Richard Rowland and Andrew Bloxam were two of the artist's nephews by his sister Lucy who married the Rev. R. R. Bloxam of Rugby School. They had twelve children of which seven died in infancy. Rowland, whose full name was the Rev. Richard Rowland Henry Kent Bloxam, was the eldest and lived from 1797 until 1877; the Rev. Andrew Bloxam, the fourth son and fifth child, lived from 1801-1878. Both obtained degrees at Worcester College, Oxford, and both sailed on the frigate H.M.S. Blonde under the captaincy of the Right Hon. Lord Byron on his voyage to the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii, in 1824-5. The main programme of the voyage was to return the bodies of the King and Queen of the Islands (figs. 2 and 3) to their home, they having died from measles in a fact-finding visit to England in July 1824. Rowland served as ship's chaplin and Andrew as official naturalist.
Andrew Bloxam's diary, made on the voyage, is now in the B. P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, and was published by the Museum in 1925; his rough copy, together with his natural history notes, are in the National History Museum, London (LMSS Box). A summary of the events at the Islands, and especially of the various gifts and objects obtained by barter by Andrew and Richard Bloxam, is given by Adrienne L. Kaeppler in her article 'L'Aigle and HMS Blonde, The Use of History: the Study of Ethnography', pp. 32-9.
THE DIARY OF ANDREW BLOXAM AND THE VOYAGE OF HMS BLONDE 1823-4
There was considerable interest and a great thirst for knowledge and understanding in the field of Natural History in the 19th Century. The five year information-gathering journey of The Beagle began in 1831, only a few years after that of The Blonde. Charles Darwin (1808-1882), the naturalist who accompanied The Beagle, was later to publish his findings in his ground-breaking publication, The Origin of the Species (1859).
As mentioned previously the actual purpose of the journey of The Blonde was to restore the bodies of the King and Queen of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) to their homeland, but the government took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the Hawaiian Kingdom and the islands of the South Pacific. Lord Byron (cousin of the poet and a capable politician) was captain, and the crew of 226 individuals included the Bloxams, a surveyor, a surgeon, a schoolmaster, a botanist, and a gentleman named Wilkinson, engaged by the Hawaiians to develop agriculture in Hawaii. Andrew Bloxam, recently graduated from Oxford, was evidently enthusiastic about his subject but had received little instruction in the field of botany or zoology, and he recorded his response to the experience in a journal. This diary is not a scientific work but records the reactions of a keen, young mind to the places and things that he witnessed on the voyage. The Bloxam family retain Andrew's world map by Marcator (1825 edition) recording this journey on The Blonde and his subsequent journeys on The Epsom and The Gothic to New Zealand (1898), and The Northumberland to Melbourne, Australia (1872).
The Diary begins with the placing of the bodies of the royal couple in the hold of the ship followed by the arrival of the remaining members of the royal party. The Blonde set off for Hawaii on the 29 September 1824, journeying through the rough seas of the Bay of Biscay before making their first stop at Funchal in the Madeira Islands. They remained in Madeira until October 23rd, having stocked up with a considerable supply of wine. As they continued the journey southwards they saw petrels and swallows, and near the Canary Islands, Portuguese man-of-wars and vast numbers of flying fish. Near the Equator large numbers of whales and shark were seen. The tedium of the long voyage was broken by the crew's elaborate preparations for the crossing of the Equator - two of them dressing as Father Neptune and his wife. By 27 November they arrived in Rio de Janeiro, pronounced by Bloxam to possess one of the finest and most beautiful harbours in the world. Just before the entrance were several pretty wooded islands leading to a mile wide harbour opening onto a grand panorama bordered by high peaked mountains covered with luxuriant forestry. Both the Bloxams were horrified by the selling of slaves in the South America ports - during their short stay in Rio, three shiploads of slaves arrived, each with three of four hundred slaves on board. Andrew Bloxam preferred to focus on the variety of humming bird and firefly. On 18 December they left Rio having collected the artist Robert Dampier who was to make many portraits on their arrival in the Sandwich Islands. On Christmas Day they reached St. Catherine Island where the ship was apparently surrounded by crocodiles. Bloxam's entry on the 27 continues: 'went on shore with the Sandwich people and took with me my butterfly net, with which I caught some beautiful but small species. Through groves of orange and lemon trees, three of four miles up the country, I found the scenery very fine. Coconut and coffee trees with the banana are abundant on every side. The interior of the country is a thick forest and totally uninhabited.'
