Infomotions, Inc.The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders / Scott, Ernest, 1867-1939

Author: Scott, Ernest, 1867-1939
Title: The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): flinders; port jackson; bass; voyage; australia; matthew flinders; port; diemen's land; terra australis; bass strait; coast; flinders' papers; ship; island; captain; south wales; general decaen; port phillip
Contributor(s): Halsey, Francis W. (Francis Whiting), 1851-1919 [Editor]
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Title: The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders

Author: Ernest Scott

Release Date: August 29, 2004 [EBook #7304]

Language: English

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Produced by Sue Asscher










The subject of this book died one hundred years ago. Within his forty
years of life, he discovered a very large area of what is now an
important region of the earth; he participated in stirring events which
are memorable in modern history; he applied a vigorous and original mind
to the advancement of knowledge, with useful results; and he was the
victim of circumstances which, however stated, were peculiarly
unfortunate, and must evoke the sympathy of everyone who takes the
trouble to understand them. His career was crowded with adventures: war,
perilous voyages, explorations of unknown coasts, encounters with
savages, shipwreck and imprisonment are the elements which go to make up
his story. He was, withal, a downright Englishman of exceptionally high
character, proud of his service and unsparing of himself in the pursuit
of his duty.

Yet up to this time his biography has not been written. There are, it is
true, outlines of his career in various works of reference, notably that
contributed by Sir J.K. Laughton to the Dictionary of National Biography.
But there is no book to which a reader can turn for a fairly full account
of his achievements, and an estimate of his personality. Of all
discoverers of leading rank Matthew Flinders is the only one about whom
there is no ample and convenient record.

This book endeavours to fill the gap.

The material upon which it is founded is set forth in the footnotes and
the bibliography. Here the author takes pleasure in acknowledging the
assistance he has received from several quarters. A previous book brought
him the acquaintance of the grand-nephew of that Comte de Fleurieu who
largely inspired three famous French voyages to Australia--those of
Laperouse, Dentrecasteaux and Baudin--all of which have an important
bearing upon the subject. The Comte A. de Fleurieu had long been engaged
in collecting material relative to the work and influence of his
distinguished grand-uncle, and in the most generous manner he handed over
to the author his very large collection of manuscripts and note-books to
be read, noted, and used at discretion. Even when a historian does not
actually quote or directly use matter bearing upon his subject, it is of
immense advantage to have access to documents which throw light upon it,
and which enable an in-and-out knowledge of a period and persons to be
obtained. This book owes much of whatever value it may possess to
monsieur de Fleurieu's assistance in this respect, and the author thanks
him most warmly.

The Flinders papers, of which free use has been made, were presented to
the Melbourne Public Library by Professor W.M. Flinders Petrie. They are
described in the bibliography. The transcripts of family and personal
documents were especially valuable. Although they were not supplied for
this book, Professor Flinders Petrie gave them in order that they might
be of use to some biographer of his grandfather, and the author begs to
thank him, and also Mr. E La Touche Armstrong, the chief librarian, in
whose custody they are, and who has given frequent access to them.

The rich stores of manuscripts in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, have been
thoroughly examined, with the assistance of Mr. W.H. Ifould, principal
librarian, Mr. Hugh Wright, and the staff of that institution. Help from
this quarter was accorded with such grace that one came to think giving
trouble was almost like conferring a favour.

All copies of documents from Paris and Caen cited in this book have been
made by Madame Robert Helouis. The author was able to indicate the
whereabouts of the principal papers, but Madame Helouis, developing an
interest in the subject as she pursued her task, was enabled, owing to
her extensive knowledge of the resources of the French archives, to find
and transcribe many new and valuable papers. The author also wishes to
thank Captain Francis Bayldon, of Sydney, who has kindly given help on
several technical points; Miss Alma Hansen, University of Melbourne, who
was generous enough to make a study of the Dutch Generale Beschrijvinge
van Indien--no light task--to verify a point of some importance for the
purpose of the chapter on "The Naming of Australia"; and Mr. E.A.
Petherick, whose manuscript bibliography, containing an immense quantity
of material, the fruit of a long life's labour, has always been
cheerfully made available.

Professor Flinders Petrie has been kind enough to read and make some
useful suggestions upon the personal and family passages of the book,
which has consequently benefited greatly.

The whole work has been read through by Mr. A.W. Jose, author of The
History of Australasia, whose criticism on a multitude of points, some
minute, but all important, has been of the utmost value. The help given
by Mr. Jose has been more than friendly; it has been informed by a keen
enthusiasm for the subject, and great knowledge of the original
authorities. The author's obligations to him are gratefully acknowledged.

It is hoped that these pages will enable the reader to know Matthew
Flinders the man, as well as the navigator; for the study of the
manuscript and printed material about him has convinced the author that
he was not only remarkable for what he did and endured, but for his own
sake as an Englishman of the very best type.

Melbourne, June 1914.



Place of Flinders among Australian navigators.
Flemish origins.
Connection with the Tennysons.
Possible relationship with Bass.
Flinders' father.


Robinson Crusoe.
Aspirations for a naval career.
His father's wish.
John Flinders' advice.
Study of navigation.
Introduction to Pasley.
Lieutenant's servant.
Midshipman on the Bellerophon.
Bligh and the Bounty mutiny.


The second breadfruit expedition.
Flinders in the Providence.
Notes from Santa Cruz.
At the Cape.
In Torres Strait.
Encounter with Papuans.
Return to England.


The naval war with France.
The battle of June 1st, 1794.
Flinders as gunner.
Pasley wounded.
Flinders' journal of the engagement.
Effect of Pasley's wound on the career of Flinders.


The predecessors of Flinders.
How Australia grew on the map.
Mediaeval controversies on antipodes.
Period of vague speculation.
Sixteenth century maps.
The Dutch voyagers.
The Batavia on the Abrolhos Reef.
The Duyfhen in the Gulf.
The three periods of Australian maritime discovery.
Geographers and their views of Australia.
The theory of the dividing strait.
Cook and Furneaux.
The untraced southern coast.


Governor Hunter.
Captain Waterhouse.
Flinders' passion for exploring new countries.
Joins the Reliance.
Hunter on the strategic importance of the Cape.
Sailing of Reliance and Supply for New South Wales.
Flinders' observations.
Arrival at Port Jackson.
George Bass.
The Tom Thumb.
Exploration of George's River.
A perilous cruise.
Meeting with aboriginals.
The midshipman as valet.
Port Hacking.
Patching up the Reliance.
Voyage to South Africa.


Bass in the Blue Mountains.
Supposed strait isolating Van Diemen's Land.
Bass's whaleboat voyage.
Wilson's Promontory.
Escaped convicts.
Discovery of Westernport.
Return to Port Jackson.


The wreck of the Sydney Cove.
Discovery of Kent's Islands.
Biological notes.
Sooty petrels.
The wombat.
Point Hicks.


Flinders in command of the Norfolk.
Bass's association with him.
Twofold Bay.
Discovery of Port Dalrymple.
Bass Strait demonstrated.
Black swans.
Albatross Island.
Tasmanian aboriginals.


Bass's marriage.
Part owner of the Venus.
Voyages after pork.
A fishing concession.
South American enterprise.
Unsaleable goods.
A "diplomatic-looking certificate."
Bass's last voyage.
Probable fate in Peru.
His missing letters.


Flinders and the Isaac Nicholls case.
Exploration on the Queensland coast.
Moreton Bay.


Return to England in the Reliance.
Sir Joseph Banks.
Marriage of Flinders.
Ann Chappell and Chappell Island.
The Franklins.
Publication of Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass
Strait and its Islands.
Anxiety about French expedition.
The Investigator commissioned.
Equipment of ship.
The staff and crew.
East India Company's interest.
Instructions for the voyage.
The case of Mrs. Flinders.
Sailing orders delayed.
The incident at the Roar.
Life on board.
Crossing the Line.
Australia reached.


Origin of Baudin's expedition.
His instructions.
Baudin's dilatoriness.
In Tasmanian waters.
Waterhouse Island.


The south coast of Australia.
Method of research.
Aboriginals at King George's Sound.
Discovery of Spencer's Gulf.
Loss of Thistle and a boat's crew.
Memory Cove.
Port Lincoln.
Kangaroo Island.
St. Vincent's Gulf.
Speculations on the fate of Laperouse.


The sighting of Le Geographe.
Flinders visits Baudin.
Their conversations.
Flinders invites Baudin to visit Port Jackson.


Grant's discoveries.
Murray discovers Port Phillip.
King Island.
Flinders enters Port Phillip.
Ascends Arthur's Seat.
The Investigator aground.
Cruise in a boat.
Ascends Station Peak.
Flinders' impression of the port.
Arrival in Port Jackson.
Healthiness of his crew.


Arrival of Le Geographe at Port Jackson.
State of the crew.
Hospitality of Governor King.
Rumours as to French designs.
Baudin's gratitude.
Peron's report on Port Jackson.
His espionage.
Freycinet's plan of invasion.
Scientific work of the expedition.


Overhaul of the ship.
The Lady Nelson.
Flinders sails north.
Discovery of Port Curtis and Port Bowen.
Through the Barrier Reef.
Torres Strait.
Remarks on Coral Reefs.
The Gulf of Carpentaria.
Rotten condition of the ship.
Melville Bay discovered.
Sails for Timor.
Australia circumnavigated.
The Investigator condemned.
Illness of Flinders.
News of father's death.
Letter to step-mother.
Letters to Mrs. Flinders.
Letter to Bass.
The end of the Investigator.


New plans.
Flinders sails in the Porpoise.
Remarks on Sydney.
Conduct of the Bridgewater.
Plans for relief.
Stores available.
Voyage in the Hope to Sydney.
Franklin's description of the wreck.


King receives news of the wreck.
The Cumberland.
Wreck Reef reached.
Voyage to Timor.
Determination to sail to Ile-de-France.
Flinders' reasons.
Arrival at Baye du Cap.
Arrival at Port Louis.


Decaen's early career.
His baptism of fire.
War in the Vendee.
The Army of the Rhine.
Battle of Hohenlinden.
Moreau and Napoleon.
The peace of Amiens.
Decaen's arrival at Pondicherry.
His reception.
Leaves for Ile-de-France.
His character and abilities.


Flinders' reception by Decaen.
His anger.
Imprisoned at the Cafe Marengo.
His papers and books.
His examination.
Refusal of invitation to dinner.
Decaen's anger.
His determination to detain Flinders.
King's despatches.
Decaen's statement of motives.
Flinders asks to be sent to France.


Decaen's despatch.
A delayed reply.
Flinders' occupations.
His health.
The sword incident.
Anniversary of the imprisonment.
Aken's liberation.
The faithful Elder.


Thomas Pitot.
Removal to Wilhelm's Plains.
The parole.
Madame D'Arifat's house.
Flinders studies French and Malay.
Further exploration schemes.
The residence of Laperouse.
Work upon the charts.
King's protest and Decaen's anger.
Elder's departure.


Influences to secure release.
The order of release.
Receipt of the despatch.
Decaen's reply.
Flinders a dangerous man.
Reason for Decaen's refusal.
State of Ile-de-France.
Project for escape.
Flinders' reasons for declining.


Blockade of Ile-de-France.
Decaen at the end of his tether.
Release of Flinders.
Return to England.
The plagiarism charge.
Flinders' papers.
Work of Peron and Freycinet.


Flinders in London.
Prolonged and severe work.
His illness.
Death of Flinders.
His last words.
Treatment of his widow by the Admiralty.


Flinders' commanding look.
Conversational powers.
Kindness to wounded French officer.
Advice to young officers.
An eager student.
The husband.


Technical writings.
The marine barometer.
Variations in the compass.
Praise of other navigators.
Love for his work.


The name Australia given to the continent by Flinders.
The "Austrialia del Espiritu Santo" of Quiros.
De Brosses and "Australasia."
Dalrymple and "Australia."
Flinders' use of the word in 1804.
His use of it in a French essay in 1810.
Persistent employment of the word in letters.
Proposes the word "Australia" to Banks.
His fight for his word.
"Terra Australis."
The footnote of 1814.








From the engraving in the "Naval Chronicle," 1814, after a miniature in
the possession of Mrs. Flinders.


(From photograph lent by Mr. George Gordon McCrae.)


(Mitchell Library.)

H.M.S Bellerophon

Spithead March 20th 1794.

Sir Joseph,

Yesterdays Post brought me a Letter from Mr. Miles, in Answer to the one
I wrote him for his Power of Attorney, after I had the Honour of waiting
upon you in the Country, at which Time you were pleased to express a
Desire to be informed when it should arrive; in Compliance with which, I
now take the Liberty of addressing you. It seems he has not sent the
Power, but says he enclosd something like one to you by which it appears
he is not exactly acquainted with the Business in Question, he tells me
he has explained his Sense of the Matter in your Letter and begd that the
remaining Sum might be paid to Mr. Dixon or Mr. Lee, from whom he wishes
me to receive it. When I wrote for the Power, I explaind to him (as far
as my Knowledge of the Subject extended) the Necessity of his sending it,
that he was to consider himself as employd by Government, that it was
from the Treasury his Salary was to be got and that they would require
some Authority for paying it to me--at present Sir, I am at a Loss how
to proceed; whether what he has sent will be sufficient, or whether it
will still be necessary to get a regular Power is what I must trespass
upon your Generosity for a Knowledge of the doing which will add to the
Obligation your Goodness before conferd upon me; with a gratefull Sense
of which I beg leave to subscribe myself, Sir Joseph

your much obligd and

most humble Servant

Mattw. Flinders.

To Sir Jos Banks Bart.



from which the Gulf and its
Shores were first surveyed
on 26. Feb, 1802 by
Commander of H.M.S. Investigator
the Discoverer of the Country
now called South Australia
was set apart
on 12. Jan. 1841
with the sanction of
then Governor of the Colony
and in the first year of the
government of CAPT. G. GREY
adorned with this Monument
to the perpetual Memory
of the illustrious Navigator
his honored Commander
K.C.H. K.R.













Western Port
on the South Coast of
from Mr. Bass's Eye-sketch.



(Melbourne Public Library.)



FEBRUARY SATURDAY 10 close round the rock. At 8, when off a rocky point
on which are two eminences of white stone in the form of oblique cones
inclining inwards, we stood to the southward, and off and on during the
night, keeping the peak and high land of Cape Barren in sight, the wind,
from the westward.
SUNDAY 11 At the following noon, the observed latitude was 40 degrees 41
1/2, Cape Barren bearing north-by-west. The wind being strong at
west-south-west we continued standing off and on, and lying to
occasionally, till day light next morning, when we made sail
MONDAY 12 west-north-west for the south end of Clarkes Island, having the
wind now at north by east. A little to the westward of the rocky point,
which has the inclining cones upon it, lies an island, between which and
the point, is a deep channel of between half and three-quarters of a mile
wide; and about the same distance to the westward of this island, is
another of nearly the same size: they are rather low and covered with
brush and grass. Between these islands and Clarkes Island, we observed
two low islets, and two rocks above water, the latter not more than three
or four miles from us. To the southward also, we saw the land extending a
great distance; but the whole are better seen in the sketch.

About ten o'clock, the ebb tide was running with such violence, that
although the schooner was going one knot and a half through the water,
yet by the land we were evidently going retrograde almost as much, and
towards the land withal: but the light air that remained enabled us to
draw the ???




MAY 1, 1802.








(Mitchell Library.)

New South Wales; Western Port, excepted. Notwithstanding this evident
superiority, the vegetable Mould, is frequently, of nor great depth, and
is sometimes, (perhaps advantageously) mixed with small quantities of

The best of the soil, lies upon the sides of sloping hills, and in the
broad vallies between them. Some parts that are low and level, have a
wet, peaty, surface, bounded by small tracts of flowering heath and
oderiferous plants, that perfume the air with the fragrance of their

The Plants, retain in general, the air of those of New South Wales,
while, they are in reality, different. The rich & vivid colouring of the
more northern flowers, and that soft & exquisite graduation of their
tints, for which they are so singularly distinguished, hold with them
here, but in a less eminent degree. The two countries present a perfect
similarity in this, that the more barren spots are the most adorned.

Except in these useless places, the grass does not grow in tufts, but
covers the land equally, with a short, nutritious herbage, better adapted
possibly, to the bite of small, than of large cattle. The food for the
latter, is grown in the bottoms of the vallies & upon the damp flats. A
large proportion of the soil, promises a fair return, for the labours of
the cultivator, and a smaller, insures an ample reward: but the greater
part, would perhaps turn to more advantage, if left for pasturage, than
if thrown into cultivation; it would be rich as the one, but poor as the
other. Water is found in runs, more than in Ponds, and the not




Who, as First Lord of the Admiralty, despatched Flinders on his discovery
voyage in the Investigator.

(Photographed, by permission of Lord Spencer, from the painting by
Copley, at Althorp, Northamptonshire.)



(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's









APRIL 8, 1902.


From the copy (in the Mitchell Library) of Westall's original drawing in
the Royal Colonial Institute, London.


Port Phillip.

Distant view of the West arm of the Western Port.

Looking to south-west.

April 30th 1802.

The view appears to be one of Indented Head. On April 30, 1802, the date
of the sketch, Flinders was "nearly at the northern extremity of Indented
Head" and took some bearings "from the brow of a hill a little way back."



(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's





From the copy (in the Mitchell Library) of Westall's original drawing in
the Royal Colonial Institute, London.


(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's






(From the Atlas of Milbert, 1812.)


(Melbourne Public Library.)

To his Excellency the

Minister of the marine and colonies

of France.

The memorial of Matthew Flinders Esq.

Prisoner in the Isle of France.

