In 1727, a merchant supplying the armies, Joseph Crozet, originally from Dauphiné, settled in Port-Louis. For several years, the Compagnie des Indes had left this city for Lorient, dealing a severe blow to its trade. But Port-Louis remained the city of the aristocracy and the army and was oriented more and more towards the sardine trade.
On February 4, 1728, Joseph Crozet married a Port-Louisienne, Marie Relo , and the couple soon found themselves at the head of a family of 17 children (eleven boys and eight girls) and a prosperous business. Joseph was elected syndic of the town community and remained so until 1747.
Julien-Marie, born in Port-Louis on November 26, 1728, was the eldest of this large family. After a schooling which to be brief, nevertheless gave him solid rudiments, he embarked in September 1739, at the age of 11, as a pilot, on the Maurepas , bound for Pondicherry. Back in May 1741, he left for China in December 1742, aboard the Philibert , still as a pilot. Two years later, he was back in Port Louis. From now on, the stays ashore were brief and Crozet regularly climbed the ranks of his maritime career.
In April 1745, he participated in the defense of Saint-Louis of Senegal and Gorée against the English. His ship, the Maurepas, was set on fire during a fight. Appointed supernumerary ensign, J. Crozet embarked in Bordeaux on the Countess . On April 25, 1746, he left Lorient aboard the Duke of Penthièvre , with eight other vessels of the Compagnie des Indes, escorted by two of the king’s vessels. After having fought three English boats and made a stopover for a few weeks in Senegal, the Duke of Penthièvre went to the Ile de France (now Mauritius), then to Pondicherry. He returned to France in November 1748. In April 1749, Crozet participated for seventeen months in a campaign on the coasts of Guinea, to defend the interests of the Compagnie des Indes. He was then second teacher-writer.
In November 1750, he left for the Mascarenes, aboard the Glorieux, under the command of Jean-Baptiste d’Après de Mannevillette , famous for his navigation charts of the Indies. Back in Port-Louis in August 1752, Julien left nine months later, with his first command, on the brigantine the Elephant . He returned from Senegal with an English catch. We find him in May 1755, lieutenant on the Danaé , on his way to Pondicherry from which he returned in February 1757, because of the war. On his arrival, he learned of his father’s death, two years old. In May 1758, he took command of the Volant and participated in fierce fighting on the coasts of Senegal and was even captured by the English in front of Gorée.
After his release, J. Crozet set off again for the Île de France, as lieutenant, on the Lys , armed at war, and returned to the Massiac in January 1760. In the meantime, his mother had died in June 1759, at the age of forty-eight. Julien stayed with his family for a while because he had brothers and sisters who were still very young. Promoted captain of fire in 1760, Julien embarked on a king’s vessel, the Robuste , with the mission of removing from the Vilaine estuary the buildings of the Royal Navy which were blocked there by the English, after the disaster of the Cardinals. In a few months, the mission was accomplished.
On July 14, 1760, Julien Crozet married Jeanne-Marguerite Calvé in Port-Louis, 17 years old, daughter of a former officer of the Compagnie des Indes, reconverted in the sardine trade. Through her mother, Jeanne-Marguerite was allied with the town’s bourgeoisie. On January 9, 1761, six months after his marriage, J. Crozet embarked on the Comte d’Argenson , a sixteen-gun vessel, armed for war and goods and commanded by the Malouin Marc Joseph Marion du Fresne . He was going to the Ile de France to trade. He then deposited an astronomer there, the RPAlexandre-Guy Pingré . Back in Port-Louis in January 1764, Julien finally made the acquaintance of his eldest son, Jean-François
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, born September 27, 1761. The Crozets had three other boys, one of whom died in infancy and a girl.
After a trip to China on board the Penthièvre from 1765 to 1767 and to India on board the Condé , as first lieutenant, J. Crozet returned to Port-Louis in September 1769.
