A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

La Pérouse

When La Pérouse set sail from Botany Bay, Australia in March of 1788, he had survived much, but little dreamed of the fate awaiting him. His last letter to the Ministry, dated February 7, 1788, reveals his goals for the remainder of his voyage:

"…I shall go up to the Friendly Islands, and will do exactly what my instructions require me to do with respect to the southern part of New Caledonia, Mendana’s Island of Santa Cruz, the south coast of  Surville’s Arsacides, and Bougainville’s land of Louisiades, endeavouring to assess if the latter forms part of New Guinea or not. I shall pass, towards the end of July, between New Guinea and New Holland, by another channel than the Endeavour’s, if such exists. In September and part of October I shall visit the Gulf of Carpentaria and the entire west coast of New Holland as far as Van Diemen’s Land; but in such a way as to enable me to go back north in time to reach the Isle de France in December." 

It would be almost four decades before definite proof was found of La Pérouse’s fate. During the chaos of the French Revolution, an expedition was sent to the South Pacific, but failed to reach Vanikoro. An unrelated expedition searching for the mutineers of the HMS Bounty passed close by the island—and even spotted signal fires—but so dogged were they in their pursuit and convinced that mutineers would not advertise their presence by lighting fires that they did not stop to investigate. It was not until 1826 that Captain Peter Dillon, intrigued by stories of relics being worn and sold by islanders, tracked the expedition to its final resting place.

La Perouse voyage

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