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In August 1857, Melbourne businessman Ambrose Kyte offered 1000 pounds to fund an exploration, if the public could raise 2000 pounds to match it. The Exploration Committee of the Royal Society eagerly accepted his challenge and, with collection books and fundraising theatricals, set out to raise the sum. The Victorian public was less interested in the high-minded ideals of exploration, and by May 1858 the Committee had only gathered 600 pounds. Kyte extended the deadline for his offer, but the Committee continued to pressure would-be donors as if the offer were about to expire. The tactic worked, and in a late rush, they more than reached their 2000 pounds target.

The Chief Secretary of the day, John O'Shannassy (the equivalent of today's State Premier), had made many speeches on the need for exploration. So when funding for an expedition was at last being sought, he could hardly refuse. He promised 6000 pounds and, although he soon lost government, his successor honoured that promise. Suddenly, from scratching up odd pounds and shillings in their collection books, the Exploration Committee found themselves in charge of an enormous fund.