Extracts from the diary of Nicolas Baudin
Extracts (1802-1803) from Nicolas Baudin's Journal from the translation by Christine Cornell, BA (Hons.) as they relate to his meeting with Matthew Flinders and later visit to Kangaroo Island These entries begin after he had been heading East-North-East from Lacepede Bay towards Encounter Bay
At daybreak on the 18th (8th April, 1802) we stood in for the coast in order to continue our work. But it was ten o'clock before we could begin, as we found ourselves further off shore than our overnight depth had seemed to indicate. We steered north-east to within a short league of the land. This brought us into another broad, deep bay with as little interest as those we had visited up to that time. To get out of it we had to steer successively from north-east to north-west by west. The entire stretch of coast that we have examined since yesterday consists solely of sandhills and inspires nothing but gloom and disappointment. Quite apart from the unpleasant view that it offers, the sea breaks with extraordinary force all along the shore, and two or three swells preceding the breakers indicate that there is a bar there which must reach half a mile out to sea.The look-out men at the mast-heads and the curious that wanted to climb up there reported that the hinterland was nothing but arid sand for as far as the eye could see, with no vegetation.
The coast that we explored on this day had, however, an advantage over that of yesterday: the water was much deeper and the bottom regular. Although only a bare league off shore, we never had less that 16 fathoms when doubling the points of the small coves along it, and 19 to 20 on either side of them. At mid-day the latitude observed was 36 degrees 1' 10" and the chronometer put us at 137 degrees 9' 40" of longitude.
In the afternoon we continued along a stretch of coast consisting entirely of sandhills. But towards three o'clock we began to see high terrain which looked as if it must be pleasant. Shortly after, we sighted a ship which we thought at first could only be the Naturaliste, for we were far from thinking that there would be any other Europeans this region and at this time of year. Nevertheless, we were greatly mistaken, for as we drew near her, we realised from her masts and size that she was not our consort. Finally, at five o'clock, when we were both able to see each other clearly, this ship made a signal which we did not understand, so did not answer. She then ran up the English flag and shortened sail. We, for our part, hoisted the national flag, and braced sharp up to draw along side her. As they spoke first, they asked what the ship was. I replied that she was French. Then they asked if Captain Baudin was her commander. I was very surprised, not only at the question, but at hearing myself named as well. When I said yes, the English ship brought to. Seeing her make ready to send a boat across, I likewise brought to, to wait for it. The English captain, Mr. Flinders (the very one who discovered the straight which should bear his name, but which most inappropriately has been called Banks Straight), came aboard, expressed great satisfaction at this agreeable meeting, but was extremely reserved on all other matters. As soon as I learnt his name, I paid him my compliments and told him of the pleasure that I had in making his acquaintance etc.. I informed him of all that we had done up till then in the way of geographical work. As it was already late, Mr. Flinders said that if I were willing to stand off and on till dawn, he would return the following day and give me various pieces of information concerning the coast that he had examined from Cape Leeuwin as far as here. I was very gratified by his proposal and we agreed to remain together during the night. The weather was very fine.
On the morning of the 19th (9th April, 1802), seeing that Mr. Flinders was making ready to come aboard again, as he had said he would the day before, I hove to once more to await him. He arrived at half past six, accompanied by the same person as on the earlier occasion. As he was much less reserved on this second visit than before, he told me that his ship was the Investigator and that he had left Europe about eight months after I had. He also told me that he had begun his exploration of the coast of New Holland at Cape Leeuwin. he had visited the Isles of St. Peter and St. Francis, as well as the coast up to the point of our meeting. In addition, he told me of the layout of a port that he had discovered on an island. The latter was only 15 or 20 leagues from where we were, and he had named it Kangaroo Island because of the great numbers of that animal that he found there. According to his report, the island is long, high and extensive, and there is a good passage between it and the mainland. He stayed six weeks there and so had time to examine it well.
Before we separated, Mr. Flinders gave me several charts published by Arrowsmith since our departure. As I told him of the accident that had befallen my dinghy and asked him to give it all the help he could if he should come to meet it, he told me of a similar misfortune that had happened to him, for he had lost eight men and a boat on his Kangaroo Island. His companion ship had also been separated from him during the equinoctial gale, part of which I had weathered in Bass Strait, and the remainder outside. Upon leaving, Mr Flinders said that he was going to make for the straight and try to find some land which was said to exist between the Hunter Group and the place that they have named Western Port. We parted at eight o'clock, each wishing the other a safe voyage.
There was little wind for the most part of the day. Sometimes we were even becalmed and at the mercy of the current, which carried us towards the coast, then only a league off. After sighting our points of the previous day, we sailed along the high land that we had seen a little before sunset. The coast in this part, if not extremely pleasant, was at least preferable to the region of sand hills that we had just left.
At mid-day the latitude observed was 35 degrees 36', but this was very uncertain. At three o'clock we sighted the island and islets spoken of by Mr Flinders. I proceeded so as to run in for the channel separating them from the mainland, but since the slight wind blowing did not allow me to do this before dark, I went about at five o'clock to stand out to sea.
Coasting the mainland during the day, we sighted three islets or rocks lying such a short way out that to see them, it was necessary to be as close in as we were. If becalmed, one could anchor there, in 24 or 21 fathoms, for the bottom is sandy and good - a rather rare finding between here and the Promontory. At sunset we could still see Mr. Flinders' ship running on the South-westerly leg. Until midnight the winds were south to south-south-east and rather fresh, but then they moderated, and shortly after that we went on the landward leg.
