Scentific exploration of the Pacific

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 brought a period of peace to Europe that resulted in the scentific exploration of the Pacific. Expeditions, backed by governments or scientific societies, explored the Pacific with the objective of solving geographical problems. As a result of these voyages new islands were discovered, old discoveries were accurately fixed on the charts, and the southern continent was whittled down to the approximate size of Antarctica. Britain led in this exploration with the voyage of Commodore John Byron in 1764. Byron surveyed the Falkland Island in preparation for the establishment of a naval base and described in detail conditions on some of the lesser islands of the Tuamotus and Gilberts. He found Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas much less attractive than they had been portrayed by Lord Anson. As far as new discoveries were concerned, this voyage was disappointing. However, an example was set by the publication of charts and detailed descriptions of the flora, fauna, and peoples of the islands.


A few months after the return of Byron in May, 1766, another expedition to the Pacific set out under the command of Captain Samuel Wallis. This expedition added much more to the knowledge of the Pacific than Byron's. Wallis, on the Dolphin, explored the Tuamotus, where he named the numerous islands after members of the royal family until that source of names was exhausted and he was forced to turn to the list of admirals. On June 19, 1767, Wallis sighted Tahiti. The name that he selected, "King George III," has not survived. The sailors had a pleasant stay here, and their description further strengthened the "noble savage" myth. The description of the different moral standards encountered helped to make Tahiti a favorite rendezvous point for Pacific navigators. 1 Wallis also visited Tinian and Saipan for fresh supplies.

Carteret, on the Swallow, was separated from Wallis while passing through the Strait of Magellan and followed a more southerly route across the Pacific. Carteret's voyage was important for the rediscovery of the Solomons (although this was not known until later) and his exploration of the Bismarcks. His most important discovery was St. George's Channel between New Britain and New Ireland. New Hanover, in this group, and the Admiralty Islands were mapped and named by Carteret.

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