May it please Your Excellency

Your memorialist was commander of His Britannic Majesty's ship the
Investigator, despatched by the Admiralty of England to complete the
discovery of New Holland and New South Wales, which had been begun by the
early Dutch navigators, and continued at different periods by Cook,
D'Entrecasteaux, Vancouver, and your memorialist. He was furnished with a
passport by order of His Imperial and Royal Majesty, then first Consul of
France; and signed by the marine minister Forfait the 4th Prarial, year
9; which passport permitted the Investigator to touch at French ports in
any part of the world, in cases of distress, and promised assistance and
protection to the commander and company, provided they should not have
unnecessarily deviated from their route, or have done, or announced the
intention of doing any thing injurious to the French nation or its
allies: Your memorialist sailed from England in July 1801, and in April
1802, whilst pursuing the discovery of the unknown part of the south
coast of New South Wales, he met with the commandant Baudin, who being
furnished with a passport by the Admiralty of Great Britain, had been
sent by the French government with the ships Geographe and Naturaliste
upon a nearly similar expedition some months before. From Port Jackson,
where the commandant was again met with, your memorialist, accompanied by
the brig Lady Nelson, continued his examinations and discoveries
northward, through many difficulties and dangers, but with success, until
December 1802, when, in the Gulf of Carpentaria


(From portrait drawn by Chazal at Ile-de-France.)


(By permission of Professor Flinders Petrie.)


(Mitchell Library.)


the right hon. George John, Earl Spencer,
the right hon. John, Earl of St. Vincent,
the right hon. Charles Phillip Yorke,
the right hon. Robert Saunders, Viscount Melville,
as first Lords Commissioners of the
successively honoured the Investigator's voyage
with their patronage,
this account of it is respectfully dedicated,
by Their Lordships
most obliged, and
most obedient
humble servant
Matthew Flinders


(Melbourne Public Library.)

from the general's conduct, that he has sought to impose upon him, and
this for the purpose, perhaps for the pleasure, of prolonging to the
utmost my unjust detention.

But if apprehensions for the safety of this land are not the cause of the
order of the French government remaining unexecuted, what reason can
there be, sufficiently strong to have induced the captain-general to
incur the risk of misobedience, first to the passport, and afterwards to
the order for my liberation. This I shall endeavour to explain in the
following and last chapter of this discussion; promising, however, that
what I shall have to offer upon this part of the subject, can only be
what a consideration of the captain-general's conduct has furnished me,
as being the most probable. I am not conscious of having omitted any
material circumstance, either here or in the narration, or of having
misrepresented any; as if after an attentive perusal, the reader thinks
my explanation not borne out by the facts, I submit it to his judgment to
deduce a better; and should esteem myself obliged by his making it
public, so that it may reach so far as even to me.

Chapter XII. Probable causes of my imprisonment, and of the marine
minister's order for my liberation being suspended by the captain-general

Before explaining what I conceive to have been the true causes which led
the captain-general to act so contrary to my passport, as to imprison me
and seize my vessel, charts, and papers; it will be proper to give the
reader a knowledge of some points in His Excellency's character, in
addition to those he will have extracted from the abridged narrative. At
the time of my arrival, he entertained, and does I believe still
entertain, an indiscriminate animosity against Englishmen, whether this
arose from his having been deprived of the advantage of fixing the seat
of his government at Pondicherry, by the renewal of war in 1803, or from
any antecedent circumstance, I cannot pretend to say; but that he did
harbour such animosity, and that in an uncommon degree, is averred by his
keeping in irons, contrary to the usages of war, the first English seamen
that were brought to the island (Narrative page 58 and 70); by the
surprise he testified at the proceeding of a French gentleman, who
interceded with him for the liberty on parole of a sick English officer;
on which occasion he said amongst other things, that had he his own will,
he would send all the English prisoners to the Marquis Wellesley without
their ears: this animosity is, besides, as well known at the Isle of
France, as the existence of the island.

It is probably owing to an original want of education, and to having
passed the greater part of his life in the tumult of camps during the
French revolution, that arises his indifference for the arts and
sciences, other than those which have an immediate relation to war. His
Excellency's ideas seem even to be so strictly military, that the
profession of a seaman has very little share in his  estimation; and his
ignorance of nautical affairs has been shewn by various circumstances to
be greater than would be supposed in a moderately well informed man, who
had made a voyage from Europe to India.


(Melbourne Public Library.)

To Captain Thos. Hurd, Hydrographer, Admiralty Office.

London April 2, 1812.

My dear Sir

Understanding that Lieut. John Oxley of the Navy is going out
surveyor-general of Lands in New South Wales, I wish to point out to you,
that if he should be enabled, in intervals of his land duty, to
accomplish the following nautical objects, in the vicinity of Port
Jackson, and of the settlements in Van Diemen's Land, our knowledge of
those coasts would be thereby improved, and some material advantages to
the colonies probably obtained.

1st. Jervis Bay, a large piece of water whose entrance is in 35.5 south,
and not from than 75 miles from Port Jackson, has never yet, to my
knowledge been surveyed. There have been two or three eye sketches made
of it; but it would be desirable to have it surveyed, with the streams
which are said to fall into its North and western sides; and also the
corresponding line of the sea coast, in which there are thought to be
strata of coal.

The great semicircular range of mountains which has hitherto resisted all
attempts to penetrate into the interior country behind Port Jackson,
appears to terminate at Point Bass in latitude about 34.43; and the land
behind Jervis Bay is represented to be low and flat. It is, therefore,
probable, that a well conducted effort to obtain some knowledge of the
interior of that vast country, would be attended with success if made by
steering a West or N.N.W. course from the head of Jervis Bay.








The maps have been copied from Flinders' Atlas, with the omission of a
few details, which, on the small scale necessarily adopted, would have
caused confusion; it has been thought better to make what is given quite
legible to the unassisted eye. All names on the maps are as Flinders
spelt them, but in the body of the book modern spellings have been
adopted. In the case of the Duyfhen the usual spelling, which is also
that of Flinders, is retained; but the late J. Backhouse Walker has shown
reason to believe that the real name of the vessel was Duyfken.


1774 (March 16) : Born at Donington.

1789 (October 23) : Enters the Royal Navy.

1790 (July 31) : Midshipman on the Bellerophon.

1791 to 1793 : Voyage in the Providence.

1793 (September) : Rejoins the Bellerophon.

1794 (June) : Participates in the battle off Brest.

1795 (February) : Sails for Australia in the Reliance. Meets George Bass.

1796 (March) : Cruise of the Tom Thumb.

1797 (December) : Bass's whaleboat voyage.

1798 (January) : Discovery of Westernport.

1798 (January) : Flinders' voyage in the Francis.

1798 (January 31) : Flinders obtains lieutenant's commission.

1798 (October) : Voyage of the Norfolk.

1798 (November) : Discovery of Port Dalrymple.

1798 (December) : Bass Strait demonstrated.

1799 : Return to Port Jackson.

1799 (July) : Exploration on Queensland coast.

1800 (March) : Return to England in the Reliance.

1800 (October) : Arrival in England.
Plan of Australian Exploration.

1800 (December) : The Investigator commissioned.

1801 (January 17) : Publication of Observations.

1801 (February 16) : Obtains commander's rank.

1801 (April) : Marriage of Flinders.

1801 (July 18) : Sailing of the Investigator.

1801 (December) : Australia reached.

1802 (February) : Discovery of Spencer's Gulf.

1802 (March) : Discovery of Kangaroo Island and St. Vincent's Gulf.

1802 (April) : Meeting of Flinders and Baudin in Encounter Bay.

1802 (May) : Flinders in Port Phillip.

1802 (July) : Voyage to Northern Australia.

1802 (August) : Discovery of Port Curtis and Port Bowen.

1802 (November) : In the Gulf of Carpentaria.

1803 (April) : Return voyage; Australia circumnavigated.

1803 (June) : Sydney reached; the Investigator condemned.

1803 (July 10) : Sails in the Porpoise.

1803 (August 17) : Wrecked on the Barrier Reef.
Voyage in the Hope to Sydney.

1803 (September 8) : Arrival in Port Jackson.

1803 (September 21) : Sails in the Cumberland.

1803 (November) : Timor reached.

1803 (December 17) : Arrival at Ile-de-France; made a prisoner.

1804 (April) : Removal to the Garden Prison (Maison Despeaux).

1805 : Removal to Wilhelm's Plains.

1806 (March 21) : French Government orders release of Flinders.

1810 (June 13) : Release of Flinders.

1810 (October 24) : Return to England.

1814 (July 19) : Death of Flinders.




Matthew Flinders was the third of the triad of great English sailors by
whom the principal part of Australia was revealed. A poet of our own
time, in a line of singular felicity, has described it as the "last
sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space; "* (* Bernard O'Dowd,
Dawnward, 1903.) and the piecemeal, partly mysterious, largely accidental
dragging from the depths of the unknown of a land so immense and
bountiful makes a romantic chapter in geographical history. All the great
seafaring peoples contributed something towards the result. The Dutch
especially evinced their enterprise in the pursuit of precise information
about the southern Terra Incognita, and the nineteenth century was well
within its second quarter before the name New Holland, which for over a
hundred years had borne testimony to their adventurous pioneering, gave
place in general and geographical literature to the more convenient and
euphonious designation suggested by Flinders himself, Australia.* (* Not
universally, however, even in official documents. In the Report of the
Committee of the Privy Council, dated May 1, 1849, "New Holland" is used
to designate the continent, but "Australia" is employed as including both
the continent and Tasmania. See Grey's Colonial Policy 1 424 and 439.)

But, important as was the work of the Dutch, and though the contributions
made by French navigators (possibly also by Spanish) are of much
consequence, it remains true that the broad outlines of the continent
were laid down by Dampier, Cook and Flinders. These are the principal
names in the story. A map of Australia which left out the parts
discovered by other sailors would be seriously defective in particular
features; but a map which left out the parts discovered by these three
Englishmen would gape out of all resemblance to the reality.

Dampier died about the year 1712; nobody knows precisely when. Matthew
Flinders came into the world in time to hear, as he may well have done as
a boy, of the murder of his illustrious predecessor in 1779. The news of
Cook's fate did not reach England till 1781. The lad was then seven years
of age, having been born on March 16th, 1774.

His father, also named Matthew, was a surgeon practising his profession
at Donington, Lincolnshire, where the boy was born. The Flinders family
had been settled in the same town for several generations. Three in
succession had been surgeons. The patronymic indicates a Flemish origin,
and the work on English surnames* that bids the reader looking for
information under "Flinders" to "see Flanders," sends him on a reasonable
quest, if to no great resulting advantage. (* Barker, Family Surnames
1903 page 143.)

The English middle-eastern counties received frequent large migrations of
Flemings during several centuries. Sometimes calamities due to the
harshness of nature, sometimes persecutions and wars, sometimes adverse
economic conditions, impelled companies of people from the Low Countries
to cross the North Sea and try to make homes for themselves in a land
which, despite intervals of distraction, offered greater security and a
better reward than did the place whence they came. England derived much
advantage from the infusion of this industrious, solid and dependable
Flemish stock; though the temporary difficulty of absorption gave rise to
local protests on more than one occasion.

As early as 1108, a great part of Flanders "being drowned by an exudation
or breaking in of the sea, a great number of Flemings came into the
country, beseeching the King to have some void place assigned them,
wherein they might inhabit."* (* Holinshed's Chronicle edition of 1807 2
58.) Again in the reign of Edward I we find Flemish merchants carrying on
a very large and important trade in Boston, and representatives of houses
from Ypres and Ostend acquired property in the town.* (* Pishey Thompson
Collections for a Topographical and Historical Account of Boston and the
Hundred of Skirbeck 1820 page 31.) In the middle of the sixteenth
century, when Flanders was boiling on the fire of the Reformation,
Lincolnshire and Norfolk provided an asylum for crowds of harassed
refugees. In 1569 two persons were deputed to ride from Boston to Norwich
to ascertain what means that city adopted to find employment for them;
and in the same year Mr. William Derby was directed to move Mr. Secretary
Cecil, Queen Elizabeth's great minister, to "know his pleasure whether
certain strangers may be allowed to dwell within the borough without
damage of the Queen's laws."* (*Boston Corporation manuscripts quoted in
Thompson, History and Antiquities of Boston 1856.)

During one of these peaceful and useful Flemish invasions the ancestors
of Matthew Flinders entered Lincolnshire. In the later years of his life
he devoted some attention to the history of his family, and found record
of a Flinders as early as the tenth century. He believed, also, that his
people had some connection with two men named Flinders or Flanders, who
fled from Holland during the religious persecutions, and settled, in
Queen Elizabeth's reign, in Nottinghamshire as silk stocking weavers. It
would be very interesting if it were clear that there was a link between
the family and the origins of the great Nottingham hosiery trade. A
Flinders may in that case have woven silk stockings for the Royal
termagant, and Lord Coke's pair, which were darned so often that none of
the original fabric remained, may have come from their loom.

Matthew Flinders himself wrote the note: "Ruddington near Nottingham (it
is four miles south of the town) is the place whence the Flinders came;"
and he ascertained that an ancestor was Robert Flinders, a Nottingham

A family tradition relates that the Lincolnshire Flinders were amongst
the people taken over to England by Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, a Dutch
engineer of celebrity in his day, who undertook in 1621 to drain 360,000
acres of fen in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. He was financed
by English and Dutch capitalists, and took his reward in large grants of
land which he made fit for habitation and cultivation. Vermuyden and his
Flemings were not allowed to accomplish their work of reclamation without
incurring the enmity of the natives. In a petition to the King in 1637 he
stated that he had spent 150,000 pounds, but that 60,000 pounds of damage
had been done "by reason of the opposition of the commoners," who cut the
banks of his channels in the night and during floods. The peasantry,
indeed, resisted the improvements that have proved so beneficent to that
part of England, because the draining and cultivation of so many miles of
swamp would deprive them of fishing and fowling privileges enjoyed from
time immemorial. Hardly any reform or improvement can be effected without
some disruption of existing interests; and a people deeply sunk in
poverty and toil could hardly be expected to contemplate with
philosophical calm projects which, however advantageous to fortunate
individuals and to posterity, were calculated to diminish their own means
of living and their pleasant diversions. The dislike of the "commoners"
to the work of the "participants" led to frequent riots, and many of
Vermuyden's Flemings were maltreated. He endeavoured to allay discontent
by employing local labour at high wages; and was courageous enough to
pursue his task despite loss of money, wanton destruction, and many other
discouragements.* (* See Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, for
1619, 1623, 1625, 1638, 1639 et seq; and White's Lincolnshire page 542.)
Ebullitions of discontent on the part of fractious Fenlanders did not
cease till the beginning of the eighteenth century.

A very simple calculation shows that the great-grandfather of the first
Matthew Flinders would probably have been contemporary with Sir Cornelius
Vermuyden's reclamation works. He may have been one of the "participants"
who benefited from them. The fact is significant as bearing upon this
conjecture, that no person named Flinders made a will in Lincolnshire
before 1600.* (* See C.W. Foster, Calendar of Lincoln Wills 1320 to 1600,

It is, too, an interesting circumstance that there was a Flinders among
the early settlers in New England, Richard Flinders of Salem, born 1637.*
(* Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England,
Boston U.S.A. 1860.) He may have been of the same family as the
navigator, for the Lincolnshire element among the fathers of New England
was pronounced.

The name Flinders survived at Donington certainly for thirty years after
the death of the sailor who gave lustre to it; for in a directory
published in 1842 occur the names of "Flinders, Mrs. Eliz., Market
Place," and "Flinders, Mrs. Mary, Church Street."* (* William White,
History, Gazetteer and Directory of the City and Diocese of Lincoln, 1842
page 193.)

The Flinders papers, mentioned in the preface, contain material which
enables the family and connections of the navigator to be traced with
certainty for seven generations. The genealogy is shown by the following

John Flinders, born 1682, died 1741, settled at Donington as a farmer,
married Mary Obray or Aubrey in 1702 and had at least 1 child:

John Flinders, surgeon at Spalding, born 1737, still living in 1810, had
at least two children:

1. John Flinders, Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, born 1766, died 1793.

2. Matthew Flinders, surgeon at Donington, born 1750, died 1802, married
Susannah Ward, 1752 to 1783, in 1773 and had at least two children:

2. Samuel Ward Flinders, born 1782, died 1842, Lieutenant in the Royal
Navy, married and left several children.

1. Matthew Flinders the Navigator, born March 16, 1774, died July 19,
1814, married Ann Chappell, born 1770, died 1852, in 1801 and had one

Ann Flinders, born 1812, died 1892, married William Petrie, born 1821,
died 1908, in 1851 and had one son:

Professor W.M. Flinders Petrie, eminent scholar and Egyptian
archaeologist, born 1853, married Hilda Urlin in 1897 and had at least
two children:

1. John Flinders Petrie.

2. Ann Flinders Petrie.

There is also an interesting connection between Flinders and the
Tennysons, through the Franklin family. The present Lord Tennyson, when
Governor of South Australia, in the course of his official duties, in
March, 1902, unveiled a memorial to his kinsman on Mount Lofty, and in
April of the same year a second one in Encounter Bay. The following table
illustrates the relationship between him who wrote of "the long wash of
Australasian seas" and him who knew them as discoverer:

Matthew Flinders (father of Matthew Flinders the navigator) married as
his second wife Elizabeth Weekes, whose sister, Hannah Weekes, married
Willingham Franklin of Spilsby and had at least two children:

1. Sir John Franklin, born 1786, midshipman of the Investigator, Arctic
explorer, Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) 1837 to
1844, died 1847.

2. Sarah Franklin, married Henry Sellwood, solicitor, of Horncastle, in
1812 and had at least two children:

2. Louisa Sellwood married Charles Tennyson-Turner, poet, brother of
Alfred Tennyson.

1. Emily Sarah Sellwood, born 1813, died 1896, married Alfred Tennyson,
Poet Laureate, born 1809, died 1892, in 1850 and had at least one son:

Hallam, Lord Tennyson, born 1852; Governor of South Australia 1899 to
1902; Governor-General of Australia, 1902 to 1904.

The Flinders papers also contain a note suggesting a distant connection
between Matthew Flinders and the man who above all others was his choice
friend, George Bass, the companion of his earliest explorations. Positive
proof is lacking, but Flinders' daughter, Mrs. Petrie, wrote "we have
reason to think that Bass was a connection of the family," and the point
is too interesting to be left unstated. The following table shows the
possible kinship:

John Flinders of Donington, born 1682, died 1741 (great-grandfather of
the navigator) had:

Mary Flinders, third and youngest daughter, born 1734, married as her
third husband, Bass, and had:

George Bass, who had three daughters, and is believed to have been an
uncle or cousin of George Bass, Matthew Flinders' companion in

It is clear from the particulars stated above that the tree of which
Matthew Flinders was the fruit had its roots deep down in the soil of the
little Lincolnshire market town where he was born; and Matthew himself
would have continued the family tradition, inheriting the practice built
up by his father and grandfather (as it was hoped he would do), had there
not been within him an irresistible longing for the sea, and a bent of
scientific curiosity directed to maritime exploration, which led him on a
path of discovery to achievements that won him honourable rank in the
noble roll of British naval pioneers.