On the morning of the 20th (10th April, 1802), having found our bearings, we headed towards the two islets (the Pages) lying east of Kangaroo Island. The first is nothing but a pile of rocks, high enough to be seen from 5 or 6 leagues off. It seems safe and we were never in less than 16 fathoms at a distance of 1 league. The same is not true of the second rock which on its south-eastern side, has a long reef over which big seas break. As I am giving a view of these two islets, I shall not elaborate any further on this subject. The latitude of the first appeared to me to be 35 degrees 42'. As the south-easterly one lies very close to it, it is impossible that navigators should not sight them together. The channel between the two islets and the mainland is fine looking, deep and broad. The same applies to the passage between them and the east coast of Kangaroo Island
In the afternoon we were greatly frustrated by the weakness of the winds, which were almost calm. But the current served us reasonably well, although as it was flowing north-west, it carried us towards the mainland coast. We went close by a projecting point, after which the land appeared to run north-north west. At a short league off shore we were in 18 fathoms. The land here is a good height and very varied to look at; but it was still a source of regret, for since the coast rises shear from the water, we were unable to approach it. Never the less, one sometimes comes upon small sandy coves on the shores of which the sea also breaks. The latitude observed at mid-day was 35 degrees 51' and the chronometer put us in 135 degrees 42' 10" of longitude.
In the afternoon we headed towards the eastern part of Kangaroo Island which was in sight and concerning which Mr. Flinders had given me some details. At sunset we had a slight easterly breeze which, although weak, made things easier for us. The depth was very irregular on our course, and around nine o'clock the feebleness of the breeze decided me to anchor in 26 fathoms, sandy bottom. But either because it was too hard or because of something else, our anchor did not hold at all, and we were compelled to set sail again while it was still on the bottom. We noticed that the current was very swift and that it was genuinely flowing north-west, for we dragged our anchor to leeward. The rest of the night was spent tacking about, waiting for daylight in order to continue with the bearings of the principal points. These will possibly determine the position of this island in relation to the mainland. The channel that it forms with Cap de I'Etoille (Lands End?) is about 4 1/2 to 5 leagues across, at the most. During the night, the weather looked most unpromising for the morrow. The sky clouded over in the North and we occasionally had some rain, but no wind.
On the morning of the 21st (11 April) we were tacking towards the mainland in the channel between it and Kangaroo Island, when suddenly on the shore near us, we saw a very brilliant light, like what fishermen carry in the dark. At daybreak we saw much more clearly, and someone even thought he could make out plainly the person carrying it. This indeed could be so for we saw it being waved in different directions and it was not a fixed fire; at one moment it was in front of our first bearing point and the next, it was beyond it. When light came it disappeared.
Until sunrise, the winds were very feeble and erratic, but then they settled in the North and a good breeze blew until midday. We sailed along a fairly considerable stretch of the eastern coast of Kangaroo Island. We visited several reasonably deep bays, where in the good season - summer, that is - there must be sound anchorages and shelter from the north-west, west and south winds. But with winds from any other point of the horizon, the sea must be disturbed there, for we found it so with moderate northerlies. The depth all along the coast is fairly regular. At 1 1/2 leagues from the shore, it is 10 fathoms and at a short distance off, it is 7 and 6. The hinterland looks rather pleasant, although most of the trees have lost their leaves, there remained enough greenery for the view to be attractive. I sailed very close-in along the land, not only to take exact bearings of it, but also in the hope of discovering the port which the English claim to have found and in which Mr. Flinders told me that he had stayed six weeks, while reconnoitering this part of the coast. So far, it looks as if I misunderstood or misheard the latitude he gave me, for the land does not appear to run as far north as I heard him say. During the day we were obliged to go about in order to double a projecting point. The winds were such that we could not pass by without standing off a little from it.
At midday the latitude observed was 35 degrees 40'. We did not take an hour angle during the afternoon. The breeze was fresh and we continued to sail close in along the coast, bearing east of north after sunset to stand in for the mainland. The overnight winds were weak and changeable. We attempted to remain in 20 fathoms and had succeeded in doing so when, at midnight, we suddenly dropped to 15 and to 12. We then noticed some flat, low lying land upon which the sea was breaking loudly enough to be quite audible. We did not know what pan it could be and bore away successively to south-east until we regained a depth of 20 fathoms.
A marginal note in Baudin's hand reads " It is the southern part of the peninsula between the two gulfs. " He continued to have difficulty with winds and tides and did not land on Kangaroo Island at this time, but headed east and to for Port Jackson for the winter, to return the next year.
SOJOURN ON KANGAROO ISLAND
NIVÖSE, YEAR 11 OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC
6th January, 1803
On the morning of the 16th we went on the port tack in order to stand in for the coast. My intention was to anchor in the first bay opposite the entrance to the secondi gulf. The first time I visited this coast, this bay, and even the one after it, had looked as if it must offer some good shelter from north-east through south to west; but the weather then did not allow me to examine it thoroughly, nor the one to the west of it which is much deeper, but has shallow water at its mouth and for a fairly long way out to sea. I found there only 5 to 6 fathoms, sandy bottom.
Having entered the first of the bays just mentioned, we anchored in 8 fathoms, bottom of sand and weeds, which led me to think that we would find good holding. We immediately moored across with a small kedge anchor so that the current should not cause us to run over our cable, as had happened several times.
As soon as the ship was moored, the boats were put down and I sent parties off to examine the coast. These were to learn its outline and, above all, to see if there were not some fresh water in various ravines that we could see, which appeared to open out on to the shore. Citizens Bonnefoi and Ransonnet were each put in charge of a boat for this exploration, with orders for one to begin on the west side of the bay and the other on the east so as to meet in the inlet to the south. Citizen Ransonnet, who had the west section, was instructed to make a large fire on a prominent point in order to indicate to the Casuarina that we were in this bay, should she happen to arrive overnight. At about eleven o'clock a third boat left with the carpenters to cut some suitable wood for the building of our longboat, most of the frames of which we had made since our departure from King Island.
At sunset, with all the boats back on board, I learnt that a small port had been found at the head of the bay. It seemed a good one at first, for the boats had entered it at high tide; but when this went out it left a great number of sand-banks showing, separated only by very narrow channels in which there remained no more than 2 or 3 fathoms of water. The channel through which one must pass had 3 or 4 at high tide, but was none the less obstructed by bars. As the shortness of the time that the boats had had for examining this place had not allowed them to obtain exact details of it, I put further study of it off until the following day.
