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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

They were then to sail west to Terre Leeuwin


Bonaparte's

enterprises were by no means limited to well-known lands. The unknown continent of the Southern Seas appealed to his imagination, which pictured its solitudes transformed by French energy into a second fatherland. Australia, or New Holland, as it was then called, had long attracted the notice of French explorers, but the English penal settlements at and near Sydney formed the only European establishment on the great southern island at the dawn of the nineteenth century.

Bonaparte early turned his eyes towards that land. On his voyage to Egypt he took with him the volumes in which Captain Cook described his famous discoveries; and no sooner was he firmly installed as First Consul than he planned with the Institute of France a great French expedition to New Holland. The full text of the plan has never been published: probably it was suppressed or destroyed; and the sole public record relating to it is contained in the official account of the expedition published at the French Imperial Press in 1807.[214] According to this description, the aim was solely geographical and scientific. The First Consul and the Institute of France desired that the ships should proceed to Van Diemen's Land, explore its rivers, and then complete the survey of the south coast of the continent, so as to see whether behind the islands of the Nuyts Archipelago there might be a channel connecting with the Gulf of Carpentaria, and so cutting New Holland in half. They were then

to sail west to "Terre Leeuwin," ascend the Swan River, complete the exploration of Shark's Bay and the north-western coasts, and winter in Timor or Amboyne. Finally, they were to coast along New Guinea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, and return to France in 1803.

In September, 1800, the ships, having on board twenty-three scientific men, set sail from Havre under the command of Commodore Baudin. They received no molestation from English cruisers, it being a rule of honour to give Admiralty permits to all members of genuinely scientific and geographical parties. Nevertheless, even on its scientific side, this splendidly-equipped expedition produced no results comparable with those achieved by Lieutenant Bass or by Captain Flinders. The French ships touched at the Ile de France, and sailed thence for Van Diemen's Land. After spending a long time in the exploration of its coasts and in collecting scientific information, they made for Sydney in order to repair their ships and gain relief for their many invalids. Thence, after incidents which will be noticed presently, they set sail in November, 1802, for Bass Strait and the coast beyond. They seem to have overlooked the entrance to Port Phillip--a discovery effected by Murray in 1801, but not made public till three years later--and failed to notice the outlet of the chief Australian river, which is obscured by a shallow lake.

There they were met by Captain Flinders, who, on H.M.S. "Investigator," had been exploring the coast between Cape Leeuwin and the great gulfs which he named after Lords St. Vincent and Spencer. Flinders was returning towards Sydney, when, in the long desolate curve of the bay which he named from the incident Encounter Bay, he saw the French ships. After brief and guarded intercourse the explorers separated, the French proceeding to survey the gulfs whence the "Investigator" had just sailed; while Flinders, after a short stay at Sydney and the exploration of the northern coast and Torres Strait, set out for Europe.[215]


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