His father earned an excellent reputation, both professional and
personal. The career of a country practitioner rarely affords an
opportunity for distinction. It was even less so then than today, when at
all events careful records of interesting cases are printed in a score or
more of professional publications. But once we find the elder Matthew
Flinders in print. The Memoirs of the Medical Society of London* (* 1779
Volume 4 page 330.) contain a paper read before that body on October
30th, 1797: "Case of a child born with variolar pustules, by Matthew
Flinders, surgeon, Donington, Lincolnshire." The essay occupies three
pages, and is a clear, succinct record of symptoms, treatment and
results, for medical readers. The child died; whereupon the surgeon
expresses his regret, not on account of infant or parents, but, with true
scientific zest, because it deprived him of the opportunity of watching
the development of an uncommon case.

Donington is a small town in the heart of the fen country, lying ten
miles south-west of Boston, and about the same distance, as the crow
flies, from the black, muddy, western fringe of the Wash. It is a very
old town. Formerly it was an important Lincolnshire centre, enjoying its
weekly Saturday market, and its four annual fairs for the sale of horses,
cattle, flax and hemp. During Flinders' youth and early manhood the
district grew large quantities of hemp, principally for the Royal Navy.
In the days of its prosperity Donington drew to itself the business of an
agricultural neighbourhood which was so far cultivable as it rose above
the level of desolate and foggy swamps. But the drainage of the fens and
the making of good roads over what had once been an area of amphibious
uncertainty, neither wholly land nor wholly water, had the effect of
largely diverting business to Boston. Trade that came to Donington when
it stood over its own tract of fen, like the elderly and respectable
capital of some small island, now went to the thriving and historic port
on the Witham. Donington stopped growing, stagnated, declined. On the map
of Lincolnshire included in Camden's Britannia (1637) it is marked
"Dunington," in letters as large as those given to Boston, Spalding and
Lincoln. On modern maps the name is printed in small letters; on some in
the smallest, or not at all. That fact is fairly indicative of its change
of fortunes. Figures tell the tale with precision. In 1801 it contained
1321 inhabitants; in 1821, 1638; in 1841 it reached its maximum, 2026; by
1891 it had gone down to 1547; in 1901 to 1484; at the census of 1911 it
had struggled up to 1564.* (* Allen, History of Lincolnshire, 1833 Volume
1 342; Victoria History of Lincolnshire Volume 2 359; Census Returns for

The fame conferred by a distinguished son is hardly a recompense for
faded prosperity, but certain it is that Donington commands a wider
interest as the birthplace of Flinders than it ever did in any other
respect during its long, uneventful history. The parish church, a fine
Gothic building with a lofty, graceful spire, contains a monument to the
memory of the navigator, with an inscription in praise of his character
and life, and recording that he "twice circumnavigated the globe." Many
men have encircled the earth, but few have been so distinguished as
discoverers of important portions of it. Apart from this monument, the
church contains marble ovals to the memory of Matthew Flinders' father,
grandfather, and great-grandfather. They were provided from a sum of 100
pounds left by the navigator, in his will, for the purpose.

It is interesting to notice that three of the early Australian explorers
came from Lincolnshire, and were all born at places visible in clear
weather from the tower of St. Botolph's Church at Boston. While Flinders
sprang from Donington, George Bass, who co-operated with him in his first
discoveries, was born at Aswarby, near Sleaford, and Sir John Franklin,
who sailed with him in the Investigator, and was subsequently to become
an Australian Governor and to achieve a pathetic immortality in another
field of exploration, entered the world at Spilsby. Sir Joseph Banks, the
botanist of Cook's first voyage, Flinders' steadfast friend, and the
earliest potent advocate of Australian colonisation, though not actually
born in Lincolnshire, was the son of a squire who at the time of his
birth owned Revesby Abbey, which is within a short ride of each of the
places just named.


Young Flinders received his preparatory education at the Donington free
school. This was an institution founded and endowed in 1718 by Thomas
Cowley, who bequeathed property producing nowadays about 1200 pounds a
year for the maintenance of a school and almshouses. It was to be open to
the children of all the residents of Donington parish free of expense,
and in addition there was a fund for paying premiums on the
apprenticeship of boys.

At the age of twelve the lad was sent to the Horbling Grammar School, not
many miles from his own home. It was under the direction of the Reverend
John Shinglar. Here he remained three years. He was introduced to the
Latin and Greek classics, and received the grounding of that mathematical
knowledge which subsequently enabled him to master the science of
navigation without a tutor. If to Mr. Shinglar's instruction was likewise
due his ability to write good, sound, clear English, we who read his
letters and published writings have cause to speak his schoolmaster's
name with respect.

During his school days another book besides those prescribed in the
curriculum came into his hands. He read Robinson Crusoe. It was to
Defoe's undying tale of the stranded mariner that he attributed the
awaking in his own mind of a passionate desire to sail in uncharted seas.
This anecdote happens to be better authenticated than are many of those
quoted to illustrate the youth of men of mark. Towards the end of
Flinders' life the editor of the Naval Chronicle sent to him a series of
questions, intending to found upon the answers a biographical sketch. One
question was: "Juvenile or miscellaneous anecdotes illustrative of
individual character?" The reply was: "Induced to go to sea against the
wishes of friends from reading Robinson Crusoe."

The case, interesting as it is, has an exact parallel in the life of a
famous French traveller, Rene Caille, who in 1828, after years of
extraordinary effort and endurance, crossed Senegal, penetrated Central
Africa, and was the first European to visit Timbuctoo. He also had read
Defoe's masterpiece as a lad, and attributed to it the awaking in his
breast of a yearning for adventure and discovery. "The reading of
Robinson Crusoe," says a French historian, "made upon him a profound
impression." "I burned to have adventures of my own," he wrote later; "I
felt as I read that there was born within my heart the ambition to
distinguish myself by some important discovery."* (* Gaffarel, La
Politique coloniale en France, 1908 page 34.)

Here were astonishing results to follow from the vivid fiction of a gouty
pamphleteer who wrote to catch the market and was hoisted into immortal
fame by the effort: that his book should, like a spark falling on straw,
fire the brains of a French shoemaker's apprentice and a Lincolnshire
schoolboy, impelling each to a career crowded with adventure, and crowned
with memorable achievements. There could hardly be better examples of the
vitalising efficacy of fine literature.

A love of Robinson Crusoe remained with Flinders to the end. Only a
fortnight before his death he wrote a note subscribing for a copy of a
new edition of the book, with notes, then announced for publication. It
must have been one of the last letters from his hand. Though out of its
chronological order, it may be appropriately quoted here to connect it
with the other references to the book which so profoundly influenced his

"Captain Flinders presents his compliments to the Hydrographer of the
Naval Chronicle, and will thank him to insert his home in the list of
subscribers in his new edition of Robinson Crusoe; he wishes also that
the volume on delivery should have a neat, common binding, and be
lettered.--London Street, July 5, 1814."

It seems clear that Flinders had promised himself the pleasure of
re-reading in maturity the tale that had so delighted his youth. Had he
lived to do so, he might well have underlined, as applicable to himself,
a pair of those sententious observations with which Defoe essayed to give
a sober purpose to his narrative. The first is his counsel of "invincible
patience under the worst of misery, indefatigable application, and
undaunted resolution under the greatest and most discouraging
circumstances." The second is his wise remark that "the height of human
wisdom is to bring our tempers down to our circumstances, and to make a
great calm within under the weight of the greatest storm without." They
were words which Flinders during strenuous years had good cause to
translate into conduct.

The edition of the book to which he thus subscribed was undertaken
largely on account of his acknowledgment of its effect upon his life. The
author of the Naval Chronicle sketch of his career* (* 1814 Volume 32.)
wrote in a footnote: "The biographer, also happening to understand that
to the same cause the Navy is indebted for another of its ornaments,
Admiral Sir Sydney Smythe, was in a great measure thereby led to give
another studious reading to that charming story, and hence to adopt a
plan for its republication, now almost at maturity;" and he commended the
new issue especially "to all those engaged in the tuition of youth."

One other anecdote of Flinders' boyhood has been preserved as a family
tradition. It is that, while still a child, he was one day lost for some
hours. He was ultimately found in the middle of one of the sea marshes,
his pockets stuffed with pebbles, tracing the runlets of water, so that
by following them up he might find out whence they came. Many boys might
have done the same; but this particular boy, in that act of enquiry
concerning geographical phenomena on a small scale, showed himself father
to the man.

"Against the wish of friends," Flinders wrote, was his selection of a
naval career. His father steadily but kindly opposed his desire, hoping
that his son would adopt the medical profession. But young Matthew was
not easily thwarted. The call of the sea was strong within him, and
persistency was always a fibrous element in his character.

The surgeon's house at Donington stood in the market square. It remained
in existence till 1908, when it was demolished to give place to what is
described as "a hideous new villa." It was a plain, square, one-story
building with a small, low surgery built on to one side of it. Behind the
door of the surgery hung a slate, upon which the elder Flinders was
accustomed to write memoranda concerning appointments and cases. The lad,
wishing to let his father know how keen was his desire to enter the Navy,
and dreading a conversation on the subject--with probable reproaches,
admonitions, warnings, and a general outburst of parental
displeasure--made use of the surgeon's slate. He wrote upon it what he
wanted his father to know, hung it on the nail, and left it there to tell
its quiet story.

He got his way in the end, but not without discouragement from other
quarters also. He had an uncle in the Navy, John Flinders, to whom he
wrote asking for counsel. John's experience had not made him enamoured of
his profession, and his reply was chilling. He pointed out that there was
little chance of success without powerful interest. Promotion was slow
and favouritism was rampant. He himself had served eleven years, and had
not yet attained the rank of lieutenant, nor were his hopes of rising
better than slender.

From the strictly professional point of view it was not unreasonable
advice for the uncle to give. A student of the naval history of the
period finds much to justify a discouraging attitude. Even the dazzling
career of Nelson might have been frustrated by a long protracted minority
had he not had a powerful hand to help him up the lower rungs of the
ladder--the "interest" of Captain Suckling, his uncle, who in 1775 became
Comptroller of the Navy, "a civil position, but one that carried with it
power and consequently influence." Nelson became lieutenant after seven
years' service, in 1777; but he owed his promotion to Suckling, who "was
able to exert his influence in behalf of his relative by promptly
securing for him not only his promotion to lieutenant, which many waited
for long, but with it his commission, dated April 10, to the Lowestofte,
a frigate of thirty-two guns."* (* Mahan, Life of Nelson edition of 1899
pages 13 and 14.)

That even conduct of singular merit, performed in the crisis of action,
was not sufficient to secure advancement, is illustrated by a striking
fact in the life of Sir John Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South
Australia (1836). At the battle of the Nile, Hindmarsh, a midshipman of
fourteen, was left in charge of the Bellerophon, all the other officers
being killed or wounded. (It was upon this same vessel, as we shall see
later, that Flinders had a taste of sea fighting). When the French
line-of-battle ship L'Orient took fire she endangered the Bellerophon.
The boy, with wonderful presence of mind, called up some hands, cut the
cables, and was running the ship out of danger under a sprit sail, when
Captain Darby came on deck from having his wounds dressed. Nelson,
hearing of the incident, thanked young Hindmarsh before the ship's
company, and afterwards gave him his commission in front of all hands,
relating the story to them. "The sequel," writes Admiral Sir T.S. Pasley,
who relates the facts in his Journal, "does not sound so well. Lord
Nelson died in 1805, and Hindmarsh is a commander still, in 1830, not
having been made one till June, 1814." A man with such a record certainly
had to wait long before the sun of official favour shone upon him; and
his later success was won, not in the navy, but as a colonial governor.

There was, then, much to make John Flinders believe that influence was a
surer way to advancement than assiduous application or natural capacity.
His own naval career did not turn out happily. A very few years
afterwards he received his long-delayed promotion, served as lieutenant
in the Cygnet, on the West Indies station, under Admiral Affleck, and
died of yellow fever on board his ship in 1793.

John Flinders' letter, however, concluded with a piece of practical
advice, in case his nephew should be undeterred by his opinion. He
recommended the study of three works as a preparation for entering the
Navy: Euclid, John Robertson's Elements of Navigation (first edition
published in 1754) and Hamilton Moore's book on Navigation. Matthew
disregarded the warning and took the practical advice. The books were
procured and the young student plunged into their problems eagerly. The
year devoted to their study in that quiet little fen town made him master
of rather more than the elements of a science which enabled him to become
one of the foremost discoverers and cartograhers of a continent. He
probably also practised map-making with assiduity, for his charts are not
only excellent as charts, but also singularly beautiful examples of
scientific drawing.

After a year of book-work Flinders felt capable of acquitting himself
creditably at sea, if he could secure an opportunity. In those days
entrance to the Royal Navy was generally secured by the nomination of a
senior officer. There was no indispensable examination; no naval college
course was necessary. The captain of a ship could take a youth on board
to oblige his relatives, "or in return for the cancelling of a
tradesman's bill."* (* Masefield's Sea Life in Nelson's Time 1905 gives a
good account of the practice.) It so happened that a cousin of Flinders
occupied the position of governess in the family of Captain Pasley
(afterwards Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley) who at that time commanded H.M.S.
Scipio. One of her pupils, Maria Pasley, developed into a young lady of
decidedly vigorous character, as the following incident sufficiently
shows. While her father was commander-in-chief at Plymouth, she was one
day out in the Channel, beyond the Eddystone, in the Admiral's cutter. As
the country was at war, she was courting danger; and in fact, the cutter
was sighted by a French cruiser, which gave chase. But Miss Pasley
declined to run away. She "popped at the Frenchman with the cutter's two
brass guns." It was like blowing peas at an elephant; and she would
undoubtedly have been captured, had not an English frigate seen the
danger and put out to the rescue.

Flinders' cousin had interested herself in his studies and ambitions, and
gave him some encouragement. She also spoke about him to Captain Pasley,
who seems to have listened sympathetically. It interested him to hear of
this boy studying navigation without a tutor up among the fens. "Send for
him," said Pasley, "I should like to see what stuff he is made of, and
whether he is worth making into a sailor."

Young Matthew, then in his fifteenth year, was accordingly invited to
visit the Pasleys. In the later part of his life he used to relate with
merriment, how he went, was asked to dine, and then pressed to stay till
next day under the captain's roof. He had brought no night attire with
him, not having expected to sleep at the house. When he was shown into
his bedroom, his needs had apparently been anticipated; for there, folded
up neatly upon the pillow, was a sleeping garment ready for use. He
appreciated the consideration; but having attired himself for bed, he
found himself enveloped in a frothy abundance of frills and fal-lals,
lace at the wrists, lace round the neck, with flutters of ribbon here and
there. When, at the breakfast table in the morning, he related how he had
been rigged, there was a shriek of laughter from the young ladies; the
simple explanation being that one of them had vacated her room to
accommodate the visitor, and had forgotten to remove her nightdress.

The visit had more important consequences. Captain Pasley very soon saw
that he had an exceptional lad before him, and at once put him on the
Alert. He was entered as "lieutenant's servant" on October 23rd, 1789. He
remained there for rather more than seven months, learning the practical
part of a sailor's business. On May 17th, 1790, he was able to present
himself to Captain Pasley on the Scipio at Chatham, as an aspirant of
more than ordinary efficiency; and remained under his command until the
next year, following him as a midshipman when he left the Scipio for the
Bellerophon in July, 1790.

This famous ship, which carried 74 guns, and was launched in 1786, is
chiefly known to history as the vessel upon which Napoleon surrendered to
Captain Maitland on July 15th, 1815, after the Waterloo debacle. She took
a prominent part in Nelson's great battles at the Nile and Trafalgar. But
her end was pitifully ignoble. After a glorious and proud career, she was
converted into a convict hulk and re-named the Captivity. A great prose
master has reminded us, in words that glow upon his impassioned page, of
the slight thought given by the practical English to the fate of another
line-of-battle ship that had flown their colours in the stress of war.
"Those sails that strained so full bent into the battle, that broad bow
that struck the surf aside, enlarging silently in steadfast haste full
front to the shot, those triple ports whose choirs of flame rang forth in
their courses, into the fierce avenging monotone, which, when it died
away, left no answering voice to rise any more upon the sea against the
strength of England, those sides that were wet with the long runlets of
English life-blood, like press-planks at vintage, gleaming goodly crimson
down to the cast and clash of the washing foam, those pale masts that
stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, shaking out their ensigns
through the thunder, till sail and ensign drooped, steeped in the
death-stilled pause of Andalusian air, burning with its witness clouds of
human souls at rest--surely for these some sacred care might have been
left in our thoughts, some quiet resting place amidst the lapse of
English waters? Nay, not so, we have stern keepers to trust her glory to,
the fire and the worm. Never more shall sunset lay golden robe on her,
nor starlight tremble on the waves that part at her gliding. Perhaps,
where the gate opens to some cottage garden, the tired traveller may ask,
idly, why the moss grows so green on its rugged wood; and even the
sailor's child may not answer nor know, that the night-dew lies deep in
the war-rents of the wood of the old Temeraire."

But even the decline of might and dignity into decrepitude and oblivion
described in that luminous passage is less pathetic than the conversion
of the glorious Bellerophon, with her untarnished traditions of historic
victories, into a hulk for the punishment of rascals, and the changing of
her unsullied name to an alias significant only of shame.

During this preliminary period Flinders learnt the way about a ship and
acquired instruction in the mechanism of seamanship, but there was as yet
no opportunity to obtain deep-water experience. He was transferred to the
Dictator for a brief period, but as he neither mentions the captain nor
alludes to any other circumstance connected therewith, it was probably a
mere temporary turnover or guardship rating not to lose any time of
service.* (* Naval Chronicle 1814.)

