On the 26th January 1788 ships of the First Fleet, commanded by John Hunter, left Botany Bay to establish a British settlement, under Arthur Phillip, at Port Jackson. As they were heading out from Yarra Bay they met the ships of the Laperouse expedition.
Lieutenant Ralph Clark on board the Friendship recorded in his Journal:
The day that we left Botany Bay there came in two Strange Ships which not a little Surprised everybody for we as soon expected to see St Paul coming to the Bay as two Strange Ships. We found them to be two French Ships on Discoveries, Le Boussole, Monsr. La Perouse, Commodore and Astrolabe, Monsr. Clonard out from France near two Years – they came to Botany to set up two Long Boats…..
Today marks the 228th anniversary of that historic meeting around Frenchman’s Bay. The thousands of visitors here today were sailing, paddleboarding, picnicing, swimming, and enjoying the cafes. Unfortunately they didn’t have the opportunity to visit the Museum, which even on Australia Day was closed.
Laperouse recorded the meeting in his Journal which he later entrusted to the British to send back to France:
Europeans are all compatriots at such a great distance we were most impatient to reach the anchorage; but the weather was so foggy the next day that we were unable to see the land, and we only reached the anchorage on the 26th at nine o’clock in the morning. I dropped anchor one mile from the northern coast athwart the second bay in seven fathoms of good grey sand. As I was entering the pass an English lieutenant and a midshipman were sent to my ship by Captain Hunter commanding the King of England’s frigate Sirius and they offered on his behalf all the assistance he could give, adding however that circumstances allowed him to give us neither food nor munitions nor sails. And since they were on the point of weighing anchor to go further north their kind remarks amounted merely to good wishes for the ultimate success of our voyage. I sent an officer to carry my thanks to Captain Hunter whose anchor was already apeak and whose topsails were already hoisted: my message was that our needs were limited to wood and water, which we would have no difficulty in obtaining in this bay, and that I knew ships given the task of establishing a colony such a great distance from Europe could be of no assistance to navigators. We learned from the lieutenant that the English fleet was commanded by Commodore Phillip, who had sailed from Botany Bay the preceding evening, in the corvette Sprey with four transports, in search of a more commodious place for settlement farther north. The lieutenant appeared to make a great mystery of Commodore Phillip’s plan, and we did not take the liberty of putting any questions to him on the subject but we had no doubt, that the intended settlement must be very near Botany Bay, since several boats were under sail for the place, and the passage certainly must have been short, as it was thought unnecessary to hoist them on board. The crew of the English boat, less discreet than their officer, soon informed our people that they were going only to Port Jackson, sixteen miles north of Point Banks, where Commodore Phillip had himself reconnoitred a very good harbour, which ran ten miles into the land to the south west, and in which the ships might anchor within pistol-shot of the shore, in water as smooth as that of a basin. We had afterwards but too frequent opportunities of hearing news of the English settlement, the deserters from which gave us a great deal of trouble and embarrassment. The English arrived here only five days before us. To the most polite attentions, they have added every offer of service in their power; and it was not without regret that we saw them depart almost immediately upon our arrival, for Port Jackson, fifteen miles to the northward of this place. Commodore Phillip had good reason to prefer that port, and he has left us sole masters of this bay, where our long-boats are already on the stocks, and I hope towards the end of the month will be in a state to be launched. By land we are only ten miles distant from the English, and are able therefore to have frequent intercourse.