The carpenters and those who had been sent off in search of water did not find a drop, and the former were not even able to locate [timber] of the proportions that we needed. More than fifty trees chopped down were found to be quite rotten at the heart. They also reported having seen such a large number of kangaroos of the big variety that they compared them to flocks of sheep, saying they were no wilder.
i Sic. Baudin probably meant to say the second bay and the first gulf
ii 'Herbier' (sic) = herbe.
7th January, 1803
First thing in the morning on the 17th, I dispatched my large dinghy under the command of Citizen Bonnefoi, sending with him Faure, the geographical surveyor, who had orders to make a thorough examination of the port discovered the day before and to survey it. The boat was provided with three days' supplies and given instructions to return to the ship for more, should the detail of this port require a longer time than I had allowed.
At about nine o'clock we sighted the Casuarina, and she headed towards our anchorage as soon as she had sighted us. The captain of this vessel came aboard shortly after to hand me a statement of his needs, which were not few. Before examining his request, I gave him an anchor and a hawser so that he should moor across immediately. The caulkers were also sent aboard his ship to re-coveriii the topsides, which were letting in a considerable amount of water.
During the morning we had a strong North-westerly breeze which made the sea a little rough and choppy, thus preventing any work aboard her. The boat sent ashore on the preceding day to look for water had brought back a kangaroo of the large variety, so most of it was distributed amongst the crew.
In the afternoon we were entirely occupied in working for the Casuarina. The forge, particularly, had plenty to do with repairing one of her anchors, the iron stock of which was broken. We also had to make her fresh hoops for her topmasts, shift their cross-trees and do a host of other jobs which the advantage of having us led Mr. Freycinet to ask of us. This ship likewise needed water, having emptied her casks when she went aground in the bay that she wanted to examine on the Van Diemen's Land coast, South of the Hunter islands. I had four casks of water delivered to Mr. Freycinet and assured him that he would not get any more, as I was unable to run the risk of lacking it myself just for the pleasure of giving him some.
The sky looked threatening soon after dark and this decided me to pay out up to 24 fathoms of cable for greater security. This precaution was not in vain, for we experienced some rather strong gusts and were frequently on the brink of dropping a second anchor. Nevertheless, the ship held well, which confirmed to me that the holding was not bad, even though a small bower anchor would not have stayed with 120 fathoms of cable.
iii 'Recourir' (sic) recouvrir.
8th January, 1803
On the 18th the weather was hardly any finer than the day before, and this made me send down our topgallant masts. During the morning the boat that I had sent to examine and survey the port at the head of the inlet returned to the ship. The officer commanding it and Citizen Faure both told me that the work was finished. This greatly surprised me, especially as, according to the first report that I had had, it was to be long and even difficult. I mentioned my fears to these gentlemen on their apparent promptness and forced diligence, but they nevertheless assured me that they had seen and examined everything and that this inlet was not so much a port, as an accumulation of sandbanks and shoals, most of which were exposed at low tide. Despite all their searching, they found no water — only several salty streams that lost themselves in swamps. As Citizen Faure has to give me a detailed plan of this area, I shall say no more on the subject before receiving it.
During the day we continued work for the Casuarina so as to get her into a state for carrying out the mission that I wanted to entrust to her.
The weather was still squally in the afternoon, with rain and fairly strong gusts, and the winds varied from south-west to west-south-west. However, it was not so disagreeable overnight as it had been throughout the day.
9th January, 1803
On the 19th I sent one of my boats off again, under the command of Citizen Ransonnet, to go and examine a second, much deeper bay to the west of the one we are in. He had orders to sail right around it and to examine its entire length with care in order to ascertain if there were not some fresh-water streams and some shelter for the ships there. The boat was provided with three days' supplies and everything that was necessary for the geographical work on this bay. I did not send a geographer, being positive that Citizen Ransonnet would acquit himself just as well in the work as those who are aboard.
After dispatching this boat, I went ashore to examine a ravine near our anchorage. I was expecting to find water there, from the fresh appearance of the growth at that part of the coast. I also intended to sink a well if I did not find any running stream. That is why I took men with me and everything that was necessary for this work. As soon as we landed, I went and explored the place just spoken of and found there nothing but the most complete dryness. We dug five large holes which were of no use at all, for less than 2 feet down, we came on the rock that doubtless forms the core of this island.
Leschenault, the botanist, and the gardener's boy came ashore with me, as did Citizen Péron, and busied themselves with their work. When they rejoined us, having had little success on their excursion, we thought of returning to the ship, for the only luck we had was one live kangaroo that our dog caught shortly before departure. Upon setting off, I left two Englishmen ashore to kill us some kangaroos by lying in wait for them at night, as is their custom.
During the night of the 19th to the 20th the weather was reasonably [fine], with winds from south-west. In the course of the day we had moored ourselves securely with two bowers, one to north-east and the other to south-west.
10th January, 1803
On the 20th, as the Casuarina was to be ready to leave by night or, at the latest, by the following morning, I wrote these letters to Citizens Freycinet and Boullanger, our geographer:
The Commander etc. to Citizen Freycinet aboard the Casuarina
As soon as your ship is repaired, you are to set sail and proceed directly to an examination of the west coast of the first gulf, opposite which we are anchored and whose eastern coast is formed by the high land visible to east-north-east. We went up this gulf to the latitude of 34 0 38' and from that point had a perfect view of the land from north to north-north-west. But we found the water so shallow then that it was not possible for us to stand in close enough to examine it well.
Your ship's small draught will make easier for Citizen Boullanger, our geographer, who is to accompany you, the work that remains to be done on this part, especially as it is not much and will not require a great deal of time, for you arc not to concern yourself at all with the east coast, which was thoroughly explored by this ship.
