A New Biography of la Perouse

M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia, July-August 2006 | Go to article overview

A New Biography of la Perouse


Count Jean-Francoise de la Perouse has a special place in Australian History. A very short time after the First Fleet arrived in the isolated spot named Botany Bay the members of the fleet were astonished to see two ships sailing into the Bay. It was La Perouse coming to see what the British were up to. Phillip hurriedly ordered the British flag to be raised and continued out of the Bay to Port Jackson where he again hurriedly had the flag raised and the land claimed for Great Britain - not to actually establish the new colony, that came later, but to emphasise that the British were in occupation.

This new biography entitled Where Fate Beckons is written by John Dunmore, a New Zealander who is the expert on the French exploration in the Pacific. He has edited the journals of de Surville, La Perouse and Bougainville and has written a biography of the latter explorer. He has also written a two volume history of French Explorers in the Pacific.

His biography of La Perouse published this year covers the whole of the life of the French explorer. It includes his teenage involvement in the French navy in the wars against Britain. This was followed by a period in the Indian Ocean and then in 1778 in the war of American Independence when the French supported the revolting Americans. At the end of this war he was very much involved in a raid of the Hudson Bay Company in the north of what is now Canada.

In 1784-5 the plans for a great voyage to the Pacific were under way and in 1785 he set out for Alaska and down the coast of California (then a Spanish colony). …

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