FIRST SURVEYOR OF MAURITIUS
FIRST EDITION, folding map with vignette of Table Mountain, 3 woodcuts in the text, small corner torn from title, some staining affecting a few pages, sm. 8vo. calf rebacked, original boards and vellum corners,
Nicolas Louis de La Caille was one of the greatest astronomers of his time, the inventor of the triangulation plan in France and the first person to survey Mauritius. He visited South Africa with the purpose of carrying out astronomical observations there. On the way to Africa his ship called in at Rio de Janeiro. His description of it is interesting, he describes certain Brazilian habits and notes the dress of different social classes. At the house of a Dutchman he was served coffee. This reference to coffee is one of the oldest extant. It took La Caille only two months to carry out the greater part of his survey of the Ile de France. Setting out on a journey to Pamplemousses in July 1753, the party consisted of seven soldiers and nine porters. Besides stores and a tent, the equipment of the expedition including a pirogue to facilitate rapid movement along the coast to visit the off-shore islets. An armed escort was considered necessary because of the danger in the more remote regions from maroons or runaway slaves. The first halt was made a few miles beyond Pamplemousses at the house of Count de Rostaing, the owner of an iron foundry. Here the party remained for several days before setting out for Poudre d'Or in the north-east of the island where the work of the survey was to begin. In the next few days the party travelled slowly southwards making measurements and collecting information. Halts were made at Poste Lafayette, Puits des Hollandais and Pointe des Quatre Cocos, the last stage a journey to Grand Port being made in the pirogue. The small islands off Grand Port were visited so that the Abbé could observe the surrounding peaks where members of the expedition had set up signals. Leaving Grand Port, the Abbé de La Caille continued his journey along the south coast and the ascent of Mount Savanne. By the 22nd of August the expedition was centred at the Morne Brabant in the extreme south-west of the island. Signals were set up and the coast between the Morne Brabant and Baie du Cap was carefully surveyed. The next halt was at Tamarin and a few days later the Abbé and his party reached Port Louis.
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