They did not know it was impossible, so they did it!

Mark Twain

Nicolas André Monsiau (1754-1837). Louis XVI donnant ses instructions au capitaine de vaisseau La Pérouse, le 29 juin 1785, pour son voyage d’exploration autour du monde, huile sur toile. Versailles, musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon © RMN (Château de Versailles). Date: 1817.

« O Maui no ka oi ! » Ô Maui la plus belle !

Uluwehi Guerrero – Haleakala Hula

The Magic of Iao Valley, Maui Hawaii, with Pono Fried

Laperouse Bay, Maui, Hawai’i, May 30th, 1994: From L to R: Mr. Cobbas, Consul-General of Australia in Honolulu, Hi., and his spouse, the capitaine de vaisseau Jean-Marie Viriot, naval attaché in Washington D.C., Linda Crockett Lingle, mayor of Maui County, Ambassador Antoine Frasseto, Consul-General of France in Honolulu, Elisabeth Jenssen, president of the Friends of Laperouse USA, lieutenant de vaisseau Augustin D’Arco, in command of La Tapageuse, and Elizabeth de Laperouse in front of the La Perouse Memorial in Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A. © Antoine Frasseto/Elisabeth Jenssen 


Dear MDFDE members, dear internauts friends,

Time surely flies! It is hard to believe that exactly twenty years ago today, May 30, 1994, I had the privilege to establish the La Perouse Memorial at La Perouse Bay in Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A.

Laperouse Bay, Maui, Hawai’i, May 30th, 1994: Mr. Philippe de Laperouse, great-great-great grand-nephew of La Pérouse, Mr. Pardee Erdman, and Mrs. Elizabeth de Laperouse with La Tapageuse Honor Guard and a Navy Infantry unit based in Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia, in front of the La Perouse Memorial in Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A. © Antoine Frasseto/Elisabeth Jenssen

Maui: Always on my mind

If you have not had a chance yet to go to Maui, you all have heard of Hawaii, Paradise for Surfers and Hula dancers. Of its capital, Honolulu, President Barack Obama’s birthplace. You all have dreamed of visiting someday or returning again to Hawaii, the most isolated polynesian Archipelago and world’s largest chain of volcanic islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) across the southeast to the northwest in the North Pacific Ocean… The 50th State of the United States made up of 8 main islands (Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Niihau); and 124 islets, reefs, and shoals set some 2,390 miles (3,824 km) from mainland California, a 5-hour flight between Honolulu  and San Francisco.

La Perouse Bay, Maui, Hawaii (2022) © Chris McGinnis


You must also know that Captain James Cook, the legendary British explorer who arrived on January 19, 1778 at Waimea Bay in Kauai, was the first westerner to claim the Hawaiian Islands he named  « Sandwich » in honor of his benefactor, Sir John Montagu, 4e Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty (Cook was killed on February 14, 1779 by natives at Kealakekua Bay on the west coast of the Big Island).

But if Captain Cook was indeed the first documented European navigator to anchor on November 26, 1778 in Maui, Hawaii, very few people know that unable to find a suitable landing, the Englishman never landed.

Therefore on May 30, 1786, the heroic Jean-François Galaup, comte de La Pérouse (1741-1788), who had distinguished himself during the American War of Independence with the capture and destruction in 1782 of two English forts (Prince of Wales Fort and York Fort), the lucrative fur trading posts on the coast of Hudson Bay (Canada)… was the first foreigner to set foot on the shores of what is now known as La Perouse Bay, an isolated bay located at the southwest tip of Maui, the “Valley Isle,” as we call it today.

However, if Louis XVI had appointed La Pérouse to complete in a single expedition – with no loss of life or bloodshed with the natives – Captain Cook’s three epic voyages of discovery to the Pacific; correct and complete the maps of the area; and establish trade contacts in the new territories. Our legendary humanist-environnementalist never thought once about claiming for France, as he could have done, Maui and her sisters Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe now forming Maui County

« Although the French are the first to have stepped onto the island of Mowee in recent times, I did not take possession of it in the King’s name.  This European practice is too utterly ridiculous, and philosophers must reflect with some sadness that, because one has muskets and canons, one looks upon 60000 inhabitants as worth nothing, ignoring their rights over a land where for centuries their ancestors have been buried, which they have watered with their sweat, and whose fruits they pick to bring them as offerings to the so-called new landlords.  It is fortunate for these people that they have been discovered in an age when religion is no longer a pretext for violence and greed.  Modern navigators have no other purpose when they describe the customs of newly discovered people than to complete the story of mankind. Their navigation must round off our knowledge of the globe, and the enlightenment which they try to spread has no other aim than to increase the happiness of the islanders they meet, as they add to their means of subsistence by introducing in the different islands bulls, cows, goats, ewes, rams, etc. They have also planted trees and sowed seeds from every country, and brought iron tools which should enable their skills to make very rapid progress.  We would have felt ourselves well regarded from the great hardships this campaign has caused us if we had succeeded in eradicating the practice of human sacrifices that is common among most of the South Sea islanders.»

A little course in history and geography…

Proud of its rich past, today La Perouse Bay closely guards Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve including its famed La Perouse Archaeological District – an area extremely important in Hawaiian’s culture and history – adjacent to Keone’o’io, the « Beach of the bonefish » in Hawaiian, site of the ancient village La Pérouse once visited. La Perouse Bay had long ago shed its tropical landscape the Frenchman observed for some black fields of a’a, these sharp lava rocks made up by the last flow coming from the southwest rift zone of the Haleakala, the « House of the Sun » in Hawaiian, rising at 10,023 feet (3,055 m); and whose last eruption dates back to 1790, about four years after the French landing.

