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Fifth Report, 1860.

Progress Reports and Final Report of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria.
Melbourne: Royal Society of Victoria. Mason & Firth Printers.

Drawn up by Drs Wilkie, Mueller and Macadam.
Adopted by the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria.

In the Report presented by your Committee for 1859, you were congratulated upon the successful accomplishment of the laborious undertaking to raise the sum of £2,000 by private subscription, in order to secure the munificent donation of £1,000, promised by an anonymous donor, on that condition, for the purpose of organising a party to explore the interior of Australia.

Your Committee also expressed a hope that the Legislature would supplement these amounts with a vote of £6,000. This sum was promptly appropriated by Government and duly voted by the Legis­lature, for the purpose, and placed at the disposal of your Committee, by the Hon. William Nicholson, Chief Secretary.

The importance of taking advantage of the winter season to penetrate the and regions of the interior was not overlooked by your Committee, but as a sum of £3,000 had been forwarded by Govern­ment to India, to purchase camels for this express object, it was deemed, after careful consideration, to be better to await the arrival of these "ships of the desert," rather than hasten the departure of the Expedition before they arrived. A light party, to reconnoitre the vicinity of Cooper's Creek was at one time seriously thought of, but no advantage seemed likely to be gained by such a proceeding, that would compensate for the large additional outlay it would entail.

The camels, twenty-five in number, arrived in Hobson's Bay, June 25th, in good order and condition, under the care of Mr George James Landells, on board the Chinsurah, Captain Gisborne, and immediate arrangements were made to have them safely landed and properly housed. Your Committee has gratefully to acknowledge the ready cooperation of the Government in securing these impor­tant objects.

The important duty of selecting a Leader for the Expedition was the next and most anxious duty that devolved on your Committee. The names of several highly eligible gentlemen were submitted for consideration, but, after mature deliberation, it was resolved to an­nounce that the appointment was open, and candidates were invited to offer their services.

In reply to this invitation a number of gentlemen, of various qualifications presented their credentials, and sought the arduous but honorable post. The difficulty your Committee experienced in making a selection was increased by the number of apparently suitable candidates that offered their services. After much anxious inquiry and careful deliberation, your Committee selected Robert O'Hara Burke, Esq., Superintendent of Police in the Castlemaine district, and formerly a cavalry officer in the Austrian service, whose appointment to this onerous office was duly endorsed by the Government.

Your Committee, feeling strongly that it was of the first importance the Leader of so difficult an undertaking as traversing the wilds of an unknown region should have the free and uncontrolled selection of his officers and men, conceded to Mr Burke at once the entire management of the organization of his party. Accordingly the whole number of applicants were invited to meet the leader at the Hall of the Royal Society, when out of about 700 candidates the following were selected, after personal interviews and careful inquiries:

George James Landells, second in command
William John Wills, Surveyor and Astronomer
Hermann Beckler, Medical Officer and Botanist
Ludwig Becker, Artist and Naturalist, &c.
Charles D. Ferguson, Assistant and Foreman
William Patten, Assistant
Patrick Langan, -do-.
Owen Cowen, -do-.
Robert Fletcher, -do-.
Henry Creber, -do-.
William Brahe, -do-.
John Drakeford,


John King, -do-.
Thos. F. McDonough, -do-.

These men, after a careful examination by Dr William Gillbee, on behalf of the Committee, were pronounced by him free from physical defect and disease.

The final selection of the route was the next subject of anxious consideration demanding the attention of your Committee.

There were three principal routes proposed for selection, namely;

1st Port Augusta, at the head of Spencer's Gulf, and thence to the north.

2nd Blunder Bay, at the mouth of the Victoria, on the north-west coast, and thence across the country to the South.

3rd Across the country by the most direct route to Cooper's Creek, in lat. 27°37' 8" long. 141°5' where the party would be on the verge of the unexplored country, and on a spot where permanent water could be had, and a Depot formed, whence excursions could be made to the north or north-west as might be deemed desirable, and upon which the party could at any time fall back for supplies in case of necessity.

The vital importance of the selection to be made gave your Committee much anxiety, in which the grave responsibility resting on every member of it was sensibly felt. The reasons for each of these routes were carefully and calmly weighed, and after a full and earnest debate, the route by Cooper's Creek was finally selected, as possessing the greatest number of advantages that could be secured consistently with the successful prosecution of the objects of the enterprise.

The preparations for the long journey were, in the meantime, rapidly progressing, and the outfit, as suggested by the Committee and Leader, was approved of by the Government, and furnished for the most part by the Government Storekeeper. (The list is printed in Appendix I.)

The expedition being fully equipped and prepared, took its departure from the Royal Park, August 20th, 1860, in the presence of a vast concourse of the inhabitants of Melbourne, who enthusiastically cheered the caravan as it started on its perilous and interesting journey; Dr Richard Eades, Mayor of Melbourne, and Vice-President of the Society, on behalf of the people, wishing Mr Burke and his companions God speed.

Your Committee has only further to state that notwithstanding some changes in the party, satisfactory progress has been made, and the latest intelligence confirms the opinion that the efficiency of the Expedition has been improved by the alterations and reductions that have been effected.

Your Committee refrains from making any comments on the secession of some officers, and other events of minor importance which have been placed before the public from time to time ; and in closing this report, earnestly commends the interests of the Expedi­tion and the fair fame of the gallant leader, with all his devoted officers and brave companions, to the proverbial candour of all honorable men, and the warm sympathy of the Royal Society.


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