Recent years have seen a renewed interest in the nineteenth-century French expeditions, with a deeper understanding of the real contributions they made to science and hydrography. To illuminate with knowledge was the avowed aim: knowledge in the widest sense, encompassing geographical, scientific, technical, anthropological, zoological, social, historical, philosophical.
The well-fitted vessels of these nineteenth-century French explorers were essentially floating research laboratories, attended by qualified and trained personnel. Advances in astronomy, mathematics and optics made it possible to chart positions with accuracy, whilst in the field of natural history, the latest scientific methods were employed. Skilled artists and draughtsmen accompanied these expeditions, producing some of the most beautiful early views of Australia and the Pacific.