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A new biography of la Perouse.

Count Jean-Francoise de la Perouse has a special place in Australian History. A very short time after the First Fleet arrived in the isolated spot named Botany Bay the members of the fleet were astonished to see two ships sailing into the Bay. It was La Perouse coming to see what the British were up to. Phillip hurriedly ordered the British flag to be raised and continued out of the Bay to Port Jackson where he again hurriedly had the flag raised and the land claimed for Great Britain - not to actually establish the new colony, that came later, but to emphasise that the British were in occupation.

This new biography entitled Where Fate Beckons is written by John Dunmore, a New Zealander who is the expert on the French exploration in the Pacific. He has edited the journals of de Surville, La Perouse and Bougainville and has written a biography of the latter explorer. He has also written a two volume history of French Explorers in the Pacific.

His biography of La Perouse published this year covers the whole of the life of the French explorer. It includes his teenage involvement in the French navy in the wars against Britain. This was followed by a period in the Indian Ocean and then in 1778 in the war of American Independence when the French supported the revolting Americans. At the end of this war he was very much involved in a raid of the Hudson Bay Company in the north of what is now Canada.

In 1784-5 the plans for a great voyage to the Pacific were under way and in 1785 he set out for Alaska and down the coast of California (then a Spanish colony). Thence across the Pacific to China and the Philippines (another Spanish colony) and on to Kamchatka, a Russian port of the north Pacific. There he received instructions to sail for Botany Bay to investigate what the British were up to there. France was very suspicious of British intentions. The result was that he arrived in Botany Bay to the surprise of the new colonists.

There is a little about their attempt to visit Norfolk Island and their arrival at Botany Bay the subject which will interest Australian Historians. This is only a couple of pages and adds little to our knowledge of the six weeks La Perouse spent in Botany Bay. As we know La Perouse and his two ships never returned to France. They were lost somewhere in the Pacific.

La Perouse wrote: 'Whatever professional advantages this expedition may have brought me, you can be certain that few would want them at such cost, and the fatigues of such a voyage cannot be put into words. When I return you will take me for a centenarian, 1 have no teeth and no hair left and I think it will not be long before I become senile ...'.

This is a most important, book beautifully written in a pleasant straight forward style. It is a delight to read. It gives us a vivid view of exploration in the Pacific from a French perspective.

Published by ABC Books, at $45.00 it is a bargain.
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Title Annotation:Count Jean-Francoise de la Perouse, 'Where Fate Beckons'
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Previous Article:A new biography of sir James Martin.
Next Article:The Mounted Butchers: Some Songs and Verses of Eureka.

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