THE LINDA HALL LIBRARY HISTORY OF SCIENCE COLLECTION
Voyage of La Pérouse 1785-1788
The fate of the lost ships of La Pérouse was still shrouded
in mystery forty years after their disappearance. Desperate efforts
to find and rescue any survivors had involved several full-scale
French expeditions. One of the most famous of these was lead by
Chevalier d’Entrecasteaux in his ship, the Recherche.
In 1793, he sited the island where, it was later learned, the ships
had wrecked. It was Vanikoro, in the Santa Cruz group between Australia
and Fiji. Entrecasteaux called it Ile de la Recherche. They were
unable to find a safe harbor, and the people of the island threatened
the ship; they could not go ashore.
People of Mannicolo
from Peter Dillons's Voyage
aux Iles de la Mer du Sud ..., et Relation de la Découverte
du Sort de La Pérouse …
Paris: Pillet Aîné, 1830.
In 1826, the
English whaling captain Peter Dillon was visiting the Santa Cruz
group when he noticed some European objects in circulation there.
Interviews with the inhabitants led him to Vanikoro, where he discovered
the shipwrecks of La Pérouse. His discoveries suggested the
heart-wrenching fact that some survivors may have been stranded
on the island, awaiting rescue, at the time of the Recherche’s
attempted landing. Dillon was able to find a number of relics, which
he took to Paris and presented to the elderly Barthélemy
de Lesseps, who had disembarked the expedition of La Pérouse
prior to the wrecks. He sadly identified them to the Astrolabe
and the Boussole. Dillon received the Legion of Honor in
Paris and a lifelong pension for solving the tragic mystery. This
illustration from Dillon’s account of his voyage depicts a
family in Mannicolo, one of the islands in the New Hebrides south