Two expeditions into the interior of southern Australia, by Charles Sturt

Appendix No. I.

Letter of Instructions.

By His Excellency Lieutenant General Ralph Darling, Commanding His Majesty’s Forces, Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the Territory of New South Wales, and its dependencies, and Vice Admiral of the same, &c. &c. &c.


Whereas it has been judged expedient to fit out an expedition for the purpose of exploring the interior of New Holland, and the present dry season affords a reasonable prospect of an opportunity of ascertaining the nature and extent of the large marsh or marshes which stopped the progress of the late John Oxley Esq, Surveyor General, in following the courses of the rivers Lachlan and Macquarie in the years 1817 and 1818. And whereas I repose full confidence in your abilities and zeal for conducting such an expedition, I do hereby constitute and appoint you to command and take charge of the expedition now preparing for the purpose of exploring the interior of the country, and for ascertaining, if practicable, the nature and extent of the marsh or marshes above mentioned.

In the prosecution of this service, you will be guided generally by the following instructions.

1. You will be accompanied on this expedition by Mr. Hamilton Hume, whose great experience in travelling through the remote parts of the Colony, cannot fail to be highly useful to you. You will also be attended by two soldiers and six convicts, of whom one is to understand the shoeing of horses, one to be a carpenter, one a harness-maker and three stock-men, and you will be provided with six horses and twelve bullocks.

2. A small boat has been built here for the use of the expedition, and for its conveyance, there is provided a light four-wheeled carriage to be drawn by two bullocks.

The deputy Commissary General has received orders for supplying the expedition with provisions of the best quality sufficient for six months’ consumption, together with tents, blankets, clothing, pack-saddles, utensils, instruments, tools, and necessaries of all kinds of which you are likely to stand in need. Orders are also given for providing you with arms and ammunition, with rockets for signals, and an ample supply of simple medicines — You are to consider it an important duty to attend to the providing of all these supplies, and to take care that not only every article is of the best quality that can be procured, but also that no article be wanting with which you may desire to be provided.

3. Orders are given for forwarding without delay all your provisions, stores and supplies of every kind to Wellington Valley, at which place, you, Mr. Hume, and all your men are to rendezvous as soon as possible. Mr Maxwell, the superintendent, will furnish you with well-trained bullocks, and afford you all the assistance you may require in arranging every thing for your departure from that station.

4. After you shall have completed all your arrangements, you are to lose no time in finally departing from Wellington Valley in prosecution of the immediate objects of the expedition.

5. You are first to proceed to Mount Harris, where you are to form a temporary depot, by means of which you will have an opportunity of more readily communicating with Mr. Maxwell.

6. You are then to endeavour to determine the fate of the Macquarie River, by tracing it as far as possible beyond the point to which Mr. Oxley went, and by pushing westward, you are to ascertain if there be any high lands in that direction, or if the country be, as it is supposed, an unbroken level and under water. If you should fail in these objects, you will traverse the plains lying behind our north-west boundaries, with a view to skirt any waters by which you may have been checked to the westward; and if you should succeed in skirting them, you are to explore the country westward and southward as far as possible, endeavouring to discover the Macquarie beyond the marsh of Mr. Oxley, and following it to its mouth if at all practicable.

7. There is some reason to believe that the over-flowing of the Macquarie when visited by Mr. Oxley, was occasioned by heavy rains falling in the mountains to the eastward, and that as you are to visit the same spot at a different season of the year, you may escape such embarrassment; but although you should get beyond the point at which Mr. Oxley stopped, it would not be prudent to risk your own health or that of your men, by continuing long in a swampy country. Therefore it may be advisable for you in the first instance to leave the greater part of your men, bullocks, and baggage, at Mount Harris, and if you should see a probability of your being able to cross into the interior, you will then return to Mount Harris for such additional supplies as you may judge necessary. You can there communicate with Mr. Maxwell respecting any ulterior arrangements which you may be desirous of making.

8. The success of the expedition is so desirable an object, that I cannot too strongly impress upon you the importance of perseverance in endeavouring to skirt any waters or marshes which may check your course as long as you have provisions sufficient for your return; but you must be cautious not to proceed a single day’s journey further than where you find that your provisions will be barely sufficient to enable you to reach the nearest place at which you can depend upon getting supplies.

9. If after every endeavour you should find it totally impracticable to get to the westward, you are still to proceed northward, keeping as westerly a direction as possible; and when the state of your provisions will oblige you to retreat, you will be guided by your latitude, as to the place to which you are to make the best of your way, but you are not to make for any place on the coast, if Wellington valley should still be nearer.

10. You must be aware that the success of the expedition will greatly depend upon the time for which your provisions will hold out, and therefore you will see the great importance of observing every possible economy in the expenditure of provisions, and preventing waste of every kind.

11. You are to keep a detailed account of your proceedings in a journal, in which all observations and occurrences of every kind, with all their circumstances, however minute, are to be carefully noted down. You are to be particular in describing the general face of all the country through which you pass, the direction and shape of the mountains, whether detached or in ranges, together with the bearings and estimated distances of the several mountains, hills, or eminences from each other. You are likewise to note the nature of the climate, as to heat, cold, moisture, winds, rains, &c, and to keep a register of the temperature from Fahrenheit’s thermometer, as observed at two or three periods of each day. The rivers, with their several branches, their direction, velocity, breadth, and depth, are carefully to be noted. It is further expected that you will, as far as may he in your power, attend to the animal, vegetable, and mineral productions of the country, noting down every thing that may occur to you, and preserving specimens as far as your means will admit, especially some of all the ripe seeds which you may discover; when the preservation of specimens is impossible, drawings or detailed accounts of them, are very desirable.

12. You will note the description of the several people whom you may meet, the extent of the population, their means of subsistence, their genius and disposition, the nature of their amusements, their diseases and remedies, their objects of worship, religious ceremonies, and a vocabulary of their language.

Lastly. On your return from your journey, you are to cause all the journals or other written documents belonging to, and curiosities collected by the several individuals composing the expedition, to be carefully sealed up with your own seal and kept in that state until you shall have made your report to me in writing of the result of the expedition.

Given at Sydney, this eighteenth day of November, 1828.
By Command of His Excellency the Governor,
Alexander M’Leay.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00