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Cook’s Map of the Southern Hemisphere, Highlighting Historic Exploration toward Antarctica--French Edition

French edition of Cook’s highly-detailed, large-format map of the Southern Hemisphere, showing the tracks of major voyages of exploration in the Southern Hemisphere from 1595 to 1775.

The map was prepared to illustrate a French collection of voyage accounts, which included Cook’s recent second voyage. On that voyage, Cook and his crew crossed the Antarctic Circle three times, the farthest south of any ship to that time. His goal was to prove, or rather dis-prove, the existence of a vast southern continent.

The polar projection radiates around the South Pole, which does not feature a land mass at its center. It does, however, feature numerous notes about mountains and islands of ice.

The first sighting of the Antarctic mainland would come only in 1820, with no confirmation of the extent of the continent until the later nineteenth century. Cook, however, was able to circumnavigate the continent and prove that it was not the massive supercontinent long believed to be in the south of the world.

The map includes the coastlines of New Holland (Australia), New Zealand, parts of Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. Surrounding the circular projection are tables of latitude and longitude of southern Pacific islands, most of which were discovered on Cook's first (1768-1771) or second voyage (1772-1775).

The primary feature of the map is the remarkably detailed depiction of the most noteworthy voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, including:

  • Mendaña (1595). Alvaro de Mendaña led a Spanish expedition to the Solomon Islands in 1567-9, but his crew forced his return to Peru. Another attempt was made from 1595-6 to return to the Solomons, but they had not been charted accurately. Mendaña died on Santa Cruz, leaving his wife in charge of the settlement they had started. She decided to return to Spanish dominions and they arrived in the Philippines in early 1596.
  • Quiros (1606). Pedro Fernandez de Quiros accompanied Mendaña on his second voyage and was a skilled pilot. After returning to Spain, he convinced authorities that he could find Terra Australis, the southern continent, if they gave him ships and supplies. He set out in 1605 and eventually landed in Vanuatu. He mistook one of the islands for the fabled continent and called is Austrialia de Espiritu Santo. Quiros intended to set up a colony, but his crew forced him to leave. Quiros returned to Mexico, but his second-in-command sailed west, through the strait now bearing his name. Due to state secrecy, however, the strait remained a secret until the 1760s.
  • Le Maire and Schouten (1616). Isaac Le Maire and Willem Schouten led a circumnavigation that intended to break the monopoly over navigation via the Straits of Magellan held by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). They skirted the coast of Tierra del Fuego and found a strait between that network of islands and Staten Land, an island. This new way into the Pacific Ocean was lauded as a major coup for exploration and gained the voyage enduring fame.
  • Tasman (1642). Abel Tasman was another Dutch explorer who was sent to see if there were possibilities of wealth and riches in the southwestern Pacific beyond Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He was the first European to encounter New Zealand.
  • Halley (1700). Edmund Halley was an astronomer. The British Admiralty granted him command of a ship for three expeditions to measure magnetic variation, two to the South Atlantic in the late 1690s and one to the English Channel. He not only made scientific breakthroughs, but was also the first to extensively sail in the southern Atlantic, seeing mountains of ice, i.e. icebergs, en route.
  • Bouvet (1738-39). Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier was also sent to search for the southern continent, this time by the French East India Company. He crisscrossed the South Atlantic and found a small island, which is named for him, but he mislabeled the coordinates and therefore the island had to be rediscovered in 1808.
  • Byron (1765). John Byron was the first of three circumnavigations organized by the British Admiralty in the 1760s. Byron was supposed to scout for a location for a British station off the coast of South America and then cross into the Pacific to find the southern continent. He did claim the Falklands for Britain, but did little exploring in the South Seas. Instead, Byron made a hasty crossing of the ocean and returned to Britain less than two years after he left, a record for a voyage round the world.
  • Wallis (1767). Wallis led the next British naval voyage to the Pacific, departing in 1766. He was again to search for the unknown southern continent. Instead, Wallis landed at Tahiti and he brought back news of the idyllic island just in time for it to become the destination of James Cook on his first expedition to view the Transit of Venus.
  • Carteret (1767). Philip Carteret sailed with Byron around the world and was immediately charged with accompanying Wallis upon his return. Carteret's ship, Swallow, had many difficulties and was unable to keep company with Wallis' Dolphin. Instead, Carteret circumnavigated on his own and made considerable discoveries in the South Pacific, as he crossed farther south than most ships did at that time. He discovered Pitcairn Island, the Carteret Islands, and several others, including the re-discovery of the Solomons.
  • Bougainville (1768). Louis Antoine de Bougainville was the first Frenchman to lead a circumnavigation, the fourteenth circumnavigation overall. Bougainville had earlier clashed with the British and Spanish over claims to the Falklands Islands. In 1766, he set off on a Pacific voyage, landing at Tahiti less than a year after Wallis did. He returned to France in 1769 with Ahutoru, a Tahitian man.
  • Surville (1769). Jean-Francois-Marie de Surville was a merchant captain who worked for the French East India Company, like Bouvet. He left from India in 1769 to seek commercial opportunities in the areas explored by Wallis and Bougainville. He sailed to New Zealand, where he passed Cook, then on his first voyage, without realizing it. He crossed to Chile, where he drowned attempting to get help for his crew in a small boat. The Spanish impounded his ships and crew for two years.
  • Cook and Furneaux (1772-5). The voyage shown here is Cook's second, which was designed expressly to discover or disprove the existence of the southern continent. He set off in 1772 in the Resolution, with Tobias Furneaux, who had sailed with Wallis and was the first European on Tahiti, in the Adventure. The ships were separated in the southern Indian Ocean, leading Furneaux to sail south along the coast of Australia to Van Diemen's Land. They reunited in New Zealand after Cook had already started sweeps of the far Southern Ocean. He and his crew crossed the Antarctic Circle three times, the first to do so. The sweeps proved there was no mega-continent lurking in the south. They sailed home via Chile and arrived in July 1775.

The map chronicles the success of exploration in recent centuries. The English version of the map featured as the first plate in the official account of the second voyage, which Cook wrote himself with help from Dr. John Douglas, Canon of Windsor and St. Paul's.

This French edition was in volume one of Abrege de l'Histoire Generale des Voyages, engraved by Bernard Direxit. It was the first time a large French reading public could see the extent of the southern voyages and is therefore important to the history of Antarctic and Pacific exploration.