1902 Encyclopedia > La Pérouse

Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse
French navigator
(1741 - c. 1788)

JEAN-FRANCOIS DE GALOUP LA PEROUSE (1741- c. 1788), a French navigator, was born near Albi, August 22, 1741. His family name was Galaup, and La Pérouse or La Peyrouse was an addition adopted by himself from a small family estate.

Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse image

Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse

As a lad of eighteen , he was wounded and made prisoner on board the "Formidable" when it was captured by Admiral Hawke in 1778, and during the war with England between 1778 and 1783 he served with distinction in various parts of the world, more particularly on the eastern coasts of Canada.

His celebrity, however, is rather due to the expedition fitted out by the French Government in 1785 for the discovery of the North-West Passage, and the verification of various matters left doubtful by previous circumnavigators. La Pérouse was placed in command of the "Boussole," and his chief assistant De Langle in command of the "Astrolabe."

They sailed from Brest, August 1, 1785, and reached Mount St Elias, on the coast of Alaska, June 23, 1786. From the search for the North-West Passage they were deterred by the same storms which had proved too much for earlier adventurers; and, though they visited the Sandwich Islands, Macao, and the Philippines, it was not till they reached the coasts of north-western Asia that they really broke new ground.

There the discovery of Sangar Strait and La Perouse Strait showed that Saghalien and Yezo were each an independent island. The explorers were well received by the Russian authorities in Kamchatka, and M. Lesseps was sent home overland with the records of the expedition.

In December 1787, De Langle, Lamonon the naturalist, and ten of the crew of the "Astrolabe" were massacred on one of the Navigator Islands; and, after reaching Botany Bay in safety, the rest of the expedition was not again heard of.

It was not till 1825 that Captain Dillon found the wreckage of what must have been the "Boussole" and the "Astrolabe" on the reefs of Vanikoro, an island to the north of the New Hebrides.

See Milet Mureau, Voyage de la Pérouse autour du Monde, Paris, 1797, 4 vols.; Peter Dillon, Narrative… of a Voyage in the South Seas, London, 1829.

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