You are, therefore, to proceed straight to the north upon leaving and so reach the head of the gulf as soon as possible. You will then come down it, coasting the western side. You are not to go into less than 2 fathoms of water. This is imperative, and you will be personally responsible to the government for anything that happens if you do not obey the order. The west coast of this first gulf seemed to us to be generally low-lying and, in several places, formed by sand-dunes. You must examine it cautiously and take frequent soundings so as to avoid stranding yourself upon any sand-banks, for I am assured that several shoals are to be found there.
At the southern end of this first gulf the coast forms a projecting cape, and the entrance to a second gulf appears. You will then sight several islands and islets to the south and west. There are various channels amongst them which are practicable, but they require prudence. You will leave these islands to the south without losing any time, for their respective positions have been determined by us already. Once in the second gulf, you will proceed as you did for the first — that is, you will immediately make northing in order to reach the head of it. You are not to concern yourself with the east coast, for it is known to us. We were only able to reach the latitude of 34 0 11' when sailing up it, but I think it extends further north, and this is what you must find out. The point at which we stopped and would have started again, had the bad weather not prevented us, is easy to recognise, being conspicuous on account of a water-level reef close in to the shore, over which the sea breaks heavily. According to the reckoning of our course between midday and three o'clock and the bearings that were taken of this danger then, its latitude would be 34 0 8'. It seemed to us to be the highest point of a sandbank which is visible at low tide and over which the sea then breaks roughly. We were in 8 fathoms, sandy bottom, at about a league offshore.
The east coast of this second gulf is low and consists of more or less high sand-dunes; but further to north-north-east, where we did not go, some high parts are visible, which I suspect are inland mountain peaks.
Once you arc at the head of this gulf (provided, however, that you can reach it without danger and without going into less than 2 fathoms of water), you will begin coasting the West side on your return south, having taken bearings of the eastern part, starting from the reef I have mentioned. The western land looked extremely high to us and perhaps you may find something of interest there. Near the southern tip of this same coast must be the small portiv in which Mr. Flinders stayed for a fairly long time. You are to examine it and Citizer Boullanger will survey it.
iv Boston Bay, where Port Lincoln lies.
If you get an opportunity to replace your water, do not fail to do so; but nevertheless be careful not to spend more time on it than is necessary. Allowing for the contrarinesses of the season, I consider fifteen or eighteen days to be more than sufficient for the work that you have to do. I shall wait here for you until then, but I warn you that if you are not back within twenty days at the most, I shall set sail for the St. Peter and St. Francis islands, where I have plenty of things to do. The impossibility of being able to replace my water does not allow me to wait for you any longer. Since the government did not ask me for the topography of a few sterile and unproductive parts of New Holland, but simply for knowledge of the coast, you are only to go ashore at the place where you are certain of being able to obtain water easily. If you should come upon some large openings, you are to return here before examining them, so that I may take the ship there. This will also apply if what we have judged to be peninsulasv should be islands.
v Baudin has written 'gulfs' here, but his meaning is clearly 'peninsulas'.
The course that I have indicated to you in these instructions is undoubtedly the shortest; nevertheless you must change or modify it according to the winds that you find, for I am presuming them just as favourable for going north as for returning south. You may, therefore, hold whichever course suits the winds best, whether you begin with the first or with the second of these two gulfs.
Since I am determined to set sail if you are not back by the specified time, you are to return here to make sure that I have gone before you proceed to the islands of St. Peter and St. Francis, whither I plan to go. This group of islands lies in 32 0 31' of south latitude and 131 0 25' of longitude. I shall make every effort to sight the mainland coast to the north which I was unable to reach the first time that I visited the south side of the islands. They are uninhabited, so if you should see some smoke, it will undoubtedly mean that we have lit a fire to indicate to you that we are in the neighbourhood or that we have passed by there. If, as I fear, I am unable to obtain water on that part of the coast, I shall proceed to King George Sound, of which you have a chart in the atlas of Vancouver's voyage. From there I shall head for Géographe Bay on the Leeuwin coast.
If you should find us no longer here, you are to leave immediately for the St. Peter and St. Francis islands, making westing in this same latitude, if the winds permit, in order to get out promptly from amongst all the islets, rocks and reefs which lie on a too northerly course and which, as well as the mainland coast, we already know. You will not take my little boat. It would undoubtedly be lost if I left it with you. Furthermore, it is of absolutely no use to you and would only retard your progress or endanger your ship, which will set sail tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest. On your return you will give me a written report of your work and remarks.
Your fellow-citizen, (Signed) N.B.
The Commander etc. to Citizen Boullanger, geographical surveyor
As soon as the Casuarina is repaired, I ask you to go aboard her to carry out the geographical work on the two west coasts of the gulfs near which we are now. When we explored the east side of these same gulfs, the lack of water for the size of the ship, and other no less unfavourable circumstances, did not permit us to do this work. It is, however, too interesting for the knowledge of the coast to be abandoned, and so for this reason I am inviting you to carry it out with the greatest accuracy that you are capable of.
Citizen Freycinet has instructions to proceed directly to the north in order to learn the exact depth of the first gulf, although I am convinced that we saw the head of it ourselves, having reached 34 0 38' of latitude when closely coasting the east side, upon which you will not stop. But the same does not hold for the western one, and it is necessary for you to do it all. The land in this part is generally low and the water, even a fairly long way out, is shallow.
When the work on this first gulf is finished you will proceed to the second, continuing along the mainland coast without stopping at the islets and rocks lying south and west of you. Their respective positions we already know. Once you are in this second gulf, Citizen Freycinet has orders to do as for the first; that is, he will head north to learn its depth and will then examine the west coast which, most unlike the one opposite, is high and hilly — if, however, the range of mountains that we sighted does not lie inland. We went up this gulf to the latitude of 340 11', but had still not reached its furthermost part; and the bad weather which then came prevented us from returning there.
Judging by all the probabilities, and even assuming the contrarinesses of the season, I consider fifteen or eighteen days to be more than enough for the work that you have to do, seeing that you are not to concern yourself in any way with the east coasts of these two gulfs which we ourselves have examined sufficiently well for the perfection of Geography.
