Voyage in Search of La Pérouse Performed ... during the Years 1791, 1792, 1793, and 1794. London: Printed for John Stockdale, 1800
2 volumes, 8vo (8 3/8 x 5 in.; 213 x 127 mm). 42 (of 45) engraved plates, including 2 frontispieces, engraved folding map; plates browned with strong offsetting to adjacent text throughout, folding map offset to itself and to adjacent text, marginal tear affecting eastern and southern Europe, light to moderate text browning and foxing. Contemporary tree calf, smooth spines gilt with black morocco lettering and numbering pieces; joints rubbed and starting, spines a trifle dry with minor losses.
Hill (2004) 955; Ferguson 310; Sabin 38422
After three years without news of La Pérouse, an expedition under D'Entrecasteaux set out with the joint purpose of discovering his fate and scientific and commercial exploration. No trace was found of the missing explorer in a journey which encompassed the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania, southwest Australia, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, the Admiralty Islands, and Tonga. D'Entrecasteaux died of scurvy in 1793, and Labillardière, one of the botanists on board, completed the present account of the expedition.
It was not until 1826 that an Irish captain, Peter Dillon, found enough evidence to piece together the events of the tragedy. In Tikopia (one of the islands of Santa Cruz), he bought some swords he had reason to believe had belonged to La Pérouse. He made enquiries, and found that they came from nearby Vanikoro, where two big ships had broken up. Dillon managed to obtain a ship in Bengal, and sailed for Vanikoro where he found cannon balls, anchors and other evidence of the remains of ships in water between coral reefs. He brought several of these artifacts back to Europe, as did Dumont d'Urville in 1828. De Lesseps, the only member of the expedition still alive at the time, identified them, as all belonging to the Astrolabe. From the information Dillon received from the people on Vanikoro, a rough reconstruction could be made of the disaster that struck La Pérouse, which was confirmed by the find and search of the shipwreck of the Boussole in 1964.
Both ships had been wrecked on the reefs, the Boussole first. The Astrolabe was unloaded and taken apart. A group of men, probably the survivors of the Boussole, were massacred by the local inhabitants. According to natives, surviving sailors built a two-masted craft from the wreckage of the Astrolabe, and left westward about nine months later, but what happened to them is unknown.
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