Guide to the Journal of Vice-Admiral John Byron (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Byron, John, Vice-Admiral, 1723-1786
Papers of Vice-Admiral John Byron (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1764 - 1766
Collection Number
1 item
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Journal of HMS Dolphin 21 June 1764-9 May 1766 with marginal notes, probably by John Hawkesworth. As well as giving meteorological and navigational information, the journal gives brief descriptions of places visited, especially their geographical features, and mentions the activities of the crew on board.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1957 (AJCP Reel: M605). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Byron referred to the journal that he was keeping on HMS Dolphin in a letter to Lord Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty, on 17 June 1764. It would appear that, when he returned to England in 1766, the journal was given or lent to the Admiralty and a copy was made by a clerk. This copy found its way to Hinchinbrooke House in Cambridgeshire, where it remained until 1957. Hinchinbrooke was the home of Lord Sandwich, who was Egmont's predecessor as First Lord of the Admiralty and who again held the office in 1771-82. The journal was purchased by the National Maritime Museum in 1957.

The journal is reproduced in Byron's journal of his circumnavigation 1764-1766, edited by Robert E. Gallagher (Cambridge, Hakluyt Society, 1964).

Existence and Location of Originals

National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich. Collection reference: JOD/58

For further information see National Maritime Museum UK. (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP). The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Atafu; Byron, John, Admiral; Dolphin, HMS (ship); Royal Navy: exploration and surveys; Explorers; Exploration: maritime; Falkland Islands; Hawkesworth, John; King George Islands; Madeira; Magellan Strait; Naval officers; Pacific Ocean; Patagonia; Rio de Janeiro; Rota; Royal Navy: voyages; St Helena; Sumatra


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 83, p. 29.

Biographical / Historical

John Byron (1723-1786), the son of the 2nd Baron Byron, entered the Royal Navy in 1731. In 1740 he sailed as a midshipman on HMS Wager in the squadron commanded by George Anson, on its voyage to the pacific. The Wager was wrecked off the coast of Chile in May 1741 and Byron was only able to return to England in 1746. He was promoted to the rank of captain in the same year. He commanded several ships during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). In 1760, while commanding HMS Fame, he was sent to North America with a small squadron and supervised the demolition of the fortifications at Louisburg and destroyed a lot of French shipping in the Bay of Chaleur.

In 1764, with the rank of commodore, he was given command of HMS Dolphin, and the sloop Tamar, on a voyage to the Pacific. It was publicly stated that he would take command of the East Indies Station. His secret instructions directed him to sail to the southern Atlantic Ocean, search for Pepys Island, and take possession of the Falkland Islands. He was then to sail into the Pacific Ocean, sail northwards to New Albion (California) and search for the North-West Passage. After sailing along the coast of Patagonia, Byron looked for but failed to find Pepys Island and decided that it did not exist. He claimed the Falkland Islands for Britain and named Port Egmont, but his exploration was cursory and he was unaware that there was a French settlement on East Falkland. When he reached the Pacific, he ignored his instructions to search for the North-West Passage. Instead, he sailed in a north-westerly direction across the Pacific, with the intention of exploring the Solomon Islands. However, he sailed too far northwards and found very few islands, before reaching the East Indies in November 1765. His voyage was the fastest circumnavigation up to that time and was soon followed by the more successful Pacific voyages of Samuel Wallis and James Cook.

Byron served as Governor of Newfoundland in 1769-1772. In 1775 he was promoted to rear-admiral and in 1778 to vice-admiral. In 1778 he led a squadron to North America to intercept a French fleet. He was hampered by bad weather, but the two forces finally met off Granada in July 1779 in an indecisive battle. Byron returned to England at the end of the year and did not take part in any further naval actions.

Item Descriptions

Journal of Vice-Admiral John Byron, 21 June 1764 - 7 May 1766 (File JOD/58)

Journal of Commodore John Byron kept on HMS Dolphin on its voyage round the world, 21 June 1764 – 7 May 1766. (231pp.)

The journal commences with the departure of the frigate Dolphin and the sloop Tamar from the Downs. It records the voyage to Madeira, St Jago, Rio de Janeiro (Sept.-Oct. 1764), the east coast of Patagonia, the Falkland Islands (Jan. – Feb. 1765), the Strait of Magellan (March – April 1765), Mas Afuera (Alejandra Selkirk Island), King George Islands (June 1765), Atafu (Duke of York's Islands), Nukunau (Byron Island), Rota (July 1765), Pulau Timoan, Sumatra (Nov. 1765), Batavia (Dec. 1765), Cape of Good Hope (Feb. 1766), St Helena (March 1766) and the Scilly Islands (May 1766). There are a few gaps, with no entries between 25 Dec. 1765 and 10 Feb. 1766.

The Tamar, captained by Patrick Mouat, parted company with the Dolphin in March 1766, on account of damage to its rudder. It sailed to Antigua before returning to England in June 1766.

Many of the entries are very brief, simply recording the winds, weather, and the ship's position. There are fuller entries when the ship when Byron and the crew landed at Patagonia, the Falkland Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, Takaroa and Takapoto (King George Islands), Rota and Batavia. These entries include descriptions of the landscape and coastlines, animals, birds and fishes, encounters with the Patagonians (Tehuelches), the annexation of the Falkland Islands, the passage through the Strait of Magellan, Pacific canoes, conflict with islanders at Takapoto, and dealings with the Dutch at Batavia and the cape of Good Hope.