Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruny d'Entrecasteaux

Born at Aix-en-Provence, France in 1739, and educated at a Jesuit school, Bruni d'Entrecasteaux would have liked to have joined that order, but his father intervened and entered him in the French Navy in 1754. In the action which secured the Balearic Islands for Spain (and resulted in the execution of Admiral Byng), d'Entrecasteaux was a midshipman aboard La Minerve, and in April 1757 he was commissioned as an ensign. His further naval career as a junior officer was uneventful; and he appears in this period to have done general service in the French Marine.

For a time d'Entrecasteaux was French Assistant Director of ports and arsenals, after which (1785) he was transferred to command a French Squadron in the East Indies. During this service he opened up a new route to Canton by way of Sunda Strait and the Moluccas, for use during the south-east monsoon season. He was then appointed Governor of the French colony of Mauritius.

The loss of territory to the British on the north American continent in the late 1750s caused the French to actively look elsewhere for colonies. In 1763 Louis Antoine de de Bougainville, who had fought against the British in Canada and who was the first Frenchman to sail around the world, established a small colony at Port Louis on what he called the Iles Malouines in honour of the predominantly St Malo element amongst his colonists. The British countered this in 1764 by sending Commodore John Byron who arrived early in the following year, tookpossession of them as the Falkland Islands.

In 1767 France ceded its rights to Spain, commencing a chain of events that has led to Argentina claiming the islands as Las Islas Malvinas. It was a disagreement that has had repercussions well into the modern day, and is one that also had ramifications for the Uranie voyage and for the survival of its castaways. Continuing what in effect was a 'superpower' race for territory, in 1777 the British navy sent two ships under Wallis and Carteret to the south Pacific in search of the fabled southern continent. The French responded by despatching de Bougainville with the same intention just three months later.

While the French and the British found many islands in the Pacific, including Tahiti and Pitcairn, neither found the southern continent. The closest Bougainville came to Terra Australis was when he encountered the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to present-day Cooktown in far north Queensland. On his return home in 1769 Bougainville published an account entitled A Voyage Round The World, that increased French interest in the Pacific.

Jean-Francois de La Perouse was appointed in 1785 to lead an expedition to the Pacific. His ships were the Astrolabe and the Boussole, both 500 tons. La Pérouse was a great admirer of James Cook, tried to get on well with the Pacific islanders, and was well-liked by his men. Among his 114 man of crew there was a large staff of scientists: An astronomer, a physicist, three naturalists, a mathematician, three draftsmen, and even both chaplains were scientifically schooled.

The best equipped of all scientific forays, La Pérouse's two-ship expedition left French shores with a large contingent of scientists and naval personnel in 1785. After extensive explorations in the Pacific, they were ordered from Kamchatka to Botany Bay in New South South Wales in order to observe the British landing there in 1788. After doing so they departed for further work in the South Seas and were never seen again.

Grave of Claude-Francois Joseph (Pére) Receveur, La Perouse, New South Wales

On the northern shore of Botany Bay, NSW, is the grave of French Franciscan friar Claude-Francois Joseph (Pére) Receveur, a chaplain, botanist and shoemaker, who came to Australia on LaBousole in January 1788. Receveur had been injured a month earlier when an exploring party he was part of was attacked by natives at Maouna, in the Navigator Islands in the Samoan Group. He succumbed to his wounds after landing on Australian shores and was buried at Botany Bay.

In this same period William Bligh was in these waters with HMS Bounty, following on from Dampier's earlier revelations about the efficacies of breadfruit. After the infamous mutiny, Bligh was not to know that the Australian first fleet had landed successfully under the curious eyes of the French, and navigated in an open boat across the top of the continent to Timor and safety.