The king having suspended the privilege of the Compagnie des Indes by the arrested on August 13, 1769, our navigator made a longer stopover with his family …
But in November 1770, he left for the Indies, on the Duke of Praslin on the flute . During a stopover on the Ile de France, Julien drew the attention of the commissioner-ordonnateur Poivre who was helping Marion du Fresnein his preparations for an expedition to discover the southern lands. The latter obtained from Louis XV the loan of the flute, the Mascarin (twenty-two barrels) which he armed largely at his expense as well as the Duke of Castries flute (sixteen barrels), (ex Bruny which belonged to him). .
Ambroise Le Jar du Clesmeur commanded the Duke of Castries , Marion du Fresne the Mascarin with Crozet as second captain.
The two ships left the Ile de France on October 18, 1771, heading for the Cape of Good Hope, for the final preparations for the voyage. We weighed anchor on December 28, 1771. We had to reconnoitre the Land of Diemen(current Tasmania), head for New Zealand and enter the South Sea.
From January 6, the presence of albatrosses, gulls, schooners signaled the proximity of land. In fact, on January 13, there appeared a coast dominated by mountains covered with snow, the slopes of which were very green but without trees. Marion baptized this coast Land of Hope because it comforted him in the hope of discovering a southern continent. Crozet sketched it out and took a few measurements. Further on, another land was named Cave Island . These are the present day Marion and Prince Edward Islands . The exploration of this archipelago could not be done because the Mascarin, in the fog, landed and damaged the Marquis de Castries .
After a makeshift repair, the two boats sailed through cold, fog, wind and rain and sailed past two islands that the sailors, in fear of encountering a huge iceberg, called the Cold Islands . These are the current Île aux Cochons and Île aux Pengouins .
The sea having calmed down, on January 24, the navigators approached another island. Crozet, who landed there, accompanied by a few officers and sailors, left the following description:
west that blow throughout the year in these regions, it does not seem habitable. I only found elephant seals, penguins, petrels and cormorants and all kinds of varieties of seabirds that sailors see in the open sea when they pass the Cape of Good Hope. “.
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J. Crozet and his companions took possession of the island in the name of the King of France. They placed a bottle containing the official parchment on top of a pyramid of large, stacked stones. The island had been named Isle of Possession . The explorers returned to their ships and, on January 25, 1772, they left behind this archipelago which was later to receive the name of Crozet and which still belongs to France.
The trip continued until the beginning of March, without meeting any new islands, despite the presence of many birds. An aurora australis amazed the navigators. Then appeared the land of Diemenwhose numerous fires testified to the density of the population. On March 6, the boats anchored in a bay on the eastern seaboard which was to become Marion Bay . All black, small, thin individuals with large frizzy heads appeared on the shore.
Marion tried to disembark to stock up on water and wood to repair the damage to the two flutes. Two rowboats landed. Marion and some officers tried to gain the confidence of the inhabitants by giving gifts, but when a third rowboat approached the shore, the natives uttered threats, throwing stones and spears. In response, a shootout leaving one dead and a few wounded dispersed everyone. For four days, the crews searched in vain for water and had to embark for New Zealand.
After an eventful crossing, it was difficult to find a suitable anchorage and the descents ashore only revealed brackish water. Finally on May 3, the two ships entered theBay of Islands . A canoe, mounted by nine vigorous men, very agile and ” of a pleasant figure “, came to meet them. They were given clothes and soon nearly 250 natives, bringing fish, singing and dancing were on the vessels. The Mascarin and the Marquis de Castries were anchored at the end of the bay, in an excellent port called Port-Marion .
Three posts were established on land:
– one on Moutouara Island, in the middle of the bay. The sick were installed there in tents, the forge and empty barrels because that was where the water point was. An officer and ten men, plus the doctors,
– the second post was on the coast of the main island, a league and a half from the ships. It served as a warehouse and as a link with the third post.
– it was located in a cedar forest, two leagues from the warehouse. It was a site on which two-thirds of the crew and the carpenters worked. These workers had to cut down trees, make masts, build a road to the shore. Officers and armed men also guarded these two posts.
