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A Frenchman found at Mauritius


A Frenchman found at Mauritius

Laerle, Joris Joostensz.

The Moluccan fleet of the Fifth Expedition sailed to the Indonesian archipelago in 1601. By August the expedition’s crew suffered heavily from scurvy, which made the leadership decide to sail to Mauritius. This island had first been visited by ships of the Second Expedition a few years prior and during that expedition the island had been found to be rich in fresh water and food supplies. The Fifth Expedition stayed at Mauritius from 27 September to 20 October.

During the stay at Mauritius the fleet encountered a Frenchman, the first known long-term human inhabitant of the island, who said to have lived there for about 18 to 20 months after stranding there with a junk. He claimed to have sailed from England with a fleet of three ships, which lost a ship at the Cape of Good Hope and another later on, after which the final ship stranded at Malacca. He and a few survivors tried to reach England with a junk, but after the two ‘black’ bemanningsleden failed at an attack on the five Europeans on this return voyage and drowned, the five survivors went to Mauritius. There the Englishmen left the Frenchman behind. He survived on sago and raw turtles until the fleet of Wolphert Harmensz. arrived. A fleet whose experiences somewhat match the story of the Frenchman did depart from English in 1597, financed by Benjamin Wood. For a more detailed description see Perry Moree’s summary in Dodo’s en galjoenen. The Frenchman joined the crew of the Fifth Expedition, but died of illness at Banda on 25 May 1602. These drawings show the Frenchman as he was found on Mauritius.

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Sources and literature

Morree, Perry, Dodo's en galjoenen: De reis van het schip Gelderland naar Oost-Indië, 1601-1603