1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Arc of Meridian Measured. Buccaneers. Polynesian Exploration.

(Part 35)

Arc of Meridian Measured. Buccaneers. Polynesian Exploration.

In South America scientific exploration was busily at work during this period. The great event of the century, as regards that continent, was the measurement of an arc of the meridian. The undertaking was proposed by the French Academy, and a commission left Paris in 1735, consisting of La Condamine, Bouguer, and Godin. Spain appointed two accomplished naval officers, are brothers Ulloa, as coadjutors. The operations were carried on during eight years on a plain to the south of Quito; and, in addition to his memoir on this memorable and most important measurement, La Condamine collected much valuable geographical information during a voyage down the Amazon. The arc measured was 3º7´3" in length; and the work consisted of two measured bases connected by a series of triangles, one north and the other south of the equator, on the meridian of Quito. Contemporaneously, in 1738, M. Maupertius of St Malo measured an arc of the meridian in Lapland. Another result of this expedition as the publication of a valuable work by the brothers Ulloa.

The English and French Governments despatched several expeditions of discovery into the Pacific into the Pacific and round the world during the 18th century. They were preceded by those wonderful and romantic voyages of the buccaneers, of such men as Woodes Rogers, Davis, Shelvocke, Clapperton, and Dampier, which can never fail to interest, while they are not without geographical value. The works of Dampier are especially valuable, and the narratives of William Funnel and Lionel Wafer furnished the best accounts then extant of the isthmus of Darien. Dampier’s literary ability eventually secured for him a commission in the king’s service; and he was sent on a voyage of discovery, during which he explored part of the coasts of Australia and New Guinea, and discovered the strait which bears his name between New Guinea and New Britain, returning in 1701. In 1721 Jacob Roggewein was dispatched on a voyage of some importance across the Pacific by the Dutch West India Company, during which he discovered Easter Island on April 6, 1722.

The voyage of Lord Anson to the Pacific in 1740-44 was of a predatory character, and he lost more than half his men form scurvy; while it is not pleasant to reflect that at the very time when the French and Spaniards were measuring an arc of the meridian at Quito, the English under Anson were pillaging along the coast of the Pacific, and burning the town of Payta. But a romantic interest attached to the wreck of the "Wager," one of Anson’s fleet, on a desert island near Chiloe, for it bore fruit in the charming narratives of Byron, which will endure for all time. In 1764 Captain Byron himself was sent on a voyage of discovery round the world, which led immediately after his return, to the dispatch of another to complete his work, under the command of Captain Wallis.

The expedition, consisting of the "Dolphin" commanded by Captain Wallis, and the "Swallow" under Captain Carteret, sailed in September 1766, but the ships were separated on entering the Pacific from the Straits of Magellan. Wallis discovered Tahiti on June 19, 1767, of which island he gave a detailed account, and Sir Charles Saunder’s island; he returned to England on May 17, 1768. Carteret discovered the Charlotte and Gloucester Islands, and Pitcairn Island on July 2, 1767; revisited the Santa Cruz group, which was discovered by Mendaña and Quiros; and discovered the strait separating New Britain from New Ireland. He reached Spithead again on February 20, 1769. Wallis and Carteret were followed very closely by the French expedition of Bougainville, which sailed from Nantes in November 1766. Bougainville had first to perform to him the unpleasant task of delivering up the Falkland Islands (Malouines), where he had encouraged the formation of a French settlement, to the Spaniards. He then entered the Pacific, and reached Tahiti on April 2, 1768. Passing through the New Hebrides group he touched at Batavia, and arrived at St Malo after an absence of two years and four months.

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