London, South Kensington
22 September 2004
BYERS, J. (early 19th Century).
"Island of Ascension, Distant 3½ miles; the Peak bearing WGS.½S., the Chiffone frigate running along within a mile of the shore." Watercolour, unframed 5¾ x 14½in. (146 x 368mm.). The watercolour was engraved in J. E. Alexander's Narrative of a Voyage of Observation along the Colonies of Western Africa' (London, 1837, vol. I, p.289).
HMS Chiffone was a French frigate captured by HMS Sybille off the Seychelles in 1807. She sailed for Calcutta as a 5th Rate 36-gun frigate in 1808 and visited the Persian Gulf, Malaya, the Phillippines, China, Ceylon, and St. Helena. She suppressed pirates in the Persian gulf in 1808-09 and was commemorated on a set of stamps issued by Oman in 1972.
The small (34 square miles) volcanic and barren island of Ascension in the middle of the South Atlantic was first garrisoned by the British in 1815, prompted by fears the island might be used in an attempt to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. After Napoleon's death the island became a victualling station and sanitarium for ships engaged in the suppression of the slave trade from the West African coast, and in 1823 the garrison was taken over by the Royal Marines. It remained a naval possession until becoming a dependency of St. Helena in 1922.
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