ASTROLABE: Botanicals, Trichilia Monophylla, Flora de la Nouvelle Zelande, TASTU, J, Paris, 1826-1829 Copperplate Engraving, NZ

ASTROLABE: Botanicals, Trichilia Monophylla, Flora de la Nouvelle Zelande, TASTU, J, Paris, 1826-1829 Copperplate Engraving, NZ

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The Voyage of the Astrolabe 1837 - 1840

The voyage of the Astrolabe was, arguably, France’s last and greatest scientific voyage of discovery by sail. Under the skilful leadership of Captain Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville, the Astrolabe and the Zélée would discover and claim Adélie land in Antarctica, amass a vast collection of botanical and zoological specimens, and advise the French government against attempting to create a colony at Akaroa in New Zealand.

Captain Dumont d'Urville was born in Normandy, France on 23 May 1790.  He made his first voyage to the Pacific as second-in-command to Duperrey in the Coquille in 1822-25, and returned in command of the Astrolabe (the Coquille renamed) in 1826-29. One of his intentions on this second voyage was to complete Cook’s chart of New Zealand. In doing so he skilfully navigated through French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds and established the existence of D’Urville Island which was named after him. His third and final voyage to the Pacific was with two ships, the Astrolabe and the Zélée, from 1837 to 1840. Charles Jacquinot captained the Zélée. Dumont d’Urville was promoted to rear-admiral on his return from this dangerous, heroic voyage of exploration.

Tragically, Dumont d’Urville had written only three volumes of the official account of the voyage and begun the fourth when he, his wife and son, were killed in a railway accident at Bellevue on 8 May 1842. The remaining volumes of Voyage au Pôle Sud et dans l’Oceanie (Voyage to the South Pole and Oceania) were completed by other members of the expedition. The Macmillan Brown Library is privileged to hold the entire set, in total 23 volumes and 7 atlases, written in French.  Some of the major events of this journey included: