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Leader, South Australian Burke Relief Expedition

South Australian Register
26 August 1861


Instructions to Mr McKinlay

Crown Lands and Immigration Office, Adelaide.

13 August 1861.

As you have been appointed to the command of the expedition fitted out for the relief of the Victorian Exploration Expedition, it becomes necessary for me to give tho following instructions by which you will be guided as far as circumstances will permit.

The expedition consists of yourself as leader, five men, 22 horses, and four camels. Mr Hodgkinson has also been appointed to the expedition. He will act as surveyor and draftsman, and is instructed as one of the party under your control, in all matters to obey your orders.

Stores, as per annexed schedule, have been forwarded to Blanchewater, for the use of the expedition. On receiving these instructions, you will proceed with all due speed to Blanchewater, and there complete the equipment of your party. It may be desirable that before leaving this place you should engage the services of two aboriginal natives as trackers. You will then proceed by Stuckey's Crossing of Lake Torrens, Lake Hope, and the now lakes to the south-west channel of the Barcoo (Cooper's Creek).
[Webmaster's note: Stuckey's Crossing was believed to be at the south end of Lake Torrens, but is in fact crossing between Lake Gregory and Lake Blanche].

Arrived at Cooper's Creek, you will endeavour to ascertain whether any of Mr Burke's party have returned to that locality, and whether the Victorian Relief Expedition, under the command of Mr Howitt, has reached that place, in which latter event you will consult with Mr Howitt as to your future proceedings, and act ns may appear best. Should you find that Mr Burke's party have not returned to Cooper's Creek, and that Mr Howitt's party have not reached that place, you will take the necessary means to enable Mr Howitt to ascertain your proposed course of action. You will then endeavour to find Mr Burke's trucks, and follow them as far as you may deem it desirable to do so.

Should you fail in finding Mr Burke's tracks, you will proceed to Eyre's Creek, still carefully searching for the tracks, which you may follow as far as you safely can. Should you however, be unsuccessful in finding any tracks of Mr Burke's party, you had better, if possible, search the country between Eyre's Creek and Mount Humphries, or Central Mount Stuart, with the view of returning, if the nature of the country will permit, by the western shores of Lake Eyre.

You are advised to make frequent cairns of stones or conspicuous marks on any convenient trees you may find, depositing information in tin cases, so that your course may be followed on any future occasion; and you are particularly requested to use at all times as your distinguishing mark the letters MK conjoined.

You are also especially advised not to place too much reliance on the camels as a means of transport; but to depend principally upon your saddle and pack horses; and should you find that the spring cart is in any way an encumbrance to your movements, you had better abandon it. In the event of any of the horses breaking down, or any of the party proving unequal to the fatigues and privations they may have to endure, you are authorised to purchase or obtain fresh horses; and engage the services of fresh men in the place of those who may have to leave the expedition.

You will keep, or cause to be kept, a journal of your proceedings, and a chart of your course; and will allow Mr Hodgkinson, when he can do so, without in any way delaying the expedition, to allow such surveys as may appear likely to be of use to this government. The government, relying on your prudence, and your abilities for the task you have undertaken, are not desirous of fettering you by unnecessary instructions, and you will in all cases regard these instructions as merely conveying the views of the government, and consider yourself authorised to depart from them when you deem it expedient to do so. You will, however, in all matters keep the following objects in full view:

Firstly: The relief of the expedition under the command of Mr Burke, or the acquiring a knowledge of its fate. This is the great object of the expedition under your command. Then you may have accomplished the fore- going, or may have doomed it necessary to abandon the search for Mr Burke, then,

Secondly: The acquiring a knowledge of the country between Eyre's Creek and Central Mount Stuart.

Thirdly: The acquiring a knowledge of the western shores of Lake Eyre. A separate letter of instructions is given to you, and the particular matters to which you will direct your attention in this locality.

In conducting this expedition you are requested to have especial regard to the safety of the party under your command, and to keep open a safe means of returning to the settled districts. In the event of your being unable to continue to command this expedition, Mr Hodgkinson will take the command, unless that you direct that it shall devolve on some other person, and you have full authority to give such direction. I trust that you will on all occasions impress on your party the necessity of a discreet use of the weapons which are supplied to them for self-defence and for the purpose of enabling them to obtain game.

On your return you will find a further supply of provisions at the Finniss Springs, and further instructions as to the course to be pursued by you with reference to the exploration of the country to the west of Stuart's country, and the connection of that country with Fowler's Bay. Provisions and instructions will be at the Finniss Springs by December next. You will avail yourself of such opportunities as may present themselves for communicating your proceedings to me; and on returning will take the first opportunity of forwarding to me a copy of your chart and journal

I have, &c,
H B T Strangways,


Herewith are forwarded for your information and guidance copies of the instructions issued to Messrs. Burke, Howitt, Walker, and the leader of the second Queensland party; also, copies of a letter received by me from tho Victorian Exploration Committee, and of Mr Wright's and Mr Wills's diaries.

List of stores forwarded to Blanchewater:

  • 3¼ tons of flour,
  • 300lbs sugar,
  • ½ chest tea,
  • 50 lb. tobacco,
  • 1 box sausages,
  • 40 lbs. soap,
  • 1 case horseshoes.

E T Wildman;

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