Expeditions and Endeavours

Watercolour by Johann Martin Bernatz, 1842. Bernatz was the official artist on the British diplomatic expedition to Shewa, Ethiopia 1841-1843.

Event information

Event type: exhibition, gallery, temporary display

Location: Images of Nature

Ticket prices:

Free, no ticket required

Expeditions and Endeavours is now closed.

For centuries, scientists and artists have embarked on a succession of expeditions to document the natural world.

The observations of flora and fauna made by the artists on these voyages of natural history have contributed greatly to our understanding of nature.

The exhibition was on display until 31 October 2019.

Exhibit highlights included:

  • artworks from Captain Cook's Endeavour voyage (1768-1771), with illustrations from the Society Islands (Tahiti), Australia, New Zealand and Java, Indonesia by Sydney Parkinson, Alexander Buchan and Herman Spöring. Botanical specimens collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander are also on display. This year marks 250 years since the voyage departed England on 25 August 1768.
  • interactive screens, where you can explore a variety of artworks from the Museum's collections

Highlights from each rotation include:

July - October 2018

  • a bundle of printed pages from John Milton's book Paradise Lost that was used to press collected specimens on the Endeavour voyage
  • an illustration by John Webber, from Cook's third voyage, of a Kerguelen Island cabbage - whose leaves' high potassium- and vitamin C-rich oil meant its consumption helped the ship's crews suffering from scurvy, as discovered by Cook's surgeon William Anderson
Sporing shark illustration

Ff. 56. pencil sketch by Herman Dietrich Spöring made during Captain James Cook's first voyage to explore the southern continent 1768-1771. 

November 2018 - March 2019

  • artworks of flora and fauna from all three of Captain Cook's voyages to the Pacific
  • koalas drawn by Ferdinand Bauer on the HMS Investigator voyage captained by Matthew Flinders - the first detailed scientific description of the koala was by botanist Robert Brown in 1814
  • illustrations by early North American naturalists including William Bartram, William Young and John Abbot
Indian long-eared hedgehog colour illustration by Olivia Tonge

Indian long-eared hedgehog, Hemiechinus collaris
Olivia Tonge (1858-1949).

March - July 2019

  • photographs and illustrations from the HMS Challenger voyage
  • the graphite illustrations by Joseph Dalton Hooker of emperor penguin embryos are from one of the three eggs collected in 1911 during the Terra Nova expedition to the Antarctic on HMS Erebus
  • the earliest illustration of whales held in the Museum's collections, by trained doctor and surgeon Sigismund Bacstrom, whose artistic works show precision and accuracy
Illustration of a pineapple, Ananas comosus John Reeves (1774-1856)

Pineapple, Ananas comosus
John Reeves (1774-1856). 

July - 1 November 2019

  • the affectionately-named 'flasher bat' - a colour illustration of a flying fox (Pteropus sp.) from Thomas Hardwicke's collection (1755-1835)
  • depictions of African flora and fauna by Thomas Baines and Margaret Fountaine, and a seventeenth-century watercolour from the Museum's collection of Cape plants illustrations
  • botanical and zoological illustrations from the Museum's Thomas Hardwicke collection
  • artworks of Sydney Parkinson (1745-1771), naturalist artist on board the Endeavour voyage (1768-1771)

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