Early New Zealand Botanical Art
Two ships, the Erebus and Terror, strengthened to withstand polar ice, had already taken part in previous Arctic expeditions with Ross. Each vessel had a crew of sixty-four. One of the main objects of the Antarctic expedition was to determine the South Magnetic Pole, the exact position of which was a matter of controversy at the time. Previously Captain Ross had discovered the North Magnetic Pole, and the variations between true and magnetic south were of great importance to navigators. The British Government provided £100,000 for the expedition, a very large sum then. Joseph was appointed "Assistant Surgeon and Naturalist" to the Erebus. He later wrote:
When still a child, I was very fond of Voyages and Travels; and my great delight was to sit on my grandfather's knee and look at the pictures in Cook's 'Voyages'. The one that took my fancy most was the Plate of Christmas Harbour, Kerguelen Land, with the arched rock standing out to sea, and the sailors killing penguins; and I thought I should be the happiest boy alive if ever I would see that wonderful arched rock, and knock penguins on the head. By a singular coincidence, Christmas Harbour, Kerguelen Land, was one of the very first places of interest visited by me, in the Antarctic Expedition under Sir James Ross.
The expedition lasted four years. The Erebus and Terror left England on 25 September 1839 and returned on 7 September 1843. It can be divided in three phases.