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Stokes wrote, in the Introduction to his Discoveries in Australia, Vol 1:
"Of the Australian shores, the North-western was the least known, and became, towards the close of the year 1836, a subject of much geographical speculation. Former navigators were almost unanimous in believing that the deep bays known to indent a large portion of this coast, received the waters of extensive rivers, the discovery of which would not only open a route to the interior, but afford facilities for colonizing a part of Australia, so near our East Indian territories, as to render its occupation an object of evident importance.
His Majesty's Government therefore determined to send out an expedition to explore and survey such portions of the Australian coasts as were wholly or in part unknown to Captains Flinders and King."
Following the retirement of the leader, Captain Wickham, during the expedition, due to ill health, in March 1841 the command of the Beagle was entrusted to Stokes.