She was built in 1781-82 at Bayonne as the flûte Portfaix for the French Navy. In May 1785 she and her sistership Astrolabe (previously the Autruche) were renamed and rerated as frigates, and fitted for round-the-world scientific exploration. It departed Brest on 1 August 1785 under Lapérouse, accompanied by the Astrolabe under Paul Antoine Fleuriot de Langle.
The expedition vanished mysteriously in 1788 after leaving Botany Bay on 10 March 1788. Captain Peter Dillon in Research solved the fate of the expedition when he found remnants of Astrolabe and Boussole at Vanikoro Island in the Solomon Islands. Local inhabitants reported that a storm had wrecked both ships. Survivors from one ship had been massacred while survivors from the other ship had constructed their own small boat and sailed off the island, never to be heard from again. 
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