The painting shows the French Boulogne built Ketch, J.B.Charcot skippered by Captain Raymond du Baty, reefed and sailing in heavy seas, off the Rallier du Baty peninsula, Kerguelen Islands in 1909.
The voyage of the J.B.Charcot, from France to the Kerguelen Islands, and then to Melbourne is described in Captain Raymond du Baty’s book 15,000 Miles in a Ketch. Summary details are also provided in the attached article which was written in a Melbourne news paper the day after their arrival in Port Phillip Bay.
Article – The Age – July 26, 1909
A Sensational Passage
Fifteen Months at Kerguelen Island
After fifteen months spent at Kerguelen island, a desolate spot in the Antartic Ocean, the small French schooner Jean Baptiste Charcot, hove up anchor on 13th June, and set sail on perhaps her most tempestuous voyage. Melbourne was her destination, and she entered the Heads at 1:50pm on Saturday, dropping anchor off Port Melbourne just before 6pm yesterday. A glance at the Jean Baptiste Charcot almost tells her story of rough usage. All the way across her crew were forced below, excepting for the watch on deck, the members of which clung to ropes or any available projection. The man at the wheel had to be lashed there. The little vessel, of 46 tons, battled her way through rollng, almost overbearing, seas for some 40 days shaking from end to end. Her decks were swept continually, all sorts of gear being washed overboard. Six sheep, two pigs and the ship’s dog were victims of the elements and on several occasions members of the crew narrowly averted following them. Half way across an immense wave came rushing down on her like an avalance. All aboard thought their last moment had come. It struck the schooner with a shivering crash,enveloping her in an irresistable whirl of foam. She staggered and rose. Her two boats were shivered to splinters, and only a touch of the wheel had saved her masts. Captain Du Baty frequently resorted to the spreading of oil on the water after this experience. There was any quantity on board for this purpose, nearly 1000 sea lions being killed at the island and their blubber converted into oil. The oil undoubtedly saved the little vessel, for she had heavy gales almost up to the Heads.
As her name signifies, the Jean Baptiste Charcot is christened after the famous French explorer of that name, who has done much useful work in the South polar regions. Captain du Baty was a member of one of the explorer’s expeditions, and he has himself been carrying out investigation work at Kerguelen Island, which was annexed by France some years ago. During his fifteen months on the island he traversed the whole of it. Rabbits and mice are present in great numbers, and seams of coal were discovered, but the mineral had not much heating power. Several whaling streamers arrived at intervals, and obtained full cargoes, there being any number of whales in the vicinity. In a whale hunt, in which Captain du Baty was asked to take part, nine whales were killed in 48 hours. Captain du Baty has done some useful work also in correcting charts of the island and its waters. In many cases he has located rocks one or two miles away from where they are marked in the charts.
The schooner has 140 barrels of sea elephant oil aboard. It is probable that she will be sold here together with this oil, in one lot.
Specifications and details of J.B.Charcot:
Built: late 1800s – France
Name: Called Sacre Coeur de Jesus when purchased and changed to J.B.Charcot*.
Type: Boulogne gaff rigged Ketch
Length overall: 50ft
Displacement: 48 tons
The J.B.Charcot was sold in Melbourne in 1910
Footnote*: Throughout his book Captain du Baty refers to the ketch as the J.B.Charcot, but in the newspaper article it is refered to by the full name Jean Baptiste Charcot. As I was unable to confirm the actual name on the vessel I used J.B Charcot. I would be interested to hear any further information If any readers have additional knowledge of the vessel.