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Torres Strait Expedition Volume 1

Date: 16 July 1860 to 17 September 1860
Overall: 208 x 162 mm, 3 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Joanne Dyer
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Journal
Object No: 00018952
Related Place:Bathurst Island, Erromango, Melville, Cape, Barrow Island, Lizard Island, Torres Strait,

User Terms

    A handwritten journal attributed to the naturalist John MacGillivray titled 'Torres Strait Expedition' (volume one of five volumes).
    The journal covers the period from 16 July 1860 to 17 September 1860 aboard the JULIA PERCY and details the author's collecting expedition in northern Queensland. It contains descriptions of the author's observations about bird, fish and mammal life throughout the various islands as well as interactions with indigenous communities such as through trade.
    HistoryJohn MacGillivray was a Scottish naturalist who had first come to Australia in 1842 aboard HMS FLY as part of the expedition to survey the northern Australian coast and New Guinea, including the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. On his return to England in 1846 MacGillivray was not there long before he took part in another expedition to the same region later that year aboard the HMS RATTLESNAKE. Captained by Owen Stanley, and including a young Thomas Huxley, the expedition was set to survey the Great Barrier Reef and parts of New Guinea. On his return to England in 1850 MacGillivray was responsible for writing 'The Narrative of the Voyage of HMS RATTLESNAKE' as Captain Stanley had died in Sydney.
    It is clear MacGillivray was suited to, or preferred, a life at sea as it was not long, 1852, that he set sail again. This time for an expedition to South America and the South Pacific aboard HMS HERALD. Perhaps it was actually Australia that was his true destination as he ended up settling in Sydney and later Grafton, New South Wales.
    It was while he was living in Sydney that he took the position aboard the expedition of the JULIA PERCY to Torres Strait, organised and funded by businessmen Robert Towns and James Paddon. MacGillivray was a clear choice, having already spent two expeditions in the region and he knew the conditions there well.
    It is likely that MacGillivray had met Paddon during his time aboard HMS HERALD. In an inquiry held into the handling of the HERALD expedition, Captain Denham mentions that without the assistant of 'Mr Paddon, a merchant at Tana' who provided supplies, the expedition would have floundered.
    Why Paddon and Towns funded the expedition in 1860 to Torres Strait seems to have been in search of a possible business in harvesting beche-de-mer (sea cucumber). Originally sandalwood merchants in the New Caledonia region, they had found supplies, competition and French administration increasingly difficult to contend with. Bech-de-mer in the relatively open market of the Torres Strait was a possible and appealing alternative.

    beche-de-mer (sea cucumber)
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Torres Strait Expedition Volume 1

    Collection title: John MacGillivray journal collection

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