Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/317

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Chapter XVII.

THE FRENCH AT PORT JACKSON: PERON THE SPY.

The condition of Le Géographe when she made her appearance outside Port Jackson, on June 20th, 1802, was in striking and instructive contrast with that of the Investigator on her entry forty-two days before. Flinders had not a sick man on board. His crew finished the voyage a company of bronzed, jolly, hearty sailors, fit for any service. Baudin, on the contrary, had not a single man on board who was free from disease. His men were covered with sores and putrid ulcers;" the surgeon, Taillefer, found the duty of attending upon them revolting; they lay groaning about the decks in misery and pain, and only four were available for steering and management, themselves being reduced almost to the extremity of debility. "Not a soul among us was exempt from the affliction," wrote the commandant in his journal.

The utmost difficulty had been experienced in working the vessel round the south of Van Diemen's Land and up the east coast in tempestuous weather. Baudin obstinately refused, in the teeth of the urgent recommendation of his officers, to sail through Bass Strait, and thus save several days; though, as he had already negotiated the strait from the east, he knew the navigation, and the distressful condition of his people should have impelled him to choose a route which would take them to succour in the briefest period of time. He insisted on the longer course, and in consequence brought his ship to the very verge of disaster, besides intensifying the sufferings of his crew. The voyage from the

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