Jean-François de Galoup, Comte de La Pérouse (August 23, 1741-1788) was a French explorer and naval officer. La Pérouse mapped the west coast of North America in 1786, and he visited Easter Island and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). He was lost at sea while searching for the Solomon Islands (after reaching Australia’s Botany Bay).
In August, 1782, La Pérouse captured two English forts on Hudson Bay, North America. In 1785, the King of France commissioned La Pérouse to head an expedition to explore the Pacific Ocean, to investigate whaling and fur prospects, and to establish French claims in this area. La Pérouse had admired the explorer James Cook, and wanted to continue his work.
La Pérouse was assigned the two 500-ton ships called the Astrolabe and the Boussole. His crew of 114 included sailors, scientists, a physicist, three draftsmen, three naturalists, clergymen, and a mathematician. They left France in August, 1785.
La Pérouse was the first French explorer to visit Hawaii (he sailed to Hawaii two times - first in 1786 and then after the last eruption of Haleakala in 1788). La Pérouse Bay in South Maui, Hawaii, is named for him. La Pérouse’s ships reached the west coast of Alaska in 1786; he did extensive mapping of the North American west coast from Alaska to Monterey, California.
The two ships landed at Botany Bay (Port Jackson), Australia, just 5 days after the First Fleet arrived (led by Captain Arthur Phillip). La Pérouse headed (with leaking ships) for the Solomon Islands (located northeast of Australia). Both of La Pérouse’s ships were lost in a storm close to the Solomon Islands (near the island of Vanikoro) in the Pacific Ocean in 1788.
France sent out a search party to look for the two ships in 1791. Bruni d’Entrecasteaux (1737-1793) found the Solomon Islands, but found no sign of La Pérouse or his ships (which had sunk).
French undersea expeditions have been exploring the wrecks of La Pérouse’s two ships since 1981.