While the fittings work continued, Marion developed a passion for fishing. He was always accompanied by a crowd of natives whom he covered with gifts and befriended a chief,. In a feeling of total security, Marion even went so far as to give the order to disarm the canoes and whaling boats that were going ashore. Let’s give the floor to Crozet:
“The savages were always with us, whether in our camps or on our boats and, in exchange for nails, they gave us fish, quail and wild ducks. They ate with our sailors, helped them in their work with a very appreciable result, because they were extremely strong. Our young men, attracted by the kindness of the savages and the ease of their daughters, roamed the villages every day and even made rounds inside the island to hunt ducks. (…) Despite the very amiable manners of the islanders, I could not forget that our predecessor, Abel Tasman, had nicknamed the Bay of Massacre the one he had landed in New Zealand. We did not know that Captain Cook had it. visited since and had made a total exploration (…).It is very surprising that these savages, who the previous year had seen and traded with two vessels, one English, the other French, never allowed us to suspect anything ”
In fact, a few worrying signs were observed: nocturnal gatherings around the construction site or the hospital, unusual behavior of certain relatives, concentration of individuals in the mountains. Nevertheless, on June 12, Marion, accompanied by two officers, the captain of arms and thirteen men, surrendered at the invitation of Chief Tacouri. They did not return in the evening.
The next day, the Marquis de Castries’ rowboat carried twelve men ashore for water and wood supplies. Welcomed by the natives with the usual friendly demonstrations, the sailors as soon as they cheered up were attacked by a troop ten times greater than theirs, killed, stripped and … butchered! There was only one survivor who was able to swim back to the boats despite several injuries and relate the facts in all their horror.
It appeared likely that Marion and her companions had suffered the same fate. From Clesmeurthen sent the Mascarin longboat, with twenty well-armed men, to sound the alarm at the worksite headed by Crozet. On the way, near the village of Tacouri, they saw the canoe of the Mascarin and the longboat of the Marquis de Castries , surrounded by natives who displayed the arms of their previous occupants.
Near the site, there were several hundred armed warriors. It took all the coolness of Crozet to bring back his unharmed men, with the maximum of material, under the hostile gaze of all this troop. The aggressiveness was unleashed when the heavily loaded rowboat left the coast. The sailors responded with a shootout which left a number of people dead.
Lieutenant Crozet fires on the New Zealander
As soon as it was unloaded on board the Mascarin, the longboat went to Moutouara Island with a well-armed detachment, commanded by an officer. The sick were evacuated the same evening aboard the Mascarin while the soldiers organized an entrenchment around the forge and the source and kept the neighboring village under surveillance. The next day, June 14, Crozet sent a second detachment with two officers to the island. It was indeed no longer possible to refuel on the main island.
In the afternoon, several hundred Aborigines, armed and threatening, approached the station. The soldiers, in order of battle, marched on them, bayonets drawn, but without opening fire. The islanders retreated to their village where they took refuge. The leaders, very excited, incited them to confrontation. The soldiers fired, killing six leaders and a number of fighters, chasing the rest to their canoes. The island was cleaned up and the village burned down.
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From now on, the fittings work continued on board. It was necessary to give up the beautiful cedars and make makeshift masts for the Marquis de Castries. Every day, the rowboat supplied water and wood to the island of Moutouara, always under guard. Indeed, on several occasions, warriors had tried to infiltrate the island, under cover of the night, and even by donning the clothes of the missing sailors. From both ships, it was possible to see the sentries posted on the hillsides and to hear their cries at the slightest movement of the sailors. To show that they remained vigilant, they fired from time to time a cannon shot in their direction.
On July 7, we raided the village of Tacouri. The houses had been deserted, only a few old people remained. Tacouri had been seen fleeing in the mountain, wearing Marion’s coat. All the houses were searched. There were found clothes riddled with blows of spears and bloody, pistols and the weapons of the boat. A femur, bearing a few scraps of flesh, adorned the spit of a hearth. In the chief’s house, a human head, cooked and partly devoured, was strung on a pole … The evidence of the murder of Marion and her companions being sufficient, the village was set on fire.
Du Clesmeur, Crozet and the officers of the two ships, meeting in council, decided that because of the losses suffered in men and equipment,the island of France , without looking for new lands, but via the Mariana Islands and the Philippines where it would be possible to obtain supplies.
