The first mail processed in the new colony were the letters of Laperouse, given to Governor Phillip on February 7 : ‘ By Alexander, under care of Lieutenant Shortland, agent for the transports… is likewise charged with a box of letters from Monsieur Laperouse for the French Ambassador’. Lieutenant Shortland sailed from Sydney for England on the convict transport Alexander in company with Friendship on 14 July 1788.
They were chased by pirates and overtaken by monsoons. In mid-ocean, in a terror filled manoeuvre, Friendship’s surviving crew was evacuated onto Alexander. Friendship was then spiked and swallowed up by the raging seas.
1789 – May, England: At the end of May 1789 a battered Alexander, manned by a remnant crew drawn from both ships, docked in England.
1789 – 3 June, England: Lieutenant Shortland delivered Laperouse’s ‘box of letters’ to the Admiralty.
1791 – 22 January, France: Despite the upheavals of revolution and war between Britain and France, Laperouse’s documents reached France. The official announcement of the loss of Laperouse and failure of the French expedition was delayed until 22nd January 1791.
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