Mapping Australia by Baudin and Flinders
This is the story of the race between Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders to circumnavigate and map Australia in the earliest days of the 19th Century.
In 1800 Napoleon Bonaparte gave orders to a group of scientists to send an expedition to New Holland (Australia) to map and colonise the unclaimed parts
for France. Napoleon wants France to have an explorer hero like James Cook who would explore and discover something new and spectacular for the glory
of France. The French had the best scientists and its scientific community were keen to commission an exploration headed by Commodore Baudin as a monument to France.
France was at war with Britain and had been in competition with her for the whole of the 1700's. All of Europe was against France. The French applied to Britain
for safe passage for the voyage and of course the British Admiralty was suspicious. Britain had Port Jackson but the West was not claimed. They thought that
there was a strait between East and West Australia from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the area around Adelaide.
Matthew Flinders volunteered to head an expedition to counter the French land grab. The British Admiralty gives Baudin a passport and accepts Flinders
commission and gives him the ship the Investigator. The french sail first in La Geographe and the Naturaliste (full of scientists )and drop in at Tenerife where the
crew chase the local women and Baudin fears for disease. Baudin had 22 scientists on board and he needed lots of patience and they drove him to the end
of his tether. On the 6th April 1801, Flinders gets married to Anne Chappelle in secret.
Around the equator, meanwhile, Baudin is becalmed in the doldrums and the men are sick of the weather. He is patient, he must be. The men complain
and fight. Rations dwindle and the scientists are fighting. Baudin tells them to behave or they will be kicked off at the next port. Francoise Peron is
one of the main troublemakers.
Back in England Flinders is delayed getting out of port due to bureaucratic mixups and bungling. He sails from London and puts in at Portsmouth where his
new wife is not allowed to go with him and she is extremely upset. Baudin has reached the Ile de France where they think that he has come to take their
slaves off them. He needs stores but gets none and fights with the officials and blackmails them by kidnapping black slaves in return for his deserting sailors.
He is also very happy to get rid of 10 French scientists. Flinders, behind him, misses the doldrums but the Investigator is old and leaking 3 inches per hour.
Repairs are made at Cape Town and they sail east for Australia but the leaking increases to 5 inches per hour. The pumps would have been going night and day.
After 7 months at sea Baudin arrives at the coast of South West Australia on 27th May 1801. A landing party is lost and after several days they rescue
them but lose a boat and one man. Baudin's orders are to map the South of Australia, but he continues north because of the coming winter. But the north
has violent currents and islands dotted everywhere and he has to stand out from the shore. The country is not inviting, its mainly desert, there is
no water , no harbours. It is not good for settlement. Food and water is running out and scurvy starts to affect the men. On the 19th August 1801 Baudin heads
for Timor and arrives at Kupang. The Timorese welcome them with lots of food and women. But dysentry strikes. Baudin gets sick and nearly dies. After
3 months in Timor they head off for Tasmania to follow their orders to map the South of Australia and claim Tasmania for france.
Far behind them Flinders arrives at the South West of Australia on December 7th 1801. He does not know where Baudin is - he heads east and stops at King
George Sound to strip the masts and re-rig. The aboriginals are contemptuous and they stay for 3 weeks. While they are in there, Baudin passes by 150 miles
out to sea. Sadly Baudin's men are dying of dysentry and on the 13th January 1802 they reach Tasmania in the D'Entrecasteux Channel area.
They find no British Settlement. The aboriginal women want to see a naked white man and are curious about the strange white men. The french are paranoid
about the aboriginals because they think that they are burning the forests to drive them out.