ON September 28th, 1791, in the two sloops, La Recherche and L'Esperance, of sixteen guns, and one hundred and ten men each, they weighed from the harbor of Brest, completely equipped for a voyage of circumnavigating the globe. The conduct of the expedition was assigned to Captain D'Entrecasteaux. The leading object of the voyage was to endeavor to procure intelligence relative to Captain La Perouse, who had long been missing in the South Seas, and to make a complete tour of New Holland; an island, by far the largest in the world; comprehending an immense circuit of at least three thousand (French) leagues. The accomplishment of this last point was essential to the history of geography, and what had not been effected by either Cook or La Perouse.
The first port they made was Santa Cruz in Teneriffe; they arrived there on the 17th of October, and having taken in wines and provisions, proceeded on their route to the Cape of Good Hope; and while they continued there, the expedition sustained a considerable misfortune in the death of the astronomer Bertrand. February 16th, 1792, they left the Cape, and bore away for the island of New Guinea, some parts of which they explored; they reached the islands Arsacides on July the 9th, and New Ireland the 17th ditto. They afterwards made for Amboyna, one of the Molucca islands, and arrived Sept. 6th. October 11th, they left Amboyna, and sailed immediately for the west part of New Holland. December 3d 1792, they arrived at the Cape, which is at the south-west extremity of New Holland, and sailed along the southern shore, till January 3d, having by this means traced and ascertained about two-thirds of the whole extent of the southern coast. On the 11th of March, they passed very near the North cape of New Zealand, and making for shore, several canoes came along side. On the 16th, they discovered two little islands at a little distance from each other. The most eastern one lies in 30 deg. 17 min. south latitude, and in 179 deg. 41 min. east longitude. On the 17th, discovered an island about five leagues in circumference, conspicuous by its elevated situation. It lies in 29 deg. 3 min. south latitude, and in 179 deg. 54 min. east longitude. On the 2d of March they saw Ebona, the most south-westerly of the Friendly Islands. The next day anchored at Tongataboo the largest of the Friendly Islands. Among the islanders they frequently met with men six feet high, their limbs shaped in the most comely proportion. The fertility of the soil, which exempted them from the necessity of extreme labor, may conduce not a little to the unusual perfection of their forms. Their features have a strong resemblance to those of Europeans. A burning sky has impressed a slight discolor on their skins. Those, among the women, who are hut little exposed to the rays of the sun, are sufficiently fair. Some of them are distinguished by a beautiful carnation, which gives a vivacity to their whole figure. A thousand nameless graces are visible in their gestures, when engaged in the slightest employments. In the dance their movements are enchanting.
The language of this people bears an analogy with the gentleness of their manners it is well adapted to music, for which they have a peculiar taste. Their concerts wherein every one performs his part, demonstrate the just ideas which they entertain of harmony. The women, as well as the men, have their shoulders and breasts naked. A cotton cloth, or rather a piece of stuff, manufactured from the bark of mulberry-tree into paper, serves them for apparel. It forms a beautiful drapery, reaching from a little above the waist down to the feet. These islands produce a species of nutmegs, which differs very little in form from those of the Moluccas. It is not, however, aromatic, and is almost twice as large. They also procured the bread-fruit tree, for the purpose of transporting it into the West India Islands. We must not confound these excellent species of bread-fruit tree with the wild species of it found in the Moluccas, and observed for a long time past in the Isle of Franco. In this second sort the grains do not miscarry, while in the good fruit-tree they are replaced by a food truly delicious, when baked under ashes or in the oven. In other respects it is a most wholesome viand, affording a pleasant repast during the whole time of their continuance on this island, and for which they willingly relinquished the ship's stock of baker's bread. The Molucca sort produces thirty or forty small fruits; while every tree of the Friendly Islands produces three or four hundred extremely large, of an oval form, the greatest diameter being from nine to ten inches, and the smallest from seven to eight. A tree would be oppressed with such an enormous load, if the fruit were to ripen all at once; but sagacious nature has so ordered it, that the fruit succeed each other, during eight months of the year, thus providing the natives with a food equally salubrious and plentiful. Every tree occupies a circular space of about thirty feet in diameter. A single acre occupied by this vegetable would supply the wants of a number of families. Nothing in nature exhibits a similar fecundity. As it has no seeds, it has a wonderful faculty of throwing out suckers and its roots frequently force their way up to the surface of the earth, and there give birth to fresh plants. It thrives exceedingly in a tropical climate, in a soil somewhat elevated above the level of the sea; and suits very well with a marly soil, in which a mixture of argillaceous clay preponderates.