The First Voyage of The Astrolabe
Two months after Dumont returned on the Coquille, he presented to the Navy Ministry a plan for a new expedition, which he hoped to command, as his relationship with Duperrey had deteriorated. The proposal was accepted and the Coquille, renamed the Astrolabe in honour of the ship of La Pérouse, sailed from Toulon at Apri, 22 of 1826 towards the Pacific Ocean, for a circumnavigation of the world that was destined to last nearly three years.
The new Astrolabe skirted the coast of southern Australia, carried out new relief maps of the South Island of New Zealand, reached the archipelagos of Tonga and Fiji, executed the first relief maps of the Loyalty Islands (part of French New Caledonia) and explored the coasts of New Guinea. He identified the site of La Pérouse’s shipwreck in Vanikoro (one of the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the archipelago of the Solomon Islands) and collected numerous remains of his boats. The voyage continued with the mapping of part of the Caroline Islands and the Moluccas. The Astrolabe returned to Marseille during 25, March of 1829 with an impressive load of hydrographical papers and collections of zoological, botanical and mineralogical reports, which were destined to strongly influence the scientific analysis of those regions. Following this expedition, he invented the terms Malaisia, Micronesia and Melanesia, distinguishing these Pacific cultures and island groups from Polynesia.
Dumont's health was by now weakened by years of a poor diet. He suffered from kidney and stomach problems and from intense attacks of gout. During the first thirteen years of their marriage, half of which passed far apart, Adéle and Jules had two sons. The first one died at a young age while his father was to board the Coquille and the second, also called Jules, on the return of his father after four years away.
Dumont d’Urville passed a short period with his family before returning to Paris, where he was promoted to captain and he was put in charge of writing the report of his travels. The five volumes were published at the expense of the French government between 1832 and 1834. During these years d’Urville, who was already a poor diplomat, became more irascible and rancorous as a result of his gout, and lost the sympathy of the naval leadership. In his report, he criticised harshly the military structures, his colleagues, the French Academy of Sciences and even the King - none of which, in his opinion, had given the voyage of the Astrolabe due acknowledgment.
In 1835, Dumont was directed to return to Toulon to engage in “down to earth” work and spent two years, marked by mournful events (notably the loss of a daughter from cholera) and happy events (notably the birth of another son, Émile) but with the constant and nearly obsessive thought of a third expedition to the Pacific, analogous to James Cook's third voyage. He looked again at the Astrolabe’s travel notes, and found a gap in the exploration of Oceania and, in January 1837, he wrote to the Navy Ministry suggesting the opportunity for a new expedition to the Pacific.
Read more about this topic: Jules Dumont D'Urville
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