Many island place names are in French, attributed to the first thorough survey of its coast carried out in 1802 and 1803 by French explorer Nicholas Baudin. He found the island uninhabited, though archaeologists have since found evidence of Aboriginal habitation about 2250 years ago. Baudin’s English counterpart, Matthew Flinders, named the island after his crew enjoyed a feast of kangaroo meat here.
A motley collection of whalers, sealers, escaped convicts and ship deserters began to make their homes on the island. They brought Aboriginal women from Tasmania, and abducted others from the mainland. Before long, Kangaroo Island had a reputation as one of the most lawless and vicious places in the British Empire. The worst scoundrels were rounded up in 1827 and thereafter a rough sort of respectability was achieved.