbourne 18 October 1860. 7p.
• Memorandum to Burke from Macadam dated 18 October 1860. 6p.
• Letter to Burke from Secretary for Railways dated 26 June 1861. 5p.
• Two newspaper cuttings sent to Burke by Macadam, ‘North Australia’ and ‘The Exploring Expedition’.
• Letter to Becker dated 18 October 1860.
• Letter to Burke dated 18 October 1860.
• Dispatches sent to Burke, dated Melbourne 18 October 1860. 7p.
• Letter to Burke dated 18 October 1860. 3p.
Business: To consider a claim for compensation made by Ferguson through his solicitors.
SLV MS13071, Box 2079/3, RSV EC miscellaneous outward correspondence, February-October 1860 and July 1861-November 1872. 126p.
• Letter to Read & Cresswell dated 26 October 1860. 1p.
• p. 91. Minutes of the EC meeting, 26 October 1860.
• Minutes of a meeting of the EC, 26 October 1860. 2p.
Monday, 29 October 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Royal Society, His Excellency the Governor presided.
Dr Macadam announced that he had received no communication from the exploration party, beyond a letter from Mr Wills, the astronomer, who had transmitted his rough notes and calculations, leaving them to be made up at the Melbourne Observatory, in order that the localities of the different camps might be accurately set forth.
Mr Wade called attention to the following statement, which appeared in the Herald of Friday, and asked whether there was any truth in the report referred to:
A letter appeared in a contemporary yesterday, giving, from the writer's personal knowledge, a favourable account of the exploring expedition up till the 9th inst. We have heard rumours of a very grave character, setting out a totally different state of things. As we are very unwilling to publish any adverse statement about the expedition, except on the most reliable authority, and as the rumours in question have not been clearly authenticated to us, we withhold them for the present. All we shall now state is that, if genuine, they go so far as to intimate the failure of the undertaking under Mr Burke's leadership.
Dr Macadam said he had read this statement with very great regret. He had received no intelligence for probably two or three weeks, but he did see a notice in the paper at the end of last week, to the, effect that Mr Wills, the astronomer, had written a letter to his father, stating that the party was in the best order, and moving on in the most favourable way. He had received from Mr Wills the communication, which he had already laid before the meeting, and there being only one part from that district intervening, he did not see how any person could receive a communication from the exploring party without a communication also reaching the Committee, unless, in the event of the party being split up, several persons belonging to it had returned to Melbourne. He at once set about to ascertain the source of the rumour.
Mr Franklyn, of the Herald, told him that a gentleman, whose name he could not disclose, called upon him about 12 o'clock on Friday night, and made a strong statement, which included a string of charges against Mr Burke, and which, he requested might be published in the morning. Mr Franklyn said that the statement which had been published was mild under all the circumstances, and added that he was informed that Mrs Landells had received a letter from her husband intimating that he was on his way to town; but if that proved untrue, it would tend much to invalidate the published statement. At his (Dr Macadam's) request, Mr Nash, the Government storekeeper, undertook to wait upon Mrs Landells. A communication has since been received from Mr Nash;
My dear Doctor Macadam,
So far, therefore, as this link in the statement went, the matter was entirely without foundation. He (Dr Macadam) trusted the whole statement would fall to pieces in the same manner; and he thought it would be much more creditable, if any private individuals who received information earlier than the Committee, would at once put themselves in communication with the Committee, rather than go to a newspaper office at midnight, which proceeding was not only a piece of injustice to the Committee, but a most cowardly and assassin-like set towards their noble leader (hear, hear), in whom, from the first, they had all had confidence, which he hoped would not abate until in withdrawal was really merited (Applause).
He thought it would be far more creditable if gentlemen who might happen to receive intelligence of the party before the Committee, whether such intelligence was favourable or otherwise, to communicate the same to the Committee instead of going to a newspaper office at midnight, and acting in such a cowardly and assassin-like manner towards the noble leader of the expedition, in whom they all had the greatest confidence, and which confidence they were not likely to withdraw from him without very sufficient reasons. (Applause.)
Late on Saturday evening a Cabinet Minister came to his house and told him that he had been also visited by a particular party (whose name he was likewise prevented from giving), who made the statement in the very same terms. Now, unless there was some foundation for the appeal which this person made, that a messenger should be despatched to the party, and virtually to withdraw Mr Burke, the proceeding showed a want of that openness and candour in a matter of this kind which they had a right to expect (Applause).
Monday, 5 November 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee. The meeting was called in haste at rather short notice.
