Map of Tonga Area


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Voyage au Pole Sud et dans l'Oceanie sur les corvettes l'Astrolabe....Hydrographique Atlas

This elephant folio engraving is from Jules-Sebastien-Cesar Dumont D’Urville’s Voyage au Pole Sud et dans l’Oceanie sur les corvettes l’Astrolabe… Hydrographique Atlas. The work was published in Paris between 1841 and 1855 by Gide et J. Baudry.

The work is a fascinating atlas documenting Dumont d’Urville’s second command of a grand voyage. It included some of the earliest maps of the Antarctic mainland. These hydrographical atlases are exceedingly scarce from Dumont’s work.

Dumont was a French explorer and naval officer. Dumont served under Duperrey on the Coquille and commanded the Astrolabe in the South Seas. Following Weddell’s lead, his second mission investigated the Antarctic Circle to see what land there might be within. This voyage was under the patronage of King Louis-Philippe. Clement Adrien Vincendon-Dumoulin was the mapmaker for Dumont d’Urville’s important expedition to the Pacific and the Antarctic, which resulted in significant contributions to the mapping of the region.

He made two attempts to reach the Antarctic, first in 1838 and second in 1840. Howego narrated: “in monstrous seas and heavy snowfall, the ships had reached 58 S. Four days later they crossed the 64th parallel, and in the evening were surrounded by fifty-nine great icebergs. Vincendon Dumoulin went aloft and reported what he thought was land straight ahead, but it was not until 21.1.40 that the ships entered a vast basin formed by snow-covered land on one side and floating ice on the other. To confirm that what they could see was land and not just an ice shelf, the French sailed west until bare rock became visible … The tricolor was raised over the islet and the coast christened terre Adélie after D’Urville’s wife Adéle. They cape they had first seen was named Cap de la Découverte, and the point where rock sample had been collected was Pointe Géologie.” (Howgego II, D35)

Between the attempts to reach the antarctic, Dumont explored the Pacific including the Marquesas, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Guam, Fiji, New Guinea, Borneo, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. For thirty-eight months he explored the south and western Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. Several seaweeds, plants, and shrubs are named after him, as well as D’Urville Island.

“The aims of this expedition were to explore the south polar regions and various island groups in the Pacific” (Hill). Sailing in company with the Zélée, “a converted store-ship on 300 tons” (Howgego), the Astrolabe reached the ice pack in January 1838 but failed to penetrate it. Returning eastward, they then visited the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands, and discovered Joinville Island and Louis Philippe Land. Proceeding from Valparaiso and Juan Fernández, the expedition landed at the Marquesas, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Guam, and Palau, afterwards coasting along New Guinea and circumnavigating Borneo. In 1840 they returned to the Antarctic via Tasmania, discovering Adélie Land. “An extensive visit was made to New Zealand. The return voyage took them through Torres Strait to Timor, La Réunion, and St. Helena” (Hill).

This official account contained a “wealth of information, so accurate, and so reliable that the charts compiled by the officers of the Astrolabe and the Zélée were still in use sixty years later” and the “the natural history collections, richer than any brought back by any other single expedition, included numerous mammals and marsupials, some proboscis monkeys, the Samoan flying fox, spiny anteaters, several kangaroos… three hundred different species of birds… 160 species of reptiles and four hundred of fish” (Brosse).

Dunmore considers Dumont d’Urville to have been without doubt “the man who made the greatest single contribution to the perfecting of the map of the Pacific… a methodical and conscientious sailor, austere and dedicated… admittedly vain and quick to take offence, but kind and with a talent verging on genius.” Dumont’s works are considiere “crown jewels ranking among the finest illustrated works from any voyage of exploration…” (Rosove 105)

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