Images | Further Sources

Baudin and his large group of scientists left Le Havre in 1800 in two ships, Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste, names which indicated the intent of the voyage.

The ships initially selected by the French Ministry of Marine were two corvettes and a third vessel as a store ship. However, these were rejected by Baudin as being in poor condition, and were replaced.

The vessels Baudin chose were the corvette Galatee -renamed Le Geographe - and a storeship Menacarte - Le Naturaliste. Both ships were about 350 tons, similar to the Investigator, but considerably longer: Le Geographe was 124 feet [37.8 metres] and Le Naturaliste was 127 feet [38.75 metres] compared to the Investigator's length of 100 feet [30.5 metres]. Overall the appearance of the French ships was leaner and more streamlined than the bulky English ship.

As a pair the French ships were badly mismatched, with Le Naturaliste a slower sailor than Le Geographe, a fact supported by the number of times she fell behind the pace set by Le Geographe. However, her spacious hold made her well suited for carrying home the huge collections of specimens gathered by the naturalist Peron. Baudin sent Le Naturaliste from Port Jackson [Sydney] back to France with its scientific cargo in 1802.

A third ship joined the French expedition in Port Jackson, when Baudin decided to purchase a locally built schooner which was 30 tons, and 29 feet [8.85 metres] long. Built of Australian casuarina wood, it was aptly named Casuarina. Louis de Freycinet was placed in command of her, and in it conducted the close inshore survey work not possible in the larger ships.

By July 1803 Baudin and many of the crew were ill; Baudin abandoned the survey to return home to France. In September 1803 Baudin died at Ile de France [Mauritius] and the Casuarina was abandoned there. Three months later, Le Geographe sailed for France under the command of Pierre Milius, arriving home on 23 March 1804 with a cargo of live animals and birds, and collected specimens.




Ford, John, Cards issued from 'Chart the Art of Discovery', an exhibition to celebrate the meeting of Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802.

Postcard : Le Geographe, with Baudin's chart superimposed in the background.



Images from the State Library catalogue

Le Geographe. 1940 [Model of Le Geographe]

Baudin's Ships at Kupang. 1802. [Baudin's Expedition ships at Kupang, Timor: Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste]

Sailing Boats. 1850. [Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste]

Further sources

Advertiser 12 March 2002 'Encounter 2002 - Discovery of the unknown coast' Part 4': 'Life on a tall ship']

Brosse, J. Great voyages of discovery: circumnavigators and scientists, 1764-1843 / Jacques Brosse; translated by Stanley Hochman; preface by Fernand Braudel New York, NY: Facts on File, c1983 [includes Baudin's ships and crews]

Brown, Anthony J. Ill-starred captains: Flinders and Baudin. Hindmarsh, S. Aust.: Crawford House Publishing, 2000. [Appendix A: Passports; Appendix D: Roll Call]

Horner, F. B. The French reconnaissance: Baudin in Australia 1801-1803. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1987. [pp.58-59, 88-89: R.T. Sexton's plans and profile of Le Geographe]

Wallace, Colin The lost Australia of Francois Peron. London: Nottingham Court Press, 1984. [Appendix. 'Cartographers, scientists, horticulturalists & artists of the expedition.']