La Perouse Memorial

Le Perouse memorial, Botany Bay, Sydney, public art

Public Art: La Perouse Memorial

Also Known As: La Perouse Monument

Sculptor/Designer: unknown

Description: The La Perouse Memorial was erected in honour of French explorer La Perouse, who had arrived at Botany Bay shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 on a scientific voyage, but  later vanished without trace. The  tall, Doric column is surmounted by a brass astrolabe (an instrument used by astronomers and navigators) representing Laperouse’s ship and Laperouse's role as an explorer and navigator. There has been much discussion about the choice of astrolabe used on the memorial as it appears not to be a mariner’s astrolabe but more likely an astromer's astrolabe. Suggesting it was in honour of astronomer Governor Brisbane who granted Bougainville the land for the monument.

Date Unveiled: The foundation stone for the La Perouse Monument was laid  on the 6th September, 1825, by Hyacinthe de Bougainville.

Funded by: The monument to La Perouse was spontaneously commissioned by French Naval Officer Hyacinthe de Bougainville in 1825 after he visted the area where La Perouse last set foot on land . 

Cost: 178 pounds or 712 Spanish dollars

Location:The La Perouse Memorial is located at Kamay Botany Bay National Park in New South Wales, Australia. 

Inscription:

This place visited by Mr de la Perouse in the year MDCCLXXVIII is the last whence an account of him have been received.

Erected in the name of France by MM. de Bougainville and Ducampier commanding the frigate La Thetys and the Corvette l’Esperance lying in Port Jackson in MDLCCCXV

Who was La Perouse?

Jean-Francois de Galaup de La Perouse (1741-1788) was a French naval officer and explorer. La Perouse  attended Naval College in Brest (France) at the age of fifteen, before becoming an Ensign and then Capitaine de Vaisseau. In his distinquished naval career, La Perouse had paticipated in several sea battles and had seen service in North America and the West Indies.

In 1785 La Perouse was placed in charge of the expedition to explore the Pacific Ocean. He set off from France in the two storeships Portefaix and Autruche for an expected 4 year expedition. The ships were upgraded to frigates after modification and were renamed, which was probably not a good idea if you believe superstitions. The Portefaix was renamed La Boussole and the Autruche was renamed L'Astrolabe. La Perouse sailed on the Boussole which was 135 feet (41.15m) long, 28.7 feet (8.75m) wide and weighed between 500-600 tons. Several small boats were on each ship. Paul Antoine Marie Fleuriot de Langle was the captain of the other ship Astrolabe. Aboard the ships were several scientists whose roles were to cover subjects such as astronomy, geology and botany. A few artists and a cartographer were also on aboard to record and draw.

La Perouse and His Ships Vanish

On the 26th of January 1788, two years into the journey, La Perouse arrived in Botany Bay (Australia). He had arrived only days after the arrival of Captain Phillips and the First Fleet. Ill equipped to stage a sea battle, La Perouse and his crew stayed on for another six weeks observing the establishment of the new colony and exploring the area around Botany Bay before continuing their expedition to the south pacific. It was the last time La Perouse, the ships or the crew would ever be seen of again. Despite attempts by La Perouse's wife and friends to organise a ship to search for the expedition it was to be in 1827 before the fate of the ship and crew would be known. In 1827 the wreckage of the ships were found by Peter Dillion near the Santa Cruz Islands.

La Perouse Trivia

A small suburb known as La Perouse near Phillip Bay was named in honour of the French explorer.

The two small plots,  for the La Perouse Monument and tomb were granted by Governor Brisbane to Bougainville and the French Government and to this day the French continue to contribute to their upkeep.

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