This is an exceptional 1846 British Admiralty nautical chart of northeast Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles Archipelago with unique manuscript annotations relating to a series of c. 1852 – 1856 whaling voyages in the south Indian Ocean. The annotations include illustrated whale tails recording whale sightings and takings, some of which are dated, others of which appear to relate to a numeric key (now lost).
Whaling in Madagascar
Madagascar sits at the confluence of the South Equatorial Current and the East Madagascar Current, which draws various whales along their migratory patterns. The region is particularly rich in Sperm, Humpback, and Bryde whales. East Madagascar, around Antongil Bay, is believed to be an active mating ground for the Humpback Whale. While indigenous whaling off the east coast was recorded as early as 1598 by Theodor De Bry and others, active whaling by European and American whaling ships did not develop until around 1800. After 1820, over-whaling became a recognized problem in the region. Today, as part of the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary, it is designated as a protected zone.
This map was first published by the British Admiralty in 1828 following the completion and compilation of Owen’s seminal 1821 – 1826 survey of Africa’s east coast. The present example, an ancillary map not included in the formal Owen 6-map set, was revised and updated to 1846. The map was engraved by the firm of J and C. Walker.
This map is rare, and with the present manuscript whaling notations, unique. We are aware of one example of this edition, at Princeton. Another edition (1867) is held by the British Library. We are aware of no surviving examples of the 1828 first edition.