Present: Eades (chair), Wilkie, Embling, Mackenna, Gillbee, Macadam, Elliott, Hodgkinson and Smith.
• p. 93. Minutes of the EC meeting, 5 November 1860.
Saturday, 10 November 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: Eades (chair), Wilkie, Iffla, Gillbee, Macadam, Selwyn and Elliott.
(Wilkieites v Macadamites - See Bonyhady, 1991, pp. 107-8.)
Business: To consider and arrange for the appointment of a medical officer for the expedition to replace Dr Beckler.
It being understood that Dr Stuart, of Sandhurst, had come to Melbourne to offer his services to the Committee, and that Mr Burke was very anxious he should be appointed. Dr Stuart, however, tendered his services only on condition that he should be ensured the rank of second in command.
Several members of the Committee thought that it would be unfair to Mr Wills that Dr Stuart should be placed over him, and accordingly it was moved by Dr Gillbee, seconded by John Watson Esq., and carried:
That Dr Stuart be offered the surgeon ship to the exploration party; but that the conditions, stated by him must be left to the consideration of Mr Burke.
Dr Stuart, who was in attendance, was called in, and expressed his great desire to join the expedition, but said he could not abandon his present position unless he should be appointed second in command. He would not have come to Melbourne had he not supposed that Mr Landells' place was vacant, and that it was for the Committee, with the sanction of the Government, to name Mr Landells' successor.
A vote of thanks to Dr Stuart was moved by Mr J Watson, seconded by Dr Macadam, and adopted, for the sacrifice he had made in leaving his practice to come to Melbourne, and for the enthusiasm he had shown in the cause of exploration. Drs Mueller, Wilkie, Macadam, and Eades, John Watson Esq., J P and A R C Selwyn, Esq, &c., were then appointed a deputation to wait on the Hon the Chief Secretary, to explain the position of the Committee with reference to Dr Stuart's appointment as surgeon to the expedition.
The following letter to the Hon Secretary of the Royal Society was read at the meeting:
Sir - In reference to your communication on the subject of my becoming a member of the Victorian Exploring Expedition, I have the honour to intimate to you my readiness to do so by the earliest opportunity, doing duty as medical officer, and assisting in every other way in my offer, provided I am insured the rank of second in command. The question of remuneration is quite a secondary one, and would in no way interfere with the desire I have to assist in opening up the interior of our continent; but the question of precedence is an essential one, and except in the position stated, I should not feel myself justified in abandoning my present employment.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Dr John Stuart was, in 1850-1, a volunteer on board HM Brig Lady Franklin, under Captain Penny, engaged in the search for Sir John Franklin, acting as third officer, commanding travelling parties during the season, and assisting in all the surveys, in astronomical observations, &c., for which service he received favourable mention in the 'Arctic Blue Book' of December 1851. Afterwards, while surgeon of HMS Winchester, flagship in China, when he received honourable mention in the general orders and despatches of Admiral Sir J Stirling, he accompanied her throughout three cruises in Japan and the Gulf of Tartary, being one of every boat party for the exploration of the Tartary coast.
• p. 94. Minutes of the EC meeting, 10 November 1860.
• Partial minutes of a meeting of the EC, undated, but most likely 10 November 1860, 1p.
Monday, 12 November 1860.
A deputation from the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society waited yesterday on the Chief Secretary, for the purpose of communicating the result of the meeting on Saturday, namely that they could not appoint Dr John Stuart, of Bendigo, as medical officer to the Exploring Expedition, because that gentleman stipulated, as a sine qua non, that he should be recognized as the second in command. The Chief Secretary expressed his regret that the expedition would not have the benefit of Dr Stuart's services, but admitted that the Committee, in justice to the officers connected with the expedition, could not have adopted any other course. Under these circumstances, the Committee will have to invite the applications of gentlemen disposed to join the expedition as medical officer.
The following letter from Dr Stuart was read:
To: The Hon Dr Wilkie.
I like all I have seen of Wills very much; but I should not feel justified in committing to his care the success of such an undertaking, and the lives of 14 or 15 men, should Mr Burke become incapacitated in any way. With those feelings, it would be not only folly but dishonesty in me to offer my services under any other terms than those I have stated.
Wednesday, 14 November 1860.
An Extraordinary Special Meeting of the Exploration Committee was held at the society’s building.
Present: Sir William Stawell, Drs Eades (chair), Macadam, Wilkie and Iffla, Messrs. Embling, Smith, Ligar, Selwyn and Watson.
