Scientific Voyages Around the World
the globe by harnessing the force of the wind in the sailcloth alone,
prior to the advent of steam power, was a marvelous feat. A circumnavigation
required masterful navigational skills, physical endurance, and
bold resolve. Yet these supreme challenges were repeatedly surmounted
by scientific expeditions, sponsored to pursue a broad scope of
investigations. To extend knowledge of geography, explorers ventured
into the vast oceans to seek out lands new to them in the Pacific
Ocean between the East Indies and the Americas, to define the boundaries
of the great southern continent, or to find a passage between the
great oceans from the North Pacific Ocean.
"La Favorite: under sail for Bourbon [Reunion Island] at the approach of the second hurricane,"
Yet the goals of scientific
voyages went far beyond charting lands. Elaborate studies of natural
history, astronomy and oceanography were undertaken. Scientists
accompanied the commander and crew on board, and space was made
for chronometers, telescopes, specimen bottles and boxes, paints
and palettes, chemicals, sounding apparatus and a wide assortment
of equipment and instruments.
The Linda Hall Library's
collection of the published monuments to these great expeditions
during the age of sail comprises this exhibition. It begins with
the spontaneous adventures of that buccaneer, William Dampier, and
includes all three of the ambitiously organized and spectacularly
famous voyages of Captain Cook to Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand,
the Antarctic regions, the Bering Strait and Hawaii.
It presents the magnificent
expeditions of the French captains La Pérouse, Freycinet, Duperrey,
and Dumont D'Urville to destinations on the east coast of Asia,
the west coast of North America, Easter Island, New Guinea, and
the Louisiades. The exhibit follows the Russian explorer Otto von
Kotzebue to the icy regions above the Bering Strait and also to
the warm Marshall Islands. It traces the United States' Wilkes expedition
as it charts part of the coast of Antarctica and explores the Oregon
Territory in North America. Finally, it tracks the Austrian ship,
the Novara, as it surveys New Zealand and sails into the
middle of the vast south Indian Ocean during its world tour.
The voyagers' achievements
included the charting and mapping of many lands, such as Australia,
New Zealand, Antarctica, Hawaii, and Tahiti. When Dampier set sail,
many parts of the earth were still uncharted. By the time the United
States completed its first circumnavigation, nearly the entire surface
of the globe had been mapped. Improvements were made in navigation
including the accurate determination of longitude. The study of
ocean currents and marine life advanced oceanography. The great
numbers of specimens that were collected of the flora and fauna
from locations around the globe formed a rich treasure trove that
expanded the field of natural history. Observations of geological
formations led to new explanations of the earth's features.
Substantial portions of these accounts describe the indigenous
peoples of the world. The earliest descriptions were drawn with
a high degree of sensitivity, often reflecting on the effects
of military and spiritual conquests by governments and missionaries.
A study of pre-technological societies, it was felt, could draw
back the curtain on the history of civilization. The voyagers
tended to view various peoples as representing different periods
of civilization based on their technology. As a result, the documentation
in these accounts provides precious evidence of the traditional
lifeways of many peoples of the world.
"Aprosmictus Splendens and Aprosmictus Personatus" (Fiji Islands); Parrots
By the turn of the
20th century, scientific expeditions around the globe seemed less
relevant. Explorers were instead focusing on specific areas, and
investigating the interiors of continents and lands whose shores
were already mapped by these early navigators and scientists.
Their fascinating experiences and observations are recorded in
the works presented in this exhibition.