In September 1791, the French Assembly decided to send an expedition in search of Jean-Francois de La Perouse, who had not been heard of since leaving Botany Bay in March 1788. Bruni d'Entrecasteaux was selected to command this expedition. He was given a frigate, Recherche (500 tons), with Lieutenant Jean-Louis d'Hesmity-d'Auribeau as his second-in-command and Rossel among the other officers. A similar ship, Esperance, was placed under Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec, with de Trobriand as his second-in-command. A distinguished hydrographical engineer, Beautemps-Beaupre, served as the hydrographer of the expedition.

Painiting of the expedition vessels Recherche and Esperance at Recherche Bay, Tasmania

When the expedition left Brest on 28 September 1791, Entrecasteaux was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. The plan of the voyage was to proceed to New Holland (Australia), to sight Cape Leeuwin, then to hug the shore closely all the way to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), inspecting every possible harbour in a rowing boat, and then to sail for the Friendly Islands (Tonga) via the northern cape of New Zealand allowing gardener Felix Delahaye to collect live breadfruit plants for transport to the French West Indies. D'Entrecasteaux was next to follow Perouse's intended route in the Pacific. It was thought that La Perouse had meant to explore New Caledonia and the Louisiade Archipelago, to pass through Torres Strait, and to explore the Gulf of Carpentaria and the northern coast of New Holland.

However, when Bruni d'Entrecasteaux reached Table Bay, Cape Town on 17 January 1792, he heard a report that Captain John Hunter (later to be Governor of New South Wales) had recently seen -  off the Admiralty Islands - canoes manned by natives wearing French uniforms and belts. Although Hunter denied this report, and although the Frenchmen heard of the denial, Bruni d'Entrecasteaux determined to make directly to the Admiralty Islands, nowadays part of Papua New Guinea, taking water and refreshing his crew at Van Diemen's Land. On 20 April 1792, that land was in sight, and three days later the ships anchored in a harbour, which he named Recherche Bay. For the next five weeks, until 28 May 1792, the Frenchmen carried out careful boat explorations which revealed in detail the beautiful waterways and estuaries in the area.

French chart of Van Diemen's Land south coast and Adventure Bay (inset)

Bruni d'Entrecasteaux was fortunate in having good officers and scientists, most importantly from the exploration point-of-view the expedition's first hydrographical engineer, C.F Beautemps-Beaupre, who is now regarded as the father of modern French hydrography. The work this officer did in the field was excellent, and his charts, when published in France as an Atlas du Voyage de Bruny-Dentrecasteaux (1807) were very detailed. The atlas contains 39 charts, of which those of Van Diemen's Land were the most detailed; they remained the source of the English charts of the area for many years.

Beautemps-Beaupre, while surveying the coasts with Lieutenant Cretin, discovered that Adventure Bay, which had been discovered by Tobias Furneaux in 1773, was on an island which was separated from the mainland by a fine navigable channel. On 16 May, d'Entrecasteaux commenced to sail the ships through the channel, and this was accomplished by the 28th. Port Esperance, the Huon River, and other features were discovered, named, and charted, the admiral's names being given to the channel (D'Entrecasteaux Channel) and the large island (Bruny Island) separated by it from the mainland.

Until 28th May 1792, the Frenchmen engaged in repairs, scientific work, mapping, botanical collection and gardening. Upon their first arrival here on 21st April 1792, Labillardiere had movingly recorded his first impressions of Tasmania's natural grandeur: "We were filled with admiration," he wrote, "at the sight of these ancient forests, in which the sound of an axe had never been heard." During the second visit, while camping out on an attempted walk to Mt La Pérouse, the beauty and peace of the forest inspired him to record his feelings.

Recherche Bay, Tasmania, at what is thought to be one of D'Entrecasteaux's watering sites

"Solitary in the midst of these silent woods - I felt myself penetrated with a sentiment of the grandeur of nature, which it is beyond my power to express." Having circumnavigated Australia, they were pleased to return to the bay that had given them shelter nearly a year earlier. The ships' journals show it was a busy time during the 23 days spent here for the 200 or more people on board the two ships. Water was collected from streams which ran into a cove. Fish were caught, firewood gathered and charcoal made.