Business was to hear the statement of Mr Landells, late second in command of the Exploring Expedition. The Chairman stated the object of the meeting. There was, he said, a written report from Mr Landells, directed to the Hon Secretary of the Exploration Committee, and he thought the best thing that could be done was to have it read at once, and then come to some conclusion.
Dr Macadam, Hon Secretary of the Committee, then stated that at about 1 o'clock that afternoon he received a visit from Mr Landells, who placed in his hands the hands the report which he was about to read. Mr Landells further informed him that, he had only arrived in Melbourne that morning. In answer to that gentleman's question, as to when a meeting of the Committee would be held, he (Dr Macadam) pledged himself to see the members thereof and procure a meeting that afternoon, in order that immediate publicity might be procured to the statement. Dr Macadam proceeded to read Landells' statement.
After reading that part of Mr Landells' statement which alluded to the unnecessary discharge by Mr Burke of a number of men who were in every way adapted for exploring, Dr Macadam said that while going over it with Mr Landells he asked that gentleman to show him the names of the men he particularized. Mr Landells, however, could only show the names of three man who had left Melbourne – the others having only been taken on at different stages, and employed specially for a month or so.
Mr Selwyn said the following note from Professor Neumayer had been handed to him by Captain Cadell. He then read aloud the letter from Wills. Mr Selwyn remarked that, owing to a slip of Professor Neumayer, the concluding sheets had been omitted, and the letter broke off thus abruptly.
On the request of our reporter to be allowed to copy the documents just read, a conversation arose respecting the propriety of publishing Mr Landells' statement. Mr James Smith moved that the statement of Mr Landells be received. Mr Ligar thought it could hardly be received officially, as it had not been sent through the leader.
Mr Selwyn thought Mr Wills's letter ought to be published, if the other was. Mr Watson was of opinion that both were such trash as to be unimportant. Dr Macadam said that Mr Landells had told him that he had a copy of his report, and if the Committee did not publish it he (Mr Landells) should. Mr Smith remarked that it must be borne in mind that Mr Wills's letter was not signed. Dr Macadam replied that there was no doubt but that Mr Wills had written it. The handwriting was exactly the same as that of his preceding letter. Sir W Stawell said if we do not publish Mr Landells' statement the public will think there is something in it. Dr Iffla saw no great objection to Mr Landells' statement going forth to the world, without the other side being heard. The publication of Mr Wills's letter would have that effect. Mr Smith pressed his motion, that the letter be received, and laid on the table.
Mr Ligar considered that the publication of the preceding statements necessitated the laying of this directly before the public. He considered that Mr Landells' objections to Mr Burke's conduct were not well grounded, especially those with regard to the camels being over-worked. He did not think a camel was distressed by being taken 20 or 25 miles a day; and with respect to the alleged overloading, he had made a calculation. Four tons between 16 camels left only about 16 stone each, which was not as much as if the camel had Mr O’Shanassy on his back (Laughter).
That this Committee is of opinion that the statement now received from Mr Landells contains nothing to affect the resolution arrived at by this Committee on the perusal of the despatches received on previous occasions.
Mr Ligar seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.
Sir William Stawell wished to know what could be done in respect to Dr Stuart. He had been detained in court when the Committee came to its present resolution. He was of opinion that Mr Wills's position was in no way affected by Dr Stuart.
The Chairman said the duty of the Committee had simply been to select a doctor, not to appoint any one to the first, second, or third place. Under these circumstances, he thought the Committee had taken the most prudent course. The Committee had been unanimous in regretting that they could not accept Dr Stuart's services. Sir Wm Stawell thought so too. Such a man as Dr Stuart, who was in good practice and whose word was law in the hospitals with which he was connected, was not often to be had. Indeed, from Dr Stuart's position, he wondered at his readiness to go, and, more than all, at his readiness to take a second place in the expedition. Mr Embling gave notice of motion that at the next meeting he should move that Dr Stuart's offer be reconsidered. Dr Wilkie expressed himself as quite agreeing with Mr Embling.
After some further desultory conversation, the meeting broke up.
• p. 95. Minutes of the EC meeting, 14 November 1860.
• Minutes of a special meeting of the EC, 14 November 1860. 1p
Business: To appoint a medical officer and to receive despatches from the leader.
The Secretary (Dr Macadam) laid on the table eight applications for the vacant position, upon which a discussion of a conversational nature was raised. A communication was also read from Mr Wills, the father of the gentleman at present with the expedition in the capacity of astronomer, stating that his son was 27 years of age, and that he had received a medical education, but had subsequently abandoned the idea of entering the medical profession, preferring to devote himself to the cultivation of the exact sciences.
