EXPEDI/TION DE DE/COUVERTE/PAR LE COMMEND/ANT BAUDIN/SUR LE GEOGRAPHE/1803 is carved into the boulder known as Frenchman’s Rock. The English translation of the engraving reads, 'Expedition of discovery by Commander Baudin on the Geographe 1803'.
The inscription relates to French Captain Nicolas Baudin's expedition to Australia. Baudin (1754-1803) worked as a cartographic surveyor and naturalist and was instructed to complete the French cartographic survey of the coast of Australia. It was in April 1802 when Baudin first arrived in South Australian waters with his ship Le Geographe. Shortly after, he crossed path with English explorer Mathew Flinders on the Investigator at Encounter Bay.
Baudin circumnavigated Kangaroo Island in January 1803. Many of the landmarks he surveyed south of the island have kept their French names, including Cape de Couedic and Vivonne Bay. Finding fresh water was a daily challenge for the ship crew and a suitable location was a bay at today’s Penneshaw beach. It must have been during these water collections that a member of the ship carved the inscription into a rock at the bay.
By the early twentieth century, the engraved rock had become a popular historical artefact of the island’s history. With funds raised by public subscription, a dome-shaped shelter was built in 1906 to protect the rock from the elements. However, the rock continued to deteriorate and was moved to Adelaide in 1917 for safekeeping. Since then, a concrete replica has taken its place at the original site. The original rock became part of the Art Gallery of South Australia's Historic Relics collection, and was transferred into the care of the History Trust of South Australia in 1986. For the following decade the rock was on display at the State Library of South Australia. In 1996 the rock was relocated back to Kangaroo Island as a long term loan to Kangaroo Island Council. Frenchman’s Rock was put on display at the Kangaroo Island Gateway Visitor Information Centre in Penneshaw, remaining at that location when the building was leased by Kangaroo Island Ocean Safaris.
The rock is fine grained micaceous meta sandstone from the early Cambrian Tapanappa formation which is local to the area of Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island.
Artlab Australia, Frenchman’s Rock, Penneshaw, Condition Report, September 2020, State History Collection Files
Evening Journal , Frenchman's Rock, 25 January 1905, p. 2
Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association, 'Building a canopy for Frenchman's Rock' https://www.kipioneers.org/history/building-canopy-for-frenchman-s-rock, accessed 8 April 2021
Observer, Improvements for the Museum, 22 December 1971, p. 27
State Library of South Australia, 'Baudin’s voyage', https://encounter.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/baudinsvoyage.htm, accessed 4 April 2021