Jean-François-Marie de Surville

Jean-François-Marie de Surville
Born18 January 1717
Died8 April 1770(1770-04-08) (aged 53)
Chilca, Peru
Cause of deathDrowning
  • Naval officer
  • Merchant captain
  • Explorer
Known forExploration of the Pacific
Spouse(s)Marie Jouaneaulx
Military career
Allegiance France
Service/branchFrench Navy
Years of service1740–1764
Commands heldBagatelle
Duc de Orleans
La Fortuné
Battles/warsWar of the Austrian Succession
Seven Years' War
AwardsCross of Saint Louis

Jean-François-Marie de Surville (18 January 1717 – 8 April 1770) was a merchant captain with the French East India Company. He commanded a voyage of exploration to the Pacific in 1769–70.

Born in Brittany, France, Surville joined the French East India Company in 1727 at the age of 10. For the next several years he sailed on voyages in Indian and Chinese waters. In 1740 he joined the French Navy; he fought in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War, twice becoming a prisoner of war. After his military career he rejoined the French East India Company. In 1769, in command of Saint Jean-Baptiste, he sailed from India on an expedition to the Pacific looking for trading opportunities. He explored the seas around the Solomon Islands and New Zealand before proceeding eastward across the South Pacific towards South America. Part of his route around New Zealand overlapped that of James Cook in Endeavour, which had preceded him by only a few days. De Surville drowned off the coast of Peru on 8 April 1770 while seeking help for his scurvy-afflicted crew.

Early life

Born on 18 January 1717, Jean-François-Marie de Surville was the son of Jean de Surville, a government official at Port-Louis, Brittany, and his wife, Françoise Mariteau de Roscadec, the daughter of a ship owner. One of nine children,[1] Surville left home at the age of 10 and joined the French East India Company. There were existing family connections to the company; an older brother was already in its service[2] and his mother was a niece of one of the company's directors.[1] Surville's employer was a commercial enterprise supported by the French government and established several years previously to trade in the East Indies,[3] and he sailed on trading voyages around India and China. By 1740 he held the rank of second ensign.[2]