Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/318

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247
THE FRENCH AT PORT JACKSON

region of the gulfs to the harbour of refuge was full of pain and peril. Man after man dropped out. The sailors were unable to trim the sails properly; steersmen fell at the wheel; they could not walk or lift their limbs without groaning in agony. It was a plague ship that crept round to Port Jackson Heads in that month of storms:

          "And as a full field charging was the sea,
           And as a cry of slain men was the wind."

All this bitter suffering was caused because, as the official historian of the expedition tells us, Baudin "neglected the most indispensable precautions relative to the health of the men." He disregarded instructions which had been furnished with reference to hygiene, paid no heed to the experience of other navigators, and permitted practices which could not but conduce to disease. His illustrious predecessor, Lapérouse, a true pupil of Cook, had conducted a long voyage with fine immunity from scurvy, and Baudin could have done the same had he possessed valid qualifications for his employment.

There is no satisfaction in dwelling upon the pitiful condition to which Baudin's people were reduced; but it is necessary to set out the facts clearly, because the visit paid by Le Géographe and Le Naturaliste to Sydney, and what the French officers did there, is of the utmost importance in relation to what happened to Flinders at a later date.

Baudin brought his vessel up to the entrance to the harbour on June 20th, but so feeble were his crew that they could not work her into port. It was reported that a ship in evident distress was outside, and at once a boat's crew of Flinders' men from the Investigator was sent down to assist in towing her to an anchorage. "It was grievous," Flinders said, "to see the miserable condition to which both officers and men were reduced