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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.

Records Relating to Marion's Voyage

page 348

Records Relating to Marion's Voyage.

Marion du Fresne was born at Saint Malo in 1729. He entered the French Navy and became a Lieutenant on a frigate in 1745, and Captain of a fire-ship in 1766. His expedition to New Zealand was an interesting one. Bougainville had brought to France, in 1769, a native of Tahiti named Mayoa, who, after a short stay in Paris, was sent to the Isle of France with instructions to be sent home whenever that could be done. Marion, being a wealthy man and desirous of distinguishing himself in the world of travel, offered to carry the Tahitian home at his own expense. All he asked was for one of the King's store-ships to be attached to the Expedition, he (Marion) paying all expenses. This was agreed to, and the “Mascarin.” under Marion, and the “Marquis de Castries,” under Chevalier du Clesmeur, set out from the Isle of France.

At the Isle of Bourbon Mayoa was attacked with small-pox, and died while the expedition lay at Madagascar. Marion, however, decided to go on with the work of exploration, and, on the 3rd March, 1772, sighted Van Diemen's Land. There he remained until the 10th March, and then set sail for New Zealand. He was following up the route taken in 1642 by Tasman.

The records here published comprise a journal of the “Mascarin,” by Lieutenant Roux, of that vessel, and one of the “Marquis de Castries,” by Captain du Clesmeur, her commander, while on the New Zealand coast; both have been extracted from the records of the Hydrographical Service of the French Navy, in Paris, and certified as correct by the Keeper of the Records.

Cook was told at the Cape of Good Hope, in November, 1772, by the Governor, Baron Plattenberg, that Captain Marion had started, but that was all he knew of the expedition. On his return in March, 1775, the two captains (Cook and Crozet) met at the Cape, and the great English navigator was very favourably impressed with his French comrade. page 349 Crozet communicated to Cook a chart delineating his discoveries and those of Kerguelen; but Cook did not learn the details of the voyage until after the completion of his second voyage.

Marion's route was practically that of Tasman, 130 years before, but the Frenchman sighted New Zealand at Mount Egmont, which he named Mount Mascarin, after his vessel.

The story of the Expedition was given to the world in 1783 by the Abbé Alexis Rochon, and an English translation, by H. Ling Roth, was published in London in 1891. Rochon based his narrative on Crozet's Journal, which is not published here. Crozet took command of the “Mascarin” on the death of Marion. No journal of the expedition has ever before been published.

Mr. Charles Wilson, Chief Librarian of the General Assembly Library, Wellington, prepared the translation, and added some valuable notes.