In 1642 Abel Tasman left port to search for the legendary southern continent under the order of the governor-general of the Dutch East India Company in Batavia, Anthonie van Diemen. Tasman sailed around Australia without seeing the continent, but nevertheless discovered Tasmania and the west coast of New Zealand, which, of course, he thought was part of the Antarctic continent. Europe lost its interest in the search for Terra Incognita, focusing rather on the wealthy Asian market. This resulted in there being no expedition of discovery for quite some time. In 1675, South Georgia was accidentally discovered by Frenchman Antoine de la Roché. He sailed from Lima to England, but a gale blew his ship South at Cape Horn. During his stay in a bay of the island, he thought he saw the Antarctic continent in the distance. But what he really saw, were most probably the Clerke Rocks, lying 48 kilometres southeast from South Georgia. The English scientist Edmond Halley left Europe in September 1699 to do some geographic research and to search for the mysterious Terra Australis Incognita. In his log he wrote that he had seen table icebergs, this being the first recorded sighting by a European of icebergs in the South (and maybe even the first human being). Stormy weather and the permanent threatening danger of colliding with an iceberg, forced him to sail back north.

Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier


Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier

The first to undertake a serious explorative expedition to the South since 1642 was the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier (1704-1786). He was a lieutenant in the ‘Compagnie des Indes’ and could convince people with a higher status than him, to give him two ships to become better acquainted with the southern seas. The decisive argument was probably the promise that if he discovered new land, it became French territory. On 10 December 1738 the two ships, Aigle and Marie passed the 44th parallel. A thick fog was setting in. According to the maps Bouvet was near ‘les Terres Inconnues’. Five days later, when the fog rose, he discovered nothing more than an enormous iceberg. The following day the expedition saw, what we call today, a penguin. Bouvet described it as “an amphibious creature that looks like a large duck, but with fins instead of wings”. The two ships kept sailing southwards, zigzagging between dangerous icebergs. But on 1 January 1739 there was land in sight. Bouvet was convinced that this must be the Antarctic continent. He tried to go ashore, but could not succeed because of the thick fog. Bouvet became sick, and chose to sail eastwards up to the 52nd parallel, after which he headed for Cape Horn. Back home in France he reported that the existing maps were wrong and that Antarctica lay much further to the South. He alerted the home front on the danger of the voyage: icebergs, extreme weather conditions and bad visibility. However it was of course not the Antarctic continent that he discovered, but an island that was named after him: Bouvet Island, now Bouvetøya. As Bouvet’s estimation of the position of the island was completely wrong, it was not until 1808 before Bouvetøya was discovered again.

 

Yves-Joseph de Kerguélen-Trémarec

Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec

The French were very active in the 18th century. In 1772 king Louis XV sent Yves Joseph de Kerguélen-Trémarec with two ships, the Fortune and the Gros- Ventre, to the South to search for Gonneville’s paradise. On 12 February he discovered the Kerguelen archipelago, also called the Desolation Islands. However, he was not impressed. In his log he wrote: “At 6 o’clock in the evening we discovered a little island at a distance of four miles”. The Frenchman expected a rich and hospitable land, not a small island, where it was cold, misty and windy. The island was rocky and not a single soul was to be found, so Kerguélen refused to go ashore. It was Charles-Marc de Boisguehenneuc who planted the French flag and took the Kerguélen archipelago in possession for France. Back in Europe, Kerguélen pretended to have discovered a real paradise, which he named “New South France”. He did that to convince the French government to fund a new expedition – his plan worked. Kerguélen sailed to his island again, this time with three ships: the Rolland, the Oiseau and the Dauphine. But he had to face reality: the Kerguélen archipelago was anything but a paradise. Once he arrived back in France he was sentenced to death for his lies.

 

 

 

Reference Books

Alan Gurney, Below the Convergence
Jean-Paul Kauffmann, Kerguelen