The Navigators - Captains - Nicolas Baudin - Print Friendly Version Page 1 Baudin - the man Nicolas Thomas Baudin was a commoner by birth who made himself famous for safely transporting living plants and animals across the oceans and to Europte. He is best remembered for his famous encounter with the more well known English explorer, Matthew Flinders. They were both charting the coast of New Holland. (Australia) from opposite directions. Growing up and starting out 17th February 1754 Nicolas was born at a seaport town on the Ile-de-Re, a 'bright island' off the west coast of France. He was the fifth child in the family. Baudin's parents were common merchants and at fifteen he went to sea. As a lowly cabin boy he was beaten and abused, until he was big enough to stand up for himself. By the time he was twenty, Baudin wanted to make a career for himself in the French East India Company. After being a naval cadet for a year, Baudin took up the position as a quartermaster on a troop transport going to India. He became disillusioned within two years and went home. The chance of a naval career was offered when France entered the United States War of Independence, and Baudin joined up as an officier bleu (a commoner not of noble birth). He served a year in the Caribbean. After about a year Baudin went back to France to command the sloop Apollon on convoy duty in the English channel. A noble man took over Baudin's position as the commanding officer. Baudin was bitterly annoyed, resigned and went abroad to work in the merchant service. Baudin went on to command voyagers, at one time transporting emmigrants to New Orleans and timber back to Nantes. His career took a new turn when he took on a passenger at the Cape of Good Hope (southern tip of South Africa). Franz Boos was the Austrian Emperor's head gardener and botanist, and through this connection, Baudin began botanical expeditions for the Austrians. During these voyages Baudin learnt a lot from Boos about botany and how to keep plants and animals alive on board ship. On one trip they carried ostriches, zebras, plants and seedlings. In the next five years he made three trips to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. All of the voyagers were made for the government and merchants on vessels named Jardiniere. Each voyage ended in shipwreck. Making enemies April 1792 Revolutionary France declared war on Imperial Austria the day Baudin set sail on the last ill -fated journey. At his first port of call, Baudin tried to rejoin the French navy. He wasn't allowed to join up, but some of his officers heard about it and told the imperial ambassador in Madrid. The ship was taken over by the Spanish authorities and Baudin was put in prison. While he was prison, many of the crew left the ship and after he was released, his officers were so disgusted with him, that they resigned. Baudin continued on. In the Cape of Good Hope he took Scholl and his collections of flora and fauna on board and headed east for New Holland. Hurricanes forced them north and Jardiniere III sailed into Bombay for repairs. Baudin didn't know that now France was also at war with Britain. Once again, more of his crew left the ship and he took on Indian seamen. He gave up his plans to go to the Far East, and headed west along the shores of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and East Africa. During the journey Baudin took on slaves at East African ports. Storms drove the ship ashore as she entered Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope. As a result of this failed voyage Baudin made quite a few enemies. One of them was Scholl who had been trying to get way from his eight years in exile at the Cape. He believed that Baudin had deliberately driven the ship ashore to sell the slaves. His movements after this voyage are not well known. But at some stage he took a collection of plants and trees that had survived the shipwreck to a botanist friend, Labarrere on the Spanish island of Trinidad. Baudin went to the United States, got a passport from the French ambassador and went back to France on an American ship. A step along the way December 1795 Baudin believed that as he had served under the Austrian flag during the war, he could be seen as a turncoat and likely traitor. He decided to make use of his past experiences as a botanical voyager. He went to visit Professor Antoine-Laurent Jussieu at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He tried to impress the professor with some of the specimens of seeds and plants from the Trinidad collection. He succeeded. Within six months, the professor and his staff had convinced the government to pay for the charter of a small ship to recover the collection from Trinidad. The museum chose four scientists (savants) to join Baudin on the journey. The Navigators - Captains - Nicolas Baudin - Print Friendly Version Page 2 Getting his hands dirty 30th September 1796 The Belle-Angelique set sail from Le Havre. Sir Joseph Banks recommended the expedition be given a British safe- conduct. After three weeks at sea, a howling gale blew up from the west. Baudin battled the sea, night and day, determined to make the voyage a success. The scientists were amazed at Baudin's courage and after three weeks he brought the battered ship into port at Tenerife. It was the end of the Belle-Angelique, but not the expedition! Baudin got a smaller ship and set off again for Trinidad. But things did not get much better. The British authorities would not allow him to land to recover the collection. Baudin led the expedition to the Danish colony of St Thomas, one of the Virgin Islands. While the scientists discovered many treasures in the rich volcanic area, Baudin got a larger ship - renaming her the Belle-Angelique. After ten weeks they moved on to San Juan, the next port of call. During the next nine months Baudin literally got his hands dirty as they collected plants and trees. Ledru, in a letter home to Jessieu, said: "As for our captain, as eager as any of us and more tireless, he puts his own hands to the task of pulling out, carrying, and planting our living trees and shrubs, and sets us an example for his ceaseless activity." Imagine protecting plants and trees from the winds and seas in mid-Atlantic. Few were lost. The journey home was not without incident though, as at one stage Baudin was taken from the Belle-Angelique and interrogated in the cabin of an English warship. Baudin suggested to the English Commodore that "it would have reflected more glory on you to show favour to an expedition undertaken for the progress of science." Baudin successfully delivered the collection, which was taken by wagon train from the docks in Normandy to Paris. They unloaded: 450 stuffed birds 4000 butterflies and other insects 200 shells 7 