Western Australia and France have joined forces to celebrate the bicentenary of the Baudin expedition to Australia in 1801.
The historic Voyage of Scientific Discovery, undertaken by Captain Nicholas Baudin 25 years before the first British settlement in Albany, saw the creation of the first charts of the WA coastline and extensive documentation of local plant and animal life.
It was the first expedition to take live animals back to Europe and Napoleon’s wife - the future Empress Josephine - was so charmed by them that she established a private zoo of emus, kangaroos and black swans in the grounds of her palace at Rueil-Malmaison on the outskirts of Paris.
Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister Rob Johnson said the legacy of the early French explorers was felt today in the names of WA landmarks.
“There were 23 scientists engaged for the Baudin expedition working in the fields of astronomy, botany, mineralogy, zoology, horticulture and geography,” Mr Johnson said.
“Their names - including Heirisson, Peron, Vasse, Leseur, Freycinet and Leschenault - are known to most Western Australians.
“All up, more than 250 French place names were established as the vessels Geographe and Naturaliste explored the WA coastline.”
Mr Johnson has presented a grant of $50,000 to support the Terra Australis 2001 WA Committee.
The committee has proposed a number of projects to celebrate the Baudin bicentenary next year.
“These include an exhibition by the WA Museum of Natural Sciences in collaboration with the Natural History Museums of Paris and Le Havre,” Mr Johnson said.
The Terra Australis project is attracting strong backing in France, where President M Jacques Chirac is patron of the organising committee and former Prime Minister M Michel Rocard its chairman.
Media contact: Fran Hodge (08) 9215 4800