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Fish from Honden Island

Date: 1839
Overall: 183 x 275 mm
Medium: Watercolour on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Watercolour
Object No: 00047873
Place Manufactured:Cook Islands
Related Place:Puka-Puka,

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    An ink and watercolour painting of a speckled fish by J.Drayon. The study was part of the the US Exploring Expedition at Honden Island in August 1839.
    SignificanceThis painting is highly finished with exquisite detail and inscribed with descriptive notes in pencil. The volume on Ichthyology was never funded by the United States Congresss due to the looming Civil War. In addition the manuscript for the publication has been lost; thus these images have never been published.
    HistoryThe US Exploring Expedition was the first government funded scientific hydrographic survey undertaken by the United States. The four-year voyage from 1838-1842 was lead by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes and comprised a naval squadron of six vessel. The flagship of the fleet was the sloop of war USS VINCENNES.

    According to Vol. I of Wilkes' "Narrative," the four-vessel squadron (PEACOCK, VINCENNES, FLYING FISH and PORPISE) made Honden Island in the Paumotu Group on August 19, 1839. They found it uninhabited but rich in wildlife. "Sharks... were so ravenous they bit at the oars... The number of birds on the island was incredible... The various snakes, the many-coloured fish, the great eels, enormous and voracious sharks, shells, large molluscs, spiders... all gave a novelty to the scene, that highly interested and delighted us. In the afternoon we returned on board, loaded with specimens." - p. 318. Presumably, these paintings were done from those specimens, for eventual inclusion in the reports that would comprise the planned twenty-four volumes of scientific results of the U.S. Exploring Expedition.

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