Item of the Day: Bougainville’s Voyage (1772)

Full Title:  A Voyage Round the World.  Performed by Order of His Most Christian Majesty, In the Years 1766, 1767, 1768, and 1769.  By Lewis De Bougainville, Colonel of Foot, and Commodore of the Expedition in the Frigate La Boudeuse, and the Store-ship L’Etoile.  Translated from the French by John Reinhold Forster, F. A. S.  Dublin:  Printed for J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, J. Potts, W. Sleater, D. Chamberlaine, E. Lynch, J. Williams, R. Moncrieffe, T. Walker, and C. Jenkins.  MDCCLXXII.

A Voyage Round the World.  Part the First.  Departure from France–clearing the Straits of Magalhaens. 

Chap. I.

Departure of the Boudeuse from Nantes; puts in at Brest; run from Brest to Montevideo; junction with the Spanish frigates, intended for taking possession of the Malouines, or Falkland’s islands.

In February 1764, France began to make a settlement on the Isles of Malouines.  Spain reclaimed these isles as belonging to the continent of South America; and her right to them having been acknowledged by the king, I received orders to deliver our settlement to the Spaniards, and to proceed to the East Indies by crossing the South Seas between the Tropics.  For this expedition I received the command of the frigate la Boudeuse, of twenty-six twelve pounders, and I was to be joined at the Malouines by the store-ship l’Etoile, which was intended to bring me the provisions necessary for a voyage of such length, and to follow me during the whole expedition.  Several circumstances retarded the junction of this store-vessel, and consequently made my whole voyage near eight months longer than it would otherwise have been. 

In the beginning of November, 1766, I went to Nantes, where the Boudeuse had just been built, and where M. Duclos Guyot, a captain of a fireship, my second officer was fitting her out.  The 5th of this month we came down from Painbeuf to Mindin, to finish the equipment of her; and on the 15th we sailed from this road for the river de la Plata.  There I was to find two Spanish frigates, called le Esmeralda and le Liebre, that had left Ferrol the 17th of October, and whose commander was ordered to receive the Isles Malouines, or Falkland’s islands, in the name of his Catholic majesty.

The 17th in the morning we suffered a sudden gust of wind from W. S. W. to N. W. it grew more violent in the night, which we passed under our bare poles, with our lower-yards lowered, the clue of the fore sail, under which we tried before, having been carried away.  The 18th, at four in the morning, our fore-top-mast broke about the middle of its height; the main-top-mast resisted till eight o-clock, when it broke in the cap, and carried away the head of the main mast.  This last event made it impossible to continue our voyage, and I determined to put into Brest, where we arrived the 21st of November.

This squall of wind, and the confusion it had occasioned, gave me room to make the following observation upon the state and qualities of the frigate which I commanded.

1. The prodigious tumbling home of her top-timbers, leaving too little open to the angles which the shrouds make with the masts, the latter were not sufficiently supported. 

2. The preceding fault became of more consequence by the nature of the ballast, which we had been obliged to take in, on account of the prodigious quantity of provisions we had stowed.  Forty tons of ballast, distibuted on both sides of the kelson, and at a short distance from it, and a dozen twelve-pounders placed at the bottom of the pump-well (we had only fourteen upon deck) added a considerable weight, which being much below the center of gravity, and almost entirely rested upon the kelson, put the masts in danger, if there had been any rolling.   

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Filed under 1770's, Explorations, France, Posted by Matthew Williams, South America, Travel, Travel Literature

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