FRENCH NAVIGATORS, I
Discoveries made by Bouvet de Lozier in the Southern Seas—Surville—The land of the Arsacides—Incident during the stay at Port Praslin—Arrival upon the coast of New Zealand—Death of Surville—Marion's discoveries in the Antarctic Ocean—He is murdered at New Zealand—Kerguelen in Iceland and the Antarctic regions—The contest between the watches—Fleurien and Verdun de la Crenne.
In the earlier half of the eighteenth century, a discovery had been made which was destined to exercise a favourable influence upon the progress of geographical science. Jean Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, a captain of one of the East India Company's ships, was so struck by the immensity of the space surrounding the Southern Pole, known to geographers as the Terra australis incognita, that he begged for the privilege of prosecuting discoveries in these unknown regions. His importunities were long disregarded, but at length, in 1738, the Company consented, in the hope of opening new facilities for trade.
Two small frigates, the Aigle and the Marie, fully equipped, left Brest upon the 19th of July, 1738, under command of Bouvet de Lozier. After a stay of a month at St. Catherine's Island, upon the coast of Brazil, they put to sea again upon the 13th of November, and steered for the south-east.
On the 26th, heavy fog set in, so that the vessels could only keep in company by constant firing, and were obliged to tack about continually, at the risk of running foul of each other. Upon the 5th of December, although it would have appeared impossible, the fog increased in density to such an extent that those on board the Aigle could hear the movement of the Marie, though they could not see her. The sea was covered with kelp, and sea-gulls, never found at a distance from land, were shortly afterwards seen.
"Upon the 15th of December," says M. Favre, in his Memoir the Bouvets, in 48° 50' S. lat. (Paris is in N. lat. 48° 50') and in 7° W. long. (the meridian of Teneriffe), an enormous iceberg was perceived towards five or six in the morning; shortly afterwards many others were seen, surrounded by ice-floes of various sizes.
The Marie, signalling danger, tacked about, but Bouvet, annoyed by this action, which was likely to affect the confidence of the crews, crowded sail on the Aigle, and, by passing the Marie, showed his determination to maintain his southern course. To reassure his men, he asserted that it was considered a lucky omen to meet with ice, as it was a certain indication of land at hand.
The course was continued to the south, and Bouvet's perseverance was soon rewarded by the appearance of land, to which he gave the name of Cape Circumcision. It was steep, covered with snow, and so shut in by large icebergs, that it was impossible to approach to within seven or eight leagues. It appeared to measure from four to five leagues from north to south.
"This land was supposed," says M. Favre, judging from Pietergos' charts, which were used by Bouvet, "to be situated in 54° S. lat. and 26° and 27° east of the meridian of Teneriffe, or between 5° 30' and 6° 3' east of that of Paris."
Bouvet would much have liked to make closer acquaintance with this region, but the fogs and contrary winds prevented his reaching it, and he was obliged to satisfy himself with observing it from a distance.
"Upon the 3rd of January, 1739," says Bouvet, in his report to the Company, "we made up for what we had lost during the preceding days, and about four in the afternoon, the fog clearing somewhat, we distinctly saw land. The coast, broken throughout its entire length, formed several bays. The summits of the mountains were covered with snow; the sides appeared wooded."
After several fruitless attempts to near the coast, Bouvet was forced to relinquish the idea. His sailors were worn out with fatigue, discouraged, and enfeebled by scurvy. The Marie was sent to the Isle of France, and the Aigle directed her course to the Cape of Good Hope, which she reached upon the 28th of February.