FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I
The journey of Freycinet—Rio de Janeiro and its gipsy inhabitants—The Cape and its wines—The Bay of Sharks—Stay at Timor—Ombay Island and its cannibal inhabitants—The Papuan Islands—The pile dwellings of the Alfoers—A dinner with the Governor of Guam—Description of the Marianne Islands and their inhabitants—Particulars concerning the Sandwich Islands—Port Jackson and New South Wales—Shipwreck in Berkeley Sound—The Falkland Islands—Return to France—The voyage of the Coquille under the command of Duperrey—Martin-Vaz and Trinidad—The Island of St. Catharine—The independence of Brazil—Berkeley Sound and the remains of the Uranie—Stay at Conception—The civil war in Chili—The Araucanians—Discoveries in the Dangerous Archipelago—Stay at Otaheite and New Ireland—The Papuans—Stay at Ualan—The Caroline Islands and their inhabitants—Scientific results of the expeditions.
The expedition under the command of Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet was the result of the leisure which the Peace of 1815 brought to the French navy. The idea was started by one of its most adventurous officers, the same who had accompanied Baudin in his survey of the Australian coasts, and to him was entrusted the task of carrying it out. It was the first voyage which had not hydrography alone for its object. Its chief aim was to survey the shape of the land in the southern hemisphere, and to make observations in terrestrial magnetism, without, at the same time, omitting to give attention to all natural phenomena, and to the manners, customs, and languages of indigenous races. Purely geographical inquiries, though not altogether omitted from the programme, had the least prominent place in it.
Among the medical officers of the navy, Freycinet found MM. Quoy, Gaimard, and Gaudichaud, whose attainments in natural history qualified them for being valuable coadjutors; and he also chose to accompany him several distinguished officers who had risen to high rank in the navy, the best known being Duperrey, Lamarche, Berard, and Odet-Pellion, who subsequently became, one a member of the Institute, the others superior officers or admirals.
No less care was exercised by Freycinet in composing his crew chiefly of sailors who were also skilled in some trade; so that out of the 120 men who manned the corvette Uranie, no less than fifty could serve on occasion as carpenters, ropemakers, sailmakers, blacksmiths, or other mechanics.
The Uranie, amply supplied with stores for two years, and provided with all sorts of apparatus of proved utility, iron cisterns for fresh water, machines for distilling salt water, preserved provisions, remedies for scurvy, &c. At last, on the 17th of September, 1817, she set sail from Toulon. On board, disguised as a sailor, was the commander's wife, who was not to be deterred from joining her husband by the dangers and hardships of so protracted a voyage.
Together with all these provisions for bodily comfort, Freycinet took with him a stock of the best scientific instruments, together with minute instructions from the Institute intended to direct his researches, and to suggest the experiments best adapted to promote the progress of science.
The Uranie reached Rio de Janeiro on the 6th of December, having put in at Gibraltar, and made a short stay at Teneriffe, one of the Canaries, which, as Freycinet wittily observes, were not Fortunate Islands for his crew, all communication with the land being forbidden by the governors.
During their stay at Rio de Janeiro the officers took a great many magnetical observations and made experiments with the pendulum, whilst the naturalists scoured the country for new specimens and curiosities, making large and important collections.
The original records of the voyage contain a long narrative of the discovery and colonization of Brazil, and detailed information on the customs and manners of the people, on the temperature and the climate, as well as a minute description of the principal buildings and the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro itself. The most curious part of this account is that which touches upon the gipsies, who, at that time, were to be met with at Rio de Janeiro.
"Worthy descendants of the Pariahs of India, whence these gipsies without doubt originally came," says Freycinet, "they are noted like their ancestors for every vicious practice and criminal propensity. Most of them, possessing immense wealth, make a great display in dress and in horses, especially at their weddings, which are celebrated with much expense; and they find their chief pleasure either in riotous debauchery or in sheer idleness. Knaves and liars, they cheat as much as they can in trade, and are also clever smugglers. Here, as elsewhere, these detestable people intermarry only among their own race. They speak a jargon of their own with a peculiar accent. The government most unaccountably tolerates the nuisance of their presence, and goes so far as to appropriate to their exclusive use two streets in the neighbourhood of the Campo de Santa Anna."
A little further on the traveller remarks,—