Discovery of Baudin’s Journal

Cover of Reflections on New South Wales 1788-1839, by Louis de Freycinet, translated by Tom Cullity

Much has been written about the French presence off the coast of Australia in the late 16th and early 17th century. Our coastline carries a permanent record of visits by La Parouse, Perron, Baudin, de Freycinet and others. Perhaps the best known of these French explorers and navigators is Baudin, mainly because of his well documented meeting with Matthew Flinders at Encounter Bay in the Great Australian Bight. A meeting which lead directly to the publication of the first complete map of Australia by Louis de Freycinet in 1811. The fairly recent discovery of Baudin’s Journal from the voyage (1800-1804) is exciting news for followers of the Rose de Freycinet story, in particular, and early French exploration of Australia in general.

Louis de Freycinet (who would later marry Rose) was a young lieutenant under Baudin’s command on board the Naturaliste at the beginning of the voyage in 1800, and had risen to commander of the Casuarina by 1803The Casuarina was purchased by Baudin in Sydney to replace the Naturaliste, which he had sent home to France with most of the botanical specimens and scientific discoveries on board, while the Geographe and the Casuarina continued with their mapping and surveying. It was in this latter part of the voyage that the meeting between the French and the English ships took place. In spite of recent hostilities between England and France the meeting was friendly and productive. Louis de Freycinet, being Baudin’s chief surveyor and navigator by then, exchanged material with Flinders and the three ships went their separate ways.

Eventually, after the death of Baudin and the imprisonment of Flinders on Mauritius, it fell to Louis de Freycinet to complete the official report of Baudin’s voyage for the French government, who had financed it. In his report, which was published in 1811, the first complete map of Australia appeared. In spite of his report receiving praise from all quarters, Louis still felt he had unfinished business in Australia, especially in and around Shark Bay on the north coast of Western Australia. He persuaded the French Navy to supply him with a ship and set off in 1817 to circumnavigate the world, with Shark Bay firmly in his sights. It was on this voyage that the newly married Rose made her mark on history.

Check out the whole story of the voyage of the Uranie (1817-1820) in To See the World.

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