His first chance of learning something about the width of the world and
the wonder of its remote places came in 1791, when he went to sea under
the command of a very remarkable man. William Bligh had sailed with James
Cook on his third and fatal voyage of discovery, 1776 to 1780. He was
twenty-three years of age when he was selected by that sagacious leader
as one of those young officers who "under my direction could be usefully
employed in constructing charts, in taking views of the coasts and
headlands near which we should pass, and in drawing plans of the bays and
harbours in which we should anchor;" for Cook recognised that constant
attention to these duties was "wholly requisite if he would render our
discoveries profitable to future navigators."* (* Cook's Voyages edition
of 1821 5 page 92.)

Bligh's name appears frequently in Cook's Journal, and is also mentioned
in King's excellent narrative of the conclusion of the voyage after
Cook's murder. He was master of the Resolution, and was on several
occasions entrusted with tasks of some consequence: as for instance on
first reaching Hawaii, when Cook sent him ashore to look for fresh water,
and again at Kealakeakura Bay (January 16, 1779) when he reported that he
had found good anchorage and fresh water "in a situation admirable to
come at." It was a fatal discovery, for on the white sands of that bay, a
month later (February 14), the great British seaman fell, speared by the

On each of Cook's voyages a call had been made at Tahiti in the Society
group. Bligh no doubt heard much about the charms of the place before he
first saw it himself. He was destined to have his own name associated
with it in a highly romantic and adventurous manner. The idyllic beauty
of the life of the Tahitians, their amiable and seductive
characteristics, the warm suavity of the climate, the profusion of food
and drink to be enjoyed on the island with the smallest conceivable
amount of exertion, made the place stand out in all the narratives of
Cook's expeditions like a green-and-golden gem set in a turquoise sea, a
lotos-land "in which it seemed always afternoon," a paradise where love
and plenty reigned and care and toil were not. George Forster, the German
naturalist who accompanied Cook on his second voyage, wrote of the men as
"models of masculine beauty," whose perfect proportions would have
satisfied the eye of Phidias or Praxiteles; of the women as beings whose
"unaffected smiles and a wish to please ensure them mutual esteem and
love;" and of the life they led as being diversified between bathing in
cool streams, reposing under tufted trees, feeding on luscious fruits,
telling tales, and playing the flute. In fact, Forster declared, they
"resembled the happy, indolent people whom Ulysses found in Phaeacia, and
could apply the poet's lines to themselves with peculiar propriety:

'To dress, to dance, to sing our sole delight,
The feast or bath by day, and love by night.'"

In Tahiti grew an abundance of breadfruit. It was in connection with this
nutritious food, one of nature's richest gifts to the Pacific, that Bligh
undertook a mission which involved him in a mutiny, launched him upon one
of the most dangerous and difficult voyages in the annals of British
seamanship, and provided a theme for a long poem by one of the greatest
of English authors. Byron it was who, writing as though the trees
sprouted quartern loaves ready baked, said of it (The Island 2 11):

"The bread-tree, which without the ploughshare yields
The unreaped harvest of unfurrowed fields,
And bakes its unadulterated loaves
Without a furnace in unpurchased groves,
And flings off famine from its fertile breast,
A priceless market for the gathering guest."

Breadfruit had been tasted and described by Dampier in the seventeenth
century. His description of it has all the terse directness peculiar to
the writing of the inquisitive buccaneer, with a touch of quaintness that
makes the passage desirable to quote:* (* Dampier's Voyages edition of
1729 1 page 294.)

"The breadfruit, as we call it, grows on a large tree as big and as tall
as our largest apple trees. It hath a spreading head full of branches and
dark leaves. The fruit grows on the boughs like apples; it is as big as a
penny loaf when wheat is at five shillings the bushel. The natives of
this island (Suam) use it for bread. They gather it when full-grown; then
they bake it in an oven, which scorcheth the rind and makes it black; but
they scrape off the outside black crust and there remains a tender thin
crust and the inside is soft, tender and white, like the crumb of a penny
loaf. There is neither seed nor stone in the inside, but all is of a pure
substance like bread; it must be eaten new, for if it is kept above
twenty-four hours it becomes dry and eats harsh and chokey; but 'tis very
pleasant before it is too stale."

By Dampier, who in the course of his astonishing career had consumed many
strange things--who found shark's flesh "good entertainment," and roast
opossum "sweet wholesome meat"--toleration in the matter of things edible
was carried to the point of latitudinarianism. We never find Dampier
squeamish about anything which anybody else could eat with relish. To
him, naturally, the first taste of breadfruit was pleasing. But Cook was
more critical. "The natives seldom make a meal without it," he said,
"though to us the taste was as disagreeable as that of a pickled olive
generally is the first time it is eaten." That opinion, perhaps, accords
with the common experience of neophytes in tropical gastronomy. But new
sensations in the matter of food are not always to be depended on. Sir
Joseph Banks disliked bananas when he first tasted them.

The immense popularity of Cook's voyages spread afar the fame of
breadfruit as an article of food. Certain West Indian planters were of
opinion that it would be advantageous to establish the trees on their
islands and to encourage the consumption of the fruit by their slaves.
Not only was it considered that the use of breadfruit would cheapen the
cost of the slaves' living, but--a consideration that weighed both with
the planters and the British Government in view of existing relations
with the United States--it was also believed that it would "lessen the
dependence of the sugar islands on North America for food and
necessaries."* (* Bryan Edwards History of the British West Indies 1819 1

The planters petitioned the Government to fit out an expedition to
transplant trees from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Sir Joseph Banks
strongly supported them, and Lord Hood, then First Lord of the Admiralty,
was sympathetic. In August, 1787, Lieutenant Bligh was appointed to the
command of the Bounty, was directed to sail to the Society Islands, to
take on board "as many trees and plants as may be thought necessary," and
to transplant them to British possessions in the West Indies.

The vessel sailed, with two skilled gardeners on board to superintend the
selection and treatment of the plants. Tahiti was duly reached, and the
business of the expedition was taken in hand. One thousand and fifteen
fine trees were chosen and carefully stowed. But the comfortable
indolence, the luxuriant abundance, the genial climate, the happy
hospitality of the handsome islanders, and their easy freedom from
compunction in reference to restraints imposed by law and custom in
Europe, had a demoralising effect upon the crew of the Bounty. A stay of
twenty-three weeks at the island sufficed to subvert discipline and to
persuade some of Bligh's sailors that life in Tahiti was far preferable
to service in the King's Navy under the rule of a severe and exacting

When the Bounty left Tahiti on April 14, 1787, reluctance plucked at the
heart of many of the crew. The morning light lay tenderly upon the plumes
of the palms, and a light wind filled the sails of the ship as she glided
out of harbour. As the lazy lapping wash of the waters against the low
outer fringe of coral was lost to the ear, the Bounty breasted the deep
ocean; and as the distinguishable features of green tree, white sand,
brown earth, and grey rock faded out of vision, wrapped in a haze of
blue, till at last the only pronounced characteristic of the island
standing up against the sky and sea was the cap of Point Venus at the
northern extremity--the departure must have seemed to some like that of
Tannhauser from the enchanted mountain, except that the legendary hero
was glad to make his return to the normal world, whereas all of Bligh's
company were not. For them, westward, whither they were bound,

"There gaped the gate
Whereby lost souls back to the cold earth went."

The discipline of ship's life, and the stormings and objurgations of the
commanding officer, chafed like an iron collar. At length a storm burst.

On April 28 the Bounty was sailing towards Tofoa, another of the Society
Islands. Just before sunrise on the following morning Bligh was aroused
from sleep, seized and bound in his cabin by a band of mutineers, led out
by the master's mate, Fletcher Christian, and, with eighteen companions,
dropped into a launch and bidden to depart. The followers of Christian
were three midshipmen and twenty-five petty officers and sailors. They
turned the head of the Bounty back towards their island paradise; and as
they sailed away, the mariners in the tossing little boat heard them
calling "Hurrah for Tahiti!"

The frail craft in which the nineteen loyalists were compelled to attempt
to traverse thousands of miles of ocean, where the navigation is perhaps
the most intricate in the world, was but 23 feet long by 6 feet 9 inches
broad and 2 feet 9 inches deep. Their provisions consisted of 150 pounds
of bread, 16 pieces of pork, each about two pounds in weight, six quarts
of rum, six bottles of wine, and 28 gallons of water. With this scanty
stock of nourishment, in so small a boat, Bligh and his companions
covered 3618 miles, crossing the western Pacific, sailing through Torres
Strait, and ultimately reaching Timor.

That Bligh was somewhat deficient in tact and sympathy in handling men,
cross-grained, harsh, and obstinate, is probably true. His language was
often lurid, he lavished foul epithets upon his crew, and he was not
reluctant to follow terms of abuse by vigorous chastisement. He called
Christian a "damned hound," some of the men "scoundrels, thieves and
rascals," and he met a respectful remonstrance with the retort: "You
damned infernal scoundrels, I'll make you eat grass or anything you can
catch before I have done with you." Naval officers of the period were not
addicted to addressing their men in the manner of a lady with a pet
canary. Had Bligh's language been the head and front of his offending, he
would hardly have shocked an eighteenth century fo'c'sle. But his
disposition does not seem to have bound men to him. He generated dislike.
Nevertheless it is credible that the explanation which he gave goes far
to explain the mutiny. He held that the real cause was a species of
sensuous intoxication which had corrupted his crew.

"The women of Tahiti," Bligh wrote, "are handsome, mild and cheerful in
their manners and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have
sufficient delicacy to make them admired and loved. The chiefs were so
much attached to our people that they rather encouraged their stay among
them than otherwise, and even made them promises of large possessions.
Under these and other attendant circumstances equally desirable, it is
perhaps not so much to be wondered at, though scarcely possible to have
been foreseen, that a set of sailors, many of them void of connections,
should be led away; especially when in addition to such powerful
inducements they imagined it in their power to fix themselves in the
midst of plenty on one of the finest islands in the world, where they
need not labour, and where the allurements of dissipation are beyond
anything that can be conceived...Had their mutiny been occasioned by any
grievance, either real or imaginary, I must have discovered symptoms of
their discontent, which would have put me on my guard; but the case was
far otherwise. Christian in particular I was on the most friendly terms
with; that very day he was engaged to have dined with me; and the
preceding night he excused himself from supping with me on pretence of
being unwell, for which I felt concerned, having no suspicions of his
integrity and honour."

Support is given to Bligh's explanation by a statement alleged to have
been made by Fletcher Christian a few years later, the genuineness of
which, however, is open to serious question. If it could be accepted,
Christian acquitted his commander of having contributed to the mutiny by
harsh conduct. He ascribed the occurrence "to the strong predilection we
had contracted for living in Tahiti, where, exclusive of the happy
disposition of the inhabitants, the mildness of the climate, and the
fertility of the soil, we had formed certain tender connections which
banished the remembrance of old England from our breasts." The weight of
evidence justifies the belief that Bligh, though a sailor of unequivocal
skill and dauntless courage, was an unlikeable man, and that aversion to
service under him was a factor contributing to the mutiny which cannot be
explained away.

Bligh is the connecting link between Cook and Flinders. Bligh learned
under Cook to experience the thrilling pleasure of discovery and to
pursue opportunities in that direction in a scientific spirit. Flinders
learnt the same lesson under Bligh, and bettered the instruction. Cook is
the first great scientific navigator whose name is associated with the
construction of the map of Australia; so much can be said without
disparagement of the adventurous Dutchmen who pieced together the outline
of the western and northern coasts. Flinders was the second; and Bligh,
pupil of the one and teacher of the other, deserves a better fate than to
be remembered chiefly as a sinister figure in two historic mutinies, that
of the Bounty, and that which ended his governorship of New South Wales
in 1808. Much worse men have done much worse things than he, have less
that is brave, honourable, enterprising and original to their credit, and
yet are remembered without ignominy. It is said by Hooker: "as oftentimes
the vices of wicked men do cause other their commendable virtues to be
abhorred, so the honour of great men's virtues is easily a cloak to their
errors." Bligh fell short of being a great man, but neither was he a bad
man; and the merit of his achievements, both as a navigator and amid the
shock of battle (especially at Copenhagen in 1801, under Nelson), must
not be overlooked, even though stern history will not permit his errors
to be cloaked.

Notwithstanding the failure of the Bounty expedition, Sir Joseph Banks
pressed upon the Government the desirableness of transplanting breadfruit
trees to the West Indies. He also proved a staunch friend to Bligh. The
result was that the Admiralty resolved to equip a second enterprise for
the same purpose, and to entrust the command of it to the same officer.

We may now follow the fortunes of Matthew Flinders under the tutelage of
this energetic captain.


Bligh's second expedition was authorised by the admiralty in March, 1791,
and the commander was consulted as to "what sort of vessel may be best
adapted to the object in view." The Providence, a 28-gun ship, was
chosen, with the brig Assistant as a tender. The latter was placed in
charge of Lieutenant Nathaniel Portlock. Flinders, eager for sea
experience, joined the Providence as a midshipman on May 8th, and thus
had the advantage of being under the immediate direction of her captain.

He took this step with Pasley's concurrence, if not actually upon his
advice. The captain wrote him an encouraging letter asking him to send
from time to time observations on places visited during the voyage; and
his protege complied with the injunction. It is to this fact that we owe
some entertaining passages from young Flinders' pen concerning the
voyage. The letters despatched to Pasley are lost; but Flinders, with the
love of neatness which was ever characteristic of him, sent only fair
copies, and some of his original drafts remain in manuscript. Pasley's
letter was as follows:* (*Flinders' Papers.)

Bellerophon, Spithead, June 3rd, 1791.

Dear Flinders,

I am favoured with your letter on your return from visiting your friends
at the country, and I am pleased to hear that you are so well satisfied
with your situation on board the Providence. I have little doubt of your
gaining the good opinion of Capt. Bligh, if you are equally attentive to
your duty there as you were in the Bellerophon. All that I have to
request in return for the good offices I have done you is that you never
fail writing me by all possible opportunities during your voyage; and
that in your letters you will be very particular and circumstantial in
regard to every thing and place you may chance to see or visit, with your
own observations thereon. Do this, my young friend, and you may rest
assured that my good offices will not be wanting some future day for your
advancement. All on board are well. Present my kind remembrances to
Captain and Mrs. Bligh, and believe me, yours very sincerely,


The Providence and Assistant left England on August 2nd. From Santa Cruz
in Teneriffe Flinders sent his first letter to Captain Pasley. It is
worth while to quote a few passages:* (* Flinders' Papers.)

"Not a large town; streets wide, ill-paved and irregular. The houses of
the principal inhabitants large; have little furniture, but are airy and
pleasant, suitable to the climate. Most of them have balconies, where the
owners sit and enjoy the air. Those of the lower classes ill-built,
dirty, and almost without furniture. In the square where the market is
held, near the pier, is a tolerably elegant marble obelisk in honour of
our Lady of Candelaria, the tutelar goddess of the place. The Spaniards
erected this statue, calling it Our Lady, keeping up some semblance of
the ancient worship that they might better keep the Tenerifeans in
subjection. At the top of the obelisk is placed the statue, and at its
base are four well executed figures, representing the ancient kings or
princes of Teneriffe, each of which has the shin-bone of a man's leg in
his hand. This image is held in great honour by the lower classes of
people, who tell many absurd stories of its first appearance in the
island, the many miracles she has wrought, etc.

"We visited a nunnery of the order of St. Dominic. In the chapel was a
fine statue of the Virgin Mary, with four wax candles burning before her.
Peeping through the bars, we perceived several fine young women at
prayers. A middle-aged woman opened the door halfway, but would by no
means suffer us to enter this sanctified spot. None of the nuns would be
prevailed upon to come near us. However, they did not seem at all
displeased at our visit, but presented us with a sweet candy they call
Dulce, and some artificial flowers, in return for which Mr. Smith* (* The
botanist.) gave them a dollar. In general these people appear to be a
merry, good-natured people, and are courteous to and appear happy to see
strangers. We found this always the case, although they said we were no
Christians: but they generally took care to make us pay well for what we
had. They live principally upon fruits and roots, are fond of singing and
dancing, and upon the whole they live as lazily, as contentedly, and in
as much poverty as any French peasant would wish to do."

The Cape of Good Hope was reached in October, and Flinders told Captain
Pasley what he thought of the Dutch colonists:

"The Dutch, from having great quantities of animal food, are rather
corpulent. Nevertheless they keep up their national characteristic for
carefulness. Neither are they very polite. A stranger will be treated
with a great deal of ceremony, but when you come to the solid part of a
compliment their generosity is at a stand. Of all the people I ever saw
these are the most ceremonious. Every man is a soldier and wears his
square-rigged hat, sword, epaulets, and military uniform. They never pass
each other without a formal bow, which even descends to the lowest ranks,
and it is even seen in the slaves."

On April 10th, 1792, Bligh's ships anchored at Tahiti, where they
remained till July 19th. There was no disturbance this time, and the
relations between Bligh and his crew were not embarrassed by the
indulgent kindness of the islanders. Their hospitality was not deficient,
but a wary vigilance was exercised.

At Tahiti Bligh found the major part of the crew of a whaler, the
Matilda, which had been wrecked about six days' sail from the island.
Some of the men accepted passages on the Providence and the Assistant;
some preferred to remain with the natives; one or two had already
departed in one of the lost ship's boats to make their way to Sydney.* (*
This incident is reported in the Star, a London newspaper, March 2nd,
1793.) Two male Tahitians were persuaded to accompany the expedition,
with a view to their exhibition before the Royal Society, in England,
when at length, laden with 600 breadfruit trees, it sailed for the West

The route followed from the Friendly Islands to the Caribbean Sea was not
via Cape Horn (since that cold and stormy passage would have destroyed
every plant), but back across the Pacific, through Torres Strait to
Timor, thence across the Indian Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope.
St. Helena was reached on December 17, and Bligh brought his ships safely
to Kingston, St. Vincent's, on January 13th 1793. Three hundred
breadfruit trees were landed at that island, and a like number taken to
Jamaica. The plants were in excellent condition, some of them eleven feet
high, with leaves 36 inches long. The gardener in charge reported to Sir
Joseph Banks that the success of the transplantations "exceeded the most
sanguine expectation." The sugar planters were delighted, and voted Bligh
500 pounds for his services.* (* Southey, History of the West Indies,
1827 3 61.) To accentuate the contrast between the successful second
expedition and the lamentable voyage of the Bounty, it is notable that
only one case of sickness occurred on the way, and that from Kingston it
was reported that "the healthy appearance of every person belonging to
the expedition is remarkable."* (* Annual Register 1793 page 6.)