Dr Mueller said he attributed the destruction of Kennedy's party to the absence of a medical man. In reference to Dr Beckler, he was sure, from what he knew of that gentleman, that he would never think of leaving the expedition until his successor should be appointed. Dr Beckler had been 15 months in his (Dr Mueller's) department, and he know him to be a very conscientious man.
The Chairman said he altogether approved of the appointment of Dr Stuart, could it have been arranged. Such an appointment would be no injustice whatever, that he could see, to Mr Wills. The Committee, he thought, were perfectly at liberty to appoint any medical man they thought proper, without being fettered by any conditions.
After some further discussion, Dr Wilkie moved:
That the Committee do refrain at present from making a selection from the applications submitted.
That the Committee communicate to Mr Burke the conditions upon which Dr Stuart is willing to accompany the expedition, and that Dr Beckler be requested to remain with the party until his successor be appointed.
The resolutions were carried unanimously.
Dr Mueller, referring to the routes of the various exploring parties, said it scarcely seemed that any necessity existed of the expeditions intruding upon each other's ground. As Stuart had now penetrated nearly to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and as it was of the utmost importance that the western portion of the continent should be explored, he thought it might advantageously be suggested to Mr Burke that he should direct his attention to those quarters, and endeavour to connect them with the discoveries of the elder Gregory on the Victoria River.
Dr Gillbee differed from Dr Mueller, and reminded the Committee that, according to the original instructions, Mr Burke, after leaving the settled districts, was to be left entirely to his own discretion as to what route he would pursue. He thought it would be improper and impolite to fetter him in the least degree. There would, besides, be no interest attaching for some time to the western districts, whereas the line which it was probable Mr Burke would follow was one of the utmost importance in view of transit across the continent, and for telegraphic connexion with the northern coast. Mr Stuart's discoveries were his own, and they had no business to meddle with him. The same arguments as those put forward by Dr Mueller might indeed have been used to Stuart himself.
The Chairman said Mr Burke might be requested to keep up as regular a botanical collection as he possibly could. Dr Mueller said he should be sorry to hinder in the least the geographical objects of the expedition; but he could not, at the same time, lose sight of the importance of properly attending to the botany of the central continent. If Mr Stuart, with such limited means at his disposal, had done so much for South Australia in that point of view, it would be a disgrace to the Victorian expedition if it should fall short. But unless someone were appointed whose regular duty it would be to make a botanical collection there would be little opportunity, he feared, of anything satisfactory being done. He would suggest, therefore, that some member of the party should be named for the purpose, who, without neglecting his general duties, should devote his attention to the interests of botanical science as far as possible. The subject then dropped; and the Committee adjourned.
Monday, 19 November 1860.
An ordinary meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria was held at the hall in the evening. Dr Eades in the chair.
Frederick Acheson asked if there had been a separate agreement with Mr Landells. Dr Macadam produced letters which had passed between Mr Landells and the Committee, to show that there were no instructions to Mr Landells to place him in a position independent of Mr Burke.
Frederick Acheson, Esq., made some inquiries respecting the terms on which Mr Landells had been engaged by the Exploration Committee. The Hon Secretary replied by reading the correspondence that had passed between Mr Landells and the Committee on the subject. Mr Acheson considered the reply very satisfactory.
Dr Eades made a few remarks expressing his approval of the course Mr Burke had pursued.
The Hon Secretary read two short dispatches from the party.
Tuesday, 20 November 1860.
• Letter to Burke dated 22 November 1860.
Monday, 3 December 1860.
Holiday in Victoria: Rview of Volunteer Forces.
Ordinary meeting of the Exploration Committee.
Present: Wilkie (chair) and Macadam.
Business: To receive despatches from the expedition (including Wills' second surveyors report and a chart of the route prepared by the surveyor, and a report from Dr Beckler about his exploratory trip to the Scropes Ranges and his resignation, and Becker's Third Report accompanied by 14 sketches).
Despatches were received from the exploring party yesterday morning, and wore read yesterday at a meeting of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society, held in the afternoon. We are happy to state that they are of a satisfactory character. Mr Burke states from a temporary camp, 200 miles north of Meninda, or the Torowoto Swamp, in about the parallel of lat. 30 deg. , long. 142½ deg. The party had travelled at the rate of 20 miles a day, for 10 days after leaving Meninda, and had accomplished half the distance between that station and Cooper's Creek. The route taken, as a reference to the latest maps will show, was considerably to the right of the track taken by Sturt, and abundance of water was found on the way, while the surveyor reports favourably of the country for pastoral purposes.
