A fine early sea chart of West Falkland Island, based upon the surveys of Thomas Edgar.
Edgar sailed with Captain James Cook on his third voyage and Port Edgar is named in honor of this work. Edgar actually arrived in the Falklands in a whaling ship, but it was common for the Admiralty to make use of vessels heading in the right direction rather than employing an expensive Royal Navy ship. The whaler would have had a contract dictating its arrangement with the Admiralty.
This extremely rare chart of West Falkland Island was extensively catalogued by Hordern House, which wrote as follows:
A fine Arrowsmith map of West Falkland Island, owned by Louis de Freycinet and evidently carried by him on Uranie, with several pencil annotations in his hand, and probably the map referred to at the end of note [on his copy of Arrowsmith's Chart of the Southern Promontory of America. . . .
This large and detailed map of West Falkland Island was engraved by Arrowsmith from a survey undertaken by Lieutenant Thomas Edgar R.N., who had earlier served as master of the Discovery under Captain Clerke on Cook’s third voyage of discovery. In 1786 and 1787 Edgar conducted a survey of the region aboard the whaler Hope and present day Port Edgar is named in his honour, while this map includes the cautionary printed note, just offshore from Jason Island in the lower right corner, ‘on this reef the Hope struck 1786.’
The Falklands had an appalling record for shipwrecks and claimed many vessels, mainly whalers and sealers, over the years. Rose de Freycinet noted a conversation between her husband and Captain Orne of the sealer General Knox, one of the ships that encountered the struggling French crew shortly after the wreck, commenting in her journal that ‘these wretched islands are surrounded by uncharted rocks, and the captain told Louis that there were perhaps 50 wrecks in the area’ (A Woman of Courage, p. 139). As might be expected of a captain who had seen the wreck of his ship, Freycinet complained vociferously about the accuracy of his maps of the Falklands, and the present map shows evidence of his desire to improve the coastal survey.
Apart from the squaring up and the calculation of longitude and latitude, there are also several notes in Freycinet’s hand, including the marking of West Point Harbour and Sebald de Waart, while alongside the dangerous Edistone Rock he has also noted its longitude and latitude and marked his note “corrigée”. He has also written “Is. Falkland d’Arrowsmith” to the verso. Lastly there is also an anchorage recorded as longitude 62o 27' West (Paris) and latitude 51º 21' South (just to the south-west of Port Egmont). The French did not sail to Port Egmont, and one wonders if this information was passed on by James Weddell, later an Antarctic explorer, but in 1820 staying at Port Egmont aboard the brig Jane. Weddell heard about the fate of the Uranie too late to offer any material assistance, ‘but was able to call on Freycinet and express regret that it was now too late to do anything other than wish him God-speed’ (Dunmore, French Explorers in the Pacific, p. 104). In the margin Freycinet has also noted that Malaspina, the Spanish explorer and Pacific veteran, had recorded the latitude of Port Egmont as 51º23.30, and calculated the discrepancy between the two reports.
The map is engraved by T. Foot, Weston Place, Battle Bridge, who would also engrave Arrowsmith's 9 sheet chart of the Pacific Ocean.
The chart was apparently re-issued as late as 1831, according to an entry in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society.
The map is extremely rare. We locate examples in the British National Archives (possibly with the Rathbone Place address) and National Library of Australia. The State Library of New South Wales holds an example of the chart in a composite atlas of Arrowsmith sea charts dated 1791-1800.
The NLA copy of the chart notes that it was originally Louis de Freycinet's own copy, which he carried with him while in command of the Uranie in the Fallkland Islands in 1820 and is extensively annotated to show his tracks, being the copy offered for sale by Hordern House.
We note that Francis Edwards offered a copy of the chart for sale in 1973.
Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) was born in Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith’s three shops were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer. Through his business ties and employment at the HO, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the HBC, and other companies. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King. He died in 1823, whereby the business passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John.