French ship Astrolabe (1781)

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For other ships of the same name, see French ship Astrolabe.
French Corvette L'Astrolabe.jpg
French Corvette L'Astrolabe
French Navy EnsignFrance
Namesake: Astrolabe instrument
Builder: Le Havre
Launched: 1781
Christened: Autruche
Reclassified: Frigate in 1784
Fate: wrecked on Vanikoro 1788
General characteristics
Class & type: Fluyt
Displacement: c. 500 tonnes
Length: 38.7 m (127 ft)
Beam: 8.5 m (28 ft)
Draught: 5 m (16 ft)
Propulsion: Sail
  • 10 officers
  • 100 men
Armament: 12 6-pounders; 3 x 1-pounders and 20 swivel guns (as converted)
Armour: Timber

The Astrolabe was a converted flûte of the French Navy, famous for her travels with Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse.

She was built in 1781 at Le Havre as the flûte Autruche for the French Navy. In May 1785 she and her sistership Boussole (previously the Portefaix) were renamed and rerated as frigates, and fitted for round-the-world scientific exploration. The two ships departed from Brest on 1 August 1785, the Boussole commanded by Lapérouse and the Astrolabe under Paul Antoine Fleuriot de Langle.


The expedition vanished mysteriously in 1788 after leaving Botany Bay on 10 March 1788. The fate of the expedition was eventually solved by Captain Peter Dillon in 1827 when he found remnants of the ships the Astrolable and the Boussole at Vanikoro Island in the Solomon Islands. The ships had been wrecked in a storm.

Survivors from one ship had been massacred while survivors from the other ship had constructed their own small boat and sailed off the island, never to be heard from again. [1]

The fate of La Perouse and his ships is the subject of a chapter from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

See also[edit]


Its crew included French priest Louis Receveur the first Catholic and second non-indigenous person to be buried in Australia.


  1. ^ Australian Shipwrecks - vol1 1622-1850, Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, ISBN 0-589-07112-2 p24