Building a canopy for Frenchman's Rock

From the Proceedings of the South Australian Branch of the Royal Geographical Society Session 1903-1904. Vol VII (printed 1906)

July 18, 1904

A letter from Mrs. B. Stow, Hog Bay, Kangaroo Island, asked for permission to erect a protective shelter around Frenchman's Rock. It was decided to forward the correspondence to the Government, urging that steps should be taken to provide an effective protection, and suggesting that a wall be placed on the sea side and a roof over the Rock ; also stating that the Society withdraws its approval of the suggestion to remove the stone to the Public Library. It was resolved to thank Mrs. Stow for her letter and her interest in the matter.

March 20, 1905.

A letter was read from Mrs. B. Stow, forwarding a design of the proposed shelter to be erected over Frenchman's Rock, and again asking for the co-operation of the Society. The President and Messrs. R. K. Thomas and C. L. Whitham were appointed a committee to confer with Mrs. Stow and report to the Council.

May 2, 1905. The Hon. Secretary reported that the sub-committee appointed with regard to Frenchman's Rock had met Mrs. Stow and obtained certain information from her. The matter was referred back to the sub-committee, to which Mrs. Newland was added as a member.

Frenchman's (Baudin's) Rock,

Kangaroo Island.

By C. E. Owen Smyth, I.S.O.

Bertha Stow, courtesy SLSA [PRG 280/1/12/63]

Having been deputed to arrange for the erection of a suitable protection for Frenchman's Rock, Kangaroo Island, the question arose whether the date on the stone, 1803, popularly supposed to have been altered by some vandal from 1802, was correct or otherwise. I was informed by members of the South Australian Geographical Society that the last figure had undoubtedly been a 2 originally, but had been altered into a 3. Personally, I was strongly of opinion that the carpenter of the French vessel '"Geographe" had made the figure 3, whether in mistake or correctly, I did not know, but I noticed that he had used the sharp end of a marlin spike to put a "flemish" to the tail of some of the letters, and felt confident that as the 3 had a similarly finished tail, "old chips" had put the 3 on the stone.

Apparently it had been taken for granted that after Flinders and Baudin had spoken each other in Encounter Bay on April 8, 1802, the latter, acting on information received from Flinders, had gone straight to Hog Bay and watered at the Springs. Now, as I had to put up a plate with the correct date of Baudin's visit to Hog Bay, I thought the best way to settle the question once for all was to find out what Baudin said about it himself, so I procured from the Public Library Peron's book of Baudin's voyage. Poor Baudin did not live to write his book himself, for I found that he died in 1803 on his way back to France ; but Peron, who was his naturalist, edited his journal.

On reading the account of the meeting with Flinders, I followed the course of the "Geographe," and found that she anchored one night in Antechamber Bay. When bad weather and sickness came later on she returned firstto Tasmania and then to Sydney (Port Jackson) to revictual and refit, arriving again in the waters of "Napoleon's Land," as Baudin called South Australia, on December 27, 1802.

Starting from Cape Willoughby, Baudin sailed west round Kangaroo Island, which he named Decres' Island — Ile Decres (although Flinders had already named it). Cape Borda he called by its present name. He explored American River, where he spent some days apparently, as several drawings of much interest were made there by the artists of the expedition. He called American River Port Dache, and Nepean Bay Bougainville Bay. He went up American River, and found that only a narrow strip of land lay between it and the Southern Ocean, so he called the Eastern portion of the island Galisonniere Peninsula. He renamed Kangaroo Head, near which Flinders first landed on the island, Cape Delambre, and the same day he evidently anchored in Hog Bay, and sent the boats ashore for water, this being the first place on Kangaroo Island where he found good water.

He named the place on his chart Anse des Sources (Cove of Springs), and in his journal it is called the little cove of springs. Evidently the carpenter went ashore to look after water casks, and spent his spare time while the boats were taking the water out to the ship in carving the now famous stone, which is alongside one of the springs. The following is Peron's account of the discovery of water, with a rough translation which I have made for those who do not understand the French. I have also added a copy of the letter which I have just written to Baron Hulot, the Secretary of the Geographical Society in Paris, with a translation attached.

Office of the Superintendent of Public Buildings, Works and Buildings Department, Adelaide, August 31, 1906.

