Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/231

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FRIGATES THAT VANISHED
 

Thence La Pérouse coasted down to Monterey Bay, and was cordially welcomed among the Spanish missions of California. He had it in mind to cross the unknown stretches of the Pacific, and so set out to reach China by a new sailing route. This brought him within sight of Guam, where he landed, and then he touched at Manila. Next he explored Formosa and the coast of Tartary, and tarried awhile among the primitive fishing folk of Saghalin and Kamchatka. It was pleasanter when the frigates turned southward again and floated in the warm and tranquil South Seas. The second in command, M. de Langle, was killed during a clash with the natives of the Navigator Islands, and thirty-two of the French sailors were slain or wounded while trying to fill the water-casks.

Short-handed and dismayed by this tragedy, La Pérouse went to Botany Bay, Australia, where the English were just then beginning to establish a colony, in order to send his sick and wounded ashore and to refit his worn, weary ships. They had been away from France almost three years, and the frigates hoisted sails that were patched and threadbare until it seemed as though a breeze would blow them from the yards. The clothes of the men were no better. The paint was weather-worn on the sides and bulwarks, weeds and barnacles grew thick on