Voyages of Grand Discovery
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In Search of the Great Southland
Past Before Time
Dirk Hartog
Willem de Vlamingh
William Dampier
Nicolas Baudin
Saint Alouran
Matthew Flinders
de Freycinet
Lines of Fate
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 François 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 for France.

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.

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