Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands.

To coin a phrase, this could be called a French semi-circumnavigation, from France and back via the Cape of Good Hope. Originally commanded by Nicolas Baudin who died during the expedition, he was replaced by Louis de Freycinet. Curiously Baudin is never mentioned by name in the book (illustrating Péron’s contempt) and his role was widely regarded by the men as a negative one. These volumes are less an official record of the voyage than Péron’s personal account of his naturalist studies framed by the places which they visited.

The ships Géographe and Naturaliste left Le Havre on Oct. 19, 1800 and returned on 1803. Although signed on as a zoologist, Péron took on studies in a number of fields of natural history including the temperature of the sea at various depths, the salinity of the sea, and the nature of phosphorescence. He backs up his studies with citations to his sources, though seldom indicating his use of the books during the voyage.

Volume I :

p. 7: Nothing had been neglected in order for the provisioning to be plentiful and of good quality…. [including] a well-stocked library, consisting of the best works on sailing, astronomy, geography, natural history and travels, had been created for each ship.

p. 13-14, from the outset Péron is sensitive to the literature related to places visited on the voyage such as famous classical authors from Horace to Tasso who had described the Canary Islands in idealistic ways, as well as more modern works that were more realistic about the islands (see Appendix C, p. 21).

Volume II continues the natural history account of the Nicolas Baudin’s voyage to New Holland and the South Seas, with a second introduction by Anthony Brown which neatly summarizes the return journey. It includes a final visit to Cape Town and a fascinating description of Hottentot steatapidgia.