Elaine Forrestal

Seeing the World differently

Elaine Forrestal reading original documents in the Archive de Laage, Quimper, France, 2012

Any author loves to know that people are reading their books! So naturally I was delighted to hear, this week, that a girl who lives in England has just finished reading To See the World – and loved it! Her grandfather, who had contacted me to buy a copy for her, says she ‘devoured’ it. She now wants to know what happened to Jose after the wreck of the Uranie and the perilous journey back to France on the much smaller Physicienne. I had to confess to her that I don’t know what happened to Jose. In fact I don’t think anyone does, yet. There is a ‘first translation’ of certain parts of the journals of Dr Gaimard being done at the moment. Dr Gaimard was the doctor who sailed aboard the Uranie, and saved Rose’s life when she unknowingly ate an olive of a type that is poisonous when it is not properly ripe. Who knows, perhaps more information will come to light in the future?

The original Gaimard journals, ten of which survived the wreck of the Uranie, are held in the Freycinet Collection at the State Library of Western Australia. Because there are so many of them, all hand written in French, it has been too daunting, and too expensive, to tackle the task and they have never been translated. Even now only some sections are being done.

The fascinating thing for me, reading these sections now, is the way in which certain events, witnessed by both Dr Gaimard and Rose de Freycinet, are described in quite different ways. For instance, during a visit to the house of M. Viale, the French Consul on Gibralta, Dr Gaimard describes the formal arrangements and the fact that Rose is dressed in men’s attire. Rose, on the other hand, is much more interested in the friendly way M. Viale and his family welcomed them to their house, and how charming and accomplished his 15 year old daughter was. She also comments that some of the sailors in their party were ‘quite smitten by her charms’. This more feminine point of view is one of the reasons Rose’s journal is such an important document, and why it is fascinating to now hear another side of the story from Dr Gaimard.

I am very much looking forward to reading more translations of Dr Gaimard’s journals as they are completed.