The Blonde departed from St. Catherine on 1 January 1825 and as the ship travelled up the Argentine coast, albatross, petrels, ducks and birds of many other kinds swarmed about the masts. The Horn was passed in remarkably fine weather and the ship travelled on towards Valparaiso. On arrival in the port the voyagers came across Captain Charlton who had been dispatched as English Consul to the Sandwich Islands soon after the death of the Royal couple and had been sent to warn the islanders of their loss, but had eveidently not yet reached his destination. Bloxam procured some thirty examples of the birds about Valparaiso and noted that the only wild native animal was a small gray fox. On 5 March the party left Valparaiso heading for Callao, Peru, taking in tow a new cutter to be used for making surveys of the Hawaiian coasts. On 14 March they arrived in Chorillos Bay (near Callao Fort and seaport of Lima) where they witnessed heavy exchanges of cannon fire between the patriots and royalists (Spaniards). Bloxam found Churillo a rather miserable place - the very basic one storey housing designed to survive the frequent earthquakes. Beyond the town there was a large plain and Bloxam made extensive notes on the birds, butterflies and enormous turkey-like black vultures. Hard to imagine that the great city of Lima was ten miles beyond Churillo with sixty ships anchored in the harbour below and a skyline of spires and towers.
The Blonde continued on to the town of Callao, passing Lorenzo, a barren island inhabited by seals, pelicans, divers and several types of Auk. On 17 March they left Callao for the Galapagos Islands stopping at Santa Maria, Fernandina and Pinto for supplies of water and turtle meat for the journey thence to Hawaii. While in the Galapagos, Bloxam made records of the wildlife and was particularly taken by the remarkable tameness of the birds and a curious spider with a shell resembling a crab on its back and numerous large guanas - both of the land and sea variety. On Narborough Island, Bloxam records the desolation of the volcanic landscape and a canary-like bird with a deep orange-coloured head.
At 7 AM on 3 May 1825, the Sandwich Islands came into view and by 8 AM a fine breeze carried them to within three of four miles of the most easterly part of the Owyhee allowing them to distinguish several large craters now inactive and overgrown, and they saw straw huts and quantities of coconut, breadfruit and other trees. As they entered the bay of Aheedoo, three canoes approached them and they learnt that the news of the death of the King and Queen had been given to the Islanders by a whaling ship that had anchored there but no one had believed the news until Captain Charlton had arrived and confirmed it. The islanders intended to begin the funeral ceremonies the day after the arrival of The Blonde with the bodies.
The Blonde remained in The Sandwich Islands for a few months allowing Bloxam to explore extensively. The return journey began on 17 July, although they anchored shortly thereafter on 30 July to explore and name a new island that could not be located on the charts. It was named Malden Island in honour of their surveyor. They continued to Mauke and the Cook Islands then along the Chilean Coast before arriving in Valparaiso. Cape Horn was passed on 30 December where they encountered a number of huge icebergs before continuing by way of the Azores to England. The final entry in Andrew Bloxam's diary reads: 'March 15. Anchored in Spithead at four p.m., went on shore in the evening, and thus concluded the voyage, having sailed 42,500 miles'.
In a letter probably dating from late March, shortly after his return to England, Andrew Bloxam wrote to the Lords of the Admiralty enclosing a copy of his journal with his observations, and reporting on his findings, which by now ranged from silver and copper ore specimens to one hundred specimens of birds (skinned and preserved with arsenical soap), to insects and shells - all carefully labelled with their names and details of where they had been found. Bloxam also wrote of his regret at 'being obliged on account of the unfavourable winds to pass by O'Taheite and the Society Islands, as it would have been interesting to have compared the ornithology of the two groups of islands together, as the Sandwich chain presents features very distinct from other known parts of the world', and concludes 'I beg to return to my most sincere thanks to their Lordships for their kindness in appointing me to a situation so congenial to my love of Natural History and shall ever remember it with gratitude.' The cases of specimens were then deposited at the Custom House for the Admiralty to examine further.
Richard Rowland Bloxam also compiled a narrative of the voyage from the various journals and notes made by some of the officers and other gentlemen that accompanied Lord Byron and these were edited by Mrs. Maria Graham and published by John Murray in 1826 as Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, in the years 1824-1825. [by] Captain the Right Hon. Lord Byron, commander. Further family papers dating from 1806-90 are in the Warwickshire Record Office (CR 1001), while others remain with the family.
This drawing was done as a souvenir on the eve of what would have been a perilous voyage. Another version, probably done for Richard Rowland, was sold at Sotheby's, London, by Mrs. Kathleen Price, 24 March 1977, lot 104; it is identical in size, medium and support. Among a number of drawings by Lawrence of the Bloxam children when young, Kenneth Garlick records two of Rowland, one of circa 1798 and one of circa 1802 in 'A catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence', Walpole Society, vol. XXXIX, Oxford, 1965).
As his closest living relations, the Bloxam family were the chief mourners at the funeral of Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1830.