But though nothing in the nature of a mutiny marred the voyage, Flinders'
journal shows that Bligh's harshness occasioned discontent. There was a
shortness of water on the run from the Pacific to the West Indies, and as
the breadfruit plants had to be watered, and their safe carriage was the
main object of the voyage, the men had to suffer. Flinders and others
used to lick the drops that fell from the cans to appease their thirst,
and it was considered a great favour to get a sip. The crew thought they
were unfairly treated, and somebody mischievously watered some plants
with sea-water. When Bligh discovered the offence, he flew into a rage
and "longed to flog the whole company." But the offender could not be
discovered, and the irate captain had to let his passion fret itself out.

Bligh published no narrative of this expedition; but Flinders was already
accustoming himself to keep careful notes of his observations. Twenty
years later, when preparing the historical introduction to his Voyage to
Terra Australis, he wrote out from his journal (and with Bligh's sanction
published) an account of the passage of the Providence and Assistant
through Torres Strait, as a contribution to the history of navigation and
discovery in that portion of Australasia. From the Pacific to the Indian
Ocean the passage was accomplished in nineteen days. "Perhaps," commented
Flinders, "no space of 3 1/2 degrees in length presents more dangers than
Torres Strait, but with caution and perseverance the captains, Bligh and
Portlock, proved them to be surmountable, and within a reasonable time."
Bligh's Entrance and Portlock Reef, marked on modern charts, are
reminders of a feat of navigation which even nowadays, with the dangers
accurately described, and the well-equipped Torres Strait pilot service
to aid them, mariners recognise as pregnant with serious risks. On this
occasion it was also attended with incidents which make it worth while to
utilise Flinders' notes, since they are of some biographical importance.

The high lands of the south-eastern extremity of Papua (New Guinea), were
passed on August 30th, and at dusk on the following day breakers
"thundering on the reef" were sighted ahead. On September 1st the vessels
edged round the north end of Portlock Reef. Thence the monotonous record
of soundings, shoals, reefs seen and charted, passages tried and
abandoned, in the prolonged attempt to negotiate a clear course through
the baffling coral barrier, is relieved by the story of one or two sharp
brushes with armed Papuans in their long, deftly-handled canoes. On
September 5th, while boats were out investigating a supposed passage near
Darnley Island, several large canoes shot into view. One of these, in
which were fifteen "Indians," black and quite naked, approached the
English cutter, and made signs which were interpreted to be amicable. The
officer in charge, however, suspecting treacherous intentions, did not
think it prudent to go near enough to accept a green cocoanut held up to
him, and kept his men rowing for the ship. Thereupon a native sitting on
the shed erected in the centre of the canoe, called a direction to the
Papuans below him, who commenced to string their bows. The officer
ordered his men to fire in self-defence, and six muskets were discharged.

"The Indians fell flat into the bottom of the canoe, all except the man
on the shed. The seventh musket was fired at him, and he fell also.
During this time the canoe dropped astern; and, the three others having
joined her, they all gave chase to the cutter, trying to cut her off from
the ship; in which they would probably have succeeded, had not the
pinnace arrived at that juncture to her assistance. The Indians then
hoisted their sails and steered for Darnley Island." Flinders had watched
the encounter from the deck of the Providence, and his seaman's word of
admiration for the skill of the savages in the management of their
canoes, is notable. "No boats could have been manoeuvred better in
working to windward, than were these canoes of the naked savages. Had the
four been able to reach the cutter, it is difficult to say whether the
superiority of our arms would have been equal to the great difference of
numbers, considering the ferocity of these people and the skill with
which they seemed to manage their weapons."

Five days later, between Dungeness and Warrior Islands, there was a
livelier encounter. A squadron of canoes attacked both ships in a daring
and vigorous fashion. The Assistant was pressed with especial severity,
so that Portlock had to signal for help. A volley of musketry had little
effect upon the Papuans; and when one wing of the attacking squadron,
numbering eight canoes, headed for the Providence, and a musket was fired
at the foremost, the natives responded with a great shout and paddled
forward in a body." Bligh had one of the great guns of the ship loaded
with round and grape shot, and fired fair into the first of the long
Papuan war canoes, which were full of savage assailants. The round shot
raked the whole length of the craft, and struck the high stern. Men from
other canoes, with splendid bravery, leaped into the water, and swam to
the assistance of their comrades, "plunging constantly to avoid the
musket balls which showered thickly about them." So hard was the attack
pressed, that three of the Assistant's crew were wounded, one afterwards
dying; and "the depth to which the arrows penetrated into the decks and
sides of the brig was reported to be truly astonishing." But bows and
arrows, on this as on many another occasion, were no match for gunnery;
so that, after a hot peppering, the Papuans gave up the fight, paddling
back to a safe distance as fast as they could, without exposing
themselves to fire. They rallied beyond reach of musket balls, as though
for a second onslaught, but a shot fired over their heads from the
Providence served to convince them of the hopelessness of their
endeavour, and they abandoned it.

An incident not without heroic pathos is recorded by Flinders. One native
was left sitting alone in the canoe which the gun-shot of the Providence
had raked and splintered. The men in the canoes which had made good their
flight observed their solitary companion, and some of them returned to
him; whereafter "with glasses, signals were perceived to be made by the
Indians to their friends on Dungeness Island, expressive, as was thought,
of grief and consternation." Whether the lone warrior was too severely
wounded to be moved, or whether he was some Papuan Casabianca clinging to
his shattered craft "whence all but he had fled" or been killed, or
hurled into the sea, we are not told. But that canoe had been foremost in
attack, perhaps the flagship of the squadron; and the memory of that
solitary warrior still sitting upon the floating wreck while his defeated
companions returned to him, and then left him, to explain his case with
gestures of grief to those on the island, clings to the memory of the
reader, as it did to that of the young observer and historian of the

No more natives were seen during the passage through Torres Strait, nor
were there other incidents to enliven the narrative, unless we include
the formal "taking possession of all the islands seen in the Strait for
His Britannic Majesty George III, with the ceremonies used on such
occasions" (September 16). The name bestowed upon the whole group of
islands was Clarence's Archipelago.

Flinders described the natives whom he saw carefully and accurately; and
his account of their boats, weapons, and mode of warfare is concise and
good. Some friendly Darnley Islanders were described as stoutly made,
with bushy hair; the cartilage between the nostrils cut away; the lobes
of the ears split, and stretched "to a good length." "They had no kind of
clothing, but wore necklaces of cowrie shells fastened to a braid of
fibres; and some of their companions had pearl-oyster shells hung round
their necks. In speaking to each other, their words seemed to be
distinctly pronounced. Their arms were bows, arrows, and clubs, which
they bartered for every kind of iron work with eagerness, but appeared to
set little value on anything else. The bows are made of split bamboo, and
so strong that no man in the ship could bend one of them. The string is a
broad slip of cane fixed to one end of the bow; and fitted with a noose
to go over the other end when strung. The arrow is a cane of about four
feet long, into which a pointed piece of the hard, heavy, casuarina wood
is firmly and neatly fitted; and some of them were barbed. Their clubs
are made of casuarina, and are powerful weapons. The hand part is
indented, and has a small knob, by which the firmness of the grasp is
much assisted; and the heavy end is usually carved with some device. One
had the form of a parrots head, with a ruff round the neck, and was not
ill done.

"Their canoes are about fifty feet in length, and appear to have been
hollowed out of a single tree; and the pieces which form the gunwales are
planks sewed on with fibres of the cocoanut and secured with pegs. These
vessels are low forward, but rise abaft; and, being narrow, are fitted
with an outrigger on each side to keep them steady. A raft, of greater
breadth than the canoe, extends over about half the length, and upon this
is fixed a shed or hut, thatched with palm leaves. These people, in
short, appeared to be dexterous sailors and formidable warriors, and to
be as much at ease in the water as in their canoes."

On September 19th the two ships, with caution and perseverance, had
threaded their dangerous way through the intricate maze of reefs and
shoals of Torres Strait, and found open sea to the westward. In latitude
10 degrees 8 1/2 minutes "no land was in sight, nor did anything more
obstruct Captain Bligh and his associates in their route to the island

It is easy to imagine the delight with which these experiences thrilled
the young midshipman on the Providence. His eighteenth birthday was spent
in the Pacific, in the early Autumn of a hemisphere where the sea was not
yet cloven by innumerable keels, and where beauty, enchantment and
mystery lay upon life and nature like a spell. A few years previously he
had been a schoolboy in the flattest, most monotonous of English shires.
Broad fields, dykes and fen had composed the landscape most familiar to
his eye. In these surroundings he had dreamed, as a boy will, of
palm-fanned islands in distant climes, of adventures with savage peoples,
of strange seas where great fishes are, and where romance touches all
that is with its purple light. Far horizons steeped in marvels had
bounded the vision of his imagining eye. His passion was to see and do in
realms at the back of the sunrise. He wanted to sail and explore in parts
represented by blank spaces on the map.

These dreams of the boy, basking with Robinson Crusoe under remote skies,
were suddenly translated into a reality as dazzling-bright and wonderful
as anything pictured in pages often and fondly conned. This was his first
voyage, and he was serving under a commander who had lived the romance
that other men wrote and read about, who was himself a living part of an
adventure whose story will be told and re-told to the centuries, and who
had served under as great and noble a captain as ever trod an English

The very nature of the voyage was bound to stimulate that "passion for
exploring new countries," to use Flinders' own phrase, the hope for which
was a strong factor in prompting him to choose the sea as a career. It
was a voyage whose primary object involved a stay in two of the loveliest
regions on the earth, the paradise of the Pacific and the gem-like
Antilles. The pride and pleasure of participation in discovery were his
forthwith. A new passage through an intricate and dangerous Strait was
found and charted; a whole archipelago was delineated, named, and taken
possession of for the British nation. The world's knowledge was
increased. There was something put down on the map which was not there
before. The contact with the islanders in the Strait gave a brisk element
of adventure to the expedition; and certainly Papuan warriors are foes as
wild and weird as any adventurer can desire to meet. The rescuing of
wrecked mariners at Tahiti added a spice of adventure of another sort.
From beginning to end, indeed, this voyage must have been as full of
charm as of utility.

The effect it had upon the future life of Matthew Flinders was very
striking. The whole of the salient features of his later career follow
from it. He made the most of his opportunities. Captain Bligh found him a
clever assistant in the preparation of charts and in making astronomical
observations. Indeed, says an expert writer, although Flinders was as yet
"but a juvenile navigator, the latter branch of scientific service and
the care of the timekeepers were principally entrusted to him."* (* Naval
Chronicle Volume 32 180.) These facts indicate that he was applying
himself seriously to the scientific side of his profession, and that he
had won the confidence of a captain who was certainly no over-indulgent
critic of subordinates.

The Providence and the Assistant returned to England in the latter part
of 1793. Before Flinders once more sighted the Australian coastline he
was to experience the sensations of battle, and to take a small part in
the first of the series of naval engagements connected with the
Revolutionary and Napoleonic era.


When Bligh's expedition returned, Europe was staggering under the shock
of the French Revolution. The head of Louis XVI was severed in January;
the knife of Charlotte Corday was plunged into the heart of Marat in
July; Marie Antoinette, the grey discrowned Queen of thirty-eight,
mounted the scaffold in October. The guillotine was very busy, and France
was frantic amid internal disruption and the menace of a ring of foes.

The English governing classes had been clamouring for war. It seemed to
many political observers that it was positively needful to launch the
country into an international struggle to divert attention from demands
for domestic reform. "Democratic ambition was awakened; the desire of
power, under the name of reform, was rapidly gaining ground among the
middling ranks; the only mode of checking the evil was by engaging in a
foreign contest, by drawing off the ardent spirits into active service
and, in lieu of the modern desire for innovation, rousing the ancient
gallantry of the British people."* (* Alison, History of Europe, 1839 2
128.) French military operations in the Netherlands, running counter to
traditional British policy, were provocative, and the feeling aroused by
the execution of Louis immediately led Pitt's ministry to order the
French Ambassador, Chauvelin, to leave London within eight days. He left
at once. On February 1st, acting on Chauvelin's report of the disposition
and preparations of Great Britain, France formally declared war.

Flinders was with Bligh, peacefully landing breadfruit trees in the West
Indies, when this momentous opening of a twenty-two years' conflict
occurred. When the expedition reached England, every port and dockyard on
the south coast was humming with preparations for a great naval struggle.
The Channel Fleet, under Lord Howe's command, was cruising in search of
the enemy's ships of war. Flinders' patron, Pasley, who had hoisted his
broad pennant as commodore on the Bellerophon, was actively engaged in
this service. In October, 1793, he was detached by Howe to look for five
French vessels that had some time before chased the British frigate Circe
into Falmouth. Howe himself, with a fleet of 22 sail, put to sea later in
the same month. On November 18 his squadron sighted six French ships of
the line and some frigates, and gave chase. But they were seen late in
the day, and soon darkness prevented an engagement. On the following
morning the enemy was again sighted by the chasing squadron under Pasley;
but the Latona signalled that the French were in superior strength, and
the British detachment retired.* (* James, Naval History, 1837 1 60.)
Howe's cruise was barren of results, and the British fleet returned to
Torbay. Naval operations were suspended for several months.

Flinders naturally took advantage of the earliest opportunity to report
himself to the friend who had first helped him into the King's Navy.
Pasley, who was promoted on April 12th, 1794, to the rank of Rear-Admiral
of the White, again welcomed him on board the Bellerophon and, hearing
from Captain Bligh excellent accounts of his diligence and usefulness,
appointed him one of his aides-de-camp. It was in this capacity that he
took part in the great battle off Brest on June 1st, 1794, signalised in
British naval history as "the glorious First of June."

Lord Howe, with the Channel Fleet (thirty-four ships of the line and
fifteen frigates) put to sea on May 2nd with two purposes: first, to
convoy to a safe distance from the probable field of hostilities a
squadron of 148 British merchantmen bound for various ports; second, to
intercept and destroy a French fleet which was known to be convoying a
large company of provision-ships from America. War, bad harvests, the
disorganization of industry, and revolutionary upheavals, had produced an
acute scarcity of food in France, and the arrival of these vessels was
awaited with intense anxiety. To prevent their arrival, or to destroy the
French squadron, would be to strike a serious blow at the enemy. Howe had
under him a fleet eager for fight; against him, a foe keenly aware how
vitally necessary to their country was the arrival of the food-ships.

The French fleet (twenty-six ships of the line) under the command of
Villaret-Joyeuse, put to sea from Brest on May 16. Some foggy days
intervened. On the 28th Howe sighted them. The French admiral formed his
ships in a close line. Howe's plan was first to get his fleet to windward
of the enemy, then to sail down, pierce his line, and engage his vessels
to leeward.

The Bellerophon was in action shortly after coming within striking
distance, on the 28th May. Pasley, at six o'clock in the evening,
attacked the French rear, his immediate antagonist being the
Revolutionnaire, 110 guns. A hot duel, maintained with splendid
intrepidity by the British rear-admiral, continued for over an hour and a
quarter, for the other ships of the British fleet were unable to get up
to support the fast-sailing Bellerophon. She was severely handled by her
large antagonist, and was hampered in her ability to manoeuvre by a shot
which injured her mainmast. Pasley therefore, on a signal from the
Admiral, bore up. The Revolutionnaire was now attacked from a distance by
the Russell, the Marlborough and the Thunderer, and endeavoured to make
off, but was blocked by the Leviathan. The Audacious (74) took up the
work which the Bellerophon had commenced, and, laying herself on the lee
quarter of the Revolutionnaire, poured a rain of shot into her. The fight
was continued in a rough sea far into the twilight of that early summer
evening; until, about 10 o'clock, the Revolutionnaire was a mere floating
hulk. Her flag had either been lowered or shot down, but she was not
captured, and was towed into Rochefort on the following day. The
Audacious was so badly knocked about that she was of no use for later
engagements, and was sent home.

This was Matthew Flinders' first taste of war.

Howe's plan for the big battle that was imminent involved much
manoeuvring, and, as Nelson wrote in his celebrated "plan of attack"
before Trafalgar, "a day is soon lost in that business." The British
manoeuvred to get the weather gauge; Villaret-Joyeuse to keep it. On May
29th Howe in the Queen Charlotte pierced the French line with two other
ships, the Bellerophon and the Leviathan, and there was some fighting.
The Bellerophon got to windward of the enemy by passing in front of the
French Terrible (110), and put in some excellent gunnery practice. She
sailed so close to the French ship to starboard as almost to touch her,
and brought down the enemy's topmast and lower yards with a broadside,
whilst at the same time she raked the Terrible with her larboard guns.*
(* There is an interesting engraving of the Bellerophon passing through
the French line and firing both her broadsides in the Naval Chronicle
Volume 1, and a plan of the manoeuvre, showing the course of the
Bellerophon, in James's Naval History.)

May 30 and 31 were foggy days, and neither fleet could see the other. On
June 1st there was a blue sky, a brilliant sun, a lively sea, and a wind
that favoured the plans of the British Admiral. The signal for close
action was flown from the masthead of the Queen Charlotte. Howe ordered
his ships to sail on an oblique course down upon the French line, the two
fleets having during the night lain in parallel lines stretching east and
west. The intention was to break the French line near the centre, each
British captain sailing round the stern of his antagonist, and fighting
her to leeward, thus concentrating the attack on the enemy's rear,
cutting it off from the van, and preventing flight.

