Little boat’s big journey

Headshot of Sarah Ison
Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times
Helen Werner shows of the miniature replica of La Geographe.
Camera IconHelen Werner shows of the miniature replica of La Geographe. Credit: Busselton Dunsborough Times, Sarah Ison

A miniature replica of the ship La Geographe has found its way to Railway House to finish a journey almost 30 years in the making.

Frenchman Bernard Werner visited Busselton for the first time in the 70s to work as a chef, when he met a local girl, Helen, who later became his wife.

What the pair did not know at the time was Werner’s home town — La Rochelle — was the same as that of Nicolas Baudin, who captained the French colonial fleet that first sailed into Busselton in 1801. Upon learning about the serendipitous link, Bernard’s father Robert wrote two separate books about the exploration led by Baudin, using visits to his son’s new home to inspire and inform his work.

To culminate decades of interest in Baudin’s expedition, Robert Werner eventually commissioned a miniature replica of the boat, La Geographe, to be made in Mauritius. The miniature eventually made its way from La Rochelle to Busselton, following in the footsteps of Baudin himself, where it stayed in the Werner family home for some years.

This week, the miniature was moved to Railway House, where it will be displayed for the community to enjoy. Mrs Werner said she was thrilled to have the miniature exhibited amid other items of historical significance to the town.

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“It really represents the rich history of Busselton,” she said. “It will stay here for as long as possible, for as many people to see.”

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