National Library of Australia

Rose de Freycinet, stowaway wife

J. Alphonse Pellion (fl.1817–1820)watercolour and ink on wove paper; 27.5 x 42.5cmJ S Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia

When the French Government appointed her Navy husband, Louis-Claude de Freycinet, to command a round-the-world scientific expedition, Rose de Freycinet (1794–1832), stowed away on the Uranie.

It appears the couple may have planned the deception as early as 1815. Rose’s actions were against naval convention prohibiting women on board French state ships, and caused great indignation in official circles.

Departing France in 1817, the Uranie visited Australia (surveying the Western Australian coast from Geographe Bay to Shark Bay), New Guinea, the Mariana Islands and Hawaii, before being wrecked off the Falkland Islands on 13 February 1820.

J. Alphonse Pellion’s faithful watercolour representation of the camp at Shark Bay in 1818 shows Rose beside a tent at the painting’s right. But in the official account of the voyage, prepared later in Paris, her image was removed.

Rose’s journal of the expedition—Campagne de l’Uranie (1817–1820)—was published posthumously in Paris. An English translation, A Woman of Courage, by Professor Marc Serge Rivière of James Cook University, was published in 1996 by the National Library of Australia.