A blacksmith fired up a forge to fix anchor chains and a rudder. Carpenters repaired masts and prepared timber for masts. Sails were dried, rigging tightened, decks scrubbed and clothes washed. A team of scientists sought specimens of plants, rocks, animals, birds and insects. Descriptions were written and artists made up numerous drawing. Astronomers set up an observatory. Astronomical observations were made and important tests proved that geomagnetism varies with latitude.

On 28 May 1792 the ships sailed into the Pacific. On 17 June they arrived off the Isle of Pines, south of New Caledonia. From there, d'Entrecasteaux sailed northward along the western coast of New Caledonia. (The Bruni d'Entrecasteaux reefs at the northwestern end of the New Caledonia Barrier Reef are named for him.) He then passed the Solomon Islands along their southern or western coasts, sailed through Saint George's Channel between New Ireland and New Britain, and on 28 July sighted the south-east coast of the Admiralty Islands. After three days spent in scrutinizing the eastern and northern coastline, Bruni d'Entrecasteaux decided that the rumours he had heard in Table Bay must be false, and he therefore set sail for Ambon, in modern-day Indonesia, where his ships replenished their stores.

Leaving Amboina on 14 October, Bruni d'Entrecasteaux made for Cape Leeuwin, the south-western extremity of Australia, to carry out his original instructions of searching southern New Holland for La Perouse. On 6 December land was sighted near Cape Leeuwin, and named D'Entrecasteaux Point. This event was celebrated by feastings and parties, one result of which was that the smith on board Recherche, Jean-Marie Marhadour over-indulged and died next day from an apoplectic fit. The weather proved boisterous, and the ships failed to find King George III Sound, originally discovered by Vancouver. As they sailed further east, they penetrated numerous islands and dangerous shoals, to which they gave the name D'Entrecasteaux Islands  later changed to the Recherche Archipelago.

Recherche Archipelago, Esperance, Western Australia

While the Frenchmen were still in that dangerous area, on 12 December a violent storm descended upon them, and both ships were nearly wrecked. Fortunately, however, they found an anchorage where they were able to ride out the worst of the gale. Landings took place here on the mainland, and the locality was named in honour of Legrand, who had spotted the anchorage, and of the ship he was on, Esperance. Beautemps-Beaupre made a hasty survey of the off-lying islands of the archipelago. No water was found, and on 18 December the ships continued eastward to the head of the Great Australian Bight, but here the coast was found to be even more arid, and the water position more serious.

On 12th December 1792, a violent storm descended upon them, and both ships were nearly wrecked. Fortunately, however, they found an anchorage where they were able to ride out the worst of the gale. Landings were made here on the mainland, and the locality was named in honour of Legrand, who had spotted the anchorage, and the ship he was on L'Esperance. Beautemps-Beaupre made a hasty survey of the off-lying islands of the archipelago. No water was found, and on 18th December the ships continued eastward to the head of the Great Australian Bight, but here the coast was found to be even more arid, and the water position more serious.

On 4th January 1793, d'Entrecasteaux was forced to leave the coast at a position near D'Entrecasteaux Reef and sail direct to Van Diemen's Land. In this decision the French explorer was unfortunate, for if he had continued his examination of the southern coast of New Holland, he would have made all the geographical discoveries that fell to the lot of Bass and Flinders a few years later. Then, indeed, a French 'Terre Napoleon' might well have become a fact. The situation had become quite critical, especially on the 500 tonne frigate, L'Esperance. Despite strict rationing, her water barrels were empty. With the wind directing its course, the ship had entered Baye de Roches (Bay of Rocks) on 21st January, followed by her sister ship, Recherche. In a dramatic incident, Recherche had run aground and was stranded on the bottom for nearly three hours before being refloated, undamaged. "It is difficult to express the sensations we felt," wrote the ship's botanist, Jacques Labillardiere, "at finding ourselves at length sheltered in this solitary harbour at the extremity of the globe, after having been so long driven to and fro in the ocean by the violence of the storms."

