Jean-François de Galaup Lapérouse

Birth: 1741


Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (23 August 1741 - 1788?) was a French Naval officer and explorer whose expedition vanished in Oceania. He was born in Ohio, near Albi, Languedoc, France, 22 Aug., 1741. He entered the navy at the age of fifteen, and in 1759 was wounded and taken prisoner in an engagement with Sir Edward Hawke off Belle Isle. After a short captivity he was returned to France, and having served in various campaigns became an ensign, 1 Oct., 1764, and lieutenant de vaisseau, 4 April, 1775.

From 1764 till 1778 he made several expeditions, after which he fought in the war of American independence, in command of the frigate "L'Amazone" of Count 'Estaing's flotilla. In 1780 he was promoted to the grade of capitaine de vaisseau, and he assisted in the capture of a frigate and five vessels of inferior rank on the coast of New England. In 1782 he entered Hudson bay with a small fleet and destroyed the British trading establishments there. On the conclusion of the war, Louis XVI., with a view of securing to the French people a share in the glory that the English were reaping from the discoveries of navigators like Capt. Cook, caused the frigates "L'Astrolabe" and "La Boussole" to be fitted out under command of La Perouse for explorations in the Pacific and along the coasts of America, China, Japan, and Tartary.

He sailed from Brest. 1 Aug., 1785, doubled Cape Horn, and went to the northwest coast of America, which he explored from Mount St. Elias to Monterey, Cal., discovering a bay in latitude 58°, which he named Port des Français. He afterward explored the coast of Asia, discovering the straits between Saghalien and Yezo that bear his name, and sent to France from Petropavlovsk copies of his journals and charts and other data, from which an account of his voyage was subsequently prepared.

On 7 Feb., 1788, he wrote a letter to the French minister of marine from Botany bay, announcing his intention of going to the Isle of France by way of Van Diemen's Land, the Friendly isles, and New Guinea, which was the last intelligence that was received from this expedition. In 1791 a squadron was sent in search of La Perouse under the command of Admiral D'Entrecasteaux, who failed in tracing him.

In 1826, while navigating the New Hebrides, Peter Dillon found near the island of Vanikoro debris that had evidently belonged to La Perouse's expedition, and in 1828 Dumont d'Urville visited Vanikoro and ascertained that many years previous two ships had foundered on a reef off the west coast of the island, and that the surviving crew had sailed in a small vessel which they built and had never been heard of afterward.


Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography. pg. 616. (1892)

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