Strangers from the Sea
Southern Australia's unique marine fauna was very different to that of the Northern Hemisphere. Many animals encountered by McCoy and his artists must have seemed as improbable as the platypus and kangaroo which confounded earlier European scientists.
In the 18th century, great voyages of discovery by Captain James Cook and others sampled waters around Australia's southern coast. The artists on board their ships created images of some of the marine species caught while anchored off the coast.
The dawn of the 19th century saw the circumnavigation of Australia by British and French explorers. Artists Ferdinand Bauer, on board Matthew Flinders' Investigator, and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur of Le Géographe, captained by Nicolas Baudin, created fine images of the marine fauna they encountered. These added to both the scientific knowledge and exotic appeal of the great south land.
Bauer and Lesueur collected their specimens on brief visits to remote ports and safe anchorages, working up their images as they travelled. It was left to scientists such as McCoy to put together a more comprehensive picture of Australia's unique marine life. There were many surprises.