"That Extensive Enterprise": HMS Herald's North Pacific Survey, 1845-1851

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ISSN: 0030-8870

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Samson, Jane
article description
Despite its enormous scope, the survey of HMS Herald, like most British scientific voyages after the time of Captain Cook, is little known. This article's discussion of naturalist Berthold Seemann's accounts of the voyage challenges the impression, still common in some naval history circles, that there is a difference between scientific expeditions and other naval activities (that is, between science and politics). The article considers evidence of imperial aesthetics in Seemann's responses to landscape and notes connections between the collection of scientific data and the interests of British commercial and political expansion. Examination of Seemann's racial views shows that, just as he viewed landscape and natural resources with an imperial eye, so he judged other peoples by his own standards of achievement and "improvability."