On December 26th, 1831, Sir Edmund Roberts outfitted the H.M.S. Baci for a naturalist’s circumnavigation of the globe. His primary and sole purpose was to observe and subsequently classify the various oceans’ diversity of “Sea Maidens” as he called them. Convinced that they existed outside of folklore, Sir Edmund was determined to systematically pursue them. “I’ll find them, for I am more patient than Job,” he loved to say.
Roberts took with him two water colorists schooled in botanical illustration. They were the first harvests of the voyages fantastic ill luck. Williams, the primary artist, perished in a gale just four days out of port. Bistro, his assistant, and a suspect romantic, lost his footing and fell to the sea one night while admiring the Baci’s figure head.
Sir Edmund determined to learn the craft himself. Roberts completed his voyage in 1837. He had, however, become progressively more eccentric with each year at sea and was completely undone when his Sea Maidens – Notebooks and Observations was dismissed as “lunatic ravings in the company of obscene art.”
Both the notebooks and the illustrations remained in obscurity until discovered in a London warehouse in 1998. Selected excerpts and paintings are to be released in succession.
It should be noted that while Sir Edmund selected the Latin name for each Sea Maiden, he gave the honor of bestowing the common name to the seaman who first sighted her. Consequently, there followed a fool’s carnival of names with mothers and prostitutes predominating.
Amelia Maidenus Magnifica sighted February 18, 1832 near Cape Verde Island
Seen on a moonlit night by a member watering crew who strayed in the company of a bottle of rum. He Observed her for most of the night until he gathered sufficient sense to report to me. We watched her until the false dawn. Medium height. Medium weight. Dark hair. Could not identify the object of her preoccupation. Exultant with our first sighting so early in the voyage.