Scarce black and white copperplate engraved map of the Swan River, Rottnest and Carnac Island. Sub-Lieutenant Heirisson was sent to explore, on the 17th June 1801, as far possible inland along the Swan River to see if it had adequate resources to recommend it as a satisfactory port of call for vessels. Heirisson was supplied with six days rations and the services of a mineralogist, Bailly, the only natural scientist on the Naturaliste who was delegated to make a description of the region for the benefit of science. Not only did he follow the Swan River all the way past, what is now Heirisson Island, he also discovered the mouth of the Canning River, the Helena River, and then travelled along the Swan as far as Henley Brook.
Heirisson and Bailly reported favourably about the area, and the general consensus, from the other small exploration parties which were sent out at the same time, helped Hamelin to conclude that, though water was a long way inland and the bar across the mouth of the Swan River was not navigable, especially in rough weather, this was a good place for the refreshment of ships that had sailed from the Indian Ocean.
Nicolas Baudin’s two ships, the Géographe under his captaincy with, Henri-Louis Freycinet on board and the Naturaliste under the captaincy of Hamelin with cartographer and surveyor Louis Claude Freycinet (Henri’s brother) on board, left Le Havre on 19 October 1800. Sailing via Tenerife and sighting the Cape of Good Hope they reached Mauritius after a long six months, where shipboard quarrels and illness caused a mass defection of scientists and sailors.
Having rejigged his crew, Baudin set sail for New Holland, sighting Cape Leeuwin on 27 May and anchoring in Geographe Bay three days later. He sailed north and examined Rottnest Island and Swan River, (see the first charting of the Swan River by Herisson) but the two ships became separated on 11 June. The Géographe finally anchored at Shark Bay on 27 June, but had left by the time the Naturaliste arrived. The latter vessel stayed on in Shark Bay to make an extensive survey – including the discovery of the Vlamingh plate – while Baudin and the Géographe worked along the difficult coast past the North West Cape. The two ships ultimately arrived in Timor in August and September; tropical diseases were already causing deaths among the crew.
In November they sailed south for Cape Leeuwin where Baudin, ignoring his instructions to begin charting the south coast immediately, headed for Tasmania, making the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in early January. The two vessels began a close survey of the east coast, again becoming separated. Hamelin on the Naturaliste crossed Bass Strait and made a survey of Western Port before running for Port Jackson. Meanwhile Baudin began his survey of Terre Napoleon, meeting Matthew Flinders at Encounter Bay in April. Worn out, Baudin turned for Sydney, but chose to again round the southern tip of Tasmania, meaning that he did not arrive off Port Jackson until 17 June, his crew severely weakened by scurvy. Hamelin had actually already headed out to search for Baudin in Bass Strait, but the combination of a storm and poor provisions saw him back in Sydney a few days later, and the two ships stayed in Sydney until November. Warmly and hospitably entertained by Governor King, the French spent their time recuperating and making sense of their collections.
In Sydney, Baudin purchased a small vessel which he named the Casuarina, placing Louis de Freycinet in charge. The Casuarina, just 29 feet in length, was acquired to help make the difficult inshore surveys, and Louis’ appointment should be understood as an early notice of his skills in charting. The three vessels left Sydney together, but Baudin decided to send the Naturaliste directly back to France, and Hamelin reached Le Havre on 7 June 1803, having sailed via Mauritius.
The Géographe and the Casuarina made close surveys of King Island, Kangaroo Island and the Gulf of St Vincent (“Golfe Joséphine”), before continuing to King George’s Sound in Western Australia, whence they returned to Shark Bay and the northwest before finally reaching Timor on 7 May 1803. They made a quick return visit to the northwest coast of Australia – their third – and reached Mauritius in July, where Baudin died on 19 September. Command was given to Pierre-Bernard Milius, who had been recuperating in Port Louis where he had been left by Hamelin. The decision was made to abandon the Casuarina, and the remaining crew transferred to the Géographe, which returned home on 25 March 1804, almost three-and-a half years after they left.
Freycinet was employed, on his return, by the navy on hydrographic and chart work, and after the death of Péron was invited to complete the history of the Baudin expedition. When he published his complete atlas in 1812 he followed Péron, whose first volume had appeared in 1807, first in virtually ignoring Baudin.
Reference: R.V Tooley, ‘Mapping of Australia and Antarctica pp.82-88 Ref. 619; Horden House