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unable to complete in April 1802.

After reaching approximately the same anchorage as Flinders at the head of the gulf he turned south and continued the exploration of the western shore. Strong summer southerly winds and unknown waters caused him to tackle severely which resulted in two long days of sailing the distance between Port Augusta and Point Lowly.

Freycinet wrote: “After escaping with skill as much as good fortune from this continuous peril of the last part of their voyage ML Freycinet identified in succession Cape Lafontaine (Point Douglas), Corneille Baie (Fitzgerald Bay), Cape Moliere (Point Lowly) and spent the night of January 24 opposite a third bay (False Bay), the entrance of which appears to him absolutely inaccessible because of the sandbanks blocking it fully.”  Freycinet considered the landscape in the Whyalla area attractive and regretted that he did not have time to sent landing parties and explore the interior. The French expedition then left the northern Spencer Gulf, which they called Golf de Bonaparte, on Tuesday, January 25, 1803.

Freycinet’s Australian built ship Le Casuarina was a 12m schooner with two masts. The ship was constructed in Port Jackson in 1802 and purchased by Baudin the same year. In 1803, Le Casuarina was paid off at the island of Mauritius. The name came from the timber used in her construction.

(Source: Mathew Flinders, A Voyage to Terra Australis, London, 1814. N.T.Geeson, R.T.Sexton, H.M.Sloop Investigator, The Mariner’s Mirror, Vol.50, No.3, 1970. Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet, Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes, Paris, 1807. Heritage South Australia, No.18, January 2001.)


The waters of northern Spencer Gulf were not sailed or visited by Europeans for another 27 years. In March 1830, colonial cutter Dart from Sydney approached the head of the gulf in attempt to find any traces of Captain Sturt expedition. The ship anchored above Curlew Point south west of Port Augusta. Ten years later, in July 1840, cutter Waterwitch delivered stores and equipment for Eyre expedition and landed at the head of the gulf.

The Waterwitch was built in Hobart in 1834. The ship arrived in South Australia in 1838, a year later purchased by the South Australian Government. She sank in the Murray River near Blanchetown in 1842.

In March 1846, schooner John Pirie entered the area that later became Port Pirie on the eastern shore of the gulf.  The John Pirie was built in Scotland in 1827 and sailed to South Australia in 1836. The ship was wrecked in Bass Strait in 1850.

In August 1846, schooner Governor Gawler sailed from Port Adelaide to the future site planned for Port Pirie. Elder, Hall and Grey were on board. Elder led a trip to the head of the gulf in 1852, which resulted in the siting of Port Augusta, but no name of the ship is known. The Governor Gawler was built in 1840. She served as South Australian government vessel and wrecked at Sir Joseph Banks Group of islands in 1847. Some of the artifacts recovered from the wreck are on display at the Whyalla

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