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This Day in History

Australian History

Sunday, June 20, 1802. :   French commander Nicolas Baudin arrives in Port Jackson with the intention to claim Van Diemen's Land, but with his crew ill and ships needing repair.

     During the late 1700s and early 1800s, both France and England were seeking to expand their respective empires. Both countries claimed and colonised new lands around the world, and both countries explored lands in which the Dutch had shown little interest, such as Australia. Although James Cook formally claimed the east coast of Australia in 1770, this did not dissuade the French from charting the coastline, and even making a claim to the west in 1772.

Late in 1800, French explorer and naturalist Nicolas Baudin was commissioned to lead an expedition to complete a French survey of the Australian coastline, and make scientific observations, commanding two ships, 'Le Géographe' and 'Le Naturaliste'. Scientific investigations were carried out between May and July 1801, and again between January and May 1802. However, during this time, the ships were battered by bad weather, while the crew suffered debilitating sickness. Baudin opted to head for Sydney for provisions, ship repairs and medical attention for his crew. By the time he sailed into Port Jackson on 20 June 1802, only four of the crew of the Le Géographe were fit to serve.

After spending several months in Port Jackson, and with his crew fully recovered, Baudin continued south to finish surveying Van Diemen's Land, but not before revealing his intention to colonise Van Diemen's Land, in a moment of indiscretion. Governor King sent Charles Robbins to Van Diemen's land to successfully dissuade the impending French claim. Robbins met Baudin and successfully persuaded him to abandon his plans.

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