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

To New Zealand

To New Zealand

Other scientists on the Resolution were William Wales, astronomer, who became one of J. R. Forster's greatest critics, and his assistant, George Gilpin. Another astronomer, William Bayly, was on the Adventure. William Anderson, surgeon's mate on the Resolution, was a keen naturalist who served as chief surgeon and naturalist on Cook's third voyage. This voyage will not be dealt with here, for the time spent in New Zealand was brief, collections made were small and, it seems, no detailed illustrations were made of any plants.

The first leg of the voyage was to Cape Town, with stops at Madeira — for provisions, including "a large supply of wine" — and the Cape Verde Islands. The Resolution and Adventure remained at Cape Town for three weeks. The Forsters lived ashore and their "whole time was taken up in the pursuits of Natural history" (Cook's Journal). J. R. Forster soon realised that if the huge flora and fauna of the Cape region was any indication, he' and George would be hard put to cope with describing the plants and animals they would encounter on the rest of the voyage. Fortunately, Anders Sparrman (1748-1820), a young Swedish naturalist who had studied under Linnaeus at the University of Uppsala, had recently arrived in Cape Town. The Swedish Government had sent him there, at the request of Linnaeus, to undertake botanical exploration.

It was soon obvious to the Forsters that this friendly, quiet, somewhat naive man was an excellent botanist. Johann therefore offered him the position of scientific assistant, at a salary of £50 a year, plus expenses. Sparrman thought about it overnight and accepted the next morning. Forster then had, not without effort, to persuade James Cook to grant Sparrman a passage. He was uncomfortably accommodated in the steerage, with the Forsters' large collection of books. Anders Sparrman proved a valuable assistant, who remained in friendly contact with the Forsters throughout their lives. He was not, as has sometimes been stated, hired to make up for the Forsters' botanical deficiencies.

The ships left Cape Town on 22 November 1772 and headed south, spending four months in Antarctic waters. They made the first known voyage beyond the Antarctic Circle, searching for southern landmasses. It was a nightmarish journey at times, with damp, cold cabins and fogs, gales, pack-ice and icebergs to contend with. In early February the two ships were separated during a gale and did not meet again until an agreed rendezvous in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand.