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& the Australian Exploring Expedition of 1860

Andrew Jackson
London: Smith, Elder & Co.
(Ferguson 10857)

Chapter 1

  • Introductory.

The vast extent of the unexplored portion of the great Australian continent had long baffled numerous efforts made to penetrate its mysterious and silent depths. Although it was believed that the immense tract of country lying between the 15th and 30th parallels of south latitude, and 145th meridians of east longitude, contained, in all probability, habitable space sufficient to afford an eligible home to millions of civilized beings, yet none of the parties equipped at different times to explore it had ever done more than obtain a partial and unsatisfying success. Difficulties caused by want of water, impassability of ground, and dangers connected with the open hostility or treacherous friendship of the aboriginal tribes, had repelled the intrepid efforts of such men as Sturt, Gregory, Oxley, and others, who had vainly striven to overcome them; while the mysterious fate of the esteemed and lamented Leichhardt, although it did not prevent fresh attempts from being, made, had yet exercised a depressing and melancholy effect on the spirits of the enterprising public, tending, on the whole, to produce a belief that, with regard to certain boundaries of Central Australia, it might be safely said, 'Hither shalt thou come, and no farther.'

To the Anglo-Saxon temperament, however, difficulties only serve as fresh incentives to exertion. The inhabitants of the colony of Victoria, (Despatch from Governor Sir Henry Barkly to the Duke of Newcastle, dated August 21, 1860) urged by a recollection of the generous spirit displayed by neighbouring colonies whose unassisted efforts had effected the more recent discoveries, and stimulated by the feeling that it behoved Victoria, as the wealthiest and most important of the group, to take her share in a work no less of the highest interest and importance in a scientific point of view than likely to prove hereafter of great commercial advantage to themselves, convened a public meeting in Melbourne on the 1st of September, 1858, for the purpose of promoting the great object of Australian exploration. A donation of one thousand pounds, munificently offered by an anonymous individual through the columns of the Argus newspaper, formed the nucleus of a private subscription, which speedily reached the sum of three thousand two hundred pounds, and a further sum of six thousand pounds having been subsequently voted by the Colonial Legislature towards the expenses of the expedition, the whole fund was placed at the disposal of a committee of the Royal Society of Victoria, presided over by Sir Henry Barkly, KCB., governor of the colony.

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