RN support for plant hunters and naturalists

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RN support for plant hunters and naturalists

Postby Liz » 22 Dec 2010 12:42

In the past the Royal Navy has played host to notable civilian naturalists/plant hunters including Banks and Darwin. But I had always assumed it was a pre-Victorian phenomenon, until somebody asked me about this passage in a 2001 history of Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens.

In 1868 William [Guilfoyle] accepted an invitation to join a British warship, HMS Challenger, on one of its routine trips through the South Sea Islands. He collected live plants in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the New Hebrides and New Caledonia for his father's nursery and Sydney's Botanic Gardnes. William became enthralled by the variations in shape and colour of these tropical plants and later tried to simulate the islands' landscape in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. The plants would form a nucleus of the Melbourne Gardens' conservatory collections.

It all sounds so easy when it must have been anything but. Starting with the details:
:?: What do we know about HMS Challenger and her crew at this time?
:?: Who would have issued the invitation that is mentioned above - the captain, or somebody more senior? On what basis?
:?: Would Guilfoyle have been expected to contribute to the cost of this trip eg. by paying a mess fee?
:?: What about the costs of the care and transport of the plants mentioned?

And getting back to the bigger picture:
:?: What if any other civilian naturalists/plant hunters were hosted by the RN during the Victorian era?
:?: What was the RN's official attitude to this kind of thing in the Victorian era?

Curious about the practicalities as always.
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