25 junho 2017

Back in the 1700s, England and France were in a constant...

Back in the 1700s, England and France were in a constant struggle for maritime supremacy. After Captain Cook’s successful exploration of the Pacific, France had to play catchup, so Louis XVI ordered a scientific expedition around the world.The man in charge was Comte Jean-Francois de Galaup de Laperouse, an experienced naval officer. Laperouse left in 1785 with 220 men aboard two ships: L’Astrolabe and La Boussole. Initially, the journey was successful. In less than three years, Laperouse journeyed to South America, the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska, Spanish California, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the Polynesian Islands.

At the beginning of 1788, Laperouse was in Australia. He set sail in March but not before sending a report to the naval ministry, updating them on where he was and what he was up to. And then Laperouse and his two ships disappeared, never to be heard from again. In 1826, by pure luck, an Irish sea captain bought some swords belonging to one of the ships, L’Astrolabe. The man, Peter Dillon, purchased the items on the Isle of Tikopia, in the Solomon Islands. Later enquiries established the swords came from the nearby Vanikoro Island, above, where natives knew of two large shipwrecks. Mystery solved! However it was not until the 1960s that anyone bothered to confirm the two ships were, in fact, L'Astrolabe and La Boussole.

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