Francois Leguat Expedition: Part 2

by Miff Crommelin

This icon depicts Jean Testart, a son of Pierre Testart and Rachel Crommelin,
a member of Francois Leguat's ill-fated expedition to colonize an island in the Indian Ocean.

Leguat's drawing of the boat the adventurers built in 1692 to
take them from Rodrigues to Mauritius.

Having spent 2 years on the lush deserted island of Rodrigues (500 miles east of Mauritius), Francois Leguat and his 8 companions built a boat and managed to sail it to Mauritius hoping to re-connect with civilization. Shortly after they arrived in June 1693 they fell afoul of the Governor, Rodolfo (Roelof) Diodati, aged 35, over a 6 lb. piece of ambergris which they had brought with them. They had found this strange lump on a beach in Rodrigues but, unbeknownst to them, ambergris was a prized commodity. It originates as a secretion in the head of a sperm whale and is used in the perfume industry.

This dispute subsequently led to the arrest of all of Leguat's adventurers and their exile to the islet of Vacoas before being removed and tried nearly 3 years later. Jean Testart died while trying to escape from Vacoas on a grass raft on January 10, 1696. Their unusually harsh treatment arose partly because France was still at war with an Anglo/Dutch alliance. Mauritius was a Dutch colony and it didn't make any difference to the Governor that the adventurers happened to be French Huguenots who had fled from France years earlier.

It is indeed sad to see that Roelof Diodati, the evil Governor of Mauritius, was ostensibly also a Calvinist Christian who harshly persecuted Francois Leguat and his devout French Huguenot companions.

See also: Francois Leguat Wikipedia

Fort Frederik Hendrik and the 'Rock of Exile', Mauritius

Valentyn's drawing of the safe deep-water approach to Fort Hendrik in South-East Mauritius in the 1600's.
Note the middle of #7 islands is the 'Rock of Exile' where Leguat and Jean Testart spent several years.

Note how Valentyn's drawing closely follows the deep-water 'road' as seen from this satellite view.
The turning point to enter the 'road' is at Ile de la Passe, one of the 'Drie Gebroeders' (3 Brothers)
as the 3 little islands were called by the Dutch. These 3 islets are #7 in Valentyn's drawing (above).
Perhaps it was called 'Isle de la Passe' by the French because this is where
the entry passage began in order to avoid the shallow water above the reefs.

Source for all photos.

Vacoas Islet, the 'Rock of Exile' on the edge of a reef in South-East Mauritius
was a barren rock only 200 paces long and 100 paces wide.

Vacoas Islet, where Francois Leguat and his companions were forced to live for nearly 3 years
by the evil Governor, Roelof Diodati, and where Jean Testart, son of Pierre Testart and Rachel Crommelin,
died while trying to escape on January 10, 1696.
Due to wave erosion it is probably somewhat smaller now than it was 300 years ago.

Francois Leguat's drawing of Fort Frederik Hendrik and the 3 islets:
Ile de la Passe (later a Napoleonic French garrison)
Vacoas Isle (the 'prison rock')
Fouquet Isle (which later featured a lighthouse)

Roelof Diodati, Governor of Mauritius

Valentyn's drawing of Fort Frederik Hendrik, HQ of the evil Governor, Roelof Diodati

Roelof Diodati (Dordrecht, 28 July 1658 - Batavia 10 March 1723) was a governor of Dutch Mauritius in the late 17th century.

Diodati was from Swiss-Italian descent. His grandfather was Jean Diodati, a theologian, who translated the Bible in Italian. His father, born in Geneva, became a pastor of the Walloon church in Leiden in 1651.[1]

It is not obvious Rodolfo Diodati was one of a twin.[2] Both brothers took service at the Dutch East India Company. He became an accountant at the Cape from 1686 and then a merchant. He was appointed as governor of Mauritius from 1692-1703. In 1693 he had to deal with François Leguat.[3] In 1695, a big hurricane devastated the island, several of the Burghers lost all theirs crops, many left the island.[4]

Diodati seems to have been appointed in Suratte. Then he shifted to Batavia and he became a merchant and accountant on 4 January 1707. In 1709 he married Catharina Zaaiman, born on Dutch Mauritius. Her grandmother was Eva, a Khoikhoi interpreter for Jan van Riebeeck.[5]

Diodati became opperhoofd at the VOC post at Dejima Japan on 31 May 1720 and died in Batavia 10 March 1723.

1.^ The Voyage of Franois Leguat of Bresse, to Rodriguez, Mauritius, Java, and ... By François Le Guat [1]
2.^ Akte 41
3.^ Mauritius illustrated: historical and descriptive, commercial and industrial ... By Allister Macmillan [2]

Allister Macmillan, Mauritius illustrated: historical and descriptive, commercial and industrial facts, figures, and resources., London : W.H. & L. Collingridge, 1914

Article Source: Wikipedia

Isle de la Passe

A rusting mortar from Napoleon's army on Isle de la Passe.
This island was the turning point for vessels approaching Fort Frederik Hendrik.
It was an island with trees in Leguat's day, and 100 years later became
an armed fortress in Napoleon's day.

View from Isle de la Passe showing Leguat's 'Rock of Exile'
(Vacoas Islet) in the middle, and Fouquet Islet (with Lighthouse) in the distance.

View toward the mainland showing the 'Rock of Exile' in the foreground and Isle de la Passe just behind it.
It's hard to believe that 5 or 6 men could survive on this barren rock for nearly 3 years from 1693-1696.

Ile de la Passe with remnants of Napoleon's fortress strewn about.

Vacoas Islet: 'The Rock of Exile'

Ile de la Passe on the left (in shadow), the 'Rock of Exile', and Fouquet's Isle (with lighthouse) on the right.
Note how these islets emerge from the edge of the reef.

The 'Rock of Exile' in the foreground with Fouquet Islet behind. Note the deep caverns at the water's edge of Vacoas Isle caused by wave action. This is where the companions hid their boat-making supplies and stores of food from the provisioners whose intervals
between visits varied between 8 to 20 days.

Fouquet's Islet (Lighthouse Island)

Leguat and his companions didn't have the luxury of seeing the lighthouse since it was built over a hundred years later.
Furthermore, nothing grew on that rocky islet.

Views from Preskil Beach Resort, Mauritius

Panning from left to right on the Preskil Beach Resort...

...on South-East Mauritius.

In this foreshortened view, the three 'prison islands' of Francois Leguat and Jean Testart
appear to merge into one in the center of the picture.

The preceding photo was taken along a line-of-sight from Preskil Beach Resort
(the tiny white cross in center of picture) toward the 3 islets.

For a complete account of the Francois Leguat expedition, you can download his memoirs free from Google.

See also my Francois Leguat webpage which deals with their luxurious 2-year experience on Rodrigues (which preceded their calamity at Mauritius).