The ships again anchored in Recherche Bay, Van Diemen's Land, on 22nd January, and a period of five weeks was spent in that area, watering the ships, refreshing the crews and carrying out explorations into both natural history and geography. Beautemps-Beaupre, in company with other officers, surveyed the northern extensions to Storm Bay - the western extension was found to be a mouth of a river and received the name Riviere du Nord - it was renamed the Derwent River a few months later by the next visitor to this area, Captain John Hayes in the Duke of Clarence and the Duchess.

Cloudy Bay, Bruny Island

Of a meeting with 42 Lyluequonny Aborigines on 7th February 1793, Jean-Louis Feron, gunner from the Recherche, recorded, "This meeting passed off with the greatest cordiality, provided a good idea of these people and made us hope that we might see them again, and thus obtain some information on their way of life." Meetings did follow and gifts, including knives, medals, coloured scarves, glass beads and a rooster, were presented. Fascinated French scientists took careful notes about the appearance, health, dwellings, diet, tools, clothing and vocalbulary of the Aboiriginal people they spent time with. During the final week of their stay, Labillardiere recorded a series of these meetings with local people.

"If our path was interrupted by heaps of dry branches, some of them walked before, and removed them to either side. We could not walk on the dry grass without slipping every moment, particularly where the ground was sloping: but these good savages, to prevent our falling, took hold of us by the arm, and thus supported us." Jacques-Mallo La Motta du Portail, Naval Lieutenant with L'Esperance, recalled, "The kindness and gentleness which seemed to be the basis of their character, gave to our meetings rather an air of reunion of friends rather than a meeting of individuals who were quite different in every way".

Meanwhile Labillardiere identified about 100 new plant species, including the Tasmanian Blue Gum, Eucalyptus globulus, Tasmania's floral emblem. Ninety-five per cent of his extensive Tasmanian collection came from Recherche Bay. This work was the foundation for his Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen, considered to be the first general flora of Australia and still in use by botanists in the 21st Century.The expedition's gardener was Felix de la Haie. On the first visit he constructed a garden, planting European vegetables and trees in an area nine metres by seven, divided into four and edged with stones.

D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Tasmania, and Bruny Island in the distance

Disappointingly, few plants has survived by the second visit - the Recherche Bay garden, both botanically and conceptually, was alien to that pristine landscape, though the stone edging was rediscovered in 2003. When La Haie finally made it back to France, he became head gardener to Empress Josephine, and in 1800, at Malmaison, he established a Tasmanian garden. Just over two hundred years later, the forest of Recherche Bay were being written about again. But this time, threatened by the sound not merely of axes but of bulldozers and chainsaws. Gone also were the gentle Lyluequonny, the Tasmanian tigers (probably noted by Labillardiere as "wild dogs") and the captivating innocence of this place.

On 28th February 1793 d'Entrecasteaux sailed from Van Diemen's Land towards the Friendly Islands, sighting New Zealand and the Kermadecs en route. At the Friendly Islands, he found that the natives remembered Cook and Bligh well enough, but knew nothing of La Pérouse. He then sailed back to New Caledonia, where they anchored at Balade. The vain search for La Pérouse was then resumed to Santa Cruz, then along the southern coasts of the Solomon Islands, the northern parts of the Louisades, through Dampier's Passage, along the northern coast of New Britain and the southern coast of the Admiralty Islands, and thence north of New Guinea to the Moluccas.

By this time, the affairs of the expedition had become almost desperate, largely because the expedition's officers were ardent royalists and the crews equally ardent revolutionaries. Kermadec had died of phthisis in Balade harbour, and on 21th July 1793, d'Entrecasteaux himself died of scurvy, off the Hermits. Commands were re-arranged, with d'Auribeau taking charge of the expedition, with de Rossel in Kermadec's place. The new chief took the ships to Surabaya. Here it was learned that a republic had been proclaimed in France, and on 18th February 1794 d'Auribeau handed his vessels to the Dutch authorities so that the new French Government could not profit by them.