The islands and islets to the south and west of the second gulf must not concern you either, but Citizen Freycinet is charged with looking for a port which must lie at the western tip of the gulf and in which Flinders sojourned. You will survey it, if possible, for this resting-place needs to be known. According to t} information given me, there should be an islandvi opposite the entrance to it which provides security again winds from south-east to north-east.
vi Boston Island.
I have told Citizen Freycinet of the fixed date upon which I shall leave here; and since the time that I plan I stay is longer than you need, I have no doubt of your being back before the day that I have named. Nevertheless should it be otherwise, I have given him orders to rejoin me at the St. Peter and St. Francis islands in the latitude of 320 31' and longitude of 1310 25'. These islands are easily recognised and approached. I shall make every effort to sight the mainland to the north of the group, for I was not able to see it when I was in this region before. If I cannot obtain water here, I shall proceed to King George Sound for the replacements that I need. As Citizen Freycinet has a chart of this port in the atlas of Vancouver's voyage, he will find it easily. I will only point out that its latitude is said to be 10' further south. However, in sailing along this part of the coast, he will no doubt realise this.
Although I have indicated to Citizen Freycinet the course he should follow (since I think it the best), he must nevertheless conform to whichever one the winds may make necessary, whether he begins with the first gulf or with the second. My only wish is to shorten as much as possible his period of absence, for our situation do not permit of a useless loss of time. He also has orders, if he should discover some large openings at the head the gulfs or find that what we have taken to be peninsulas are islands, to return without sailing round them, that I may take the ship there. He is expressly recommended not to go ashore and never to get into less 2 fathoms of water, in order to endanger neither his vessel nor the safety of those accompanying him, as he has done before. The government did not ask me for the topography of a few sterile and unproductive parts of New Holland, but merely for knowledge of the coast or any large openings that it may present. I hope you will be willing to confine yourself to these same limits and to terminate the work entrusted to you as soon as possible. If the winds were favourable, it would be a matter of only four or five days.
Your fellow-citizen, (Signed) N.B.
Throughout the day of the 20th we continued getting the Casuarina in a state to set off. The ship’s carpenters were despatched to cut wood for the construction of our longboat, which was being done on board, and a second dinghy was sent to explore several small inlets to the east of our anchorage, in order to see if there were not a few fresh-water streams there.
At sunset, the Casuarina being [ready], Mr. Boullanger went aboard. The ship set sail at about ten o'clock at night, with very fine weather and a fresh southerly breeze, occasionally varying to east.
11th January, 1803
The fine weather continued on the 21st and we had a fresh south-easterly breeze all day. During the morning we paid out our cables and the crew was employed in various other jobs on board. In the course of the day we caught a fairly large amount of medium-sized mackerel. The little dinghy, which had been sent to fish off a point to the east of our anchorage, was not so lucky as we were. It only brought back about fifty fish, all of the same species and known as the parrot-fish. The kangaroo-hunters did not fare badly and returned with five of the large variety, the total weight of which was possibly between 250 and 300 pounds.
Towards four in the afternoon, Citizen Ransonnet arrived back from his mission, having found nothing of any great interest and not a single drop of water. On this excursion he saw plenty of cassowaries and kangaroos. Two of the latter were caught alive, but it was decided to cut their throats rather than bring them aboard. Since he has to draw up a chart of the bay he surveyed, I shall give details of it when I receive the work.
The weather was fine overnight and the winds were South-East.
12th January, 1803
At daybreak on the 22nd two boats were sent off fishing with the draw-net. Citizens Leschenault and Péron were of the party. On this same day we took the astonomical circle ashore, but I did not want to set up any tents there, because the gear that is then involved is so considerable, that a day is usually required to get everything back on board. This would hardly be convenient at an anchorage like this one where one must always be ready to leave, and often by means of cutting or paying out one's cables.
It was settled that Bernier, the astronomer, would go ashore in the morning and return between three and four in the afternoon. Our chronometers, whose rate had been well determined at King Island, could not be needing much correction.
One of the fishing-boats came back at midday, bringing nothing at all. According to the report, the lack of success was attributed to the great number of otaries on the beach.
The little dinghy, which had stayed behind to bring back Messrs Leschenault and Péron, did not return until four in the afternoon. The former had had no luck on his excursion and arrived with only two or three plants that he did not know; but Citizen Péron was full of joy at having collected three or four molluscs, two small lizards and half a dozen ear-shells like the ones that the sailors have filled their chests with. The breeze was weak in the afternoon and the winds were from south-east and gusty. There was nothing particular about the night, except that it was very humid, in spite of an extremely clear sky.
13th January, 1803
First thing in the morning on the 23rd, I sent a boat off under the command of Midshipman Baudin. It was to examine the bay in which we had anchored the first time that we sighted this island and in which we had not remained because our anchor would not hold. As this bay is on the east side of the island, he was gone for the whole day, and on his return, I was informed that one could obtain a little water there by sinking wells. The men from the boat had collected some in this way and had found muddy ground under the shore, from which they had got some that was reasonably good. I put off until the morrow finding out more definitely what it could be.
Another boat was busy during the day cutting wood and brought us back two loads of it. A third was given to the petty officer to go collecting oysters in the Port des Pélicansvii.
vii This is American River.
By sunset the boats were back. The one sent for water returned with only two tierces, [see comment below] which were the product of the first well. Two more were dug beside it and I am hoping that the three together will supply our needs during this stay. The only pity is that we should have to go an extremely long way to get it.
The petty officer's boat returned laden with oysters, which were distributed amongst the whole crew. It likewise brought back a fairly large number of pelican's eggs and thirty or so of the birds themselves, taken from their nests.
During the night the weather was fine, the sky, as usual, was humid and the winds were absolutely still.
14th January, 1803
On the 24th we laid down our longboat aboard the ship herself and the stern and sternpost were placed in position. During the rest of the day all the frames, which had been made in advance, were attached. As usual, the boats were sent off for water and wood. And in the first I dispatched one of our hunters to obtain some particular birds, which had been reported to have red tail-feathers and grey body, being the size of a cockatoo and said to resemble it in the beak. The weather was fine all day and there was only a slight breeze from the south, variable to south-south-west.