Sir — I have the honor to send you a photograph of Frenchman's Rock — Baudin's Stone — situated on Kangaroo Island at Hog Bay, in South Australia. On the chart of Captain Baudin, by Messieurs Freycinet and Boulanger, the exact place is called Cove of Springs — Decres' Island. I also have the pleasure to enclose a photograph of a monument erected under my direction by the Government and some admirers of M. Nicholas Baudin, captain of the French vessel "Le Geographe" and Commodore of the Expedition of Discovery to the Australian Continent, who landed on Kangaroo Island in January, 1803.

You will also find enclosed a small chart of the place where Baudin's stone is situated, as well as the position where the two vessels, English and French, of Flinders and Baudin, met one another in April, 1802, in Encounter Bay.

Accept, Sir, the assurance of my highest consideration.

C. E. OWEN SMYTH, Superintendent of Public Buildings, South Australia.

Translation of Letter to Baron Hulot. M. Le Baron Hulot, General Secretary of the Geographical Society,

180, Boulevard St. Germain, Paris.

Translation of Passages from Peron's Edition of Baudin's journals:

"The Cape Delambre (Kangaroo Head of Flinders) formed the eastern end of the Bougainville Bay (Nepean Bay).'Two miles further over from this last cape we happened on the Little Cove of Springs (1), which deserves special record, because it was at this place alone on the island that we were able to procure fresh water. Some distance away is the Bay Guai Trouin (2), three or four miles across the opening, and extending about the same distance inland, and within which we had previously anchored in the preceding year. At this latter point the coast inclines to the S.S.E. as far as Cape Sane (3), which we spoke about before. From the peculiar configuration of the eastern portion of Decres' Island, it follows that the area between Port Dache (4), and this last cape forms a peninsula twenty-five miles long by a league broad at the narrowest part, and which we have named Galisoimiere's Peninsula, after the conqueror of Admiral Byng."

It might here be pointed out that the movement to provide a suitable shelter for the stone upon which Captain Baudin's carpenter had commemorated the visit of the French vessel "Geographe" to Hog Bay was taken up strongly by Mrs. Bertha Stow, the mistress of the Penneshaw School at Hog Bay, and by her energy a sum of money was subscribed. The French Geographical Society contributed 100 francs and the Government of South Australia promised to provide pound for pound on the subscriptions raised.

Finally, it fell to me to carry out the necessary work, which has been done by erecting a domed structure of hard ... [Portland cement, with iron bars in front, permitting inspection.]

(1) This cove is where Hog Bay Jetty is situated. (2) Antechamber Bay. (3) Cape Willoughby. (4) Now known as American River.

See also

TOPICS OF THE DAY. (1906, October 24). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 6.

There had been some argument about the date being 1802 or 1803 since the 1880s. Mr. C.E. Owen Smyth C.M.G., I.S.O. (1851-1925) who was Superintendent of Public Buildings when the cupola or dome was built thoroughly investigated the controversy by studying both Baudin’s and Flinders’ journals. The report of his work can be found in The Register of 28 July 1906 on page 7. - Chris Ward.

Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), Saturday 11 May 1918, page 25


Attached is a photograph of Frenchman's Rock, taken by Capt. Weir when Lord Tennyson was Governor of South Australia. The picture now is a pathetic one, as three of the figures are gone. The little boy (Harold) in the sailor collar, next to Capt. Clare, C.M.G., died of wounds on either a submarine or a torpedo boat. The centre figure is the Honourable Lionel Tennyson, the only surviving son of Lord Tennyson. He is a major in the Rifle brigade. The boy (Aubrey) to the right was also in the Rifle Brigade, and was killed recently. Lady Tennyson died after the loss of her youngest son. Mademoiselle Doussau, who is now on the staff of Her Majesty the Queen, is the left hand figure in the picture. This photograph was kindly lent to us hy Mr. C. E. Owen Smyth, I.S.O.FRENCHMAN'S ROCK, KANGAROO ISLAND. (1918, May 11). Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), p. 25.

Frenchmans Rock 1977. (Evocative of Stonehenge with the stones erected to keep out cattle). See the iron gate which was later removed. Photo courtesy of Caroline Scrimshaw, whose father Glynn Fogden is in the middle.