D'Auribeau died a month later and de Rossel sailed from Java in January 1795 on board a Dutch ship, arriving at Table Bay in April 1795. There his ship sailed unexpectedly with the expedition's papers, leaving him behind, but this vessel was captured by the British. Rossel then took passage on a brig-of-war, but this too was captured by the British. After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, all the papers of the expedition were returned to Rossel, who was thus enabled to publish a narrative of the whole enterprise.

After being confiscated by the British, the extensive natural science collections, maps and charts eventually found their way back to France where the botanist J.J.H. de Labillardiere's Relation du Voyage a la Recherche de La Pérouse was published in 1799, going through three English editions and two German by 1804. Containing 265 black and white illustrations together with 13 plates by the renowned botanical artist P.J. Redoute, it was the first illustrated work after Dampier's account of his voyage to New Holland in 1699 to capture the imagination of the Europeans in respect of the flora and fauna of the Southland. The expedition's hydrographer Beautemps-Beaupre then published his atlas in 1807 and his cartographic works were roundly praised.

Tasmanian coastal features named by D'Entrecasteaux

Note: not all names as given are still un use

Ile Du Golte
5.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Literally means Island of the Gulf.

Recherche Bay
5.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after the expedition ship, Recherche. A port was built here in colonial days known as Ramsgate after a town in Keny, UK. Aborigina; name: Leillateah.

Southport Point
Named Point de Riche by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792 after Claud Antoine Gaspard Riche (1762-92), naturalist, Recherche.

D'Entrecasteaux Channel
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after expedition leader, Bruni D'Entrecasteaux (right). Named Seton Straits by Comm. John Hayes a year later, this name was never used. Early settlers knew the channel as South West Passage.

Bruny Island
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after expedition leader, Bruni D'Entrecasteaux. Originally spelt Bruni, the name was later changed to Bruny Island. For a time Bruny Island was known as Pitt's Island, recalling the name 'Right Honourable William Pitt's Island' given to it by Commander John Hayes (later Sir John) of the East India Company, who in 1793, was the first British explorer to 'discover' and chart the River Derwent. Hayes named many coastal features in the vicinity of present day Hobart, but few are used today.

Cape Bruny (Bruny Isld)
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after expedition leader, Bruni D'Entrecasteaux. Originally spelt Bruni, the name was later changed to Cape Bruny.

Cloudy Bay (Bruny Isld)
Named Mauvaise Bay, D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792.

Gt Taylors Bay (Bruny Isld)
Named Le Grand Anse (The Great Bay) by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792.

Tasman Head (Bruny Isld)
Named Point La Billiardiere by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792, after Jeane de La Billiardiere, who also sailed with Baudin, 1801-03.

Fluted Cape (Bruny Isld)
14.3.1773. Hayes. Its shape. Named Cap Cannele by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792.

Isthmus Bay (Bruny Isld)
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. On the isthmus between North and South Bruny Islands.

Cape Queen Elizabeth (Bruny Isld)
Named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II after a visit by her and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Named Cape Trobiand by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792, after Denis De Trobiard, 1st Lieut., L'Esperance. It was marked on early charts as Cape Frederick Hendrick, a name given by Abel Tasman, though not necessarily to this headland.

The Neck (Bruny Isld)
Named St Aignon Isthmus by D'Entrecasteaux, 7.5.1792, after a member of his expedition who waded ashore near here naked after the accidental beaching of his boat.

Betsey Island (Bruny Isld)
1793, Hayes. Previously named Willaunez Island by D'Entrecasteaux a few months earlier after one of his officers. Renamed Franklin Island after Lady Franklin bought it. The island reverted to its original name after her death.

Partridge Isld
Named Ile Aux Perdix by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792, after crew member Jean Perdix, L'Esperance.

Egg Island
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Many ducks eggs taken aboard here.

