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Napoleon's birds finally reunited

Posted on 23-05-2018 by Fabiën Bruine de Bruin


PhD-researcher Justin Jansen dove into naturalis' collection to research The Ornithology of the Baudin expedition (1800-1804). 

The 22th of May, Justin Jansen earned his PhD degree for his research to The Ornithology of the Baudin expedition (1800-1804). It is said to be one of the most impressive dissertations in Leiden in the last years. It contains 700 large pages with images in full colour. Ph.D Jansen intended to create a book that a scientist would like to own. He succeeded.

The Baudin expedition was the first scientific expedition. Napoleon ordered Nicolas-Thomas Baudin to the other side of the planet to map Australia and collect flora and fauna. The English had already founded Port Jackson (Sydney) in 1778 and it was still unknown if West-Australia belonged to the same landmass. If not, France would have a military claim on it.

To be expected of such a grand expedition, lots of data were collected. Sadly the grand expedition turned out to be horrific: it ended with 32 of the 251 crew dead, including Baudin himself. The task of registering and describing collected birds should have been carried out by Baudin and some now deceased naturalists. Many birds disappeared. Jansen, a passionate birdwatcher, had to plough through musty ship’s logs and museum collections to find the birds. He connected the Latin/old French journals with 379 individual birds in 30 collections in different countries. Luckily for Ph.D Jansen the winds were fairer to him and he concluded the expedition 214 years later exemplary.

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