An engraving based on an orginal work by Jacques Arago titled 'Nouvelle Hollande: Baie des chiens-marins, presqu' ile Peron: entrevue avec les sauvages' [Western Australia, Shark Bay, near Peron island, meeting with the natives].
The Shark Bay area is the traditional country of three Indigenous language groups: Malgana, Nhanda and Yingkarta.
The traditional name for Shark Bay is Gutharraguda, meaning ‘two bays’.
Jacques Arago (1790-1855) was the artist aboard the URANIE during Louis de Freycinet's voyage to the Pacific in 1817 - 1820.
SignificanceThe French became fascinated with the Pacific and Australia. In addition to potential commercial rewards and competition with the British, the French saw the diversity of the region as an area of geographic and ethnographic research that fed into the new era of science thought.
HistoryIn 1817 Louis de Freycinet was put in charge of an expedition to the Pacific aboard the vessel URANIE. He and his contingent were charged with the not so small task of the investigation of the shape of the earth, terrestrial magnetism, meteorology, astronomy and studies in the natural sciences. In all, around 500 areas of research were to be looked at.
This was de Freycinet's second voyage to the southern hemisphere, his first had been in 1800 as part of the Baudin expedition. After Baudin's death and their return to France, de Freycinet had been put involved in the publishing of the plans, maps and narrative of the journey.
When the URANIE, the only vessel in the expedition, left France in 1817, aboard was not only de Freycinet's wife Rose, but also the artist Jacques Arago. Arago kept both detailed visual records of the journey and people the URANIE encountered along the way, but also a written narrative that would form the basis of his later work 'Voyage autour du monde' [Trip around the world].
The URANIE sailed into Shark Bay in Western Australia in September 1818. De Freycinet and the crew spent a number of days examining the local flora and fauna and managed to investigate nearby waterways. It was here that Arago recorded the crew's encounter with the Malgana people who lived in the area.
This image shows the Malgana dancing after what Arago says was an untrusting introduction. The Malgana had ‘watched us as dangerous enemies, and were continually pointing to the ship, exclaiming "ayerkade, ayerkade" [sic] ("go away, go away")’. According to the narratives, a crew member began playing the castanets which seemed to have reduced the tension and the Malgana people began to dance.