The boats returned at night with little water and even less in the way of objects of curiosity. The red-tailed birds reported turned out to be merely black cockatoos with splashes of red in their tail-feathers, and were exactly the same as those we had obtained at Port Jackson. More interesting were two golden-winged pigeons, which were in very good condition.
There was nothing particular about the night; it was fine, although very humid.
15th January, 1803
Our tasks on the 26th were the same as those of the day before and the boats had the same destinations. On board we busied ourselves with the section of rigging that needed repairs; our lower, as well as the topmast, shrouds were set up, and the ship was got ready to take to the sea as soon as we liked.
The sky had been extremely clear during the morning, but in the afternoon it grew dark and stormy, showing signs of bad weather for overnight. The barometer had also fallen, and this warned us to be on our guard. At sunset thunder began to rumble and we had some rather loud claps. Nevertheless, the weather gradually cleared and we got away with no more than the scare. The overnight winds were gusty and very variable from north to east.
16th January, 1803
Throughout the day of the 27th there was a strong west to south-westerly breeze which made the sea rough and swelling. Nevertheless our large boat was sent ashore with the carpenters, who had some curved pieces to cut for the bows of our longboat. It made two trips during the day, although the weather was hardly suitable for work such as it had to do. The boat sent for water did not return at all, on account of the strength of the wind. For most of the day we had lightning on various parts of the horizon, but heard no thunder. The weather cleared towards evening, and during the night, which was fine, the breeze died away completely.
17th January, 1803
On the 28th the winds were south-south-east and moderate. We went on with our usual work— that is, we collected water and wood, either for burning or for the construction of our longboat, the gunwales of which were put in position.
The night was uneventful; the wind was almost calm and we had a fine sky.
18th January, 1803
The fine weather continued on the 29th and this particularly pleased me, as the Casuarina had had constantly favourable winds and I was therefore expecting to see her back without delay — provided, that is, she has followed my instructions (although this, in my opinion, is extremely doubtful, for officers always think that they know more than those under whom they serve).
Little water was obtained on this day because the well only fills again extremely slowly. The other boat was employed in bringing fire-wood back to the ship.
Fine weather overnight and fresh North-easterly breeze.
19th January, 1803
As the weather was fine on the morning of the 30th, I had a rooster and two hens put ashore at the place where the water is collected. On this beach I likewise left a boar and sow to multiply and possibly be of use to future navigators in these regions. During the summer this island will be able t to provide good refreshments for ships that want to stop here; and the anchorage seems to me to be sound enough for one to ride securely at it, provided the winds are not strongly from north-east, north or north-west. The sea then is very rough and choppy in it, but one can always set sail easily and return when the bad weather has passed.
During the day, with the help of the dogs, the hunters caught twelve giant kangaroos of various sizes. Seven of them were taken alive and were put in pens aboard the ship to be kept. Amongst these ones that we hope to carry back to our country, are three females which have offspring and may prosper. I shall try, before leaving, to obtain a full twenty live ones, so that we shall have better hope of keeping some throughout the voyage.
The weather was dull overnight and we occasionally had some violent gusts from east-north-east.
20th January, 1803
During the morning of 1 Pluviöse, 30th, the winds were north-west and gusty. The sky also looked threatening, being dark and overcast; but everything cleared in the afternoon when the winds changed to south-south-west.
The day before, I had dispatched the large boat, with two days' supplies and Citizen Bonnefoi in command, to go and cut spars suitable for the masts of our boats. It returned at seven in the morning, bringing us some billets that were barely suitable for the cross-beams of grating. As this was the second time that Citizen Bonnefoi had performed an errand extremely badly — he dislikes leaving the ship, where he finds things to his taste, having nothing to do — I decided to employ him no longer. I had also sent Citizen Lesueur in this boat to procure us some live emus, there being many near the place where it had gone; but he was not given the necessary time to hunt them with the dogs that he had taken for that purpose.
The rest of the day was spent in work on our longboat and in various other tasks about the ship. The weather overnight was fine and the winds were south and moderate, although some strong gusts occasionally blew across.
21st January, 1803
At six o'clock on the morning of the 2nd I went ashore with the carpenters to try and obtain some suitable wood for planking. We were beginning to need it for the continuation of our longboat, which then had its wales in position and a strake underneath.
Until then we had been unable to find suitable straight wood along the shore, that of the casuarina, which might have done instead of eucalyptus, being always found rotten at the heart. More than sixty of the latter species were chopped down without our being able to find a single one that could be used. All that we brought back from this painful expedition was twenty or so curved pieces and some garlands. We obtained only two straight pieces, one of which is extremely dubious.
As I was constantly at the side of the carpenters, hurrying on the work, I was nearly crushed by a tree that fell in a different direction to the one expected. In coming down, it knocked me over, and I was so entangled in the branches that it took me a long time to free myself. I got off, however, with some cuts on the head and other parts of the body. This fall made me spend the night ashore, where I rested perfectly well, although extremely uncomfortably. We had very fine weather during the day, and overnight there was a slight easterly breeze which made the air very crisp, and even cold.
22nd January, 1803
On the morning of the 3rd I returned aboard with the rest of the wood that the boat had not been able to take the night before. I also brought back three live kangaroos which were put in pens like the others, and of which I am taking the greatest care. There were two males and one female, and the three of them were caught unharmed by our dogs. One tried to escape by throwing himself into the water, but fell into our hands after putting up magnificent resistance.
We were busy on board for the rest of the day and the carpenters all returned to work on the longboat, saving up until the following day to go for wood at another place where we may be more fortunate. During the night the sky was very dark and overcast. The winds were south-east, very feeble.
