In the course of Louis de Freycinet's cruise north of New Guinea the corvette URANIE was sometimes confronted by heavily-manned local vessels, believed by the French to be pirates. This original ink and watercolour picture shows two such vessels operated by the chief of Guebe.
SignificanceThis image from the URANIE expedition commanded by Louis de Freycinet between 1817 and 1820 highlights continuing French interest in the Pacific following the Bourbon restoration.
HistoryJacques Etienne Victor Arago was the official artist aboard the French expedition vessel URANIE, commanded by Captain Louis de Freycinet. The picture refers to an event which took place in December 1818 near Pisang Island (north-west New Guinea) and which is described in the journal of Rose de Freycinet.
She writes: "Just as unfrequented dark streets in large towns favour bandits, so too the numerous straits of these seas are infested with pirates, who usually join forces to attack merchant ships. They put out to sea in long and narrow boats similar to canoes with outriggers, and use small paddles which require a different kind of handling to our oars, in that the paddles do not rest on the side of the canoe. The other day, about 15 of those boats, called corocores, appeared at nightfall heading towards us. Louis [de Freycinet] thought it wise to go on the defencive in case of an attack, but the pirates no doubt were deterred by the strength of the corvette and went on their way".
"A few days after that insignificant event, we again encountered several armed corocores, but these belonged to the chief of the island of Gebe". (A Woman of Courage - The journal of Rose de Freycinet on her voyage around the world 1817 - 1820, National Library of Australia, 1996, p.63-64)
Louis de Freycinet was a French naval officer who had participated in the Baudin expedition (1800 - 1804). As one of the crew of LE NATURALISTE, he was held in high regard by Captain Baudin and eventually entrusted with the command of one of the expedition's auxiliary vessels - the CASUARINA, a 20 ton schooner purchased in Port Jackson - in which de Freycinet was tasked to carry out independent surveys of parts of the southern and western Australian coast during 1803.
As a result of Baudin's death in 1803, the task of writing the expedition report fell to scientist Francois Peron. When Peron died in 1810, Louis de Freycinet completed the voyage account and charts. On the strength of this work, de Freycinet was promoted to the rank of ''Capitaine de vaisseau'' and given command of a new expedition.
De Freycinet sailed from Toulon in September 1817 in command of the URANIE and subsequently spent three years at sea. His expedition explored parts of South America and Australia as well as many islands in the East Indies and Pacific Ocean. In 1819 the URANIE left Sydney to sail home via Cape Horn but was subsequently wrecked in the Falkland Islands in February 1820. After several months the expedition was rescued by an American whaleship MERCURY which de Freycinet later purchased and named the PHYSICIENNE. The expedition finally reached Le Havre in November 1820.
Exhibition object title: Moluccan galley
Primary title: Esquisse d' un caracore appt au roi de Guebe Sous Voile a la hauteur de Pisang
Assigned title: Esquisse d' un caracore appt. au roi de Guebe, Sous Voile, a la hauteur de Pisang (study of a kora kora belonging to the king or chief of Guebe, under sail before Pisang Island work associated with the voyage of the URANIE