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Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in South Australian waters: Encounter 1802

In 1802 two expeditions of discovery were off the coast of southern Australia, both charged with charting the 'unknown coast'. They famously met off the coast at what Flinders would name Encounter Bay.


The meeting between Flinders and Baudin

Flinders was aware that the French expedition had sailed from France some months before his own, but Baudin did not know that an English ship was also exploring the coast of southern Australia. The two expeditions met by accident on 8 April 1802, one sailing from the east and the other from the west.

Flinders on the Investigator, cleared the decks for action, but also flew a white flag of truce. Nicolas Baudin, captain of the French ship Le Geographe thought the ship approaching was his companion vessel Le Naturaliste which he had last seen several weeks ago. In addition to the French flag, he hoisted an English flag.

Both captains were cautious as they did not know whether their countries were at war or peace, but as they were commanding exploration and scientific expeditions, they could hope that their meeting would be peaceful. Flinders boarded the French ship and the two captains exchanged information about their explorations. Both captains had been given the same task to chart the 'unknown coast' of Terra Australis.

The meeting took place about 5 miles off the South Australian coast at latitude 35º 40' South, longitude 138º 58' East. Flinders later named this location Encounter Bay, as it is known today.

For more details of the encounter, including accounts by the two captains and the French scientist Francois Peron see the Encounter 1802-2002 website under Encounter 1802.