On this part of the journey Mr Burke was accompanied by Mr Wright, an experienced bushman, whom he had nominated third in command, and who returned from Torowoto to Meninda to take up the remainder of the party, and to prepare and carry up jerked beef, &c, for the depot which Mr Burke, carrying out the idea originally entertained, proposes to establish on Cooper's Creek, preparatory to his start to the north or west.
Mr Burke had not, at the date of his despatch, received the despatches forwarded to him, conveying the news of Mr Stuart's discoveries, but these Professor Neumayer had delivered over at Swan Hill to Mounted-constable Lyons, who volunteered to convoy them to Mr Burke. Lyons reached Meninda about the 12th ultimo, and, expressing his wish to proceed onwards, Mr Wright assigned him one of the natives attached to the party as a guide, and the saddler - M'Donagh - who was required in the leader's camp, set out at the same time. They would follow up the track made by the party, and by this time have joined, or will soon over take, Mr Burke's party.
Cooper's Creek, we need hardly say, is situated about half-way between Melbourne and the Gulf of Carpentaria, and as the camels had reached Torowoto in good health, good hopes of the future of the expedition - whether Mr Burke determines to take a northern or a western course - may be entertained.
The committee are perfectly satisfied with the character of the despatches, and with the proceedings of the leader. We may add, for the satisfaction of the public, that though the expedition is now without a doctor, the party will not suffer from the want of medical advice, as the committee have been assured that Mr Wills, the second in command (who is a man of 27 years of age, and not a mere boy, as has been stated), passed through a complete course of medical education in a proper school of medicine, and only refrained from taking a diploma from having turned his attention enthusiastically towards astronomy. Accompanying the reports is a tracing by Mr Wills of the route of the expedition, from Bilbarka to Torowoto, with notes descriptive of the country, which is sketched thus:- "Good sheep country," "stony salt-bush plains," "lightly timbered and well grassed, sand hills and coarse grass," "low quartz rises, covered with salt-bush;" "fine grassy salt-bush plains, with plenty of water;" "high slaty ranges," &c.
Dr Beckler has sent down three rough sketches of the aspect of the country near Meninda.
Dr Becker has sent specimens of objects of natural history by one of Captain Cadell's steamers, and says he has found "different kinds of ants, some of which show moat peculiar modes of living, working, and attacking."
The sketches forwarded by Dr Becker are admirable, and will form a most interesting feature in the history of the expedition. Among them are the "junction of the Bamawora Creek with the Darling," "mallee sandcliffs at the Darling, 10 miles from Cuthro" (a charming picture of a peculiar scene) ; "Meninda" (a township, consisting of one hotel, a store, a kitchen, and two native huts); the "banks of the Darling, near Bilwaka" (showing the river flowing between banks sloping and smooth like those of a canal); and "the artist's tent at Bilwaka."
It is pleasing that the reports received on this occasion are full of information. The expedition has now, in short, fairly entered on its work.
Related archive: SLV MS13071, Box 2088B/1, RSV EFC and RSV EC minute book, 1858-1873. ex1001-026, 1 bound volume, ms., 295 numbered pages.
Business: To consider the report, to dispose of sundry stores and to pass the accounts.
The principal business was to consider the report to be brought forward at the ordinary meeting of the Royal Society, on Monday next.
It was resolved to ask the surveyor-general to lithograph the map which Mr Wills had sent down of the country between Menindie and the point from which the last despatch was received from Mr Burke.
The remainder of the business was merely of a formal nature.
• Minutes of the EC meeting, 5 December 1860.
• p. 98. Minutes of the EC meeting, 5 December 1860, signed by Wilkie.
Monday, 10 December 1860.
Ordinary meeting of the Royal Society, held in the society's house, Victoria-street.
Dr Eades in the chair.
Dr Macadam acknowledged the receipt of some further notes and three plates from Dr Becker. There was nothing of importance, in the notes, inasmuch as everything contained had already been, published in the public press. Dr Becker sent three additional plates, which were now put up in a portfolio with the others, for the convenience of members.
