Title: Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Author: F. Bruce Sampson

Publication details: Reed Methuen, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: F. Bruce Sampson

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Early New Zealand Botanical Art


After the success of the first voyage, Cook's proposal for a second expedition had the support of the King and the Admiralty. Although the first voyage had shown it was unlikely that a great southern continent (Terra australis incognita) existed, there were uncharted seas in high southern latitudes to be explored before its existence could be completely disproved. There were also further discoveries to be made in the central Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans. The Lords of the Admiralty readily accepted James Cook's plan for a circumnavigation of the globe from west to east at high southern latitudes, using Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand, as an advance base. Two Whitby colliers, from the same shipyard as the Endeavour, were chosen and renamed Resolution (462 tons) and Adventure (340 tons). Cook, promoted to commander, was to lead the voyage on the Resolution, and Tobias Furneaux (1735-81), who had served with Captain Samuel Willis on his 1766-8 circumnavigation, was made commander of the Adventure.

The second voyage began on 13 July 1772 from Plymouth Sound, exactly a year after the Endeavour reached the Thames at the end of the first voyage. In the intervening year Joseph Banks, enjoying being famous, had made plans to take part in the second voyage, along with a retinue of fifteen scientists, artists, secretaries and servants. To accommodate them all, he asked the Admiralty to provide extra space on. the Resolution, with the result that the great cabin was raised in height and a superstructure, complete with roundhouse, was erected on deck. This made the collier so top heavy and unseaworthy that the Resolution had to be restored to her original state. Banks was furious and, according to a midshipman, John Elliot, he "swore and stamp'd upon the Warfe, like a Mad Man" and withdrew with his entourage from the voyage. Instead, he chartered a 190-ton brig and with his party, including Solander, set forth on an expedition to Iceland.

At short notice a 42-year-old German, Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-98), was approached on behalf of the Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, and readily accepted the post of naturalist on the voyage. His condition that his seventeen-year-old eldest son, Johann George Adam, commonly known as George (1754-94), accompany him as assistant naturalist and draughtsman was met, and the generous sum of £4,000 was page 34 granted. Johann Forster had, in fact, previously let Banks know he was keen to accompany him on the voyage, at a time when the latter was inundated with such requests.

It is only in recent years that the contribution the Forsters made to knowledge through their participation in the second voyage has been generally recognised and appreciated. Johann Forster was an outstanding scholar, prodigiously well read, courageous and of strong physique, but a man who was his own worst enemy — suspicious, stubborn, difficult, tactless and quarrelsome, frequently in debt and forever borrowing money from friends and being sought by bailiffs. This chapter can do little justice to such a complex pair as Johann and George Forster, and I would draw the reader's attention to Dr Michael Hoare's brilliant biography, The Tactless Philosopher: Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-98) (1975) and to The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster 1772-75, edited by Hoare (1982). This journal, hitherto unpublished, gives considerable insight into the Forsters and their work on the voyage. Most of the first volume is devoted to a very valuable introduction by Dr Hoare, and the following summary of the Forsters' lives draws heavily on Dr Hoare's writings.