Name Notes: Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de la Perouse, was the sole French explorer to reach the Northwest Coast during the age of discovery and the earliest days of the maritime fur trade. Prior to his voyage the NW Coast he had made a name for himself historically by capturing British forts in Hudson Bay in August 1782.
As with the voyage of Captain Cook, who he admired, La Perouse's mission was ostensibly scientific but had political overtones. He visited Nootka Sound and made it as far as the area of Mt. St. Elias, landing at Lituya Bay in 1786, then returned to Monterey and sailed for Macao. The following year he sailed north from Manila and visited Korea and explored the Sakhalin area of the Aleutians and visited with the Russians at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, receiving orders there from Paris to sail for Australia to investigate the British colonization underway at New South Wales. If not for a copy of his journal given to Barthelemy de Lesseps, who had served as his interpreter with the Russians, for conveyance back to France via Siberia, nothing at all would be known of his voyages in the North Pacific.
Had he made it back to France it is possible the French would have added their voice to the competing British, Russian, Spanish and American claims to the Northwest Coast, but after encountering the British in 1788 at Botany Bay in Australia, he sailed for the Solomons and was never heard from again until 1793, when artifacts from his vessels were discovered in 1826 and brought back by an English captain, Peter Dillon, to France where they were identified by de Lesseps, the only surviving member of the expedition (NB a relative of the de Lesseps who built the Suez Canal). Dillon managed to piece together the fate of the expedition, which was that La Perouse's ships the Astrolabe and the Boussole were wrecked on Vanikoro, one of the islands of the Santa Cruz group near Australia. The wreckage of the of the Boussole was not found until 1964; its crew members were believed by Dillon to have been massacred by the locals. The Astrolabe had been unloaded and taken apart, some of its survivors building a small boat from the wreckage and sailing westward; it is believed they were massacred in the Solomon Islands.