Good Reading : August 2010
AUGUST 2010 ı goodreading 17 voyages of exploration.The expedition led by Louis de Freycinet, which was in Sydney in late 1819 on its three-year round-the-world voyage, lost many of its collections in a shipwreck in the Falkland Islands on the homeward passage. Nevertheless, there was a substantial haul of preserved specimens of '25 mammals, 313 birds, 45 reptiles, 164 fish, innumerable shells ... 1,300 insects, 4 of them species unknown to entomologists, and 3,000 botanical specimens' brought back for the museums in Paris. Freycinet's live animals did not fare so well; all disappeared or died en route. Macquarie's antipodean exotics did not adapt any more kindly to their sea voyage, also via Cape Horn, and his jour nal records one fatality after another until most of the creatures had died by the time they crossed the Pacific. 'Sunday 3 March! ... One of my poor Native Companions -- the largest of the two received from Mr Meehan - died this day as a consequence of having had his leg broken in his Cage' and so on throughout the voyage. The plants fared somewhat better. The Macquarie chest was almost certainly among the goods that sailed with the entourage, but in the absence of any detailed inventory or shipping lists, this cannot be proven absolutely. On reaching England, there are three possibilities for its next moves: it remained with the Macquaries and was shipped with the rest of their belongings to Mull, where it stayed until after the death of Lachlan junior; it was given soon after their arrival by Macquarie to James Drummond as a special token of his thanks and esteem; or it was given to Drummond by Elizabeth after Macquarie's death. No documentation has emerged from any archival sources to prove the chronology.Whether or not the Dixson chest had already been claimed by or given to another recipient connected to the Macquaries is even less easy to deduce. On 5 July 1822 the Surrey docked at Deptford near London, and her most important passengers came ashore on English soil for the first time since 1809. Rare and Curious: The Macquarie and Dixson Galleries Collectors' Chests by Elizabeth Ellis is published by Melbourne University Publishing, rrp $59.99.