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To Sail Beyond the Sunset : Natural History in Australia 1699-1829

By Finney, C. M.

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Book Id: WPLBN0004451100
Format Type: PDF (eBook)
File Size: 29.47 MB.
Reproduction Date: 10/5/1984

Title: To Sail Beyond the Sunset : Natural History in Australia 1699-1829  
Author: Finney, C. M.
Language: English
Subject: Non Fiction, Science, Natural History
Collections: History, Authors Community, Most Popular Books in China
Publication Date:
Publisher: Rigby Publishers
Member Page: Denise Rennis


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Finney, C. M. (1984). To Sail Beyond the Sunset : Natural History in Australia 1699-1829. Retrieved from

To Sail Beyond the Sunset: Natural History in Australia 1699-1829 by Colin M. Finney provides fascinating reading on the development of natural history in Australia beginning with the first incredulous reactions by Dampier to the kangaroo. All of the 100+ color and black and white illustrations included in the book are reproductions of original drawings and paintings of Australian plants and animals as they were first depicted by the early natural history draughtsmen and convicts who collected or described them. Many of these illustrations had never been published before. The book includes many anecdotes and little-known facts as a result of the extensive scholarly research by Dr. Finney, who is a scientist with a profound sense of history. To Sail Beyond the Sunset won the Royal Zoological Society’s Whitley Award for the Best Historical Book when it was published in Australia in 1984. It also formed the basis for an exhibition, 'First Impressions', staged by the British Museum (Natural History) in celebration of the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. The book includes fascinating reading on the development of Australian natural history and over 100 color/black and white illustrations, many of which had never been published. Following its publication, the book received excellent reviews: 'From [this book], you will get not only much visual pleasure but a great deal of information about one important side of life during the first 40 years of the antipodean colony.' T.R. Garnett, The Age, Melbourne, February, 1985. 'Finney’s impeccable research also provides fresh and original insight into Australia’s early social and political life; a lively history full of surprising facts…. To Sail Beyond the Sunset makes fascinating reading…' Weekly Times, Melbourne, Victoria. 'In the last Whitley Awards conducted by the Royal Zoological Society, “To Sail Beyond the Sunset” was awarded the Best Historical Book category. Having read it I can see why.' C.G. Ford, Koolewong, March, 1985.

To sail beyond the sunset to find the fabled 'Great South Land' and claim its gold and treasure was the dream of generations of Europeans. In the eighteenth century, a desire to push even further the boundaries both of the known world and of science added impetus to the exploration of the mysterious southern latitudes by explorers such as Dampier. C.M. Finney traces the development of natural history in Australia, beginning with the first incredulous reactions of Dampier and of the later naturalists who followed in the wake of explorers and military surveyors. They found not gold but a vast natural treasury of bizarre and alien plants and animals that challenged both the imagination and existing scientific dogma. The platypus was for many years named the 'paradox' because of its apparently unclassifiable and unnatural combination of characteristics. Collectors who supplied the insatiable demand in Europe for such outlandish specimens included such famous figures as John Lewin, George Caley, and Allan Cunningham. This volume ends in the early years of the nineteenth century, a watershed in Australian natural history when fifty years after the British colonisation of New South Wales, Australian-based naturalists were already laying the foundations for their new land's scientific independence. Extracts from contemporary logs, journals, and letters allow the reader to share firsthand the fascination, bewilderment, and enthusiasm of Australian scientific pioneers. Finney's impeccable research also provides the reader with a fresh and original insight into Australia's early social and political life; a lively history full of surprising and little-known facts, such as the cosmopolitan exploratory parties that visited Australian shores, including a Russian expedition, and the personal feuds between fellow naturalists and between naturalists and governors. Accompanying the text is a magnificent collection of over one hundred illustrations, both colour and black and white, including reproductions of works by such notable early natural history draughtsmen as Bauer, Westall, and Brown, many of them masterpieces of their genre.

Early on the morning of 1 August 1699, a small vessel, the Roebuck, tacked back and forth over the shoals off the western coast of New Holland awaiting daylight and the sight of land. Having suffered a long journey from Brazil, Captain William Dampier sought a harbour on the coast to replenish his dwindling supplies of water and fresh vegetables for his malnourished crew. Making landfall on that August morning, he was unable to locate a sheltered anchorage and consequently sailed north for five days until he could drop anchor in a sound he was later to name Shark’s Bay due to the abundance of sharks his men caught with hook and line. Accompanying his men ashore during their fruitless searches for water, Dampier observed and noted in his journal the plants and animals of the area. Of the land animals, Dampier complained that there were few to be seen. The description of those he did observe was usually accompanied by an evaluation of their gastronomic merit, for most organisms that fell prey to his gun were considered as food. Lizards, snakes, ‘beasts like hungry wolves’, which were undoubtedly dingoes, were seen and '...a Sort of Raccoons, different from those of the West Indies; chiefly as to their Legs; for these have very short Fore-Legs; but go jumping upon them as the others do...' Thus Dampier recorded the first kangaroos or wallabies he saw.

Table of Contents
PREFACE INTRODUCTION CHAPTER ONE Discovery: 1699–1777 CHAPTER TWO Van Diemens Land and the western coast of New Holland: 1788–93 CHAPTER THREE Establishment of the British Colony, the initial years: 1788–92 CHAPTER FOUR Establishment of the British Colony—survival assured: 1793–99 CHAPTER FIVE The Continent Defined: the voyage of the Investigator 1800–01 CHAPTER SIX French Exploration—Nicholas Baudin and Le Géographe: 1802 CHAPTER SEVEN Settlement and Expansion in Van Diemens Land: 1803–10 CHAPTER EIGHT Penetrating the Interior: 1811–18 CHAPTER NINE Coastal Exploration—British and French: 1819–12 CHAPTER TEN The Infrastructure of Natural History: 1821–28 EPILOGUE Scientific index: hard copy only General index: hard copy only


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