Pieced together thus is nearly all we know about Laperouse during his visit to Botany Bay. It is not much. We would gladly have many more details. What has become of the letter he wrote to Phillip recommending (according to King) the Pacific Islands as worthy of the attention of the new colony, “for the great quantity of stock with which they abound”? Apparently it is lost. The grave and the deep have swallowed up the rest of this “strange eventful history,” and we interrogate in vain. We should know even less than we do were it not that Laperouse obtained from Phillip permission to send home, by the next British ship leaving Port Jackson, his journal, some charts, and the drawings of his artists. This material, added to private letters and a few miscellaneous papers, was placed in charge of Lieutenant Shortland to be delivered to the French Ambassador in London, and formed part of the substance of the two volumes and atlas published in Paris.
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It may be well to cite, as a note to this chapter, the books in which contemporary accounts of the visit of Laperouse and his ships to Botany Bay are to be found. Some readers may thereby be tempted to look into the original authorities. Laperouse’s own narrative is contained in the third and fourth volumes of his “Voyage autour du Monde,” edited by Milet-Mureau (Paris, 1797). There are English translations. A few letters at the end of the work give a little additional information. Governor Phillip’s “Voyage to Botany Bay” (London, 1789) contains a good but brief account. Phillip’s despatch to the Secretary of State, Lord Sydney, printed in the “Historical Records of New South Wales,” Vol. I., part 2, p. 121, devotes a paragraph to the subject. King’s Journal in Vol. II. of the “Records,” p. 543-7, gives his story. Surgeon Bowes’ Journal, on page 391 of the same volume, contains a rather picturesque allusion. Hunter’s “Voyage to Botany Bay” (London, 1793) substantially repeats King’s version. Captain Watkin Tench, of the Marines, has a good account in his “Narrative of an Expedition to Botany Bay” (London, 1789), and Paterson’s “History of New South Wales” (Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1811) makes an allusion to the French expedition.
THE MYSTERY, AND THE SECRET OF THE SEA.
The Boussole and the astrolabe sailed from Botany Bay on March 10, 1788. After recording that fact we might well inscribe the pathetic last words of Hamlet, “the rest is silence.”
We know what Laperouse intended to do. He wrote two letters to friends in France, explaining the programme to be followed after sailing from Botany Bay. They do not agree in every particular, but we may take the last letter written to express his final determination. According to this, his plan was to sail north, passing between Papua ( New Guinea) and Australia by another channel than Endeavour Strait, if he could find one.