Renowned solo yachtswoman Autissier here delivers a thrilling narrative as she follows the route of eighteenth century explorer Joseph Kerguelen to the ends of the earth. Kerguelen was ordered by King Louis XV to seek out the Terra Australis, the “hidden face of the world”, the antipodean continent to balance those of the northern hemisphere. A month after leaving Mauritius in 1772, the explorer spotted a “little purplish brown blot” on the horizon, and proceeded to describe idyllically the island later named after him, without ever setting foot on it. Kerguelen was rewarded with the command of a new expedition, funded with unheard-of extravagance.
Plagued from the outset with problems, the mission ran afoul of ice storms, rotting stores, and rampant scurvy. The presence of Kerguelen’s mistress Louison was greatly resented by a crew later driven to the brink of mutiny. Court-martialed for his reckless failure, Kerguelen was imprisoned for three years and died penniless, remembered only by the distant and inhospitable archipelago to which he gave his name.
Autissier brings a lifetime of maritime knowledge to her gripping biography of the ill-fated dreamer and explorer. Her own experience of the journey’s hardships enriches a meticulously researched history with immediate detail.