A French navigator and explorer, most famous for his discovery of the Kerguelen Islands. He was born in South Finisterre in 1734 and before his historic voyage in search of the southern continent in 1772, had made a name for himself designing cannons and playing a part in the mapping of the coast of Iceland. He also spied on the British Navy to gain information on boat building for France. In 1772 he was commissioned by Louis XV to go on an expedition to the Southern Ocean and to claim the continent he found there for his country. (It was believed that Australia could not be the only southern continent, as this would not balance the great northern hemisphere landmasses.)

Yves de Kerguelen-Trémarec left France with two ships, the Fortune and the Gros-Ventre. On the 12th February 1772 they came within site of the Kerguelen Islands. However, the Gros-Ventre was unable to get to shore due to bad weather and was subsequently damaged in the storm. She set off back to Mauritius for repairs without landing on the islands, or telling Fotune of her plans.

The crew of the Fortune, unaware of their commodores desertion, proceeded to land on Grande-Terre (in what is today known as Gros-Ventre Cove) and claim the islands for their King. As they did not know of Fotune's departure, they hunted for the ship for several weeks, believing her to be lost, before eventually returning to France.

Upon his arrival in France, Kerguelen-Trémarec boasted greatly of the land he had discovered, calling it "La France Australe" (The France of the South). This news brought him great fame and did great things for his career, so much so that he was put in charge of another expedition to the islands the following year.

This trip did not go so well however.

Two ships left France on the 29th October 1772, Le Roland, L'Oiseau and were joined by Le Dauphine in Mauritius. They arrived at the islands on the 14th December, despite problems between Kerguelen-Trémarec and his crew. Only L'Oiseau managed to struggle ashore and reclaim the islands for France and the ships soon returned North, Kerguelen-Trémarec having once again not set foot on his namesake. This time his appraisal of the islands was not so glowing, and he writes:

"I have surveyed some 20 leagues of these coasts and have reason to believe that the whole circumference of the coasts measures 200 leagues. It seems quite clear that this region is as barren as Iceland, and even more uninhabitable and uninhabited."

Not the glowing report of his first voyage, and difficulties between him and the crew meant that on arrival in France he was sued by his first officer and subsequently imprisoned. The difficulties mainly arose due to his libelous language when addressing the crew, and also to the discovery that he had smuggled his 16 year old mistress, Louise Seguin, aboard the ship. (Having a woman on board was considered extremely unlucky by sailors). Until 1778 he was incarcerated in a chateau on the Loire Valley with other famous noblemen, until he was released as a Prisoner of the King during the French Revolution.

Now aged 34, he became a privateer, raiding American ships. He was once again captured, this time by the English. It is unclear exactly what happened to him next, but he is recorded as having fought in 1795 at the Battle of Groix as a Rear Admiral. He died alone in Paris two years later on the 3rd of March, having been imprisoned once again. He never set foot upon the islands that now bear his name, given the title 'The Kerguelen Islands' after a visit from James Cook in 1776.

For more information see:
This is in French however!

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