Tuesday, 2 August 2005

photo finish

When Lee and I were in Quimper, we visited the Maritime Museum there. To be honest, its not the sort of stuff that flicks my switch, and a lot of the time I couldn't be bothered labouring through the written french descriptions of the exhibits.

At one point, though, Lee called me over and said there was a piece on a guy who visited the Solomons and Australia in the late 1700s. That struck me as interesting, so I had a read. The guy was La Pérouse, and I was shocked to read that the plaque said the he visited the Solomons on January 1st of 1788 and then Sydney Harbour (then Port Jackson) on the 26th of the same month. Now, being a good patriotic Australian, I noted that as an important date, because its when the first fleet landed at the same harbour. I was a bit shocked, and to be honest suspicious of French revisionism, that a frenchman was there on the same day.

As it turns out, Captain Arthur Phillip (who in fact reached the continent a week earlier, but found Botany Bay unsuitable for settlement) was equally shocked upon seeing French ships in the harbour on the day. La Pérouse had in fact been sent to explore the southwest Pacific in response to Cook's voyage in 1770 (or thereabouts), and had undertaken a massive voyage around the Pacific rim, and was later given instructions to check out the colony while stopping in Russia.

The English he met there (dare we call them Australians? perhaps not) were unable to give him food, and in the end were among the last westerners to see him or his crew alive. His ship was later found wrecked in the Santa Cruz islands in the south west of what is now the Solomons.

Anyway, I found all that jolly interesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is interesting, and helps me too. There is a peak in South West Tasmania called Mt La Perouse that seems quite popular among bush walkers here, and I had wondered where the name came from. A well travelled Frenchie. Emily.