La Perouse

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Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse, (1741-1788), French navigator, joined the navy as a teenager and had distinguished himself both as a commander in war and a navigator and oceanographer in peace when chosen, in 1783, to follow up on the unfinished work of James Cook in the far north Pacific.

With two ships, “La Boussole” and “L’Astrolabe”, he sailed from Brest on 1st August 1785, making his way to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) via Cape Horn and Chile. Continuing to Alaska he began a southerly survey of the coast as far down as California where he made repairs at Monterey before crossing the Pacific to Macao, then Manila. After another refit and provisioning he turned north to follow up on missionary descriptions of coastlines north of Korea and sent a progress report with an officer overland to Paris from Russian Kamchatka.

He then sailed for New Holland (Australia), where he arrived at Botany Bay, New South Wales, Cook’s landing place 18 years before, coincidently on the day that Governor Arthur Phillip raised the British flag founding the colony of Sydney in Port Jackson, a few miles up the coast. He stayed for six weeks, enjoyed good relations with the British, and sailed again on 10th March. He was never seen again.

In 1791 the French mounted a search under the command of Bruny d’Entrecasteaux , which was fruitless. In 1828, evidence of him came to light in the Santa Cruz Islands, north New Hebrides. The reports sent from Kamchatka were published in 1797 and proved important additions to European knowledge of areas that are exactly half way around the globe.

The site of La Pérouse’s camp on the north shore of Botany Bay is now La Perouse, a Sydney suburb. “L’Astrolabe” is a French Antarctic icebreaker, based in Hobart, Tasmania.

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