Cygnet Bay
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Cygnets and swans seen there by Huon de Kermadec's expedition up the Huon River.

Huon Pt / Huon Island / Huon River
7.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after Huon de Kermadec, master L'Esperance, who led the expedition whicvh explored the river. Huon Isld is now known as Garden Island.

Snug Cove / Snug Point
Snug Point was named Point Gicquel by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. after Pierre Guillaume Gicquel Des touches, a seaman of Recherche, later captain. He also sailed with La Perouse and Baudin.

Dennes Pt
Originally named Point Jurien by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792, after the French Minister for the Navy, Charles Jurien.

Piersons Pt
6.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after Pierson, chaplain and astronomer, Recherche.

Derwent River
1793. Hayes. Named after the geographical features of Derwentwater and the Derwent River, in the Lakes District of his native Cumberland in England. Three months earlier, d'Entrecasteaux had named it "Riviere du Nord" (as the river flowed from the north). The river estuary was then named Port Buache by Baudin, 4.2.1802, after Philippe Buache (1700-1773), French geographer.

Ralphs Bay
1793. Hayes. Named Double Bay by D'Entrecasteaux, 6.5.1792.

Northern Peninsula
8.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Descriptive.

Cape Direction
8.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Bearings were taken here.

Cape Deslacs
8.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after Hippolyte Deslacs, crew member, Recherche.

Primrose Pt
Named Point Renard by D'Entrecasteaux, 11.5.1792, after surgeon, Recherche.

Fulham Isld
Named Ile La Haye by D'Entrecasteaux, 7.5.1792 after Adrien Jean Henri La Haye, botanist, Recherche.

North West Head
Named Cape Connella by D'Entrecasteaux, 8.5.1792 after a seaman, Recherche, who first sighted the cape.

Outer North Head

Esperance Rock
11.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. The rock presented danger to the vessel L'Esperance.

Cape Raoul / Raoul Bay
11.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after Joseph Francois Raoul, a pilot on D'Entrecasteaux's expedition. Flinders named it Basaltic Cape but this name was never adopted.

Maignon Bay
11.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after a crew member, L'Esperance.

Tasman Island / Tasman Peninsula/ Tasman Head
9.12.1798. Flinders. Named after its European discoverer, Abel Tasman, who sailed these waters in 1642. Six years earlier, D'Entrecasteaux had named the whole of the Tasman Peninsula 'Tasman Island', believing it to be an island. Furneaux had named it Cook's Peninsula. Baudin named Tasman Peninsula 'Baudin Island' and he called Tasman Head 'Cap Boreel'. It later became known as Hole In The Wall. Tasman Head was named Point La Billiardiere after Jeane de La Billiardiere, who also sailed with Baudin, 1801-03.

Hippolyte Rocks
11.5.1792. D'Entrecasteaux. Named after Hippolyte Deslacs, crew member, Recherche, who first sighted them.

Cape Paul Lamanon
Possibly named after Chevalier Paul Lamanon, a naturalist and philosopher. Lamanon sailed from Brest, in August, 1785, with French explorer la Perouse in the frigates Boussole and Astrolabe. Part of Bruni D'Entrecasteaux's mission in sailing the shores of Australia in 1792 was to find out what had happened to la Perouse and his ships Boussole and Astrolabe who had disappeared without trace after leaving Botany Bay in 1788.

Cape Delasorte
It is generally believed it is wrongly placed on the charts of today. The evidence is clear that the French commander gave the name to the eastern point (now charted as Point Kelly), and not to the point on the river side of the Island. The name means 'of the same kind'.

Cape Deslacs
Named after Hippolyte Deslacs, crew member, Recherche, who first sighted the cape.

Expedition crew members

Antoine-Joseph-Bruny d’Entrecasteaux, 1737-1793
Jacques-Julien Houton de Labillardière
Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec (1748-1793)

Monument to Bruny d'Entrecasteaux on the shores of D'Entrecasteaux Channel at Gordon, Tasmania