From 21 to 23 September, Shark Bay will celebrate French, Australian and Aboriginal culture with Shark Bay Rendezvous. The Shark Bay Rendezvous commemorates and celebrates the landing of Louis de Freycinet and his stowaway wife Rose on the coast of Shark Bay 200 years ago.
Shark Bay Rendezvous will be held in the township of Denham this Friday to Sunday , 900kms north of Perth. Expect food, live music, dancing, costumes, history, stargazing and a speedway at this weekend of celebration.
But who were Louis and Rose de Freycinet and why was their landing at Shark Bay significant?
Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet was born in 1779, joined the French Navy in 1793 and was a veteran of Baudin’s voyage of discovery from 1801 to 1803. In 1817 he was given command of the corvette L’Uranie with the commission to finish some of the surveys and scientific work left incomplete by Baudin. This included studies of natural history, anthropology, geography and magnetic and meteorological phenomena. His wife Rose refused to be separated from her husband and joined the ship’s company as a stowaway initially disguised as a man. Rose de Frecycinet was the first woman to record her experiences of circumnavigating the world. She did so in a diary which was not intended to be published.
This was quite controversial as the presence of women on naval vessels was illegal at the time. However, by the time Rose’s presence was discovered by the French Navy, they were powerless to do anything.
L’Uranie sailed into Shark Bay in September 1818. De Freycinet set up an astronomical observatory near Cape Lesueur and spent some days collecting botanical specimens and exploring the inlets and coastal areas. His company also met with a group of Malgana people, a tense encounter that was diffused with dancing and an exchange of gifts.
The expedition brought back a great number of scientific specimens, including minerals, plants, insects, animals, despite the shipwreck of the Uranie in 1820 in the Falkland Islands. According to Jacques Arago, the artist who had been hired to do botanical and other illustrations and who was the only civilian on board, during the shipwreck Rose de Freycinet behaved herself admirably. Her diary, however, was not published until 1927.
So what’s happening at the festival?
Friday night will see the opening ceremony and Sailing By the Stars – astronomy and hands on history.
Saturday will see Knight Terrace, the main street of Denham, come alive with all things French, and will celebrate with a family friendly street party. Entertainment will include market stalls, food, people dressed in period costume, music and a Faux French Poodle parade.
There is also an art exhibition: ChARTing the Edge. It is an exhibition of reduction lino cut prints, it will be held in the Rose de Freycinet Gallery (inside the Shark Bay Discovery and Visitor Centre) throughout the festival. The exhibition depicts drawing of the flora and fauna found in Shark Bay, which is relevant to Louis’s journey as one of his main tasks was documenting flora and fauna. Louis de Freycinet and his crew gathered a lot of samples from their camp at Cape Lesueur (in Shark Bay).
There will also be a Simone Purcell Memorial Softball Match between Shark Bay and Geraldton. Simone Purcell was a long-time resident of the area and loved softball.
There will also be two lectures given by Michael McCarthy, Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum. One of those is Unveiling of 200 Year Old Artefact and Exhibition Lecture – Finding the Uranie. Louis & Rose Freycinet, The Journey is the other.
There will be entertainment for all with a guillotine photo booth, face painting for the kids, a cardboard ship “Sail in Parade”, the Faux French Poodle parade and the period costume French Fashion Parade with prizes for best dressed.
There will also be music provided by Parallel 26, G & The French Knights, Jasmine Gannaway and Blue Shaddy and performances by the Coral Coast Dance Academy
Sunday will take a different approach with the Shark Bay Speedway playing host to the Freycinet Grand Prix. There will also be market stalls from 8 to 11am with the bar open from midday onwards. Shark Bay Rendezvous will finish up shortly after 3pm at which time there will be a trophy presentation and farewell from country.
You can see the full program here. Entry is free!