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Voyages: Scientific Circumnavigations 1679 to 1859
Scientific Voyages Around the World
Sailing around 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.
Voyages: Introduction
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introduction | dampier | anson | bougainville | cook's 1st | cook's 2nd | cook's 3rd
la perouse | freycinet | duperrey | d'urville | laplace | vaillant
kotzebue | darwin | wilkes | novara

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