Narrative of a survey of the intertropical and western coasts of Australia/Volume 2/Appendix B

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Previously to the establishment of the British Colony at Port Jackson, in the year 1787, the shores of this extensive continent had been visited by very few navigators who have recorded any account of the productions of its Animal Kingdom. The first authentic report that we have, is that of Vlaming, who is celebrated as the first discoverer of that "rara avis," the black swan: next to him followed Dampier, who has handed down to us in his intelligent, although quaint, style, the account of several of the productions of the North-western and Western Coasts; but the harvest was reserved for Banks and Solander, the companions of Cook, whose names are so well sad widely known in the fields of science. These distinguished naturalists were the first collectors upon the Coast of New South Wales; and although their labours were not confined to any particular branch of Natural History, yet Botany appeared to be their chief object, of which the Banksian Herbarium yields ample proof.

Among the collectors of Natural History, in the neighbourhood of the colony, since the year 1787, may be recorded the names of White, Paterson, Collins, Brown, Caley, Lewin, Humphreys, and Jamison; and in this interval the coasts have been visited by two English and two French expeditions of discovery; namely, those commanded by Admiral D'Entrecasteaux, Captains Vancouver and Flinders, and Commodore Baudin. The first merely touched upon the south coast at the Recherche's Archipelago, and on the south shores of Van Diemen's Land; and the second only at King George the Third's Sound, near the South-west Cape; but these opportunities were sufficient to celebrate the names of Labillardiere and Menzies as Australian Botanists, notwithstanding they have been since eclipsed by the more extensive discoveries of Mr. Brown, whose collections of Natural History upon the voyage of Captain Flinders, and his pre-eminent qualifications, have justly raised him to the pinnacle of botanical science upon which he is so firmly and deservedly elevated.

Péron and Lesueur, in Baudin's voyage, extended their inquiries chiefly among the branches of zoological research; but in that expedition each department of Natural History had its separate collector, and the names of Leschenault de la Tour, Riedlé, Depuch, and Bailly, will not be forgotten. Unfortunately, the Natural History of this voyage has never yet been given to the world, the death of M. Péron having put a stop to its publication; a few of the subjects, however, have been taken up by MM. Lacépède and Cuvier, and other French naturalists, in the form of monographs, in their various scientific journals; but the greater part is yet untouched, probably from the want of the valuable information which died with its collector. M. Péron, in his historical account of that expedition, notices a few subjects of zoology that were collected by him, but in so vague a manner, that it is with very great doubt that the specimens which we procured, and suspect to be his discoveries, can be compared with his descriptions.

Of the Natural History collections of Captain Flinders and Mr. Brown, no account has been published, excepting the valuable botanical works of the latter gentleman.

With respect to the collection which has been formed upon this expedition, fit is to be regretted that the gleanings of the Animal Kingdom, particularly of quadrupeds and birds, should have been so trifling in number; and that the students of Natural History should have suffered disappointment in what might, at first view, be fairly considered to have arisen from neglect and careless attention to the subject; but as the principal, and almost the only, object of the voyage was the survey of the coast, for which purpose a small vessel was justly considered the most advantageous, accommodation for a zoological collection was out of the question. The very few specimens that are now offered to the world were procured as leisure and opportunity offered; but many interesting and extremely curious subjects were in fact obliged to be left behind from want of room, and from our not possessing apparatus for collecting and preserving them.

A botanical collector for the Royal Garden, Mr. Allan Cunningham, was attached to the expedition; and this gentleman did not fail to make a very extensive and valuable collection in his department, the whole of which is preserved at Kew.

In making out the Appendix, every species brought home (excepting three or four fishes) has been mentioned, for the sake of furnishing materials for the students of Geographical Zoology. The distribution of animals is a branch of study that has been very much neglected, which is to be lamented, as it appears likely to offer a very great assistance to the systematic Physiologist; and for this reason the species found at the Isle of France have been added to the list.

For the catalogue and descriptions of the quadrupeds, reptiles, and shells, I am under obligation to Mr. J.E. Gray, of the British Museum. Mr. Vigors has kindly assisted me with the use of his collection, and his valuable advice with respect to the few specimens of birds that were preserved; and Mr. W.S. MacLeay has furnished me with a very valuable description of my entomological collection. I am also indebted to Mr. Cunningham for his remarks upon the botany of the country; to Mr. Brown, for his description of a new tree from King George the Third's Sound; and lastly to Dr. Fitton, for his kindness in drawing up for me a very interesting geological notice from the specimens that have been presented to the Geological Society of London, of which he is one of the most active and scientific members.