François de Saint-Alouarn was a French navigator who accompanied Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Tremarec in a search for the mysterious ‘Gonneville Land’, a continent supposedly situated in the southern seas. They left Ile de France (Mauritius) in 1771 with the Fortune captained by Kerguelen and the Gros Ventre captained by Saint Alouarn.
In February 1772 Kerguelen sighted land but after the ships were separated by a storm he returned to Ile de France convinced he had discovered a continent. It was in fact a sub-Antarctic island now called Kerguelen Island. Saint-Alouarn abandoned his search for the Fortune and sailed on, reaching Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia in March 1772.
On 30 March 1772, Saint-Alouarn landed at Turtle Bay on the northern tip of Dirk Hartog Island. There he claimed possession of the western half of New Holland for King Louis XVI. This was two years after Captain James Cook landed at Botany Bay, and 16 years before the arrival of the First Fleet. To support the claim he buried two bottles containing statements of proclamation written on parchment. Two silver coins were placed on the top of each bottle, which were sealed by lead caps. The coins, lead seals and one of the bottles were discovered by archaeologists in 1998 and are now on display in the Western Australian Maritime Museum.
Saint-Alouarn did some survey work and lost two anchors north of Peron Peninsula before continuing north to Timor and west to Ile de France. His claim on the continent was never enacted and he died in Ile de France in September 1772 aged just 35 years.