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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Camille De Roquefeuil

Camille De Roquefeuil

1816 to 1819

The first French expedition which passed through Polynesia in the nineteenth century was evidently that commanded by Camille de Roquefeuil. Like that of Marchand, it was a commercial enterprise to obtain skins on the northwest American coast to trade in China for Chinese goods for sale in France. The ship Bordelais of 200 tons was bought, equipped, and stocked with French merchandise by M. Balguerie, Jun., a merchant of Bordeaux, and placed under the command of Roquefeuil.

The Bordelais put to sea from Bordeaux on October 19, 1816. Roquefeuil sailed through the Strait of Le Maire in January 1817 and, after touching at Valparaiso, Callao, and California, reached Nootka Sound in September. Skins were scarce and the French goods proved unsuitable for local trade. The Bordelais sailed south for the winter; but finding provisions difficult to obtain in page 81California, Roquefeuil sailed for the Marquesas, which he reached in December 1817. He remained in the Marquesas until February 28, 1818, where a fair amount of sandalwood was bought, with whale's teeth among the articles of exchange used by the French.

The ship returned to New Archangel and Kodiak, and assistance was given by Hagenmeister in procuring local Indians to hunt for furs. The sea otter fishery proved a failure, and Roquefeuil sailed south to San Francisco, where he met the Russian explorer, Golovnin, on the Kamchatka. Roquefeuil then sailed for the Hawaiian Islands and arrived off Hawaii on January 9, 1819. After a fortnight in which some sandalwood was obtained, Roquefeuil sailed for Macao, where he found that the Chinese trade in furs had deteriorated because the market was glutted by American enterprise. The voyage home was made by the Cape of Good Hope, and the Bordelais entered the Gironde on November 21, 1819.