Sir Bartholomew Scoffer embarked from the Yorkshire
in August of 1863 on the ship Pandora. His intention, as outlined in his remit from the Evangelical Zoological Society, was to “chart and record peoples and creatures of remote isles and shine upon them the twin lights of Christendom and Science” The Society had underwritten the expedition in the hope of obtaining evidence with which to repudiate the growing acceptance of Darwinism; they also hoped that Scoffer would be able to identify places in which later missionary projects might have been established. port of Whitby
Scoffer’s peregrinations all but bankrupted the EZS, but he returned with a wealth of material: geological, zoological and ethnographic. Astonishingly, he did not take a cartographer along with him. This, combined with the fact that he had no head for collating and categorising finds has led to difficulties for scholars wishing to catalogue the origins of many items.
The most enigmatic of all the places that Scoffer visited, surely must be that of the large volcanic island which he saw fit to name after himself. The examples relating to Scoffer’s
Island were quite unlike any others brought back by explorers before or since. The animals that Scoffer encountered were bizarre and fantastic in appearance, prompting many to accuse him of “huckstering and artifice” In a bold attempt to counter these claims he staged an exhibition and series of lectures in ’s Baker Street in October of 1877. The events were enormously popular, and the programme was extended. However, On October 17th disaster struck, a smouldering tobacco pipe left by an unknown visitor caused a fire and the specimens that had travelled undamaged over vast oceans were reduced to ashes in a single evening. Over the next few decades others sought the island; following as best they could, Scoffer’s sketchy navigational notes but none were able to find it. Some concluded that Scoffer and his crew had, after all manufactured the whole story; others that the island had fallen victim to its own volcanic nature and disappeared beneath the waves. London
Scoffer himself was left something of a broken man. He spent the remaining years of his life researching and writing letters, seeking to convince the public and scientific community of the existence of his “lost island”