The first chart devoted to the South Australian coast from the important French voyage of exploration under the command of Nicholas Baudin. With the publication of this map the final piece in the charting of the Southland was complete. At top right is a superb decorative title with the figure of Mercury holding a banner and garland, below are kangaroos and elephant seals based on drawings by Charles Lesueur while in the background are two ships, presumably meant to be the Naturaliste and Geographe. The French ignored Flinders charting and the naming of the same area using only French names, many of which have been retained.
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.
From Peron Voyage de Decouvertes Aux Terres Australes.
Tooley 633, PP 1812.10
Australian Maritime Museum: 00000453
National Library of Australia: Bib ID 783567