Wednesday, April 20, 2005


French expedition seeks Laperouse's lost 1788 fleet off Solomons


by Luther Monroe
April 17, 2005

SOLOMON ISLANDS -- A French expedition is on the way to the Solomon Islands to study the fleet led by Jean François Galaup de Lapérouse which mysteriously disappeared in 1788.

The 'Jacques Cartier' naval transport vessel departed from Noumea, New Caledonia with more than 70 crew and scientists including archaeologists, surveyors, forensic surgeons, geophysicists and research divers.

The expedition is financed by the French government and organized by the Solomon Association of Noumea which has led several previous expeditions to Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands where Laperouse's frigates went down with all hands in 1788.

The fate of the 'La Boussole' and 'L'Astrolabe' remained a mystery for decades despite several expeditions sent to find the missing fleet.

Finally in 1826, some 38 years after the fleet disappeared, Captain Peter Dillon anchored off Tucopia and noticed articles, including a sword guard with Laperouse's initials, that he thought might be from the missing frigates.

After questioning natives about the eating utensils, bolts, chainplates and other items of European origin, Dillon learned that Perouse's ships were hit by a strong gale and driven onto rocks off Vanikoro where all hands drowned or were massacred by natives who feared they were evil spirits.


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