Louis de Freycinet in Bunbury

The words on the banner say 'LC Freycinet, Navigator'

Having met with his great, great grandson, Henry, in Paris recently, imagine how surprised I was to see Rose’s husband, Louis de Freycinet, in the main street of Bunbury, Western Australia!

Peter and I were on our way to Margaret River, where the Freycinet name was, for many years, attached to one of the motels. We happened to stop off in Bunbury and there was Louis. His portrait is, at the moment, sailing high above the main street in a very colourful yacht, in the company of some other famous seafaring explorers who visited our shores in the days before the British flag was firmly planted in the sand at King George Sound (Albany), thus adding the whole of Australia to the British Empire.

In 1801 Louis de Freycinet was a navigator on board the Naturaliste which sailed in convoy with the Geographe. Both ships were under the command of Nicholas Baudin whose explorations of our south west coast have left us with the lasting legacies of Cape Naturaliste and Geographe Bay. Although there was no love lost between the two men, Baudin did recognize Louis de Freycinet’s exceptional talents as a navigator and leader by promoting him to Captain of a ship (Casuarina) that had to be added to the convoy when the Naturaliste was sent home to France carrying all the scientific material and records of the voyage up to that point.

It was during this expedition with Baudin that Louis began mapping the coastline around Shark Bay and discovered its amazingly dry air, clear skies and uninterrupted view of the heavens. Thirteen years later the memory of these perfect conditions for observation no doubt had a significant influence on Louis’ decision to persuade the French Government to send him back to Shark Bay, to continue the work he had begun with Baudin.

Enter Rose … the beautiful, charming, intelligent, but headstrong and determined girl Louis had recently married. And that’s where my latest story begins.

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