The Bellerophon was the second ship in the British line, next after the
Caesar. Flinders was upon the quarterdeck as she steered through her
selected gap, which was on the weather quarter of the Eole; and an
anecdote of his behaviour on that memorable occasion fortunately
survives. The guns on the quarterdeck were loaded and primed ready for
use, but Pasley did not intend to fire them until he had laid himself on
the lee of his chosen adversary, and could pour a broadside into her with
crushing effect. There was a moment when the gunners were aloft trimming
sails. As the Bellerophon was passing close under the stern of the French
three-decker--within musket-shot, James says--* (* Naval History 1 154.)
Flinders seized a lighted match and rapidly fired as many of the
quarterdeck guns as would plump shot fairly into her.* (* Naval Chronicle
32 180.) Pasley saw him and, shaking him by the collar, said, sternly:
"How dare you do that, youngster, without my orders?" Flinders replied
that he "thought it a fine chance to have a shot at 'em." So it was,
though not in conformity with orders; and probably Pasley, as good a
fighter as there was in the fleet, liked his young aide-de-camp rather
the more for his impetuous action.

The guns of the Bellerophon were opened upon the Eole at 8.45, and
battered her severely. The British vessel was subjected in turn, however,
not only to the fire of her chosen victim, but also to that of the
Trajan. At ten minutes to eleven o'clock a shot from the Eole took off
Pasley's leg, and he was carried down to the cockpit, whereupon the
command devolved upon Captain William Hope. It must have been a
distressing moment for Flinders, despite the intense excitement of
action, when his friend and commander fell; it was indeed, as will be
seen, a crucial moment in his career. A doggerel bard of the time
enshrined the event in a verse as badly in need of surgical aid as were
the heroes whom it celebrates:

"Bravo, Bowyer, Pasley, Captain Hutt,
Each lost a leg, being sorely hurt;
Their lives they valued but as dirt,
When that their country called them!"*

(* Naval Songs and Ballads, Publications of the Navy Record Society,
Volume 33 270.)

The fight was continued with unflagging vigour, in the absence of the
gallant rear-admiral, who, as another lyrist of the event informs us,
smiled and said:

"Fight on my lads and try
To make these rebel Frenchmen know
That British courage still will flow
To make them strike or die."

At a quarter before noon the Eole had received such a hammering that she
endeavoured to wear round under shelter of her leader; but in doing so
she lost mainmast and foretopmast. The Bellerophon, too, had by this time
been sufficiently hard hit to cause Hope to signal to the Latona for
assistance. Her foretopmast and maintopmast had gone, and her mainmast
was so badly damaged as to be dangerous. Her rigging was cut to pieces,
all her boats were smashed, and she was practically as crippled as was
her brave commander, upon whom the surgeons had been operating down
below, amid the blood of the cockpit and the thunder and smoke of the

The battle ended about 1 p.m. The French fleet was badly beaten, and
Villaret-Joyeuse at the end of the day drew back to Brest only a
battered, splintered and ragged remnant of the fine squadron which he had
commanded. Still, the French provision ships slipped by and arrived
safely in port. The squadron had been sent out to enable them to get in,
and in they were, though it had cost a fleet to get them in. Nelson used
the phrase "a Lord Howe victory" disparagingly. Nothing short of a
complete smashing of the enemy and the utter frustration of his purposes
would ever satisfy that ardent soul.

For the sake of clearness, the general scheme of the battle has been
described, together with the part played in it by the Bellerophon; but we
fortunately have a detailed account of it by Flinders himself. Young as
he was, only a few weeks over 20 years of age, he was evidently cool, and
his journal is crowded with carefully observed facts, noted amidst the
heat and confusion of conflict; and it is doubtful whether there is in
existence a better story of this important fleet action. The manuscript
of his journal occupies forty foolscap pages. It is much damaged by
sea-water, the paper in some parts having been rendered quite pulpy. But
the sheets relating to the 1st of June are entirely legible. As the
reader will see, there is here no rhetoric, no excited use of vivid
adjectives to give colour to the story. It is a calmly observed piece of
history. Read attentively, it enables one to live through the stirring
events with which it deals in a singularly thrilling style. We feel the
crash and thunder and hustle of battle far more keenly from the detailed
accumulation of occurrences here presented than any scene-painting prose
could make us do. The journal begins on September 7th, 1793, when
Flinders joined the Bellerophon, and continues till August 10th, 1794,
when he quitted her. In the early part it deals principally with cruising
up and down the Channel looking for the enemy's ships. Occasionally there
was a skirmish. We may select a few instances from this period, before
coming to what immediately preceded the great day:

"Wednesday, 11th (September, 1793) a.m. Hoisted a broad pennant by order
of Lord Howe, Capt.
Pasley being appointed a commodore of the fleet. Weighed and anchored in
our station in Torbay.

"Monday, November 18th.* (* See note below.) Saw nine or ten sail,
seemingly large ships, standing towards us. The admiral made the Russell
and Defence signals to chase, also the Audacious; and soon after ours. By
this time the strange ships had brought to, hull down, to windward,
seemingly in some confusion. The Ganges' signal was also made to chase.
At 9 the Admiral made the sign for the strange fleet being an enemy, and
for our sternmost ships to make more sail. At 10 the signal to engage as
the other ships came up was made. The enemy had now hauled their wind,
and standing from us with as much sail as they could carry. Split one
jib; got another bent as fast as possible. We were now the headmost line
of battle ship and gaining fast upon the enemy; but the main part of our
fleet seemed rather to drop from them. St. Agnes north 34 degrees east 89
miles. Ship all clear for action since 9 o'clock.

"Tuesday, November 19th, 1793. Judge six of the enemy's ships to be of
the line, two frigates and two brigs...On the wind shifting at 4 in a
squall, tacked, as did the Latona, which brought her near the rear of the
enemy's ships, at which she fired several shot; she tacked again at 5,
and fired, which the sternmost of their ships returned. At dark the enemy
passed to windward of us, about 5 or 6 miles...12, set top-gallant-sails,
but obliged to take them in again for fear of carrying away the masts.
Sundry attempts were made during the night to set, but as often obliged
to take them in. At 12 lost sight of all our ships except one frigate.
The weather very hazy, with squalls at times, and at 2 a heavy shower of
rain, which lasted a considerable time. When it cleared a little, saw two
or three of the enemy's ships ahead of the others on the lee bow. Very
thick and hazy, with much rain. Made the signal that the enemy had bore
away. Saw the Latona and Phoenix, who seemed suspicious of each other,
but on discovering they were friends both bore away after one of the
enemy's ships...About 9 the Phoenix and Latona being the only friends in
sight, the latter made the signal for the enemy being superior to the
ships chasing. Soon after we made the signal to call the frigates in...In
the firing the preceding evening the Latona received a shot between wind
and water in the breadroom, and another in the galley; but happily no one
was hurt and but little injury received."

An amusing example of an attempt to "dodge," under false colours, is
related on the following day. The trick did not succeed.

"Wednesday, November 27th, 1793, a.m. Hazy weather. Squadron in company.
Saw a strange ship
to the southward, who hoisted an Union Jack at the main topmast head and
a red flag at the fore. The Phoenix being ahead made the private signal,
but the stranger not answering she made the signal for an enemy. We
immediately made the general signal to chase. At 10 the Phoenix and
Latona fired a few shots at her, upon which she hoisted French colours,
discharged her guns, and struck. She proved to be La Blonde of 28 guns
and 190 men. The squadron brought to. The French captain came on board
and surrendered his sword to the commodore. Separated the prisoners
amongst the squadron. An officer of the Phoenix sent to take charge of
the prize and a party of men from each ship.

"Tuesday, December 1st, 1793. Brought to. The Phoenix sent into Falmouth,
Mr. Waterhouse, Lieutenant, sent in her to take charge of the Blonde

The French fleet, as related above, put out of Brest on May 16, 1794.
Flinders tells us how they were sighted, and what happened during the
days preceding the great battle:

"Friday, May 23rd. The Southampton brought a strange brig into the fleet
and destroyed her...a.m. A fine little ship, called the Albion, of
Bermuda, set on fire by the Glory. The Aquilon brought a strange ship
into the fleet. A galliot, with Dutch colours inverted, passed through
the fleet, having been set on fire by the Niger...A French man-of-war,
captured and brought into the fleet by the frigates, was set on fire.

"Saturday, May 24. The ship brought into the fleet by the Aquilon left us
and stood to the eastward. She was bound to Hull, and was part of a Dutch
convoy, most of which had been taken and destroyed by the French fleet on
Wednesday last.

"Sunday, May 25th. At daybreak saw four sail to windward; our squadron
sent in chase. Fired a shot and brought to a French brig, man-of-war.
Made signal that the prize was not secure, and chased a large ship
further to windward, apparently of the line, and with another ship in
tow. Tacked as soon as she was on our beam. She had cast off her prize as
soon as we fired at the brig. In passing, fired at and brought to a
French corvette; but left her for the fleet to pick up. Passed to leeward
of the ship the chase had in tow. She appeared to be a large merchantman
and had up American colours. The frigates in chase picked her up soon
after. At 10 the chase was nearly hull down, and gained upon us. Stood
back to the fleet, being recalled by signal. Saw one of the prizes in
flames, and found the three had been destroyed at noon; 162 leagues west
by south of Ushant."

In the ensuing pages we are brought into the thick of the battle.

"Wednesday, May 28th. Saw two strange sail, one of which the Phoenix
spoke, and soon after made signal for a strange fleet south-south-west.
About 8, we counted 33 sail, 24 or 25 of which appeared to be of the
line, and all standing down towards us. At 8.30 our signal was made to
reconnoitre the enemy--as we were now certain they were. A frigate of
their's was likewise looking at us. At noon the enemy's fleet south-west
to west-south-west, on the larboard tack under an easy sail in line
ahead, and distant 3 or 4 leagues. Our fleet 3 or 4 leagues to leeward in
the order of sailing or under a press of sail. Ushant north 82 degrees
east 143 leagues.

"Thursday, May 29th, 1794. Fresh gales with rain at times, and a swell
from the westward. Repeated the general signals for chase, battle, etc.
Kd.* ship occasionally, working to windward under a press of sail, our
squadron and the frigates in company, and our fleet a few miles to

(* "Kd. ship" is an expression which puzzled Professor Flinders Petrie,
who appended a note to the Flinders papers, suggesting that it could
hardly mean kedged. Captain Bayldon supplies an exceedingly interesting

"Without the least doubt 'Kd. ship' means 'tacked ship.' 'Kd.' is either
a private abbreviation of Flinders' for 'tacked' or else he intended to
have written 'Tkd.' There is no nautical term beginning with K which
would make the least sense under the circumstances. 'Kedged' is utterly
inadmissable; both fleets were under way in pretty heavy weather.
'Working to windward' practically means 'tacking ship.' So why did
Flinders mention an obvious fact, 'tacked ship'? Because the weather was
bad, strong breezes, heavy swell, and therefore it was very hazardous to
tack ship (on account of throwing the sails aback) and also many ships
could not be forced into tacking with a heavy head swell. Consequently it
is usual to wear ship under these conditions (turn her round before the
wind). So he then mentions 'under a press of sail,' to force her up into
the wind (also making it a risky manoeuvre, for they could easily lose
their masts--foremast especially). Hence he was proud of the manoeuvre,
so mentions, 'tacked ship occasionally, under a press of sail.' On the
29th May at 8 a.m., the French van wore in succession. (Fresh wind, heavy
head sea). Soon after noon (Flinders' old nautical time gives May 30th)
Lord Howe signalled the British fleet to tack in succession. The leading
ship, the Caesar, instead of obeying, made the signal of inability and
wore round. The next ship, the Queen, also wore. So (at 1.30 p.m.) Lord
Howe set the example in the Queen Charlotte and tacked. Pasley's
Bellerophon followed him, and tacked also; the Leviathan tacked and
followed her. These three ships were the only ones to tack. All the
remainder wore, and so did the French. Either their captains would not
take the risk, or else could not force their ships through the heavy head
sea. So I expect Flinders and the 'Bully ruffians' felt elated at their
performance and he intended to record 'Tkd. ship.'")

"About 3 the Russell, being a mile or two to windward of us, began to
fire on the enemy's rear, as they were hauling on the larboard tack, and
continued to stand on with the Thunderer and frigates, to get into their
wake. We tacked a little before the rear ship was on our beam, which
enabled us to bring them to action a considerable time before the other
ships could come up to our assistance. Our first fire was directed on a
large frigate which brought up the enemy's rear, but she soon made sail
and went to windward of the next ship (a three-decker)* (* The
Revolutionnaire.) on whom we immediately pointed our guns. In a few
minutes she returned it with great spirit, our distance from her being
something more than a mile. My Lord Howe, seeing us engaged with a
three-decked ship, and the next ahead of him frequently giving us a few
guns, made the Russell and Marlborouqh's signals to come to our
assistance, they being on the weather quarter. About dusk more of the
fleet had got up with us, the signal having been made to chase without
regard to order. The Leviathan and Audacious, particularly, passed to
windward of us, and came to close engagement; the first keeping as close
to him to leeward as she could fetch, and the latter fetching to windward
of him, laid herself athwart his stern and gave a severe raking. The
headmost of the French fleet were apparently hove to, but made no effort
to relieve their comrade. At this time our maincap was seen to be so
badly sprung as to oblige us to take in the main topsail; the larboard
topsail sheet block was likewise shot away. Got down the top-gallant yard
and mast, and, the ship being scarcely under command, we made the signal
for inability. Soon after the Admiral called us by signal into his wake.
The enemy's rear ship about 9 had his mizzenmast gone and he bore down
towards us, the Russell and Thunderer striking close to his weather
quarter and lee bow, keeping up a severe fire, but he scarcely returned a
shot. Having got clear of them he continued coming down on us, apparently
with the intention of striking to our flag, but firing a shot now and
then. He was intercepted by one of our ships, who running to leeward of
him soon silenced his guns, and, we concluded, had obliged him to strike.
The enemy's fleet were now collected about 3 miles to windward, carrying
lights, as did ours. We were in no regular order, it having been broken
up by the chase. A.M., employed securing the maincap, etc. All hands kept
at quarters. Fresh breezes and hazy weather. At daybreak the enemy's line
was formed about 2 miles distant, and our commander in chief made the
signal to form the line of battle, and take stations as most convenient.
We bore down and took ours astern of the Queen Charlotte, the Marlborough
and Royal Sovereign following. About 8 our fleet tacked in succession,
with a view to cut off the enemy's rear, the Caesar leading and my Lord
Howe the 10th ship. As soon as our van were sufficiently near to bring
them to action, the enemy's whole fleet wore in succession, and ran to
leeward of their line in order to support their rear, and edged down van
to van. At 10 the firing commenced between the headmost ships of both
lines, but at too great a distance to do much execution, and the Admiral
made the signal to tack in succession in order to bring the enemy to
close action, but not being taken notice of, about noon it was repeated
with a gun. The Leviathan, being next ahead of the Admiral, fired some
guns, but the Queen Charlotte and those astern did not attempt it. Hazy
weather at noon with a considerable swell from the westward. Latitude
observed to be 47 degrees 35 minutes north. NOTE--We found this morning
at daybreak that the Audacious was missing, and we concluded was the ship
who had secured the prize, neither being in sight.* (* Of course this
surmise was incorrect. The Audacious had not secured the Revolutionnaire
which was towed into Rochefort by the Audacieux (curious similarity in
names). The Audacious badly crippled made her way to Plymouth
alone.--[Captain Bayldon's note].)

"Friday, May 30th. Fresh breezes and hazy weather. The signal for the van
to tack was again repeated, when the Caesar made the signal of inability;
but at last they got round, and the Admiral made signal to cut through
the enemy's line; but finding our leading ships were passing to leeward,
we tacked a considerable time before the ships came in succession, and
luffed up as close to them as possible. The enemy were now well within
point-blank shot, which began to fall very thick about us, and several
had passed through our sails before we tacked. Immediately we came into
the Queen Charlotte's wake we tacked, lay up well for the enemy's rear,
and began a severe fire, giving it to each ship as we passed. My Lord
Howe in the Charlotte kept his luff, and cut through their line between
the 4th and 5th ship in the rear. We followed, and passed between the 2nd
and 3rd. The rest of the fleet passed to leeward. Their third ship gave
us a severe broadside on the bow as we approached to pass under her
stern, and which we took care to return by two on her quarter and stern.
Before we had cleared her, her fore and maintop masts fell over the side,
and she was silenced for a while, but it was only till we had passed her.
Their rear ship received several broadsides even from our three-deckers,
but kept her colours up. The Orion ran down to her, but getting upon her
beam and too far to leeward was obliged to leave her, and she got to her
own fleet, whom we were now to windward of. Lord Howe made the signal to
tack, and for a general chase, but few of the van ships were able to
follow him. For ourselves, we lay to, to reeve new braces and repair the
rigging, which was entirely cut to pieces forward. The foresail was
rendered useless, and was cut away, and being only able to set a
close-reefed main topsail for fear of the cap giving way, we were not
able to follow his lordship. The French perceiving how few followed them,
rallied, tacked, and supported their disabled ships, and even made a
feint to cut off the Queen, who was rendered a wreck. The Admiral, seeing
their intention, bore down with several of the heavy ships who had not
been engaged, and forced them to leeward of our disabled ships. At 5.30
having got a new foresail bent, and the rigging in a little order, we
bore down and joined the Admiral, who soon after formed the line in two
divisions, and stood to the westward under an easy sail abreast of the
enemy, who were to leeward in a line ahead; the disabled ships in both
fleets repairing their damages, several of theirs being without topmasts
and topsail yards. At sunset saw two ships pass to windward, conjectured
to be the Audacious and prize. Employed splicing and knotting the
rigging, and repairing sails, not one of which but had several shot
through them. The truck of the foretopgallant mast was likewise shot
away. A.M., thick foggy weather. Saw the enemy at times north-north-west
4 or 5 miles. At noon very foggy. Latitude 47 degrees 39 minutes north by
dull observation.

"Saturday, May 31st, 1794. Lost sight of the enemy and only four of our
own ships in sight. People employed repairing sail, rigging, etc., with
all expedition. At noon thick and foggy. No enemy in sight; 30 sail of
our own ships.

