PENAL COLONY IN NAMIBIA - CAPTAIN [LATER VICE-ADMIRAL SIR] THOMAS BOULDEN THOMPSON RN (1766?-1828). Manuscript entitled 'Narrative of a Voyage performed in His Majesty's Sloop Nautilus, under my Command, for the purpose of investigating the Western Coast of South Africa...', 1 February - 23 July 1786, on paper, written in an educated hand and signed by Thompson on titlepage and at end of text, with eight full-page illustrations (by Thompson?), some offsetting from illustrations, 32 pages, plus blanks, contemporary calf, 4to; with autograph notes [by Popham] on the features and dress of the inhabitants of Namibia depicted in the Narrative loosely inserted, 1½ pages, 4to.
LIEUTENANT [LATER REAR-ADMIRAL SIR] HOME RIGGS POPHAM (1762-1820). Manuscript entitled 'Voyage to So. Africa', 21 March - May 1786, in two scribal hands, signed by Popham at end of text, with annotations on six pages and one illustration by Popham with his caption, 22 pages original calf, rebacked 4to, both volumes bearing the ownership inscription of the earls of Derby and the Knowsley bookplate; and letter signed by Thompson, to Lord Sydney, commending Lieutenant W.H. Wibley RN who served under him in Nautilus, 2 pages, 4to, 1792.
The eight full-page illustrations are signed by Thompson with initials 'TBT' except for one which is signed 'T B Thompson'. It is possible that Thompson's initials were added merely to confirm that the drawings were accurate representations and are not in fact in his own hand. Randolph Vigne, quoted by Kinahan, suggests that they are by Popham, a proposal supported by his autograph notes which relate to the drawings. These are inscribed:
'Man in Pequena Bay', pen, ink and watercolours;
'The Cross on Pedestal Point', signed in full, pen and grey wash;
'The Crosson Bart's point', pen and grey wash;
'Woman in Walwich Bay, Caffraria', pen and watercolours, small tear along lower border, pen and watercolours;
'Fruit, the Food of the Natives in Walwich Bay', pen and green wash;
'Man in Walwich Bay', pen, ink and watercolour;
'Man and Woman in Walwich Bay', pen, ink and wash;
'Huts of the Caffraria Hottentots in Walwich Bay', pen, ink and wash.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST AND MOST IMPORTANT SOURCES OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE COAST OF NAMIBIA AND ITS PEOPLE.
THE VOYAGE OF HMS NAUTILUS TO THE NAMIB COAST WAS UNDERTAKEN TO EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A PENAL COLONY NEAR A SUITABLE HARBOUR WHERE SHIPS OF THE ROYAL NAVY OR BRITISH INDIAMEN COULD REFIT. The loss of the American colonies had forced the British Government to rethink its transportation policy. Two localities were suggested for the establishment of new penal colonies in strategically important situations: Das Voltas on the south-western coast of Africa and Botany Bay.
The expedition to assess the suitability of Das Voltas was disguised as an inspection of forts and settlements but secret orders were issued by the Admiralty to survey the south-western coast of Africa between 20° and 30° south latitudes. In January 1786 Thomas Boulden Thompson took command of Nautilus, joined by Popham as marine surveyor and Anton Pantaleon Hove (or Howe) as botanist to carry out this survey.
The original of Thompson's report is in the National Archives at Kew together with the daily journal.
Transcripts of the two volumes have been published by Jill Kinahan; 'The impenetrable shield: HMS Nautilus and the Namib coast in the late eighteenth century', in Cimbebasia 12: 23-61, 1990. (2)