Louis de Freycinet | Collection Items |Facsimile maps for purchase | Internet Sites | Further Sources

In October 1800, Nicolas Baudin commanded an expedition to the south seas to complete the French survey of the Australian coastline, and make scientific observations. The two ships, Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste, arrived near Cape Leeuwin in May 1801. Following instructions issued in France, both ships sailed north along the western coast of the continent. After staying at Timor, the French then sailed south to survey Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania]. In following this itinerary, they missed the opportunity to be the first Europeans to survey the unknown southern coast.

By early April 1802 Baudin in Le Geographe was in South Australian waters. He sailed westwards along the southern coastline, meeting Flinders at Encounter Bay, and continuing to Golfe de la Mauvaise [Gulf St Vincent] and Golfe de la Melomanie [Spencer Gulf], giving French names to many locations already named by Flinders. At Cape Adieu the survey was abandoned and Baudin sailed for Port Jackson where Le Naturaliste had already arrived.

After wintering at Port Jackson, Baudin returned to the southern coast for a more detailed survey, and in January 1803 circumnavigated Ile Borda [Kangaroo Island]. While Baudin anchored at Nepean Bay, Freycinet and the geographer Boullanger explored the two gulfs in Casuarina - Le Naturaliste had been sent back to France with its scientific collections. By the end of February Le Geographe and Casuarina rendezvoused at King George Sound, and then explored the west and northwest coasts of 'New Holland', before heading home via Timor.

Baudin died in 1803 on the homeward voyage, so publication of the account and charts of his voyage was undertaken by Francois Peron, the expedition's naturalist. The first volume of Voyage de decouvertes aux Terres Australes and Volume I of Atlas, which included plates, was released in 1807. French place names were recorded for 'Terre Napoleon' west of Wilson's Promontory. As Peron died in 1810, cartographer Louis de Freycinet continued to edit the voyage's account, and in 1811 he published the second part of Atlas, which featured the charts of the expedition, again recording French place names on 'Terre Napoleon.'

The French expedition's charts were published in 1811 - three years before Flinders'. Freycinet's Carte General de la Nouvelle Hollande was therefore the first chart of Australia, bringing together the results of English and French surveys. The French charts are generally acknowledged as beautiful with their elaborate title cartouches with flora and fauna. However, Flinders' charts are notably superior, in particular those of the now revealed 'unknown coast'. Flinders was meticulous for the precise surveying he carried out, both onboard the Investigator and ashore. Matthew Flinders and his brother Samuel, who was responsible for the astronomical observations that were so necessary a part of the survey, were extremely competent surveyors, far more so than those on the French expedition.

In the end however, claims of 'primacy' - or who was where first - were what mattered most to the authorities and to Flinders. With the French charts published first, with French names along the length of the South Australian coast, they laid a claim to that portion of the continent and called it Terre Napoleon. When Flinders' charts were finally published in July 1814, he was scrupulous in honouring prior discoveries on the coast - hence 'Discovered by Nuyts 1627' and 'Discovered by Captn. Baudin 1802', which marked the western and eastern limits of his discoveries.

It was not until the second edition of Voyage de decouvertes aux Terres Australes was published in 1824 that French place names were only recorded where the French had been the first to survey along the southern coast, mainly in the south-east and on the southern coast of Kangaroo Island, and Flinders' discoveries and place names were restored by the French authorities.

Louis de Freycinet

With his brother Henri, Louis de Freycinet joined the Baudin expedition as a junior lieutenant. Louis was born in August 1779 and joined the French navy in 1793. His duties on the expedition were as a cartographer-surveyor. While the French expedition was in Sydney from June-November 1802, Baudin bought a locally built schooner the Casuarina, and placed Freycinet in command. It would be used for close inshore survey work, particularly on the southern Australian coast. While charting the South Australian gulfs, Freycinet missed his rendezvous with Baudin in Le Geographe, but joined him in King George Sound. They then sailed along the Western Australian coast together, before going to Timor and then Mauritius.

After the expedition's return to France, Freycinet worked on the charts and when the atlas was published in 1811 the entire unknown coast from Wilson's Promontory to the Head of the Bight was shown as Terre Napoleon, with French place names on all the prominent features. Following Péron's early death, Freycinet completed the official account of the expedition.

From 1817 to 1820 Freycinet led a scientific expedition around the world, studying meteorology and magnetism. His wife Rose accompanied him. Despite shipwreck most of the expedition's records were saved.

In 1824 a second edition of the account of the Baudin expedition was published, edited by Freycinet, and in the Atlas Matthew Flinders' place names were restored to the coast he had first discovered.

Louis de Freycinet died in August 1842.

CHARTING THE UNKNOWN COAST, Maps of South Australia from the Flinders and Baudin Expeditions of 1802

In April 1802 the British navigator Matthew Flinders and his French counterpart Nicolas Baudin met at Encounter Bay.

Both men had been sent out by their respective governments to chart and explore the unknown southern coast of Australia. Between them, Flinders and Baudin explored, mapped and named most of the 3,700 kilometres from Ceduna on the west coast to Robe in the southeast, known in 1802 as 'the unknown coast'.

One map was produced by the English expedition, led by Matthew Flinders, aboard the Investigator. The other map was produced by Louis Freycinet, the cartographer-surveyor aboard Le Naturaliste, travelling as a member of the French expedition, led by Nicolas Baudin.

The State Library of South Australia has published facsimiles of the two maps as a limited edition of two hundred. The maps are hand numbered and boxed as a pair, symbolizing the historic meeting of the two expeditions at Encounter Bay in April 1802.

