Philippe de Carteret RN (1733-1796)

Philippe's first circumnavigation 1764-66

In 1764 Philippe was appointed First Lieutenant of the Tamar, a 14-gun sloop with a crew of ninety, on a voyage of exploration to the South Pacific under the command of Captain John Byron, the grandfather of Lord Byron, the poet. Byron had already sailed around the world with Anson in 1740-44. The expedition sailed on 21 June 1764 and after 6 months landed at Port Egmont (West Falkland), which they took possession of in the name of George III. This action nearly caused a war with Spain, who also claimed to possess the islands. From the Falkland Islands the expedition sailed through the Strait of Magellan and into the Pacific Ocean where de Carteret was transferred to the Dolphin where he spent much of his time working on navigation.

De Carteret was described as being adventurous, impatient, intolerant and quick to take offence. Much to his frustration, Byron lacked the pioneering spirit and seemed more interested in returning home than in fulfilling his mission. They sailed on into the Pacific and their first landfall was part of the Paumotu Archipelago, Byron named these the Disappointment Islands, as he was unable to land. He continued sailing on a straight course and managed to avoid contact with any other landfall. By June 1765 Byron now sickening for home ordered the ship to return home, much to de Carteret’s anger. By February 1766 they had reached the Cape of Good Hope, eventually arriving back in Portsmouth in May of the same year.

The Admiralty was not pleased with Byron’s lack of success - he had managed to sail 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean without actually sighting any of the uncharted islands. In retrospect this must be seen as quite an achievement in itself! However, Byron was full of praise for de Carteret and he was duly noticed by the Admiralty.


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