Meeting Agency: Islanders, Voyagers, & Races in the mer du Sud
The global circumnavigation by Vancouver in 1791–5 and Flinders’s Australian voyage of 1801–3 were the last significant expeditions of exploration or survey sent to the South Seas by the Royal Navy before the long hiatus of the Napoleonic Wars. French scientific voyaging to Oceania was similarly interrupted by war and eventual defeat after the return of Baudin’s expedition in 1804. The geopolitical void was partly filled by the Russian voyages of Adam Johann von Krusenstern and Iury Fyodorovich Lisiansky (1803–6), Vasily Mikhailovich Golovnin (1807–9, 1817–19), and Kotzebue (1815–18).1 Yet the United Kingdom, unlike France, was by no means strategically absent from Oceania during this period. From the late 18th century, growing British colonial or non- official presence was assured by the acquisition of commercial footholds in India, the Straits of Malacca, and Canton; the establishment of colonies in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land; the settlement of Protestant missionaries in several Pacific Islands and in New Zealand; and burgeoning intra-regional trade centred on Port Jackson. The need to despatch expensive naval expeditions from the metropole was thus considerably diminished. Britain finally resumed long-range voyaging from the mid-1820s with the expeditions of Frederick William Beechey (1825–8), Robert FitzRoy (1831–6), Edward Belcher (1837–42), and James Clark Ross (1839–43).
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