On July 11, 1772, before weighing anchor, Du Clesmeur and Crozet (who now commanded the Mascarin), took possession, in the king’s name, of “Southern France”, without suspecting that James Cook and Jean-François de Surville had both landed on this coast less than two years earlier.
The journey quickly became extremely difficult: rationed water, salted meat for all food. Scurvy was decimating the crews. On September 20, the ships arrived in sight of the Mariana Islandsand on the 24th, the Marquis de Castries’ canoe brought fresh meat and oranges from the island of Guam . On September 27, the Marquis de Castries and the Mascarin saluted Port-Saint-Louis with nine cannon shots. The governor placed at the disposal of Crozet and Clesmeur the house of the Jesuits for the staff and a barracks to serve as a hospital.
J. Crozet left an idyllic description of the island of Guam:
” Everything was there for the happiness of a man who loves solitude, greenery, shade, freshness, the scent of flowers, crystalline waters emerging from a rock and cascading, the song of a multitude of birds, vantage points, coconuts, rima, lemons … ” and this unrepentant backpacker concluded, ” I could not leave these delicious places without regret; I would have spent my life there. ”
On November 19, our navigators set out again and on December 7, they anchored at the entrance to the Gulf of Manila . After a visit to the governor of the Philippines, Crozet was finally able to dispose of everything necessary for the refit of the Mascarin . But the operation was long because of the manpower problems caused by the poor state of health of the crew and the numerous desertions which took place in this port.
The Marquis de Castries sailed for the Ile de France on February 10, 1773 and the Mascarina month later, after having recruited around thirty Filipinos to make up for the defections of the crew. On May 7, 1773, J. Crozet arrived at Port-Louis on the Ile de France and on November 4, he disembarked from the Triton at Port-Louis in Brittany, after an absence of three years.
Julien remained with his family for a year, a time that he used to obtain from Louis XV the rank of captain of the fire. His dossier contains the following commendation:
” Appears by his bravery, his knowledge and his experience, worthy of being admitted into the King’s Navy. He sailed a lot and with fruit, was in charge of various commands which he fulfilled well, found himself in several very lively fights during the last two wars, was honored several times with the certificate of lieutenant of frigate and captain of firebrand … ”
On December 7, 1774, J. Crozet took command of Ajax , leaving for the Mascarenes . At the Cape Town stopover, he met James Cook who was returning from his second trip. Crozet gave him the maps of the lands he had explored, and in his journal the English captain praised the French navigator’s spirit of discovery.
Julien returned to Port-Louis in August 1776. In sixteen years of marriage, he had not spent the value of three years with his wife. Nevertheless in March 1777, he returned to sea as captain, aboard the Elisabeth , leaving his wife pregnant with their last child.
It has been written that this was his last trip and that he died in 1780, ” somewhere at sea “. In an article published in 1952 at the SHAB, HFBuffet indicates that he would have died in Paris, September 24, 1782.
Jeanne-Marguerite Crozet died in Port-Louis, January 14, 1784, at the age of forty-two.
Since 1966, a street in Port-Louis, in the Kerzo district , bears the name of Julien Crozet . It is located near that of Surville .
The dramatic incursion of the French into New Zealand and the circumstances of the death of Marion du Fresne and her companions have given rise to various interpretations.
– The Abbé Rochon who published, shortly after Crozet’s death, the account of his expedition to New Zealand, considered that the natives had taken revenge for the abuses inflicted on them by Surville.
– An Englishman, Major A. Cruise , being in New Zealand fifty years after the event, says he got the story from the Maoris themselves. Playing the trust card to better conceal their plot, they would have taken revenge on Marion who would have burnt two of their villages.
– In 1851, an English doctor, Doctor Thomson , called near the Bay of Islands, on the occasion of the sinking of a French boat, overheard the conversation of New Zealanders evoking the massacre of Marion. According to them, their ancestors (because there were no survivors at the time) had sincerely befriended the French. But these would have violated sacred places, triggering the murderous anger of the inhabitants.