|| In 18th-century France there was a
widespread belief in a vast southern land, often referred to as
Gonneville Land. This continent was considered to be distinct from
New Holland, the position of which was roughly known and marked
on contemporary charts.
Even after James Cook’s first voyage
to the Pacific, the identification of this land remained one
of the most important discoveries still to be made.
On 1 May 1771,
Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec left France
on a voyage of exploration with the aim of discovering the
Terres Australes. His second-in-command was fellow Breton Louis
Marie Aleno de Saint Aloüarn.
At Port Louis (Mauritius) de Kerguelen exchanged
the 900-ton Berryer for two smaller vessels – the 24-gun
flute Fortune and the 16-gun storeship (gabare) Gros Ventre,
commanded by de Saint Aloüarn. On 16 January 1772 the
expedition headed due south. Navigational problems, stormy
seas and biting cold made the journey extremely difficult.
By 13 February they were abeam of what is now known as Kerguelen
Island, in the southern Indian Ocean, which was duly claimed
Separated by fog, de Kerguelen headed back to France claiming
to have found the Terres Australes. De Saint Aloüarn
sailed eastwards to New Holland, arriving off Flinders Bay
on 17 March. Unable to land due to bad weather he headed
for Shark Bay. On 30 March 1772 a shore party explored Dirk
Hartog Island and took possession of the land in the name
of King Louis XV of France. But the French did not uphold
their claim by settlement.
Above: Chart by de Rosily showing Turtle
Bay at the north end of Dirk Hartog Island, the Gros
Ventre’s anchorage, boat soundings and the annexation site.
'Ce matin Mr de St Allouarne a envoyé le canot avec
un officier pour prendre conoissance de terre…on return
to the coast Mr de ‘Mings’ [Mengaud de la Hage] took
possession of the land to the N.O.1/4 N. of the ship by raising
a flag, the ‘prise de possession’ written in the usual
terms in such circumstances, placed in a bottle, was buried at
the foot of a small tree, near which were put ‘deux écus
de six francs.’ Journal de bord du Gros Ventre, 1772.