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Historical perspective   Denmark has a long tradition for voyages of discovery and expeditions. From Jens Munk and Carsten Niebuhr to Galathea 1, Galathea 2 - and now Galathea 3.


Christian VIII had plans to collect the scientific results from the first Galathea expedition in a beautifully decorated book, the publication of which was to be paid by the State. Alas, this was not to be.

Shortly after the expedition had arrived back in Denmark, the king died, and the country was thrown into the Three-Year War. 

After the war, Danish scientists disagreed strongly among themselves, and for this reason many of the items brought back from the expedition remained inide the unopened boxes. The scientists that were to have written the king’s book fell out with each other and soon scattered. 

This was unfortunate, because there was plenty of material to process. The expedition brought back 93 boxes and containers with "zoological, entomological, botanical and geological Objects". In addition to these, there were 21 boxes containing ethnographic objects, a sizeable collection from Java, as well as gifts from scientists in a number of the cities and ports that the expedition had visited. 

Discoveries for posterity

Today, the fact that scientists most regret is that the botanical collections, which included several thousand items, were never processed. 

There were, however, a few exceptions, for instance the dragonfly collection. Galathea 1 brought back a total of 368 dragonflies belonging to 107 different species, or nearly half of all known tropical dragonfly species. 37 of these species were unknown to science at that time. 

In spite of the inadequate processing, the collections from Galathea 1 still hold great value. Today they are used as comparison material in modern scientific research, and still today scientists make new discoveries by studying some of the animals that were brought back to Denmark more than 150 years ago.

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A clownfish from Hong Kong
From the Galathea 1 expedition.
Illustration: Christian Thornam