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The return of HMCS VICTORIA from the Gulf of Carpentaria

Date: 1862
Overall: 348 mm, 0.15 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Parliamentary paper
Object No: 00008345
Place Manufactured:Melbourne

User Terms

    This is the official published report of the sea going search for the Burke and Wills Expedition 1860-1861 commanded by Captain W H Norman in the Victorian colonial ship HMCS VICTORIA.

    SignificanceHMCS VICTORIA served in the Victorian colonial navy - one of the biggest Australian colonial navies.
    HistoryRobert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills led an expedition of 19 men in an attempt to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria. The expedition left Melbourne on 20 August 1860 and reached the Gulf country (but not the ocean) in February 1861. Soon after, lack of supplies meant sickness from dysentery and scurvy and by the end of June 1861 both Burke and Wills were dead; a rescue party found King barely alive.

    Many rescue parties were sent in search of the missing expedition. The Queensland Government sent William Landsborough with a party on the 250 ton brig FIREFLY chartered by the Victorian Government, under the command of Captain T Kirby, with plenty of supplies, 30 horses and enough forage for six months. Embarking Landsborough with his party on board in Brisbane, it set sail for the Gulf, carrying a large cargo of wine, spirits and beer, and accompanied by HMCS (Her Majesty's Colonial Sloop) VICTORIA, a steam vessel under the command of Captain Norman - sent by the Victorian Government to assist in the search for the ill-fated Burke and Wills, who had been funded by Victorian interests.

    The FIREFLY was holed by a reef north of Cairns and the crew took to the alcohol on board. Norman and the VICTORIA located the ship, brought things under control and makeshift repairs were made for a tow. This was an exceptionally difficult and long tow in bad weather, first to Investigator Road, where both ships anchored. There they found the GRATIA and NATIVE LASS also under charter from the Victorian Government, and with stores and coal to bunker the VICTORIA. A land based camp was established on Sweers Island.

    Landsborough and Lieutenant Woods from the VICTORIA set off on 1 October 1861, to find the channel across the Albert River bar and a landing place for the horses and supplies. Then they faced the problem of getting the unwieldy FIREFLY upstream to the landing and it took over three weeks to get it there.

    A camp was established by Captain Norman, and Landsborough departed with his party of two white and two Indigenous expeditioners to search unsuccessfully for Burke and Wills.

    Norman and the VICTORIA returned to Melbourne and some two years later was involved in the unsuccessful search for shipwreck survivors off the Auckland islands in New Zealand.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Exploration Expedition

    Assigned title: Letter from Commander Norman reporting the return of the HMCS VICTORIA from the Gulf of Carpentaria

    Web title: The return of HMCS VICTORIA from the Gulf of Carpentaria

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