The La Perouse anchor is an extremely rare object dating back to the earliest days of European settlement of Australia, namely the visit by two ships of the La Perouse expedition to Botany Bay in February of 1788. After a six week stay, replenishing supplies and recouping before another long journey, Admiral Lapérouse and his crew sailed away, never to be seen again.
The two ships, L’Astrolabe and La Boussole, were later wrecked on the Solomon Islands, from where the anchor was recovered in 1964, probably from the La Boussole vessel. The anchor was presented to the French-Australian community in 1964 and in 1965 to the Trustees of the La Perouse Museum.
In 1971, the anchor was placed in a New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) store for safe keeping, where a fibreglass replica was made for display.
The anchor was in poor condition, separated into two pieces and heavily corroded. It maintained its structural integrity, although it appeared to have at least one potential fissure across the shank and was fragile.
The anchor was transported to ICS, where a visual assessment was conducted. ICS conservators then undertook mechanical removal of loose and detached corrosion products and set aside the larger chunks for reattachment later.
Next, the anchor was treated with aqueous surface cleaning. Following the cleaning, the retained chunks were reattached to the substrate and a layer of synthetic fish oil applied to protect the metal from further corrosion.
ICS successfully freed the anchor of many layers of corrosion and paint, and designed and constructed a support for the anchor to ensure its safe display.
The treated anchor was carefully winched and transported back to the La Perouse Museum in Randwick. It is now displayed resting on its purpose built support frame.
After more than 50 years in storage and almost 200 years since its discovery on the ocean floor, the original ship anchor from Admiral Lapérouse’s voyage to Australia in 1788 was unveiled on Friday 5 May 2023, in a much-anticipated ceremony at the La Perouse Museum.
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