"Sunday, June 1st, 1794.* (* Nautical reckoning in Flinders' day was 12
hours ahead; i.e., his June 1 began at noon on May 31. Occurrences
following "a.m.," happened on June 1 by the Almanac.) Moderate breezes
and foggy weather. Before two it began to clear up. Saw the enemy to
leeward, 8 or 9 miles distant, and made the signal for that purpose. Soon
after the whole fleet bore down towards them by signal. The enemy were
edging away from the wind, and several of their ships were changing
stations in the line; some of them without topmasts and topsail yards.
About 7, the van of our fleet being within three miles of the enemy's
centre, the heavy ships in the rear a considerable way astern, the
Admiral made the signal to haul to the wind together on the larboard
tack, judging we should not be able to bring on a general action
to-night. At sunset the enemy were in a line ahead from north-west by
west to north-east by east about four miles distant, and apparently
steering about two points from the wind. At 11 the Phaeton passed along
the line, and informed the different ships that Lord Howe intended
carrying single reefed T.S.F. sail, jib and M.T.M.S. sail.* (* Letters
probably denote single reefed Top Sails, Fore sail, jib and Main Topmast
and Main Stay sails.) After speaking us he kept on our lee bow; each ship
carrying a light by signal. A.M., fresh breezes and cloudy. At daybreak
the enemy not in sight, our rear ships a long way astern, their signal
made to make more sail; when the line became tolerably connected, the
whole fleet bore away and steered north-west by signal. A little before
six saw the enemy in the north by east about 3 leagues. Made the signal
to the Admiral for that purpose, who by signal ordered the fleet to alter
the course to starboard together, bearing down towards them. About 8,
being nearly within shot of the enemy's van, hove to for the rear of the
fleet to come up. Lord Howe made the signal 34, which we understood was
to pass through the enemy's line, but it did not seem to be understood by
the rest of the fleet. At 8.10 the signal was made to bear up and each
engage his opponent. We accordingly ran down within musket shot of our
opponent, and hove to, having received several broadsides from their van
ships in so doing. We now began a severe fire upon our opponent, the
second ship in the enemy's van, which she returned with great briskness.
The van ship likewise fired many shot at us, his opponent the Caesar
keeping to windward, not more than two points before our beam in general,
and of course nearly out of point-blank shot. About 8.30 Admiral Graves
made his and the Russell's signal to engage their opponent; we likewise
made Captain Molloy's (the Caesar) signal twice to bear down and come to
close action. About 9 the action became general throughout the two
fleets, but the Tremendous kept out of the line, but on being ordered in
by signal from the Admiral, she bore down after some time. A little
before 11 our brave Admiral (Pasley) lost his leg by an 18-pound shot,
which came through the barricading of the quarter-deck. It was now the
heat of the action. The Caesar was not yet come close to his opponent,
who in consequence of that fired all his after guns at us. Our own ship
kept up a severe fire, and by keeping well astern to let the Caesar take
her station, their third van ship shot up on our quarter, and for some
time fired all his fore guns upon us. Our shot was directed on three
different ships as the guns could be got to bear. In ten or fifteen
minutes we saw the foremast of the third ship go by the board, and the
second ship's main-top-sail-yard down upon the cap. Otherwise the two
headmost had not received much apparent injury, at least in the rigging.
At 11 1/4, however, they both bore away and quitted the line, their
Admiral being obliged to do the same some time before by the Queen
Charlotte. On seeing the two van ships hauling upon the other tack, we
conjectured they meant to give us their starboard guns. The Caesar's
signal was immediately made by us to chase the flying ships. On his
bearing down they were put into confusion, and their ship falling down
upon them they received several broadsides from the Leviathan and us,
before they could get clear; which when they effected they kept away a
little, then hauled their wind in the starboard tack, and stood away from
the opposing fleets. And now, being in no condition to follow, we ceased
firing; the main and foretopmast being gone, every main shroud but one on
the larboard side cut through, and many on the other, besides having the
main and foremasts with all the rigging and sails in general much
injured. We made the Latona's signal to come to our assistance, and got
entirely out of action. When the smoke cleared away, saw eleven ships
without a mast standing, two of whom proved to be the Marlborough and
Defence. The rest were enemy's, who, notwithstanding their situation kept
their colours up, and fired at any of our ships that came near them. The
Leviathan's opponent particularly (the same ship whose foremast we shot
away) lying perfectly dismasted, the Leviathan ran down to him to take
possession; but on her firing a gun to make him haul down his colours, he
returned a broadside, and a severe action again commenced between them
for nearly half an hour, and we could see shot falling on the water on
the opposite side of the Frenchman, which appeared to have gone through
both his sides, the ships being at half a cable's length from each other.
The Leviathan falling to leeward could not take the advantage of him her
sails gave her, and, seeing his obstinacy, left him, but not before his
fire was nearly silenced. About 11.30 the firing was pretty well ceased
on all sides, the Queen having only a foremast standing was fallen to
leeward between the two fleets. She stood on the larboard tack to fetch
our fleet, keeping to the wind in an astonishing manner, which we
afterwards learnt was effected by getting up boat's sails abaft. In this
situation every ship she passed gave her a broadside or more, which she
returned with great spirit, keeping up an almost incessant blaze. After
she had stood on past the fleets, she wore round and stood back, pursuing
the same conduct as before, but the French, having collected their
best-conditioned ships in a body, and being joined by two or three other
disabled ships, were making off, having apparently given up all ideas of
saving the rest. On this our fleet stood down a little, and the Queen
joined. We were now employed knotting, splicing, repairing, etc. the
rigging, cutting away the wrecks of the fore and main topmasts, and
securing the lower masts. Fortunately no accident happened with the
powder, or with guns bursting. We had but three men killed outright (a
fourth died of his wounds very soon after) and about 30 men wounded,
amongst whom five lost their limbs, and the other leg of one man was so
much shattered as to be taken off some time after. Our brave Admiral was
unfortunately in this list, as before observed. Captain Smith of the
Marines and Mr. Chapman, boatswain, were amongst the wounded on the
second day. Most of our spars were destroyed, and the boats severely
injured. About noon we had still fine weather and the enemy standing away
from us, except one ship, which did not seem injured, and paraded to
windward, as if with the intention of giving some of us disabled ships a
brush. However, we were well prepared for him, having got tolerably clear
of the wreck, and he stood back again and out of sight, having spoken one
of their wrecks. Lord Howe made the signal to form the line as most
convenient, but it was a long time before that movement could be

Flinders wrote in his journal an estimate of the French sailors who were
put on board his ship as prisoners. It is of some historical value:

"Their seamen, if we may judge from our own prisoners, are in a very bad
state both with respect to discipline and knowledge of their profession;
both which were evidently shown by the condition we saw them in on the
31st, many of them being without topmasts and topsail yards, and nearly
in as bad a state as on the 29th after the action. 'Tis true they were
rather better when we saw them in the morning of June 1st. Out of our 198
prisoners there certainly cannot be above 15 or 20 seamen, and all
together were the dirtiest, laziest set of beings conceivable. How an
idea of liberty, and more so that of fighting for it, should enter into
their heads, I know not; but by their own confession it is not their wish
and pleasure, but that of those who sent them; and so little is it their
own that in the Brunswick (who was engaged yardarm and yardarm with the
Vengeur) they could see the French officers cutting down the men for
deserting their quarters. Indeed, in the instances of the Russell and
Thunderer when close to the Revolutionnaire, and ours when cutting the
line, the French do not like to come too close. A mile off they will
fight desperately."

Pasley's loss of a leg had a decisive effect upon the career of Matthew
Flinders. So fine a sailor and so tough a fighting man would
unquestionably, if not partially incapacitated, have had conferred upon
him during the following years of war commands that would have led to his
playing a very prominent part in fleet operations. As it was, he did not
go to sea again, though he was promoted through various ranks to that of
Admiral of the Blue (1801). He became commander in chief at the Nore in
1798, and at Plymouth in 1799. Had he received other sea commands, his
vigorous, alert young aide-de-camp might have continued to serve with
him, and would thus have just missed the opportunities that came to him
in his next sphere of employment. What young officer would not have
eagerly followed a gallant and warm-hearted Admiral who had first placed
him upon a British quarterdeck and had made him an aide-de-camp? As it
was, the chance that came to Flinders about two months after the battle
off Brest was one that ministered to his decided preference for service
in seas where there was exploratory work to do.

Pasley's influence upon the life of Flinders was so important, that a
characterisation of him by one who has perused his letters and journals
must be quoted.* (* Memoir of Admiral Sir T.S. Pasley, by Louisa M.
Sabine Pasley. Sir T.S. Pasley was the grandson of Flinders' Admiral. It
unfortunately happens that the Journals of "old Sir Thomas" which are
extant do not cover the period when Flinders acted as his aide-de-camp.
Miss Sabine Pasley was kind enough to have a search made among his papers
for any trace of Flinders' relations with him, but without success.) "It
is impossible," writes Miss L.M. Sabine Pasley, "not to be impressed from
these journals with a strong feeling of respect for the writer, so
simple-minded, so kind-hearted, such a brave old sailor of his
time--rough, no doubt, in manners and language, but with an earnest and
genuine piety that shows itself from time to time in little ejaculations
and prayers, contrasting, it must be owned, rather strongly with the
terms in which the 'rascally Yankies' are alluded to in the same pages."
What Howe thought of him is recorded in a letter which he sent to the
Rear-Admiral a fortnight after the battle, regretting that "the services
of a friend he so highly esteemed and so gallant an officer, capable of
such spirited exertions, should be restrained by any disaster from the
continued exertion of them." There is also on record a letter to Pasley
from the Prime Minister, a model of grace and delicate feeling, in which
Pitt signified that the King had conferred on him a baronetcy "as a mark
of the sense which His Majesty entertains of the distinguished share
which you bore in the late successful and glorious operations of His
Majesty's fleet," and assured him "of the sincere satisfaction which I
personally feel in executing this commission."

On the south-western coast of Australia, eight years later, Flinders
remembered his first commander when naming the natural features of the
country. Cape Pasley, at the western tip of the arc of the great
Australian Bight, celebrates "the late Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, under
whom I had the honour of entering the naval service."* (* Flinders,
Voyage to Terra Australis 1 87.) On some current maps of Australia the
cape is spelt "Paisley," an error which obscures the interesting
biographical fact with which the name is connected.

It is noteworthy that though the career of Flinders as a naval officer
covers the stormiest period in British naval history, the whole of his
personal experience of battle was confined to these five days, May 28 to
June 1, 1794. The whole significance of his life lies in the work of
discovery that he accomplished, and in the contributions he made to
geography and navigation. Yet he was destined to feel the effect of the
enmity of the French in a peculiarly distressing form. His useful life
was cut short largely by misfortunes that came upon him as a consequence
of war, and work which he would have done to the enhancement of his
reputation and the advancement of civilisation was thwarted by it.


In order that the importance of the work done by Flinders may be
adequately appreciated, it is necessary to understand the state of
information concerning Australian geography before the time of his
discoveries. Not only did he complete the main outlines of the map of the
continent, but he filled in many details in parts that had been traversed
by his predecessors. This is a convenient point whereat to interrupt the
narrative of his life with a brief sketch of what those predecessors had
done, and of the curiously haphazard mode in which a partial knowledge of
this fifth division of the globe had been pieced together.

There never was, until Flinders applied himself to the task, any
deliberately-planned, systematic, persistent exploration of any portion
of the Australian coast. The continent grew on the map of the world
gradually, slowly, almost accidentally. It emerged out of the unknown,
like some vast mythical monster heaving its large shoulders dank and
dripping from the unfathomed sea, and metamorphosed by a kiss from the
lips of knowledge into a being fair to look upon and rich in kindly
favours. It took two centuries and a half for civilised mankind to know
Australia, even in form, from the time when it was clearly understood
that there was such a country, until at length it was mapped, measured
and circumnavigated. Before this process began, there was a dialectical
stage, when it was hotly contested whether there could possibly be upon
the globe lands antipodean to Europe; and both earlier and later there
were conjectural stages when makers of maps, having no certain data, but
feeling sure that the blank southern hemisphere ought to be filled up
somehow, exercised a vagrant fancy and satisfied a long-felt want by
decorating their drawings with representations of a Terra Incognita
having not even a casual resemblance to the reality.

The process presents few points of resemblance to that by which the
discovery of America was accomplished. Almost as soon as Europe came into
touch with the western hemisphere, discovery was pursued with unflagging
energy, until its whole extent and contour were substantially known.
Within fifty years after Columbus led the way across the Atlantic (1492),
North and South America were laid down with something approaching
precision; and Gerard Mercator's map of 1541 presented the greater part
of the continent with the name fairly inscribed upon it. There were, it
is true, some errors and some gaps, especially on the west coast, which
left work for navigators to do. But the essential point is that in less
than half a century Europe had practically comprehended America as an
addition to the known world. There was but a brief twilight interval
between nescience and knowledge. How different was the case with
Australia! Three hundred years after the date of Columbus' first voyage,
the mere outline of this continent had not been wholly mapped.

During the middle ages, when ingenious men exercised infinite subtlety in
speculation, and wrote large Latin folios to prove each other wrong in
matters about which neither party knew anything at all, there was much
dissertation about the possibility of antipodes. Bishops and saints waxed
eloquent upon the theme. The difficulty of conceiving of lands where
people walked about with their heads hanging downwards, and their feet
exactly opposite to those of Europeans, was too much for some of the
scribes who debated "about it and about." The Greek, Cosmas
Indicopleustes, denounced the "old wives' fable of Antipodes," and asked
how rain could be said to "fall," as in the Scriptures, in regions where
it would have to "come up"* (* The Christian Topography of Cosmas,
translated by J.W. McCrindle, page 17 (Hakluyt Society).) Some would have
it that a belief in Antipodes was heretical. But Isidore of Seville, in
his Liber de Natura Rerum, Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, and
Vergil Bishop of Salzburg, an Irish saint, declined to regard the
question as a closed one. "Nam partes eius (i.e. of the earth) quatuor
sunt," argued Isidore. Curiously enough, the copy of the works of the
Saint of Seville used by the author (published at Rome in 1803), was
salvaged from a wreck which occurred on the Australian coast many years
ago. It is stained with seawater, and emits the musty smell which tells
of immersion. An inscription inside the cover relates the circumstance of
the wreck. Who possessed the book one does not know; some travelling
scholar may have perused it during the long voyage from Europe; and one
fancies him, as the ship bumped upon the rocks, exclaiming "Yes, Isidore
was right, there ARE antipodes!"

From about the fourth quarter of the sixteenth century until the date of
Abel Tasman's voyages, 1642 to 1644, there was a period of vague
speculation about a supposed great southern continent. The maps of the
time indicate the total lack of accurate information at the disposal of
their compilers. There was no general agreement as to what this region
was like in its outlines, proportions, or situation. Some cartographers,
as Peter Plancius (1594) and Hondius (1595), trailed a wavy line across
the foot of their representations of the globe, inscribed Terra Australis
upon it, and by a fine stroke of invention gave an admirable aspect of
finish and symmetry to the form of the world. The London map of 1578,
issued with George Best's Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discoverie,
barricaded the south pole with a Terra Australis not unlike the design of
a switch-back railway. Molyneux' remarkable map, circa 1590, dropped the
vast imaginary continent, and displayed a small tongue of land in about
the region where the real Australia is; suggesting that some voyager had
been blown out of his course, had come upon a part of the western
division of the continent, and had jotted down a memorandum of its
appearance upon his chart. It looks like a sincere attempt to tell a bit
of the truth. But speaking generally, the Terra Australis of the old
cartographers was a gigantic antipodean imposture, a mere piece of
map-makers' furniture, put in to fill up the gaping space at the south
end of the globe.

A few minutes devoted to the study of a map of the Indian Ocean,
including the Cape of Good Hope and the west coast of
Australia--especially one indicating the course of currents--will show
how natural it was that Portuguese and Dutch ships engaged in the spice
trade should occasionally have found themselves in proximity to the real
Terra Australis. It will also explain more clearly than a page of type
could do, why the western and north-western coasts were known so early,
whilst the eastern and southern shores remained undelineated until James
Cook and Matthew Flinders sailed along them.

A change of the route pursued by the Dutch on their voyages to the East
Indies had already conduced to an acquaintance with the Australian coast.
Originally, after rounding the Cape, their ships had sailed north-east to
Madagascar, and had thence struck across the Indian Ocean to Java, or to
Ceylon. As long as this course was followed, there was little prospect of
sighting the great continent which lay about three thousand miles east of
their habitual track. But this route, though from the map it appeared to
be the most direct, was the longest in duration that they could take. It
brought them into the region of light winds and tedious tropical calms;
so that very often a vessel would lie for weeks "as idle as a painted
ship upon a painted ocean," and would occupy over a year upon the outward
voyage. In 1611, however, one of their commanders discovered that if,
after leaving the Cape, a ship ran not north-east, but due east for about
three thousand miles, she would be assisted by the winds, not baffled by
calms. Henrick Brouwer, who made the experiment, arrived in Java seven
months after leaving Holland, whereas some ships had been known to be as
long as eighteen months at sea. The directors of the Dutch East India
Company, recognising the importance of the discovery, ordered their
commanders to follow the easterly route from the Cape in future, and
offered prizes to those who completed the voyage in less than nine
months. The result was that the Dutch skippers became exceedingly anxious
to make the very utmost of the favourable winds, which carried them
eastward in the direction of the western coasts of Australia.

Thus it happened that in 1616 the Eendragt stumbled on Australia opposite
Shark's Bay. Her captain, Dirk Hartog, landed on the long island which
lies as a natural breakwater between the bay and the ocean, and erected a
metal plate to record his visit; and Dirk Hartog Island is the name it
bears to this day. The plate remained till 1697, when another Dutchman,
Vlaming, substituted a new one for it; and Vlaming's plate, in turn,
remained till 1817, when the French navigator, Freycinet, took it and
sent it to Paris.

After Hartog reported his discovery, the Dutch directors ordered their
ships' captains to run east from the Cape till they sighted the land.
This would enable them to verify their whereabouts; for in those days the
means of reckoning positions at sea were so imperfect that navigators
groped about the oceans of the globe almost as if they were sailing in
darkness. But here was a means of verifying a ship's position after her
long run across from the Cape, and if she found Dirk Hartog Island, she
could safely thence make her way north to Java.