Ludwig Becker's Expedition Sketchbook H16486, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.
|26. Meteor seen by me on Oct. 11t. at 10h 35m|
Ludwig Becker's Expedition Sketchbook H16486, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.
|27. Parasite found in the arm-pit of Gecko no. II|
Ludwig Becker's Expedition Sketchbook H16486, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.
|29. Nenma, native word for shells.|
• Letter to Dr Wills dated 12 December 1860.
Monday 24 December 1860.
Holiday in Victoria: Christmas Eve
Monday, 31 December 1860.
Holiday in Victoria: New Years Eve.
Business: To consider intelligence brought down by Mr Hodgkinson.
In consequence of it being a holiday, and the shortness of the notice, Dr Macadam was unable to procure a large attendance, several members being out of town. Among those present were His Excellency the Governor [Barkly], attended by Captain Bancroft, ADO; His Honour the Chief Justice, Drs Eades, Macadam, Wilkie, and Mr Gillbee; Captain Cadell, and Messrs Watson, McCoy, Elliott, &c. Shortly after 1 o'clock, the chair was taken by His Honour the Chief Justice.
Reply to Wright's despatch:
Your despatch of the 19th instant, forwarded per Mr Hodgkinson, was laid before a meeting of the members of the Exploration Committee held this day, when the following resolutions were carried unanimously:
I have further to inform you that Mr Hodgkinson, who returns as the bearer of this despatch, will hand you an order from Mr Superintendent Foster, of Swan Hill, to obtain from trooper Lyons the despatches for the leader, now in the possession of that officer, and which it is desired you should hand to Mr Burke.
It is hoped by the Committee, that trooper Lyons and saddler Macpherson have safely returned to the camp, and you will kindly report as to the manner in which the former has endeavoured to carry out the duty committed to his charge.
The medal for Dick, the Aboriginal guide, bearing a suitable inscription, is forwarded with this despatch, and the Committee leave in your hands the bestowal of such additional reward as you may deem proper – not exceeding five guineas (say £5, 5s.)
Captain Cadell informed the Committee to-day that his store at Menindie would be at your service for depositing any articles you may find it inconvenient to remove to Cooper's Creek at present.
You will endeavour to secure, if possible, twelve pommel pack-saddles, now arrived, it is believed, on the Darling. These were forwarded via Adelaide, and will no doubt be of great use to the main party.
The Committee desire that on your meeting with Mr Burke, you will show him, and deposit with him, this despatch, as also a copy of yours of the 19th instant, together with copies of all despatches you may forward to the Committee during Mr Burke's absence; and the Committee expect that you will communicate under such circumstances as frequently as possible.
Mr Hodgkinson bears letters for the leader and Mr Wills.
In conclusion, it is hoped that your endeavours to remove the stores from your present depot to Cooper's Creek will be early and successfully accomplished.
A special meeting of the Exploration Committee was held in the Royal Institution, for the purpose of considering the above despatch brought by Mr Hodgkinson, one of the party from Mr Wright, the officer in charge of the depot at the Darling River.
His Excellency, who was present, resigned the honor of presiding to Sir William Stawell, Chairman of the Committee. The despatch above referred to was read, and a lengthened discussion, or rather interrogation of Mr Hodgkinson followed. That gentleman so very lucidly explained the circumstances to the party, in reply to questions put by several members of the Committee that not only was £350 voted to Mr Wright to enable him to purchase horses, but the additional sum of £150 to purchase sheep, and defray other expenses necessary to enable him to proceed with supplies to Mr Burke's party.
It appears that trooper Lyons and saddler Macpherson left the Darling in order to convey to Mr Burke on important despatch, taking with them four horses and a month's provisions. From the statement of Dick, the aboriginal, it would appear that their horses died, and that the men, unable to proceed any further, encamped at a lagoon called Tarra-Watta, some 200 miles from the Darling, where they were dependent for food on the kind offices of the natives. Dick describes the poor fellows as being very much exhausted, but it is hoped that the party sent to their rescue, including as it does the surgeon, Dr Beckler, may succeed in saving their lives. Mr Hodgkinson stated that in all probability Mr Wright would start with five other persons for Cooper's Creek within three days of his return to Menindie.
Mr Hodgkinson left town on Monday, 31 December by the mail train, en route for Swan Hill and the Darling. He takes with him despatches for Mr Wright, and a letter to Mr Superintendent Foster requesting that officer to recall trooper Lyons besides a brass ornament for the blackfellow, Dick.
• Letter to Wright dated 31 December 1860.
• Letter to Henry Foster dated 31 December 1860.
• p. 99. Minutes of the EC special meeting, 31 December 1860, signed by Wilkie.