James Clark Ross was appointed commander of an expedition fitted out for magnetic and geographical discovery in the Antarctic, aboard the Erebus and Terror, which sailed from England in September 1839. The party crossed the Antarctic Circle on 1 January 1841, and discovered a long range of high land which Ross named Victoria, a volcano which he named Mount Erebus, and a range of ice cliffs which to all appearances permanently barred the way to any closer approach to the pole. The expedition was also able to determine the South Magnetic Pole, and for this discovery Ross was awarded the gold medal of the Geographical Societies of London and Paris in 1842. The expedition penetrated as far south as 78° South, seven degrees farther than Cook and four degrees farther than Weddell, and provided the first detailed look at the coast of the Antarctic continent.
The present volumes represent a portion of the scientific findings gleaned from this expedition dealing with marine life. They include all of the findings dealing with ichthyology and crustacea, making them complete in and of themselves. The text of the ichthyology volume is by John Richardson and describes fish specimens gathered from Australia, New Zealand, Cape Horn, the Falklands, and "wherever an opportunity offered of drawing the seine or trawl, or dropping a hook." Richardson was Great Britain's leading authority on fish and "this report is distinguished as one of the most important zoological studies from the classical era of Antarctic exploration" (Rosove). The sixty handsome black and white plates illustrate all manner of fish in beautiful detail, and include several rare specimens. The report on crustacea is contained in the concluding supplement to the section on birds. The plates were produced a number of years before the text, and therefore the nomenclatures are not in agreement. Because the entire work was produced over a thirty-year period by a variety of hands, complete sets are almost impossible to find.
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