Viewing in Mauritius - The Story of Bottineau
We know very little of Bottineau, the obscure Frenchman
who discovered the 'science' of Nauscopie, that is - the detection of ships and lands at a considerable distance
(up to 1000 kilometres), allegedly by
examining the effect which they produced on the atmosphere. Very much like an
early form of remote viewing. He was supported by the concurring testimony of hundreds of
people, and certificates from high-ranking officers all indicating that there must be some truth in his
Bottineau relates in a letter that, as early as 1762,
whilst serving in the French navy, he was thinking that a vessel moving towards land
should produce a certain
effect on the atmosphere, and so make the approach discernible to a trained eye
well before the vessel itself was visible. After many
observations, he thought he had discovered a specific appearance heralding the
advance of a vessel before it came in sight. However, he had only limited success,
and so gave up
Experiments in Remote Viewing
In 1764 his career took him to the island of Mauritius
(then known as the Isle of France), in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, where he had a lot of
free time, and again attempted to develop the art of remote viewing. Here, away from civilization, with a clear
sky, pure atmosphere and fewer ships stopping at the island, he was less
likely to make mistakes
than off the coast of France. After six
months Bottineau was sure of the reality of his discovery and of its value as a real science.
He took advantage of the fact that officers were often on the shore looking through their
glasses (small telescopes) for approaching vessels from Europe.
He made bets on
ships arriving up to three days before
they actually came in sight, and as he was very rarely wrong, won a large amount of money, much to
the bewilderment of the officers.
The Governor of the island kept a record of Bottineau's
remote viewing predictions in a
private register for about two years. On one occasion he announced to the Governor
that three vessels
were approaching the island, even though the lookouts could see nothing with their
telescopes. The next day the lookouts told the Governor that a ship had just come into sight above the horizon. On the next day
a second appeared, and a week later a third was visible to the naked eye. Bottineau's
prediction had been correct. Though the government offered Bottineau a considerable sum
of money and a
pension for the details of his secret, he declined, saying that he didn't think the price high enough.
Incredibly, the Frenchman was able to detect the approach of ships
from about 500 km, up to1000 km distant. For over fifteen years he consistently predicted the arrival of vessels,
at times three or four days before they could
be seen with a telescope. The Governor's register showed
that his predictions were nearly always correct; and that even when he
announced the approach of vessels which didn't arrive at the island, it was shown
that the ship or ships were foreign and had
come within two or three days' sailing without stopping
On one occasion Bottineau maintained that a fleet of eleven vessels were approaching
the island, causing great apprehension, as an attack from the English was
expected. A warship was immediately sent out to check, but
before its return Bottineau informed the Governor that the
signs in the atmosphere had gone, so the fleet must have taken a different
Some time after this a ship arrived in Mauritius from the East
Indies, and reported seeing a fleet of eleven ships sailing towards
Fort St. Williams. Again Bottineau had been correct.
using Remote Viewing
Between the years 1778 and 1782, Bottineau correctly
predicted the arrival of
575 vessels, several of them four days before they became visible to anyone
else. At no time did any vessel reach the island which
was not predicted by Bottineau. Bottineau was also interested in
whether the atmospheric
effects produced by the approach of a vessel to land would be the same when one vessel
approached another, and found that when he tried the experiment during a voyage, the
effect was same, though less powerful. He also wanted to try his method
out in discovering land from a ship long before it could normally be seen from on
board the vessel. On one occasion he told the captain of a ship he was
travelling on that they were within about a hundred and fifty kilometres of land. The captain refused
to allow this possibility but, after reexamining his calculations, was
forced to acknowledge that he'd made a mistake, and changed course immediately.
Bottineau discovered land three times
during the voyage, once at the distance of 750km.
In June 1784, in the midst of the French Revolution, Bottineau went to
Paris to try and get some
official notice for his new science. But perhaps because people had little time
or inclination to think of such things, he was practically ignored,
even though he
had certificates signed by the Governor of Mauritius, and all the
officers of the garrison there. Bottineau was ridiculed by the editor of the Mercure de
France, saying that it was not 'ships at sea, but castles in the air' he'd
seen. He was completely disheartened by this rejection and predicted
that the world would be deprived of his discovery. He was right, the
world did not listen, and he died in poverty in the (at that time) French colony
of Pondicherry, southern India, around 1802.
In 1817 and 1818 Captain Francis Maude of the Royal Navy (1798-1886),
at the time a midshipman on H.M.S. Magicienne, often met an old inhabitant
of Mauritius who had learned the art of Nauscopie from Bottineau himself, and
used it regularly with great success. Over a century later, in 1935, Peter Green, of Tristan da Cunha,
an island in the Atlantic between South Africa and South America, was also attributed
ability to predict the arrival of ships one or two days in advance.
What are we to make of the shadowy Bottineau and his
strange ability? Was it really an 18th century version of remote viewing? What we know of
him and Nauscopie comes from private papers preserved and published in The Nautical Magazine in
1834. However, this is not the only source for this odd story. Sir David Brewster in his Letters on Natural Magic,
the last of which was written in 1832, two years before the Nautical
Magazine article, refers to Nauscopie as a
matter of common knowledge at the time.
If, as seems to be the case, Bottineau was able to predict the arrival
of ships when still a long way below the horizon, how did he do it?
Bottineau himself explained that his knowledge didn't come
from the movement of the waves, nor from especially sharp eyesight, but from simply
observing the horizon, where he could detect certain signs indicating that a vessel or
land was approaching. He explained that when a vessel approaches land, or another vessel, a
specific kind of atmospheric effect appears, visible to everyone without much
effort. This effect, he said, was the necessary result of the approach of one
ship towards another, or towards land. The existence of the atmospheric effect,
which he described as a kind of vapour cloud, and the
knowledge of its distinct variations, formed the certainty and precision
of his announcements. He asserted that the phenomenon sometimes appeared four or five days before the
ship itself could be seen, and
sometimes only one day, depending on whether the vessel had met fair winds or contrary.
In other words Bottineau had trained himself to perceive some very faint
cloud-like appearance near the sea-horizon, and he discovered by experience that this preceded the coming of a ship.
He must, to say the least, have had peculiarly sharp vision, but more
importantly he had trained his eyes to detect faint signs invisible to
ordinary observer who did not know what to look for. But still, detecting
the presence of ships 1000 km away would suggest something more than this.
If contemporary accounts are to be believed, and the evidence is mostly
anecdotal in this case, then perhaps Bottineau possessed an unusual power akin to
what is now referred to as 'remote viewing', though the nature of this power was completely unknown to him.
Sources and Further Reading
Gould, R. Oddities. A
Book of Unexplained Facts. New York, University Books, 1965, pp173-93.
Copyright 2003 by Brian
Haughton. All Rights Reserved.
on Mysterious People