23rd January, 1803
At sunrise on the 3rd the carpenters were again sent ashore to look for suitable wood for planking. A second boat left during the morning to go and observe the latitude at the entrance to the Port des Pélicans, situated at the head of the bay opposite which we are anchored. It was to the chief yeoman of signals that this task was entrusted, for most of the officers aboard have no instruments, and those who have regard it as beneath their dignity. I dispatched a third boat, when it had returned from the water, to help in the transporting of the timber that the carpenters would cut. Two of our huntsmen went ashore for the day to try and obtain some new birds that had been reported to me.
During the day these boats were able to make only one trip; and our hunters sent us three live kangaroos, which, like the others, were penned in the two cabins that had been dismantled to house them. There was a fresh east-south-easterly breeze all afternoon and overnight the winds were east, almost calm.
24th January, 1803
On the 4th the work was the same as the day before. We continued cutting wood for the planking and set up our saws on board for the splitting of it. There was no one who had done such work before, which inevitably made it difficult for those engaged upon it. Since it was necessary to set the example in a situation like this, I sawed part of the first piece with the ship's steward, Boivin. Citizen Ronsard took over from me, but the other officers were careful not to show up. Although not one of them knows the first thing about ship-building, they have not gone near the longboat since it has been on the stocks. Work, they say, is for the populace; a naval officer should only know how to guide a ship and to rest when his watch is finished.
In the evening our carpenters returned aboard and likewise our huntsmen, who had had no luck on their expedition. The night was uneventful, the sky overcast and the horizon misty. The winds were easterly and came in strong gusts.
25th January, 1803
On the 5th, seeing no sign of the Casuarina returning, after a fortnight's absence, I began to fear that either she had not carried out the orders that I had given her upon departure, or some troublesome accident had befallen her. However, the fine weather that has prevailed since the time of her leaving makes this latter conjecture much less likely than the former.
Be that as it may, I shall wait here until the date that I have fixed; but if she does not appear during the four days that remain between now and then, I shall continue on my way without any further worry.
In the course of this day we finished taking on the wood for our longboat, which pleased me very much. On board, the sawing of planks continued, and those in charge of this work performed it much better than the day before. As usual, we collected our daily supply of water. There was a calm all day and night and very great heat throughout.
26th January, 1803
We had a very hazy sky on the 6th and the winds were north-east, fresh breeze. Our day's activities were, as usual, the replacement of the water consumed and work on our longboat, which was beginning to progress and take on a good shape.
I sent some men to hunt kangaroos, but we had no luck, for only one was taken alive. It was brought back to the ship with three others that had been throttled by the dogs. Overnight the weather was fine and the wind calm.
27th January, 1803
On the 7th the weather was more or less the same as the day before and the sky looked threatening enough for us to be afraid of some squalls, several parts of the horizon being full of storms. But the North-East to northerly breeze that sprang up during the morning cleared away the heaps of cloud, and the weather turned fine once more.
Work continued on the longboat, and the men entrusted with the making of boards for the planking did an extremely good job.
During the night the sky became overcast again and turned stormy. Now and then we had some gusts from the south and occasionally some rain.
28th January, 1803
The sky cleared again on the 8th and we had winds from south-south-west. During the morning our astronomer was taken ashore to observe distances between the sun and the moon.
Since I was planning to set sail as soon as the time prescribed for the Casuarina's return was up, I began taking on branches of white casuarina for the kangaroos' feed. We already had fifteen and they were well. Two had died, having been too badly wounded by the dogs to recover. Overnight the wind was calm and the sky was fine.
29th January, 1803
We had very fine weather on the 9th. The boats sent for water had orders to bring back all those who were camped ashore and to take down the tents.
At daybreak we put our longboat on its beam so as to measure its bottom. This work could not easily be done once we were at sea, because our other boats would have hampered us too much. We had time, during the day, to place four strakes in position, and this was sufficient for the port side which was to be constructed first. The caulkers worked for most of the night with a torch in order to stop up the part that had [been] planked in the course of the day.
The boats returned in the evening, bringing us another live kangaroo, which was put with the others. Citizen Bernier was also sent ashore to continue observing distances. The weather was fine overnight and the wind almost calm.
30th January, 1803
On the morning of the 10th we put our longboat on the other side and, during the day, performed the same operation on it that had taken place the day before. The work was hurried on as much as possible and in the evening we put it on the permanent stocks, the caulkers having finished their task likewise.
We had very fine weather during the day and a fresh south-south-easterly breeze. I lost all hope of seeing the Casuarina return and was none the wiser as to her reason for being away so long.
However that may be, as I was determined to leave, the ship was got ready to do so. Our topgallant masts, which had been sent down, were pointed up again and the yards were sent aloft.
A little before sunset several kangaroos appeared on the shore opposite us. I immediately sent a party after them in the hope of catching some alive. I was not disappointed, for at nine o'clock the boat returned, bringing three fine animals, one of which was severely wounded.
During the night a fire began above the kitchens and burnt through the deck. It was noticed in time for it to be extinguished straightaway. The officer of the watch was put under arrest for not having told me of this accident, which fortunately had no sequel.
31st January, 1803
I would have set sail on the 11th, for the twenty days allowed as the maximum period for the Casuarina were up. Nevertheless, I spent this day still at anchor in the hope of seeing her return, but the twenty-four hours were lost in vain.
The weather was very fine throughout the morning. We had a fresh breeze from south-south-east to south-south-west and I greatly regretted not having taken advantage of it.
The boat entrusted with the providing of our daily water needs brought us back two pretty, live emus, which had been caught with the aid of the dogs. Despite all our efforts, we had so far been unable to approach them, even though we knew the areas that they frequented. This lucky capture made me less sorry for the loss of the day that I had just spent in waiting for the Casuarina. Overnight the weather was fine and the wind calm.
1st February, 1803
From four o'clock onwards on the morning of 12 Pluvi6se, we prepared to set sail as soon as the breeze should spring up, as it had usually done while we were at this anchorage. We began by taking our three boats aboard, and then, with the ship, raised our small bower and hove short on the other anchor. Next the crew were given breakfast, after which, having hoisted our topsails, we weighed anchor and proceeded on our way, leaving the Casuarina to her good fortune, as she had chosen to leave us to ours.
