Skip to content

Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse

Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse (1741-1788) was the commander of the French expedition to explore the Pacific in 1785. 

January 1788

La Pérouse with two ships, Astrolabe and Boussole, left Brest in 1785 to explore the Pacific. He was ordered to investigate rumours of a British penal colony, and sailed into Botany Bay on 26 January 1788. By coincidence, Captain Phillip, having just moved most of the First Fleet from Botany Bay to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), was that day proclaiming the sovereignty of Britain over eastern Australia. However, Captain John Hunter and the Sirius were still in Botany Bay and had amicable meetings with the French.

La Pérouse stayed for 6 weeks and then headed back into the Pacific Ocean, leaving letters with Lieutenant John Shortland to be taken back to Europe. The expedition failed to return to France.

Its disappearance led to a French search expedition led by Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruny, Chevalier d'Entrecasteaux, that followed the model established by Banks of melding exploration and science, and had a large scientific group on board, including the botanist Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière (1755-1834). They found no trace of La Perouse.

Several other French exploring and scientific expeditions followed over the next few decades but there was no definite trace of La Pérouse's expedition until 1827, when the wrecked remains of the ships were found off Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz group of islands.

We would like to acknowledge the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation within Sydney and pay our respect to Elders past, present and future.