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Inaugural Address of the President of the Royal Society of Victoria.

10 April 1860

Extract from the address, concerning the conduct of the Victorian Exploring Expedition.
Read the full address here at Science and the Making of Victoria.

Gentlemen of the Royal Society of Victoria,

.....There is a second subject of scientific interest which will I hope occupy a good deal of your attention during the ensuing twelve months - namely, the superintendence of preparations for the exploration of the interior.

I rejoice that this Colony is at length about to take its share in this important National duty. Our very presence here to night may be said to be attributable to the love of science and of maritime discovery which the Anglo-Saxon race has always displayed; for you will remember that it was to observe the transit of Venus over the Sun that captain Cook was despatched on his first voyage to the Southern Ocean, and but for his subsequent exploration of the east coast of Australia, this continent might never have been colonised by the British nation.

It seems but right, then, that this, the wealthiest and most civilised of the communities which have hence spring into existence, should make some effort to advance the cause to which it owes its origin. Nor will that effort, I am persuaded, prove fruitless. We can gain, it is true, no extension of territory by the discoveries we may make, yet no inconsiderable commercial advantages must ultimately accrue to the possessors of the only great haven on the south coast, from the progress of internal settlement, and from opening up a practicable route to the northern shores of this vast continent; whilst a clearer insight into the nature and extent of the central desert cannot fail to elucidate phenomena now easily explicable, and to complete our stores of information as to the Meteorology and Mineralogy, the Fauna and the Flora, of this most exceptional and extraordinary portion of the globe.

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 suppliment 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.

The 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 operations, so as to be ready to take advantage of the first rains that may fall, to prosecute its researches.

The precise direction of these must necessarily be left a good deal to the discretion of the leader to be chosen. Were not something more than a mere bush ride across the continent 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 special questions on which I am chiefly desirous that your immediate attention should be bestowed.

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