I intended to go and sight some land that the look-out men had reported to the west of Ile Borda, so I headed west and south as soon as I was out of the bay we had anchored in, and for the third time sailed along the whole of this island's north coast, seeing once more all the points that have helped us in the drawing up of the chart, which appears to me to leave nothing to be desired.
In the afternoon the winds were south variable to south-south-east, but the breeze was so stiff that we were obliged to take two reefs in the topsails and furl all our staysails. Although the wind was from on-shore, the sea was nevertheless rough and choppy.
At two o'clock we sighted the Casuarina running on the easterly leg. I expected that as soon as she saw us, she would go on the same tack as us and follow us. Consequently, when we were within range of each other, I furled the mainsail so that she should have less trouble in keeping up with us. But that disturbed her extremely little and she continued running east, and so rapidly, that by half past three she was out of sight. It is undoubtedly difficult to explain this manoeuvre on the part of Citizen Freycinet and he will surely tell us about it at our first meeting.
As I wanted to get out of the islands and rocks to the north of Ile Borda, I continued on my way, preferring to wait for the Casuarina at the end of the island, rather than lose time chasing east again after her. It was not to be presumed that she would stay long on that leg — not, that is, if her intention was to rejoin us. However, I am far from believing this.
At eight o'clock, off the western end of the island, I shortened sail for overnight and remained within view of the coast. I kept the poop lantern alight so that the Casuarina should sight us, if it had pleased her not to go to the anchorage, or to any other place.
During the night the sky was dark and humid. We occasionally had some rain-squalls, but they were slight and did not last long. The breeze dropped completely and the winds varied from south-south-east to north-east.
2nd February, 1803
At daybreak on the 13th we could see no sign of the Casuarina, and so I decided to make a little easting in the hope of meeting her. But at eight o'clock, not wanting to go beyond the west point of Ile Borda for the fourth time, I made up my mind to head south and try to find the land that had been reported when we were sailing northwards up this part of the coast. During the morning (and throughout the whole day, even) the weather was unfavourable for this search, being dark, misty and frequently wet; but there were occasionally some clear moments and so we now and then had a fairly broad horizon. We saw nothing that could make us suspect the presence of any land nearby.
At midday we had no observation of latitude, but the reckoning put us in 3C 5' 7" and the longitude was 1340 21' 10".
The wind moderated considerably in the afternoon and except for a few intervals, the mist was almost continuous. We went on southwards, bearing slightly west, until dark, without receiving the least indication of approaching land. At this stage I lost hope of finding any, and since we were well to the south of the area where it was said to be and which was noted at the time, I took a more westerly course during the night.
If, however, there does exist some land to the west of Ile Borda, it is possibly just some insignificant islets, with a very broad channel between them and the island. It is my opinion that none exists, although several people claim to have seen it.
During the night the weather was very damp on account of the mist and the slight rain that we had at intervals. The winds were extremely variable, moving through various points of the compass, and were frequently calm. We sounded several times as a precaution and did not find the bottom at 90 fathoms. Furthermore, we had a heavy south to south-westerly swell, which indicated clearly enough that we had no land to fear in that direction.
3rd February, 1803
On the 14th the sky was still just as misty as on the preceding days and, although it was light, the rain nevertheless greatly incommoded us. We continued west without making much northing, as I wanted to ascertain that there was no land in this latitude that could be a worry to future navigators in these regions; for the shortest route back to Europe lies through them. The breeze was weak during the morning and we had winds from south variable to south-south-east.
We had no observation of latitude at midday, but by our reckoning we were in 360 21' 27" and 1330 26' 47" of longitude. The barometer, which was still below 28", did not indicate the prompt return of the unpleasant weather that we had had since our departure from Ile Borda.
In the afternoon we directed our course a little northward and continued thus until the middle of the night, when the winds changed to south-west variable to west-south-west and obliged us to keep as close to as possible, heading north-north-west.
Since we had for a long time been experiencing a rather heavy south-westerly swell, we had to be prepared for the winds to settle in that quarter for a while, or even to bring us some squalls.
During the night of the 14th to the 15th the weather was by no means fine. The winds from west-south-west were occasionally very gusty, bringing us icy rain. In the middle of the night we were obliged to take two reefs in our topsails.
Work on our longboat had continued uninterrupted since our departure from Ile Borda, and so I was fondly hoping that it would be ready for service in the islands of St. Peter and St. Francis; for I would surely have occasion to anchor there, being convinced that there must be some good shelter amongst them and possibly, also, a resting-place that would be of use to future navigators.
4th February, 1803
On the morning of the 15th the weather seemed to be turning fine, and in a very short space of time the barometer rose from 27.10" to 28.1" — a good omen. The winds varied from south-south-west to south and sometimes even south-south-east; nevertheless, we still had a very big swell from south-west, although in other respects the sea was calm.
At daybreak we found two of our kangaroos dead in their pens. I had no doubt at all of the bad weather's being responsible, for they were completely soaked with the rain and the continuous mist that we had had for the past three days, in spite of our having been very careful to cover their pens well with good tarpaulins. This accident decided me to keep them no longer on the gangways, where they were housed. But in order to find them another suitable place, I had to create two malcontents — or at least one, for he showed his displeasure in no uncertain way, saying reproachfully that if he was still aboard, it was well and truly my fault, since I had not allowed him to leave on the Naturaliste, as he had requested by letter to do at Port Jackson, etc. All that I said in reply was, 'You are right, but I should have taken fine care not to dissuade you from dishonouring yourself if I could have foreseen that you were capable of preferring your own comfort and a few temporary advantages to the greater success of the expedition and whatever may serve our country.' I nevertheless took the cabins of Mr. Leschenault, our botanist, and Mr. Ransonnet, which I needed for the housing of the seven kangaroos that were exposed to the elements on our gangways.