The Flinders' map with its accuracy and attention to detail and Freycinet's more lyrical version of the coastline make a fascinating duo and a unique present for that hard to buy for person!

Collection items

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PDF file

Freycinet, Louis de. Voyage de decouvertes aux terres : Atlas historique, Part 2. (1811) - Plate no. 1. 'Carte Generale de la Nouvelle Hollande.'

Plate no. 1. Freycinet, Louis de. 'Carte Generale de la Nouvelle Hollande' (1811).
This chart was published in 1811 as part of Francois Peron's publication on Baudin's voyage. The chart, drawn by Louis de Freycinet, commander of the Casuarina, depicts Baudin's discoveries in Australian waters. There is no acknowledgement on the chart of Flinders' prior discoveries, even though the Dutch discoveries of the west and southern coastline of Australia are acknowledged. Note the vignette, in the bottom left hand corner of the map, showing the three ships of the French expedition.







Freycinet, Louis de. Voyage de decouvertes aux terres australes : Atlas historique, Part 2. (1811) - Plate no. 2. 'Carte generale de la Terre Napoleon (a la Nouvelle Hollande).'

Plate no. 2. Freycinet, Louis de. Carte generale de la Terre Napoleon (a la Nouvelle Hollande) (1811).
This chart was published in 1811 as part of Francois Peron's publication on Baudin's voyage. The chart, drawn by Louis de Freycinet, commander of the Casuarina, depicts Baudin's discoveries in South Australian waters. This was the first published map to show the entire South Australian coastline. The chart includes the area of the 1802 encounter between Baudin and Flinders at Encounter Bay, South Australia, and also shows part of the western coast of Victoria. The longitudes used for the chart are on the meridian of Paris rather than the Greenwich meridian. This map is beautifully enhanced by vignettes of Australian flora and fauna drawn by Charles Alexandre Lesueur. There is no acknowledgement on the chart of Flinders' prior discoveries.







Freycinet, Louis de. Voyage de decouvertes aux terres : Atlas historique, Part 2. (1811) - Plate no. 8. 'Plan de l'ile Descres (a la Terre Napoleon, Nouvelle Hollande).'

Plate no. 8. Freycinet, Louis de, & Henri-Louis, and Boullanger, Charles-Pierre. Plan de l'ile Descres (a la Terre Napoleon, Nouvelle Hollande) (1802 & 1803).
Map of Kangaroo Island, South Australia with relief shown by hachures. Kangaroo Island was named Ile Descres by Francois Peron, after the French Minister of Marine. None of Matthew Flinders' prior discoveries on the northern coast of the Island, or his finding of the strait between Yorke Peninsula and the Island and the adjoining gulf, are acknowledged on the map.



Freycinet, Louis de. Voyage de decouvertes aux terres : Atlas historique, Part 2. (1824) - Plate no. 13, [part 1]. 'Plan de l'ile des Kanguroos : a la Nouvelle-Hollande'.

Part of Plate no. 13. Freycinet, Louis de & Henri-Louis, and Boullanger, Charles-Pierre. Plan de l'ile des Kanguroos : a la Nouvelle Hollande (1802 & 1803).
Map of Kangaroo Island, South Australia with relief shown by hachures. This map is held in the published sheet map collection of the State Library. It is an unsourced publication probably from the second edition of Francois Peron's work on Baudin's voyage. This edition is not held by the State Library.
When the second edition of Peron's publication of the Baudin expedition was published in 1824, the political climate in France had changed and, as well, Matthew Flinders' own charts had been published in 1814. Accordingly, the French finally acknowledged Flinders' prior discoveries along the South Australian coast, as evidenced with this map. Ile Descres has been renamed Ile des Kanguroos (Kangaroo Island), and Flinders' Antechamber Bay, Point Marsden, and Pelican Lagoon are shown, as well as Investigator Strait (Detroit de Investigator) and Backstairs Passage. To this day, Kangaroo Island's place names are testimony to both the French and English discoveries of the southern portion of South Australia's coast.


British Admirality. C. Catastrophe to the Great Australian Bight. Chart No. 1061, 1875-1913.

Chart no 1061 (1875-1913) is a superseded British Admirality chart, including navigation details with compass rose and detailed soundings for various ports, that has been closely hand annotated with the separate tracks of Matthew Flinders in the Investigator in 1802, Nicolas Baudin in Le Geographe in 1802, and Louis de Freycinet in the Casuarina in 1803. Note the number of French place names along this stretch of coast which acknowledge the French survey work in this areas subsequent to Flinders initial charting.



Internet sites

Atlas of South Australia 1986 edition: Charting the gulfs


Further sources

Australian dictionary of biography. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press; London; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1966-. vol. I, 1788-1850, A-H. [Freycinet]

Cooper, H. M. French exploration in South Australia: with special reference to Encounter Bay, Kangaroo Island, the two gulfs and Murat Bay 1802-1803. Adelaide: the author, 1952 (printed by MacDougalls Pty Ltd).

Cornell, Christine. Questions relating to Nicolas Baudin's Australian expedition, 1800-1804. Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1965.

The Globe: journal of the Australian Map Curators' Circle, vol. 23, 1985, pp.11-31. Marchant, L.R. 'The Baudin Scientific Mission of exploration and the French contribution to the maritime discovery of Australia.'

Horner, F. B. The French reconnaissance: Baudin in Australia 1801-1803. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1987.