Elaine Forrestal

A new narrator

The exciting story of Rose de Freycinet’s journey around the world on board l’Uranie from 1817 to 1820 now has a new narrator. Jose was the half Mulatto son of Louis’ friend. The boy had been running wild on Mauritius and his father was contemplating sending him to school in France. Thinking that Jose would benefit from Rose’s enquiring mind and her knowledge of, and love for, the classics, and that teaching the boy would give Rose something to occupy her mind during the long months at sea, Louis agreed to add him to the ship’s company. But things did not quite work out as planned.

Jose was a very reluctant pupil. And Rose found his lack of interest in learning to read and write frustrating in the extreme. Nevertheless they did have a lot in common. Both were first-time sailors, homesick and struggling to cope with the harshness of life on board ship. They were both high-spirited, determined and courageous. And they were both airbrushed out of the official records of the voyage. For example, in the first version of artist Alphonse Pellion’s painting of the camp at Shark Bay both Rose and Jose were shown sitting outside Rose’s distinctive conical tent, no doubt during one of Rose’s lessons. But in the official version, although the tent remains, there is  no sign of either Rose or Jose.

Jose has a keen mind and plenty of native cunning. He is already plotting ways to get out of the dreaded lessons by persuading Rose to tell her many exciting stories to him instead. And just by being on board he is developing stories of his own. At the end of the new Chapter 4, the ship is on fire and everyone on board fears for their life. Find out what happens as this new version of the story unfolds each week.

The Old Port of Toulon with the Naval dockyards in the background. 'Uranie' set out from here in September 1817