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Cyrille-Pierre-Théodore Laplace - France
1793 - 1875

Cyrille-Pierre-Théodore Laplace, from France, was born on 7th November 1793. On joining the navy he was promoted Lieutenant in 1823, and then Captain five years later.

The mission given to Laplace for his Pacific voyage was to gather detailed information from countries where French traders were, or could be present. France wished to promote it's overseas trade, and Laplace was to investigate the conditions required to facilitate the entry of French traders and the goods which would most likely appeal to the local market.

On 30th December 1829 Laplace sailed from Toulon, France, in charge of "La Favorite", a corvette of 680 tons and a crew of 177 aboard. After a week in Senegal, La Favorite continued on to the Ile de Bourbon, arriving on 1st April 1830. On 9th June La Favorite arrived at Pondicherry, where Laplace commenced noting conditions for improving and promoting French trade.

From Pondicherry, La Favorite continued via Madras and Yanaon to Singapore, arriving on 17th August. Laplace gathered further information before setting sail again via the Indo-Chinese ports.

Cholera and dysentery broke out on board La Favorite, and the number of sick and dying crew members began to rise rapidly. Food and water supplies were running dangerously low, and it was with relief that Laplace eventually arrived at the port of Hobart, Australia, on 11th July 1830. Further deaths occurred just before and during the stay of La Favorite in Hobart.

After tending the sick and taking on fresh supplies, the French left Hobart for Sydney on 7th August, where they remained until 21st September.

La Favorite then left for New Zealand, and on the 2nd October 1830, the French laid anchor in the Bay of Islands. The very next day the French were witness, from La Favorite, to a group of Māori warriors returning from battle. The bodies of slain enemy warriors were being cooked and eaten, as was the custom.

In Hobart, Laplace had met a Māori chief by the name of Rewa, from the Nga Puhi tribe in the Northland area of New Zealand. Laplace met Rewa again in the Bay of Islands, and presented the chief with muskets. Rewa was preparing for battle with an enemy tribe in the Thames area, and needed the firearm.

During his stay in New Zealand, Laplace detailed the Kawakawa River, and named an area at the mouth of this river "Banc de la Favorite". The French left New Zealand on 11th October, but not before creating alarm in Australia that Laplace had taken New Zealand for France. The bristling guns of La Favorite and the fact that several flags had been planted during Laplace's survey helped stimulate these rumours.

Great Britain was alerted, and requested confirmation from France the Laplace had not arrived with such orders.

This rumour, although eventually proven unfounded, inspired a number of Northland tribal chiefs to request King William IV for protection from Great Britain, saying they were afraid of "the tribe of Marion". The chieftains were referring to the murder of French explorer Marion du Fresne in 1773, and the subsequent massacre of a large number of Māori by angry crew members of the "Mascarin".

The alarm which Laplace's visit provoked served to hasten the events which led to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the subsequent annexation of New Zealand.

La Favorite arrived back in Toulon on 21st April 1832.

Main source of research :
"French explorers in the Pacific" - John Dunmore

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