19 February, 2011

La Perouse - King Louis XVI of France Loved Australia too.....?

La Perouse is a suburb in south-east of Sydney, located about 14 kilometres from the Sydney CBD.  

The La Perouse peninsula is the northern headland of Botany Bay. It is notable for its old military outpost at Bare Island and the Botany Bay National Park.  Congwong Bay Beach, Little Congwong Beach, and the beach at Frenchmans Bay provide protected swimming areas in Botany Bay. La Perouse is one of few Sydney suburbs with a French title.  (others being Sans Souci. Kurnell is located opposite, on the southern headland of Botany Bay.

La Perouse was named after the French navigator Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (1741-88), who landed on the northern shore of Botany Bay west of Bare Island in January 1788 only days after the first fleet of convicts arrived in Australia . King Louis XVI of France had commissioned Lapérouse to explore the Pacific L’expédition de Lapérouse, 1785-1788, réplique française au voyage de Cook. 

A scientist on the expedition, Father Receveur, died in February and was buried at what is now known as La Perouse. In Samoa there had been a skirmish with the inhabitants, Langle, commander of L’Astrolabe and 12 other members of the French expedition were killed, Father Reçeveur, expedition naturalist and chaplain, was injured in that skirmish and died at Botany Bay. He was buried at Frenchmans Cove below the headland that is now called La Perouse. The place was marked by a tin plate but the local Aborigines quickly removed it. The British replaced it with another and tended the site. Reçeveur was the second European to be buried in Australian soil, the first was Sutherland from Cook’s 1770 expedition who is buried at nearby Kurnell on the other side of the Botany Bay headlands.  

La Perouse's 19th century Customs tower, used to combat smugglers

Vaulted ammunition storage rooms and gunpowder magazines of the Henry Head Battery, La Perouse.  The first building in the area was the round stone tower constructed in 1820-22 as accommodation for a small guard of soldiers stationed there to prevent smuggling, and the tower still stands today. 

By 1885, an Aboriginal reserve had been established in the suburb and a number of missions were operated in the area. The original church was dismantled and moved to the corner of Elaroo and Adina Avenues, where it still stands.  A kiosk was built in 1896 to cater for tourists who came to see the attractions, including the snake-handling shows that still operate today.  During the Great Depression, from the late 1920s, many severely affected low-income families took up residence here in settlements beside the Aboriginal reserve.

The former La Perouse tram line branched from Oxford Street at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst to run south along Flinders Street, then into its own tram reservation along the eastern side of Anzac Parade beside Moore Park. It then proceeded down the centre of Anzac Parade through Maroubra Junction, and Malabar to its balloon loop terminus at La Perouse. By 1902 the Loop, that is the circular track that was built as part of the Sydney tram terminus at La Perouse. The last service, to La Perouse was in 1961. 

The Laperouse Museum contains maps, scientific instruments and relics recovered from French explorers. A walking trail from the museum to the Endeavour Lighthouse, offers spectacular views across the bay to the site of Captain Cook's Landing Place. The large La Perouse Monument is an obelisk erected in 1825 by the French, is located close to the museum and another memorial marks the grave of Father Receveur. The fortified Bare Island is linked by a footbridge. The Museum was originally built as cable station to house the operation of the first submarine telegraph communications cable laid between Australia and New Zealand. This cable also served as the first link in telegraph communications between New Zealand and the rest of the world. After the cessation of telegraph communications, the building served as a home for orphans run by the Salvation Army, with the children attending La Perouse Public School when this first opened in the early 1950s.

Visitors can learn about the indigenous significance of the area from the Aboriginal people of the area, with boomerang-throwing demonstrations often held on weekends and Aboriginal guided tours operating from Yarra Bay House during the week. Aboriginal artifacts are produced and sold by locals. An outdoor reptile show is also a well-known tourist attraction in the pit, at The Loop, on Sunday afternoons. The reptile shows were begun by George Cann in the early 1920s and the tradition has been continued by members of the Cann family ever since.

La Perouse has a few cafes and restaurants around the historic precinct, close to Frenchmans Bay.

The area around the La Perouse peninsula is considered to be one of the best scuba diving sites in NSW. Bare Island has numerous dive sites, some of which extend to over 19 metres in depth. The reef around the area is very extensive. There are also a number of dives around the mainland at La Perouse.  Scuba divers here can see the common (weedy) sea dragon, red Indianfish, pygmy pipefish and big belly sea horses as well as all the normal fish found on dive sites in the Sydney area. The Bare Island dive sites are considered by experienced divers to be the best shore dive in Australia.

See You On The FLiP SiDE!



Harald Sack said...

Thank you very much for your interesting and illustrative post about La Perouse! Because of the 228th anniversary of the start of Jean-Francois La Pérouse's voyage, we have also made a contribution about La Pérouse in our daily History of Science, Arts, and Technology Blog: Jean-François de La Pérouse and his Voyage around the World, http://yovisto.blogspot.de/2013/08/jean-francois-de-la-perouse-and-his.html


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