Map of the Ocean Showing the Different Routes of the Navigators around the World


Carte de l'Océan où sont tracées les différentes routes des navigateurs au tour du monde (Map of the ocean showing the different routes of the navigators around the world) was made by the French cartographer Jean-Nicolas Buache (1741−1825) to plan and subsequently chart the discoveries made on the voyage around the world of the French explorer Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse (1741−88). In 1783 the French government decided to send an expedition to the Pacific to complete the work begun by the British explorer James Cook, and in particular to chart the Bering Sea, the geography of which was still poorly understood by Europeans. La Pérouse, a naval officer who had distinguished himself in two wars, including the American Revolution, was chosen to head the expedition. The preparatory map made for La Pérouse’s voyage constituted a veritable catalog of geographic uncertainties in the Pacific Ocean. The map showed both the planned itinerary of La Pérouse and the routes of the principal European voyages in the Pacific up to the 1780s. In North America, a large part of the coast between Mount Saint Elias (in present-day Alaska) and the port of Monterey had yet to be explored. Five copies of the map were made; one copy was sent to King Louis XVI, who had it filled in as he received news about the progress of the expedition. Findings from the exploration of the western coasts of America were carefully noted in a loose-leaf folio. The image showing La Pérouse’s route and discoveries then could be superimposed, for direct comparison, on those showing the discoveries of Cook, the Spanish, and other explorers. La Pérouse sailed from Brest August 1, 1785. He made important discoveries in the North Pacific—determining, for example, that Sakhalin is an island—but he never made it back to France. In March 1788 he was shipwrecked at Vanikoro, Santa Cruz (present-day Solomon Islands).

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Carte de l'Océan où sont tracées les différentes routes des navigateurs au tour du monde

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Physical Description

1 map in 3 sheets : handwritten, accented with colors and lined with blue silk ; (1) 62.5 x 162.5 centimeters, (2) 59.5 x 182 centimeters, (3) 62.5 x 182 centimeters


  1. Leslie R. Marchant, “La Pérouse, Jean-François de Galaup (1741–1788),” in Australian Dictionary of Biography (Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 1967− ).

Last updated: October 19, 2015