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to be Leader of the Victorian Exploring Expedition.

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, MS13071, Box 2076/2.
Royal Society of Victoria, Exploration Committee Records:
Part IV: Applications to join the VEE received by the EC.


January 20th 1860

Macadam Esquire M.D.


It is with very good pleasure I at length perceive that earnest steps are being taken for the purpose of forwarding that Grand project – the complete exploration of the vast interior of this Country, it is an object worthy of the most serious consideration, and deserving of the utmost care and attention in laying out and devising the best and surest plans, lest at some future period, there might be reason to say that the matters connected with the filling up of the party have been entered into inadvisably or inconsiderately. The Exploration of the vast interior of this Country has long been a favourite topic of my own, for at least 12 or 15 years. I have from time to time as opportunity offered itself ever advocated its necessity – and now that the time has apparently come, when men of mind and substance have taken the matter in hand it may be reasonably expected, the results will be satisfactory.

It is not for me Sir, now at this stage of the proceedings to make any remarks or offer any suggestions – but as the matter is one of the utmost importance to the Country and to those individually concerned, I trust you will forgive me if I consider it my duty to make a few observations on the subject.

I perceive by the Chief Secretary's answer to your question in the news, in reference to the purchase of six “Camels”, that the late government have sent for 24 Camels for the Exploration, and the Most Honble the Chief Secretary appears to throw a doubt upon the question as to whether the Camels are really desirable or not. I believe Camels are not only desirable, but absolutely necessary. And that the number specified are quite little enough for the Expedition, to which also I hew should be attached, a few good horses fit for draught and saddle, together with 2 Boats, and leather bags to carry water. Dr and Mr Butlin, what I am most desirous is to state my ideas as to the place form which the party should start, and the route they (as near as circumstances would permit) should take.

The exploring partied which have already been in existence and which have generally ended in disappointment, hardships, or death, to those concerned in them, unfortunately may be traced in a great many instances to a badly organised party – to their inaquaintance with a bush life – to an improper or deficient outfit , and the last, not least, to their beginning at the wrong end, or starting point, and consequently bound to travel in the wrong direction. When Captian Sturt took the field, - ie in 1844 for the purpose of discovery of the “Terra Incognita” of Central Australia, he started from Adelaide, advanced nearly 200 miles beyond the “Stony Desert” where, having made his arrangements to return back to Adelaide he could not afford to proceed farther, and as the ponds and pools were likely to get dried up, he spent his strength and the strength of his party returning to Adelaide when had proper arrangements been made at the setting out, the strength waste, and the suffering endured, would have taken the party (other circumstances being the same) across the continent to the rivers on the Gulph of Carpentaria, it has been the system hitherto adopted by most of our Australian Explorers – to start from Civilization, and proceed to barrenness, deserts and perhaps destruction – with the North “Sirocco” blowing in their face, aid much endurance, and under circumstances sufficient to appal the stoutest heart with hope extinguished, and the prospect of returning back, spent + wayworn sufficient to damp the spirit of the most ardent explorer, Yes, when we look over the travels of our Australian Explorers, we must acknowledge that it was generally in their efforts to retrace their steps homewards that they experienced the Greatest Difficulties, nor is it at all impossible that the unfortunate but indefatigable “Leichardt” met with his death had his face tuned, and his energies directed to the Civilisation he left behind him, dispirited, disappointed, and without hope, arising no doubt form bad and inconsiderate arrangements at the outset.

And now, Sir, you will permit me to state for the consideration of the Committee of Management in this matter, the plans which I believe would be best studies to the object in view inasmuch as I conceive adopting them there would be less inconvenience, and uncertainty, and less risk of life with a very great degree of certainty as to the prosperous result.

As the “Camels” are now in all probability purchased for the expedition, In would have them with keepers (who should be natives or “Coolies” accustomed to manage or drive them) landed, not in Melbourne – but on the North Shore of Australia Say at Port Essington – or at the mouth of the Albert River mentioned by Stokes with the positive instructions to remain there until called upon, I would then “Ship” the Exploring party with the necessary provisions, implements, Boats, &, &, and dispatch them, to the appointed rendezvous., I would follow up the river to its source, and there establish a permanent Depot, and when all would be in readiness I would start on the exploration direct South – as I consider that the merely travelling South would not be a judicious arrangement, nor could it be directly considered an exploration of the Country. I would establish Camps or Depots in proper situation where water and Grass would be available and there make a testing place for any of the party who might be in a weak or sickly condition. From thence I would send out parties of three or four with horses, in an Easterly and Westerly direction with proper instruction to Explore say 150 miles in each direction and report upon the same, limiting them as to time out – each horse (or camel) to carry a sufficiency of water for a certain number of days – thus we might be able to explore, on the right and left, from East to West for a distance of 300 or 400 miles taking care on making a fresh start Southward to bring and collect those of the party who might chance to be out. We would thus by care and attention to the requirements of the party be enabled to keep up their Bodily and Mental “Stamina” so that when it would be imperative to cross a waste like “Sturt's Desert” the party would be equal to the effort and enter it in the strength of body and vigour of mind, with the “Northerly Sirocco” blowing not in their faces as with former explorers starting from the South, but in the backs of the party and assisting them forward, and what would still further stimulate their efforts, would be the consideration that every day would bring them nearer to the Abodes of Civilization, their homes, and the Cities of the South, this idea would stimulate them to go forward over the “Sahara Australis” – if such they would meet with – invigorated minds to the performance of their duties. Thus managed the party would be in no haste to reach the ned of their journey, but would make a thorough exploration of the interior within their reach keeping steadily in view the object of their first setting out, as well as the health of tand energies of their bodily and mental faculties. I should therefore most respectfully impress upon the authorities in this matter, the necessity, the absolute necessity, for the prosperity of the undertaking, to at once take steps in order that the Camels may be landed on the North Australian Shores near the mouth of the “Victoria” or the “Albert” that the Explorers may travel from North to South, and if you do so I would have no hesitation in offering to take the management of the party, and by God, help bring it to a successful issue.

It may be objected that it is now too late t alter previous arrangements – and that the sending the party to the North of Australia to start Southwards would involve an extra expence – to the first objective I would answer that where the prosperity of the undertaking is involved, as wll as the safety, and the lives of the individuals concerned it is well worth while to have previous arrangements altered even were it more difficult than what it can possibly be – to the second I would say that the Camels would not cost more to have them landed on the North coast say Port Essington or the “Albert”, nor so much – as having them landed at Melbourne, nor would it cost more to take the party by sea to the North, than it would to bring them from the North to Melbourne, and which in the one case must be necessarily done – my argument is that it would be much cheaper to make arrangements to start from the North as it would consume less time to the vessel and for other reasons; at all event I believe it would be the best and finest starting point, and if so, it is that which should be adopted.

Trusting you will forgive the freedom I have taken in this matter.

I have the honor
To be
Your most obedient Servant

John Frizzell

I shall write to you again on the probable route – you are at liberty to make the best use of this letter. JF

Related archive: State Library of Victoria, MS13071, Applications to join the Victorian Exploration Expedition received by the Exploration Committee. Alphabetical list of applicants. Frizzel: Box 2076/3, ex1004-190.

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