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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Etienne Marchand

Etienne Marchand

1790 to 1792

Marchand's voyage was a commercial venture financed by a business firm. Captain Etienne Marchand, on his return from Bengal in 1788, met Captain Portlock of the King George at St. Helena and learned from him of the profits to be made in the fur trade with the northwest coast of America. On his arrival at Marseilles, he communicated his information to the business house of Baux. The firm fitted out a copper-sheathed ship, the Solide; found all material and trade merchandise; and placed it under the command of Marchand. The ship was ready in June 1790, but trouble between England and Spain over Nootka Sound delayed the voyage until December. Marchand had with him two other captains, Pierre Masse and Prosper Chanal; the surgeon, Roblet; and fifty other persons.

The Solide sailed from Marseilles on December 14, 1790. She sighted Staten Land on April 1, 1791, rounded Cape Horn to the south, and steered page 56for Mendoza's Marquesas, which she sighted on June 12. She also sighted Magdalena (Fatuhiva), San Pedro (Motane), Santa Christina (Tahuata), and Dominica (Hivaoa), discovered by Mendaña in 1595; and Hoods Island (Fatuhuku), discovered by Cook in 1774. While the ship was anchored in Madre de Dios Bay in Dominica, a shadow was noticed on the northwestern horizon which suggested land. Hence on June 20 Marchand sailed to investigate. The next morning, a high island was discovered which he named Ile Marchand (Uapou), and a small island off its eastern extremity was named Ile Plate. During exploration of the coast of Uapou on June 22, a second island was seen, about nine leagues away. Marchand took possession of the first island and sailed for the second, which he named Ile Baux (Nukuhiva), after the Solide's owners. Some small islands to the west were named Les Deux Frères (Motuiti). Sailing north-northwest, Marchand discovered two more islands and named them after his two captains, Masses Island (Eiao) and Chanal Island (Hatutu).

Marchand sailed on to the northwest coast of America, where he obtained furs, and then sailed south to the Sandwich Islands, sighting Hawaii on October 4. He left the Sandwich Islands on October 7 and reached Tinian in the Marianas on November 4, Macao on November 27. He sailed for the Ile de France on December 6, and anchored there on January 30, 1792. He left there on April 18 and anchored at Toulon on August 14, 1792.