'Some of the inhabitants of Waigooe came to offer us fish, enormous lizards ...'. Described by voyage artist Arago, this picture captures the bustling trading activities which took place at Rawak during the URANIE's brief visit. Shown in the small outrigger in the right foreground a lizard is transported to the URANIE clinging to a branch.
SignificanceThis image from the URANIE expedition commanded by Louis de Freycinet between 1817 and 1820 highlights continuing French interest in the Pacific following the Bourbon restoration.
HistoryThe French expedition vessel URANIE was commanded by Captain Louis de Freycinet. Louis de Freycinet was a French naval officer who had participated in the Baudin expedition (1800 - 1804). As one of the crew of LE NATURALISTE, he was held in high regard by Captain Baudin and eventually entrusted with the command of one of the expedition's auxiliary vessels - the CASUARINA, a 20 ton schooner purchased in Port Jackson - in which de Freycinet was tasked to carry out independent surveys of parts of the southern and western Australian coast during 1803.
As a result of Baudin's death in 1803, the task of writing the expedition report fell to scientist Francois Peron. When Peron died in 1810, Louis de Freycinet completed the voyage account and charts. On the strength of this work, de Freycinet was promoted to the rank of ''Capitaine de vaisseau'' and given command of a new expedition.
De Freycinet sailed from Toulon in September 1817 in command of the URANIE and subsequently spent three years at sea. His expedition explored parts of South America and Australia as well as many islands in the East Indies and Pacific Ocean. In 1819 the URANIE left Sydney to sail home via Cape Horn but was subsequently wrecked in the Falkland Islands in February 1820. After a few months, de Freycinet bought another ship which he renamed the PHYSICIENNE, and finally reached Le Havre in November 1820.
The principal object of Louis de Freycinet's expedition was scientific: he was charged to investigate 'the figure of the earth', 'elements of terrestrial magnetism' and 'questions of meterology', and his officers were also expected to make valuable additions to the existing tables of latitude and longitude, and to collect specimens for museums. Jacques Arago, the government draughtsman attached to the expedition, was charged with 'a faithful representation of all such specimens as their weight or liability to break would not allow them to bring away; and that he should take accurate views of the different coasts, which, besides the useful information they would furnish to navigators, would have the advantage of occasionally offering agreeable landscapes' and 'finally, it was to be expected that captain de Freycinet and his companions would add new particulars to the history of savage nations.' (Report to the Academy of Sciences, 1821).
Louis de Freycinet had intended to sail to the Cape of Good Hope from France, via Tenerife, but winds drove him west to Brazil. He sighted the coast on 4 December 1817 and entered the harbour of Rio de Janeiro two days later, staying until the end of January 1818. Freycinet and his wife visited the French painter Nicolas Antoine Taunay, who had come to Brazil in 1816 as part of the French artistic mission invited by the king to found an academy of fine arts in Rio de Janeiro. Taunay's fifteen year old son and pupil Adrien Aimé, joined the URANIE at Rio as second draughtsman to the voyage.
A selection of Arago's drawings as well as works by J.Alphonse Pellion and August Berard midshipmen on the URANIE, and Adrien Aimé Taunay, were published in 1825 in the Atlas Historique which accompanied Louis de Freycinet's official account of the voyage. Arago had previously published a group of his own drawings in his Narrative of a Voyage Round the World (London, 1823). In his account Arago described the the bay at Rawak where the URANIE anchored. "On coming in, the prospect is magnificent. The road is a regular circus. Superb cocoa trees skirt the shore where the houses are situated: the high and woody mountains of Waigooe exhibit in front their varied tints; while nearer at hand very extensive breakers cover the landscape with a humid atmosphere. The scene is well worthy of the pencil of an able painter.
We had scarcely arrived when we began to barter with the savages. Some of the inhabitants of Waigooe came to offer us fish, enormous lizards, some poultry, and birds of paradise stuffed with wonderful skill. We gave them handkerchiefs, knives, mirrors, glass beads, and a few hatchjets, of which they were very desirous.". [Letter LXXII, p. 230]
Assigned title: Iles de Papous mouillage de l' uranie sur l' ile Rawak (Anchourage of the URANIE in Rawak), work associated with the voyage of the URANIE
Primary title: Iles de Papous mouillage de l' uranie sur l' ile Rawak