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Plan des Îles Vanikoro ou de La Pérouse, reconnues par le Captaine de Frégate Dumont d'Urville

Date: 1833
Overall: 485 x 665 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Maps, charts and plans
Object Name: Chart
Object No: 00040481

User Terms

    Chart of Vanikoro based on Dumont d'Urville's survey in 1828. This chart shows the track his ship, the ASTROLABE, took around the island. It also marks the place -annotated "Debris du naufrage" (wreckage)- on the island's fringing reef where wreckage was found and the location of the monument to La Perouse erected by Dumont d'Urville's order.

    SignificanceIn August 1785 the French explorer La Perouse sailed from France on a voyage to the Pacific with the ships LA BOUSSOLE and L'ASTROLABE. In January 1788 La Perouse's expedition anchored in Botany Bay just as the recently arrived 'First Fleet' was moving to the better anchorage at Sydney Cove (in Port Jackson)

    The French ships remained at Botany Bay (Frenchman's Bay) until 10 March 1788 before sailing on what was scheduled as the last leg of their ambitious voyage of Pacific exploration. Upon completion of this exploration segment in the South West Pacific, it was expected that the ships would head for Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. But, when no news of the expedition had been received by 1791, another French naval expedition was assembled under the command of Admiral Bruny d'Entrecasteaux and sent in search of the La Perouse expedition.

    Despite a long search, no trace of the missing ships was discovered by d'Entrecasteaux; it was not until 1826 that the sandalwood trader Peter Dillon heard about traces of wreckage from what appeared to be French ships at Vanikoro Island.

    In 1828, following Dillon's directions, Dumont d'Urville confirmed the identity of the wreckage, surveyed Vanikoro Island and erected a monument to La Perouse's expedition. The chart shows the track of Dumont d'Urville's ship ASTROLABE around the island, the place where wreckage was found (marked 'Debris du naufrage') and the place where the monument to La Perouse was erected.

    This chart is a record of the definitive identification of wreckage associated with the loss of La Perouse’s ships off Vanikoro, 40 years after their disappearance. The expedition’s demise was a great disappointment in France and its disappearance was a major maritime mystery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The expedition's royal patron (King Louis XVI) is said to have asked, shortly before his execution by guillotine in 1793, whether finally there was some news of La Perouse!
    HistoryCaptain Jules Dumont d'Urville was a French naval officer who commanded two voyages of discovery to the Pacific Ocean and to Antarctica during the Bourbon Restoration (1815-1830) and July Monarchy (1830 - 1848)

    At an early stage of his naval career Dumont d'Urville participated in a hydrographic survey of the Aegean Sea during which he was instrumental in the recovery for the Musee de Louvre of the 'Venus de Milo'; he later served with distinction as second-in-command to Captain Louis Duperrey during a circumnavigation in the 'corvette' LA COQUILLE (1822 - 1825)

    Due to the success of that voyage, the French Minister for the Navy commissioned another voyage in LA COQUILLE, which was refitted and renamed L'ASTROLABE in recognition of the fact that one of the voyage's objectives was to discover the fate of La Perouse's two ships (L'Astrolabe and La Boussole) which had disappeared without trace in 1788.

    The fate of La Perouse's expedition had become a great mystery since the disappearance of the two ships. Unfortunately an opportunity to rescue some survivors and shed new light on the mystery had passed by in 1791 when HMS PANDORA sailed within sight of Vanikoro and ignored smoke plumes indicating that the island was inhabited. The La Perouse expedition’s demise was also a great disappointment in France. The expedition's royal patron (King Louis XVI) is said to have asked, shortly before his execution by guillotine in 1793, whether finally there was some news of La Perouse!

    Dumont d'Urville was given command and set off in the renamed 'corvette' in 1826; this first voyage in L'ASTROLABE lasted nearly 3 years (to 1829) and, following reports by the Anglo-Irish sandalwood trader Peter Dillon, succeeded in finding the wreck of La Perouse's ASTROLABE and evidence of a survivors' camp on Vanikoro Island; however, by then none of La Perouse's crews had survived to tell of their fate after shipwreck. Dumont d'Urville erected a monument to La Perouse at Vanikoro before starting the return journey to France. He arrived in Marseilles in February 1829 carrying anchors, chains and guns collected from the wreck site.

    On its second Pacific voyage, which included a visit to Anarctica and also lasted almost three years (1837-1840) L'ASTROLABE was accompanied by the 'corvette' LA ZELEE, commanded by Dumont d'Urville's former second-in-command in L'ASTROLABE Lieutenant Jacquinot.

    The findings of both voyages were published in Paris accompanied by 'Atlases' containing a wide variety of detailed illustrations, ranging from drawings of collected specimens of natural history and coastal views to portraits of exotic peoples encountered during the voyages.

    Dumont d'Urville gained fame for his role in unravelling the disappearance of La Perouse, one of the greatest maritime mysteries of the 19th century; and for his exploration of Antarctica. On 8 May 1842 he was killed with his family when the train they were on derailed and caught fire during a journey from Versailles to Paris.

    Dumont d'Urville: 'Atlas historique' to 'Voyage de la corvette l'Astrolabe execute par ordre du Roi pendant les annees 1826, 1827, 1828, 1829, sous le commandement de M. Jules S-C Dumont d'Urville

    Dumont d'Urville: 'Atlas Pittoresque' to 'Voyage au Pole Sud et dans l'Oceanie sur les corvettes l'Astrolabe et la Zelee, execute par ordre du Roi pendant les annees 1837, 1838, 1839,1840, sous le commandement de M. Jules Dumont d'Urville, Capitaine de Vaisseau.

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    Editor: J Tastu

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