French ship Boussole (1781)

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French Navy EnsignFrance
Name: Boussole
General characteristics

Boussole was a former flûte of the French Navy, famous for its exploration of the Pacific under Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse.

She was built in 1781-82 at Bayonne as the flûte Portfaix for the French Navy. In May 1785 she and her sistership Astrolabe (previously the Autruche) were renamed and rerated as frigates, and fitted for round-the-world scientific exploration. It departed Brest on 1 August 1785 under Lapérouse, accompanied by 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 Astrolabe 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 Lapérouse and his two ships at Vanikoro is the subject of a chapter in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.


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