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FRIGATES THAT VANISHED

a younger, ruder world, and so helped to build for those who should come after him. It was his fate to vanish with his ships, and so utterly were those fine frigates and their hundreds of sailors erased from the seas that no fragment of tidings was discovered for almost forty years. Their disappearance was one of the sensations of an era in which shipwrecks were so frequent that they had to be quite extraordinary to arouse public attention.

The two frigates carried an elaborate party of scientists, which included a geographer, a civil engineer, a noted surgeon, an astronomer, a physicist, a botanist, and a clock-maker. They were prepared to survey, map, and investigate any distant shores which had been overlooked by the persistent English, Dutch, and Portuguese navigators. It was typical of French thoroughness that "Fleurien, the superintendent of ports and arsenals, contributed an entire volume of learned notes and discussions upon the results of all known voyages since the time of Christopher Columbus."

Laden with all manner of stores and merchandise the two ships La Boussole and L'Astrolabe sailed bravely out of the ancient port of Brest on August 30, 1785. By way of Madeira they ran the long slant across the Atlantic to Brazil, and during this first leg of the voyage La PĂ©rouse showed himself