Catalog of plant specimen collection and production tools (in German, date unknown)
(Click image to enlarge)
Various styles of aluminium specimen collection boxes, walking sticks, tools for making pressed specimens, and shovels. Field naturalists at the time brought reference books, notebooks, specimen bottles, magnifying glasses, specimen collection boxes, and walking sticks to naval expeditions. Other necessities included compasses, telescopes, barometers, thermometers, and pistols.
Standard equipment for 19th century field naturalists
The study of natural history involved a division of labour, from taxonomists who identify specimens to field naturalists who go on expeditions. Field naturalists were usually accompanied by professional botanical collectors or gardeners sent by official agencies. On site, they sought guidance from local merchants, officials, and villagers. Meyen, for example, was guided by children on Lantau in 1831.
In 1735, Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus pioneered a new method of species classification and advocated the use of Latin binomial nomenclature for naming living organisms. Riding on the enthusiasm for expeditionary exploration sparked by the Age of Discovery and the Renaissance, discoveries resulting from naturalists’ travels were no longer mere descriptions of exotic species, but instead formed valuable scientific records of the observation, classification, and naming of species.
The growth of natural history came at a time when European and American empires saw the need to expand. Many military and commercial sea voyages were accompanied by naturalists, who saw these journeys as valuable opportunities. One of the most famous voyages was the one of HMS Beagle in 1831, with amateur naturalist Charles Darwin onboard. The five-year global expedition led to Darwin's influential theory of evolution by natural selection.
The HMS Sulphur, a Royal Navy survey ship like the Beagle, landed on Hong Kong Island during the First Opium War in 1841. While surveying Hong Kong waters, Captain Edward Belcher was able to draw a nautical chart of Hong Kong; naval surgeon Richard Hinds, on the other hand, collected nearly 140 specimens of plants.
The Voyage of Naturalists
Photo of the ship
Country/ Name of vessels
Year journeyed through Hong Kong / Locations of Expedition
Naturalists on board and assistants (role on board)
Hong Kong specimens collected
Britain / Merchant ship The Hindostan, East India Company
1794 / Ma Wan
Henry Parish (Lieutenant) and Willam Alexander (painter)
No collection made
Britain / Royal Navy HMS Alceste
1816 / Southwest of Hong Kong Island and an small island (presumably Magazine Island)
Clarke Abel (Chief Medical Officer) and Hooper (botanical gardener)
Lost all specimens
In 1818, he published Narrative of a Journey in the Interior of China, the first book written by a naturalist from the West to describe the nature of Hong Kong.
Prussia / Merchant ship Prinzess Luise
1831 / Lantau Island
Franz Meyen (naval surgeon)
23 species of Hong Kong plants
The first successful attempt to bring specimens from Hong Kong to Europe. Later, in 1834, he published A Voyage around the World. British botanist Seemann later referenced Meyen’s travelogue for information on Hong Kong's climate before visiting China.
Britain / Royal Navy HMS Sulphur
1841 / Hong Kong Island
Richard Brinsley Hinds (naval surgeon) and A. Sinclair (assistant naval surgeon)
Nearly 140 species of Hong Kong plants, 21 of which were new species
First batch of specimens brought from Hong Kong to Britain which formed the foundation for Flora Hongkongensis published in 1861. Sulphur Channel, Belcher's Street, Belcher's Battery (now The Belcher's) and the Hill Above Belcher’s (now Lung Fu Shan) were named after the survey ship and its captain.
Britain / Royal Navy HMS Herald
1850 / Hong Kong Island and Kowloon
Berthold Carl Seemann (botanist)
Over 700 species of Hong Kong plants (including specimens from Hance)
Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Herald, published in 1853, includes 773 species of Hong Kong plants which were later cited in Flora Hongkongensis (1861).
途經香港年份 / 在港探索地點
英國 / 東印度公司商船印度斯坦
1794 / 馬灣
英國 / 皇家海軍Alceste號
1816 / 香港島西南面及一 小島 (估計為火藥洲)
普魯士 / 皇家商船露易絲公主號
1831 / 大嶼山
英國 / 皇家海軍硫磺號
1841 / 香港島
理察·軒仕 (船醫) 及A. Sinclair (助理船醫)
英國 / 皇家海軍先驅號
1850 / 香港島與九龍
Vessels that visited HK
The map below marks several voyages that journeyed through Hong Kong from the early to mid-19th century, according to historical records left by field naturalists.
(Hover over the icons for details)