Ill-Starred Captains (Hardback)
Flinders and Baudin
Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders were major figures in the early exploration of Australia, between them completing the mapping of the coastline. They had much in common: both were naval officers whose conventional careers were becalmed, and both led government-sponsored expeditions. But one was French and the other was British - and their countries were at war. Although they behaved with scientific objectivity towards each other when their paths crossed, the enmity of their two countries was to lead them into disaster, by coincidence both coming to grief in the French colony of Mauritius. Seeking help after a dramatic shipwreck, Flinders was refused the status of a non-belligerent and was held as a prisoner for six years until the British captured the island in 1810; but even then his ill-treatment caught up with him, and he died the day after the publication of his charts and the account of his voyage. If anything, Baudin fared even worse at the hands of his own countrymen, and he died in disgrace, leaving his enemies to publish a biased and malicious narrative of his work.
Relying heavily on their own words, the author reconstructs the achievements and tragic conclusions of these two explorers, revealing the relationships and tensions aboard their cramped and leaking ships, and the rivalries between the expeditions.