cases of corals, crabs, sea urchins and starfish 200 specimens of wood 4 cases of seeds of 400 different plant species 8000 dried plants from 900 species 800 living plants and shrubs from 350 species A hit in France On the 28th July 1798, Baudin was honoured. His collection was part of a parade through the streets of Paris for the anniversary of Robespierre's execution. "At its head the cheering crowds see some curious trophies - wagons carrying banana and coconut palms, pawpaw trees, and other exotic plants. Word spreads that they have been landed by a French mariner, Citizen Baudin, after a voyage to the West Indies." The interest in Baudin's collection was huge, people were totally fascinated. Baudin put in a plan for another expedition and Jussieu supported it! Baudin was reinstated in the French Navy, promoted to post captain and told he could lead the expedition. But France was still at war, money was short and although the government fully supported the expedition it was put on hold indefinitely. Baudin was appointed as a chief of staff to Admiral Bruix. He played his part in a rare successful war mission at sea for the French. After the success at sea, Baudin took leave. But by 1800 he was back in Paris trying to get up another scientific expedition. He went straight to the top - writing directly to General Bonaparte, the young Republic leader. He never got a reply, but didn't give up. He tried to get support, once again, from the scientists. This time he wanted to tour the world, taking in the Americas, the Pacific Islands, southern Africa and New Holland. He really wanted to find out if New Holland was a single island. Jusseiu, Fleurieu and Bougainville were three men who were part of a group to look at the plan. Bougainville was the first known European explorer to have seen the Great Barrier Reef, back in 1769. But he had not been able to check it out as his crew were weakened by scurvy and disease. He had sailed back to France. A scaled-down plan was agreed to by General Bonaparte, and Baudin chose his ships to explore the coasts of New Holland and southern New Guinea. The ships The Navigators - Captains - Nicolas Baudin - Print Friendly Version Page 3 "Two ships in the port of Havre have been prepared for this expedition; the Geographe a fine corvette of 30 guns, drawing from 15 to 16 feet water, an excellent sailer; but rather too slightly built for such service; and the Naturaliste a large and strong built store-ship, drawing much more about the same waters as the Geographe; not so good a sailer, but more seaworthy, and on that account much superior to the corvette." (Peron, 1809) The difference in the sailing speeds of these two ships proved to be a problem and led to two lengthy separations during the voyage. It also cost Baudin's reputation as a navigator. (INCLUDE ABOUT TASMANIA ABORIGINES DISCOVERY) The Crew Baudin wanted eight officers, ninety-two crew and eights savants for each ship. But when they set sail the Geographe had 118 men and the Naturaliste 120. Eleven seamen also managed to sneak on board. Overcrowding soon became a problem for the 251 people on board the two ships. " The officers of this expedition were chosen with the greatest care; those who aspired to the distinction submitted to the most strict examinations to obtain admission among us, and all were worthy of the preference. Not only among the officers was this regulation observed, but the most inferior ranks of our company were selected, and many young men of respectable families in Normandy joined our crews." (Peron, 1809) Apparently Baudin didn't have much say in the choice of the officers, apart from his second-in-command, Capitaine de fregate Emmanuel Hamelin. Hamelin's second captain in the Naturaliste was Lieutenant de vaisseau Pierre- Bernard Milius, an experienced officer who later became Baudin's successor after he died. Lots of important families wanted their sons, nephews or proteges to join the expedition. Admiral Louis - Antoine de Bougainville, who had been the first known explorer to see the Great Barrier Reef, managed to get his eighteen year-old son on board. It was a hard voyage and Bougainville's' son proved to be fairly useless, leaving the journey along with other officers and 'young gentlemen'. Baudin only wanted a team of eight savants for each ship, but ended up with large well -qualified scientific team of twenty-three astronomers, landscape and portrait artists, geographers, mineralogists, botanists, zoologists, gardeners, naval surgeons and a pharmacist. Ten of these savants lost motivation for the expedition, and left when they reached Isle de France, blaming 'ill health'. Baudin wasn't sorry to see them go. He wrote: "I hope that the result of the expedition will confirm my observation I have often made to you, that they were not necessary". Baudin replaced two of these scientists with talented illustrators, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas -Martin Petit. Only seven scientists saw the whole trip out, one of them being Peron, who had been a last minute addition. He studied most of the natural sciences on the voyage, including anatomy, anthropology, biology, botany, zoology, meteorology, oceanography, naval hygiene and espionage. Planning the journey - meeting the demands It was no surprise when the most knowledgeable Charles-Pierre Claret de Flerieu was chosen to prepare the expedition's instructions and itinerary. Flerieu was keen to see France win the race to chart the unknown southern coast of New Holland. It only took him about a month to draw up a rigid timetable, tracing the route and estimating the time needed to examine all the different sections of coast. It was tied to predictable seasonal winds, currents and the onset of monsoons. 'Citizen Baudin must apply himself to establishing the geographical positions of the points that will be noticed along it, and to drawing up an accurate chart of the whole'. Baudin was also given strict instructions by experts and learned societies about the kind of work the scientists would do. Then there were health instructions, prepared by the chief naval medical officer. One suggestion to prevent scurvy was to get the men to dance: 'Musical instruments, games, dancing will spread movement and life throughout the ship'. Capitaine de fregate Emmanuel Hamelin, wrote on seeing Baudin leave Isle de France for New Holland: "I am not frightened when I see before me so much to do; on the contrary my active temperament and my self- esteem are stung by the prospect and I am content, but I cannot deceive myself that the government has demanded too much of this expedition." One can only imagine what Baudin was thinking as they left for New Holland with a rigid timetable, overcrowded ships and uncharted shores to chart and examine.