Jewel of the Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui (34,294 acres), the Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano (52 km²), is home to the Haleakala Observatory, one of the most important observing sites in the world that served as training site for astronauts on the original Apollo moon-landing missions.

Because I was “bothered for years” so few people in Hawaii have heard of La Pérouse, let alone anyone else in the United States, in 1990 I made it my duty to do him justice by establishing a Maui La Perouse Memorial at La Perouse Bay. Easier thought than done. How indeed would I be able to finally convince Maui County and Hawaiian state officials to issue us a permit since La Perouse Bay is a « Reserve land », a protected area where hunting, fishing, collecting any lava rock, coral, shell, plant etc… is « kapu », prohibited and subject to a fine?

After four years of extensive research looking for unpublished La Perouse documents (in museums, university libraries and cultural associations worldwide) and multiple local initiatives I took upon myself to try to get state, city and county approval, in January 1994, the arrival of Mr. Antoine Frasseto, former French Ambassador in the Central African Republic, appointed Consul-General of France in Honolulu, gave me the final official push I needed to make my dream a reality.

And so Ambassador Frasseto and I, along with the help of my friends the late Robert Goueytes, a native of Biarritz, who lived in Maui for many years and knew… Mr. Pardee Erdman, owner of the Ulupakalua Ranch who, by chance, donated half an acre of raw lava he owned near… La Perouse Bay and had the monument built there; and Dr. Victor Kobayashi, born in Maui, Professor Emeritus of Educational Foundations at the University of Hawai’i Manoa, Honolulu; Mr. Charles Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shops, who donated the bronze plaque adorning the La Perouse Memorial and suggested to me I found The Friends of La Perouse… And last but not least, thanks to a veteran Hawaiian journalist, the late Bob Krauss from the Honolulu Advertiser and some Maui News reporters, who caught the “La Perouse fever” and passed it on; as well as the Alliance Française of Honolulu… Four and a half months later, May 30, 1994, the La Perouse Memorial was officially inaugurated in the presence of the Marine nationale, which came all the way from Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia (eight days at sea) before reaching Lahaina, Maui.

The only drawback was the absence of the Royal Australian Navy, which had so enthusiastically accepted my invitation, due to naval maneuvers in the Pacific keeping it too far away to make it to Maui on time. The Royal Australian Navy sent its regrets and promised me it would come to Maui someday… to plant a tree next to the Memorial at La Perouse Bay

One must know La Pérouse is greatly admired in Australia for being part of its history. Indeed on January 26, 1788, Commodore Arthur Phillip on the HMS Supply commanding the First Fleet, who had reached Australia eight days earlier, on January 18, was attempting to move the colony from Botany Bay, discovered by Cook (1770), to Port Jackson (now Sydney), a more suitable site to settle up, when to his great surprise, the sails of the Boussole and the Astrolabe suddenly appeared in the horizon…  Anchored at Botany Bay till March 10, thus the British were the last ones to see La Pérouse and his men alive… And so, each year Sydney honors the Frenchman with ceremonies at the majestuous Laperouse Monument, and through various exhibits held periodically at the La Pérouse Museum at Botany Bay.

Seven years after the inauguration of the Maui La Perouse Memorial, March 2, 2001, with the adoption of « Resolution No. 01-34 » by the Maui City Council, I was also honored to establish a Sister-City Relationship between Albi, Tarn, France, La Pérouse’s birthplace, and Maui County, the most visited islands in the world (+ 2.5 millions of international visitors/year).

« Resolution No. 01-34 » Establishing A Sister-City Relationship Between Albi, France, And The County of Maui, archived at the Château de Versailles:

« (…) WHEREAS, Ms. Jenssen wishes to continue this cooperative partnership to allow Albi, France, and the County of Maui to promote international cultural projects on many levels, especially in the area of scholastic programs; and WHEREAS, the County of Maui is pleased and honored by the proposal to enter into a sister-city relationship with Albi, France, to provide for cultural exchange, education and other activities to promote friendship, understanding, and goodwill; now therefore 

BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the County of Maui:

1. That it hereby accepts the invitation extended by The Honorable Philippe Bonnecarrère and authorizes the establishment of a sister-city Relationship between Albi, France, an the County of Maui for the purposes of furthering ties of friendship, understanding, and goodwill, and promoting a lasting cultural embrace;… »

As for the Memorial La Perouse, a sacred and favorite spot for the Mauians that became number ONE of the list of  TOP 10 MAUI MOLOKA’I & LANA’I DK TRAVEL GUIDE (2008), today it’s Maui’s most visited historical site with more than 1,000 international visitors/day.

Celebrating the 230th Anniversary of La Pérouse’s landing in Maui:

May 30, 2016 will mark the 230th Anniversary of La Perouse’s landing in Maui. On this historic occasion, the MDFDE would like to organize a second inauguration of the Maui La Perouse Memorial with the return of the Marine Nationale… and hopefully the Royal Australian Navy so it can finally be able to plant that very special tree with all of you there.

Indeed we would love to have a strong French-American representation in this celebration with as many MDFDE members from France and the United States, the DOM TOM and other countries as possible.

As the old saying goes, unity is strength… In order to possibly help you in planning your trip and get you the best rates from travel agencies… if interested in taking part in this unforgettable journey you could easily combine with a stay in California and/or Alaska, I thank you in advance for contacting me at your earliest convenience.

Yours faithfully,

Elisabeth Jenssen


Friends of the Lapérouse Museum

Botany Bay National Park, Anzac Parade, La Perouse, NSW Australia.

Hawaii – La Perouse Bay

L’Astrolabe & La Boussole at anchor in Maui (Hawaii) c. 1786, Courtesy Musée de la Marine, France. La Perouse Bay (photo courtesy of Donna Osland)


Ulupakalua Ranch, Kula, Maui.

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