But ships did not always sight the Australian coast at the same point.
Hence it came about that in 1619 J. de Edel "accidentally fell in with"
the coast at the back of the Abrolhos. Pieter Nuyts, in 1627,
"accidentally discovered" a long reach of the south coast. Similarly, in
1628, the Vianen was "accidentally," as the narrative says, driven on to
the north-west coast, and her commander, De Wit, gave his name to about
200 miles of it. In 1629 the Dutch ship Batavia was separated in a storm
from a merchant fleet of eleven sail, and ran upon the Abrolhos Reef. The
captain, Francis Pelsart, who was lying sick in his cabin at the time of
the misadventure, "called up the master and charged him with the loss of
the ship, who excused himself by saying he had taken all the care he
could; and that having discerned the froth at a distance he asked the
steersman what he thought of it, who told him that the sea appeared white
by its reflecting the rays of the moon. The captain then asked him what
was to be done, and in what part of the world he thought they were. The
master replied that God only knew that; and that the ship was on a bank
hitherto undiscovered." The story of Pelsart's adventure was recorded,
and the part of the coast which he saw was embodied on a globe published
in 1700.

To the accidental discoveries must be added those made by the Dutch
prompted by curiosity as to the possibility of drawing profit from the
lands to the south of their great East India possessions. Thus the Dutch
yacht Duyfhen, sent in 1605 to examine the Papuan islands, sailed along
the southern side of Torres Strait, found Cape York, and believed it to
be part of New Guinea. The great discovery voyages of Tasman, 1643 and
1644, were planned in pursuit of the same policy. He was directed to find
out what the southern portion of the world was like, "whether it be land
or sea, or icebergs, whatever God has ordained to be there."

In 1606 the Spaniard, Torres, also probably saw Cape York, and sailed
through the strait which bears his name. He had accompanied Quiros across
the Pacific, but had separated from his commander at the New Hebrides,
and continued his voyage westward, whilst Quiros sailed to South America.

It is needless for present purposes to catalogue the various voyages made
by the Dutch, or to examine claims which have been preferred on account
of other discoveries. It may, however, be observed that there are three
well defined periods of Australian maritime discovery, and that they
relate to three separate zones of operation.

First, there was the period with which the Dutch were chiefly concerned.
The west and north-west coasts received the greater part of their
attention, though the voyage of Tasman to the island now bearing his name
was a variation from their habitual sphere. The visits of the Englishman,
Dampier, to Western Australia are comprehended within this period.

The second period belongs to the eighteenth century, and its hero was
James Cook. He sailed up the whole of the east coast in 1770, from Point
Hicks, near the Victorian border, to Cape York at the northern tip of the
continent, and accomplished a larger harvest of discovery than has ever
fallen to the fortune of any other navigator in a single voyage. To this
period also belongs Captain George Vancouver, who in 1791, on his way to
north-western America from the Cape of Good Hope, came upon the
south-western corner of Australia and discovered King George's Sound. In
the following year the French Admiral, Dentrecasteaux, despatched in
search of the missing expedition of Laperouse, also made the south-west
corner of the continent, and followed the coast of the Great Australian
Bight for some hundreds of miles. His researches in southern Tasmania
were likewise of much importance.

The third period is principally that of Flinders, commencing shortly
before the dawn of the nineteenth century, and practically completing the
maritime exploration of the continent.

A map contained in John Pinkerton's Modern Geography shows at a glance
the state of knowledge
about Australia at the date of publication, 1802. Flinders had by that
time completed his explorations, but his work was not yet published. The
map delineates the contour of the continent on the east, west, and north
sides, with as much accuracy as was possible, and, though it is defective
in details, presents generally a fair idea of the country's shape. But
the line along the south coast represents a total lack of information as
to the outline of the land. Pinkerton, indeed, though he was a leading
English authority on geography when his book was published, had not
embodied in his map some results that were then available.

The testimony of the map may be augmented by a reference to what
geographical writers understood about Australia before the time of

Though Cook had discovered the east coast, and named it New South Wales,
it was not definitely known whether this extensive stretch of country was
separate from the western "New Holland" which the Dutch had named, or
whether the two were the extremities of one vast tract of land.
Geographical opinion rather inclined to the view that ultimately a strait
would be found dividing the region into islands. This idea is mentioned
by Pinkerton. Under the heading "New Holland" he wrote:* "Some suppose
that this extensive region, when more thoroughly investigated, will be
found to consist of two or three vast islands intersected by narrow seas,
an idea which probably arises from the discovery that New Zealand
consists of two islands, and that other straits have been found to divide
lands in this quarter formerly supposed to be continuous." The discovery
that Bass Strait divided Australia from Tasmania was probably in
Pinkerton's mind; he mentions it in his text (quoting Flinders), though
his map does not indicate the Strait's existence. He also mentions "a
vast bay with an isle," possibly Kangaroo Island. (* Modern Geography 2

Perhaps it was not unnatural that competent opinion should have favoured
the idea that there were several large islands, rather than one immense
continent stretching into thirty degrees of latitude and forty-five of
longitude. The human mind is not generally disposed to grasp very big
things all at once. Indeed, in the light of fuller knowledge, one is
disposed to admire the caution of these geographers, whose beliefs were
carefully reasoned but erroneous, in face of, for instance, such a wild
ebullition of venturesome theory as that attributed to an aforetime
Gottingen professor,* (*Professor Blumenbach according to Lang,
Historical Account of New South Wales, 1837 2 142.) who considered that
not only was Australia one country, but that it made its appearance upon
this planet in a peculiarly sudden fashion. His opinion was that "the
vast continent of Australia was originally a comet, which happening to
fall within the limits of the earth's attraction, alighted at length upon
its surface." "Alighted at length" is a mild term, suggestive of a
nervous lady emerging from a tram-car in a crowded street. "Splashed,"
would probably convey a more vigorous impression.

The belief that a strait would be found completely dividing New Holland
was a general one, as is shown by several contemporary writings. Thus
James Grant in his Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery (1803), expressing
his regret that his orders did not permit him to take his ship, the Lady
Nelson, northward from Port Jackson in 1801, speculated that "we might
also betimes have ascertained if the Gulf of Carpentaria had any inlet to
Bass Straits, and if it be discovered secure more quickly to Great
Britain the right of lands which some of our enterprising neighbours
might probably dispute with us. And this I trust will not be thought
chimerical when it was not known whether other Straits did not exist as
well as that dividing New Holland from Van Diemen's Land." Again, the
Institute of France in preparing instructions for the voyage of
exploration commanded by Nicolas Baudin (1800) directed a search to be
made for a strait which it was supposed divided Australia "into two great
and nearly equal islands."

Another interesting geographical problem to be determined, was whether a
great river system drained any part of the Australian continent. In the
existing state of knowledge the country presented an aspect in regard to
fluvial features wholly different from any other portion of the world. No
river of considerable importance had been found. Students of geography
could hardly conceive that there should be so large an area of land
lacking outlets to the sea; and as none had been found in the parts
investigated so far, it was believed that the exploration of the south
coast would reveal large streams flowing from the interior. Some had
speculated that within the country there was a great inland sea, and if
so there would probably be rivers flowing from it to the ocean.

A third main subject for elucidation when Flinders entered upon this
work, was whether the country known as Van Diemen's Land was part of the
continent, or was divided from it by a strait not yet discovered. Captain
Cook entertained the opinion that a strait existed. On his voyage in the
Endeavour in 1770, he was "doubtful whether they are one land or no." But
when near the north-eastern corner of Van Diemen's Land, he had been
twenty months at sea, and his supplies had become depleted. He did not
deem it advisable to sail west and settle the question forthwith, but,
running up the eastern coast of New Holland, achieved discoveries
certainly great enough for one voyage. He retained the point in his mind,
however, and would have determined it on his second voyage in 1772 to
1774 had he not paid heed to information given by Tobias Furneaux. The
Adventure, commanded by Furneaux, had been separated from the Resolution
on the voyage to New Zealand, and had cruised for some days in the
neighbourhood of the eastern entrance to Bass Strait. But Furneaux
convinced himself that no strait existed, and reported to that effect
when he rejoined Cook in Queen Charlotte's Sound. Cook was not quite
convinced by the statement of his officer; but contrary winds made a
return to the latitude of the supposed strait difficult, and Cook though
"half inclined to go over to Van Diemen's Land and settle the question of
its being part of New Holland" decided to proceed westward. As will be
seen hereafter, Flinders helped to show that the passage existed.

There were also many smaller points requiring investigation. Cook in
running along the east coast had passed several portions in the night, or
at such a distance in the daytime as to render his representation of the
coastline doubtful. Some groups of islands also required to be accurately
charted. Indeed, it may be said that there was no portion of the world
where, at this period, there was so much and such valuable work to be
done by a competent and keen marine explorer, as in Australia.

A passage in a manuscript by Flinders may be quoted to supplement what
has been written above, as it indicates the kind of speculations that
were current in the conversation of students of geography.* (* Called an
Abridged Narrative--Flinders' Papers.)

"The interior of this new region, in extent nearly equal to all Europe,
strongly excited the curiosity of geographers and naturalists; and the
more so as, ten years after the establishment of a British Colony at Port
Jackson on the east coast, and the repeated effort of some enterprising
individuals, no part of it beyond 30 leagues from the coast had been seen
by an European. Various conjectures were entertained upon the probable
consistence of this extensive space. Was it a vast desert? Was it
occupied by an immense lake--a second Caspian Sea, or by a Mediterranean
to which existed a navigable entrance in some part of the coasts hitherto
unexplored? or was not this new continent rather divided into two or more
islands by straits communicating from the unknown parts of the south to
the imperfectly examined north-west coast or to the Gulf of Carpentaria,
or to both? Such were the questions that excited the interest and divided
the opinion of geographers."

Apart from particular directions in which enquiry needed to be pursued,
it was felt in England that the only nation which had founded a
settlement on the Australian continent was under an obligation to
complete the exploration of the country. The French had already sent out
two scientific expeditions with instructions to examine the unknown
southern coasts; and if shipwreck had not destroyed the first, and want
of fresh water diverted the second, the credit of finishing the outline
of the map of Australia would have been earned for France. "Many
circumstances, indeed," wrote Flinders, "united to render the south coast
of Terra Australis one of the most interesting parts of the globe to
which discovery could be directed at the beginning of the nineteenth
century. Its investigation had formed a part of the instructions to the
unfortunate French navigator, Laperouse, and afterwards of those to his
countryman Dentrecasteaux; and it was not without some reason attributed
to England as a reproach that an imaginary line of more than two hundred
and fifty leagues' extent in the vicinity of one of her colonies should
have been so long suffered to remain traced upon the charts under the
title of Unknown Coast. This comported ill with her reputation as the
first of maritime powers."

We shall see how predominant was the share of Flinders in the settlement
of these problems, the filling up of these gaps.


Apart from Admiral Pasley, two officers who participated in Lord Howe's
victory on "the glorious First of June," had an important influence upon
the later career of Flinders. The first of these, Captain John Hunter,
had served on the flagship Queen Charlotte. The second, Henry Waterhouse,
had been fifth lieutenant on the Bellerophon. Flinders was under the
orders of both of them on his next voyage.

Hunter had accompanied the first Governor of New South Wales on the
Sirius, when a British colony was founded there in 1788, and was
commissioned by the Crown to assume the duties of Lieutenant-Governor in
case of Phillip's death. When the office fell vacant in 1793, Hunter
applied for appointment. He secured the cordial support of Howe, and Sir
Roger Curtis of the Queen Charlotte exerted his influence by recommending
him as one whose selection "would be a blessing to the colony" on account
of his incorruptible integrity, unceasing zeal, thorough knowledge of the
country, and steady judgment. He was appointed Governor in February,
1794, and in March of the same year H.M.S. Reliance, with the tender
Supply, were commissioned to convey him to Sydney.

Henry Waterhouse was chosen to command the Reliance, under Hunter, at
that officer's request. He expressed to the Secretary of State a wish
that the appointment might be conferred upon an officer to whom it might
be a step in advancement, rather than upon one who had already attained
the rank of commander; and he recommended Waterhouse as one who, though a
young man and not an old officer, was "the only remaining lieutenant of
the Sirius, formerly under my command; and having had the principal part
of his nautical education from me, I can with confidence say that he is
well qualified for the charge."

It is probable that Flinders heard of the expedition from his Bellerophon
shipmate, Waterhouse, who by the end of July was under orders to sail as
second captain of the Reliance. Certainly the opportunity of making
another voyage to Australian waters, wherein, as he knew, so much work
lay awaiting an officer keen for discovery, coincided with his own
inclinations. He wrote that he was led by his passion for exploring new
countries to embrace the opportunity of going out upon a station which of
all others presented the most ample field for his favourite pursuit.

The sailing was delayed for six months, and in the interval young
Flinders was able to visit his home in Lincolnshire. Whatever opposition
there may have been to his choice of the sea as a profession before 1790,
we may be certain that the Donington surgeon was not a little proud of
his eldest son when he returned after a wonderful voyage to the isles of
the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea, and after participation in the recent
great naval fight which had thrilled the heart of England with exultation
and pride. The boy who had left his father's house four years before as
an anxious aspirant for the King's uniform now returned a bronzed seaman
on the verge of manhood. His intelligence and zeal as a junior officer
had won him the esteem and confidence of distinguished commanders. He had
looked upon the strangeness and beauty of the world in its most remote
and least-known quarters, had witnessed fights with savages, threaded
unmapped straits, and had, to crown his youthful achievements, striven
amidst the wrack and thunder of grim-visaged war. We may picture his
welcome: the strong grasp of his father's hand, the crowding enthusiasm
of his brother and sisters fondly glorying in their hero's prowess. The
warnings of uncle John were all forgotten now. When the midshipman's
younger brother, Samuel Ward Flinders, desired to go to sea with him, he
was not restrained, and, in fact, accompanied him as a volunteer on the
Reliance when at length she sailed.

Hunter took not merely an official but a deep and discerning interest in
the colonisation of Australia. He foresaw its immense possibilities,
encouraged its exploration, promoted the breeding of stock and the
cultivation of crops, and had a wise concern for such strategic
advantages as would tend to secure it for British occupation. He
perceived the great importance of the Cape of Good Hope from the point of
view of Australian security; and a letter which he wrote to an official
of the Admiralty while awaiting sailing orders for the Reliance (January
25, 1795), is perhaps the first instance of official recognition of
Australia's vital interest in the ownership of that post. There was cause
for concern. The raw and ill-disciplined levies of the French, having at
the outbreak of the Revolutionary wars most unexpectedly turned back the
invading armies of Austria and Prussia, and having, after campaigns full
of dramatic changes, shaken off the peril of the crushing of the
fatherland by a huge European combination, were now waging an offensive
war in Holland. Pichegru, the French commander, though not a soldier by
training, secured astonishing successes, and, in the thick of a winter of
exceptional severity, led his ragged and ill-fed army on to victory after
victory, until the greater part of Holland lay conquered within his grip.
In January he entered Amsterdam. There was a strong element of Republican
feeling among the Dutch, and an alliance with France was demanded.

When this condition of things was reported in England, Hunter was alarmed
for the safety of the colony which he was about to govern. The Cape of
Good Hope was a Dutch possession. Holland was now under the domination of
France. Might not events bring about the establishment of French power at
the Cape? "I cannot help feeling much concerned at the rapid progress of
the French in Holland," he wrote, "and I own shall not be surprised if in
consequence of their success in that country they make a sudden dash at
the Cape of Good Hope, if we do not anticipate them in such an attempt.
They are so very active a people that it will be done before we know
anything of it, and I think it a post of too much importance to be
neglected by them. I hope earnestly, therefore, that it will be prevented
by our sending a squadron and some troops as early as possible. If the
Republicans once get a footing there, we shall probably find it difficult
to dislodge them. Such a circumstance would be a sad stroke for our young

The course which Hunter then advised was that which the British
Government followed, though more because the Cape was the "half way
house" to India, than for the protection of Australian interests. An
expedition was despatched later in the year to protect the Cape against
French occupation, and in September the colony, by order of the
Stadtholder of Holland, accepted British protection.

The Reliance and the Supply left Plymouth on February 15th, 1795, amongst
a very large company of merchantmen and ships of the navy convoyed by the
Channel Fleet under Lord Howe, which guarded them till they were beyond
the range of possible French attacks and then sailed back to port.

From Teneriffe, which Hunter reached on March 6th, he wrote a despatch to
the Government stating his intention to sail, not to the Cape of Good
Hope, but to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and thence to New South Wales. His
avoidance of the more direct route was due to the causes explained above.
"In the present uncertain state of things between the French and Dutch,"
he had written before sailing, "it will be dangerous for me to attempt
touching at the Cape on my way out;" and writing from Rio de Janeiro in
May he explained that he did not "conceive it safe from the uncertain
state of the Dutch settlements in India to take the Cape of Good Hope in
my way to Port Jackson, lest the French, following up their late
successes in Holland, should have been active enough to make an early
attack on that very important post." In a despatch to the Duke of
Portland he commented strongly on the same circumstance, expressing the
opinion that "if the French should be able to possess themselves of that
settlement it will be rather unfortunate for our distant colony."

Hunter had to complain of discourteous treatment received from the
Portuguese Viceroy, who kept him waiting six days before according an
interview, and then fixed an appointment for seven o'clock in the
evening, when it was quite dark. "As His Excellency was acquainted with
the position I held, I confess I expected a different reception," wrote
Hunter; and he was so much vexed that he did not again set foot ashore
while his ships lay in port. The incident, though not important in
itself, serves, in conjunction with Hunter's avoidance of the Cape, to
illustrate the rather limp condition of British prestige abroad at about
the time when her authority was being established in Australia. With her
army defeated in the Low Countries, her ships deeming it prudent to keep
clear of the Cape that formed the key to her eastern and southern
possessions, and her King's representative subjected to a studied slight
from a Portuguese official in Brazil, she hardly appeared, just then, to
be the nation that would soon shatter the naval power of France, demolish
the greatest soldier of modern times, and, before her sword was sheathed,
float her victorious flag in every continent, in every sea, and over
people of every race and colour.

On this voyage, as on all occasions, Flinders kept a careful record of
his own observations. Sixteen years later, a dispute arose, interesting
to navigators, as to the precise location of Cape Frio in Brazil. An
American had pointed out an error in European charts. It was a matter of
some importance, because ships bound for Rio de Janeiro necessarily
rounded Cape Frio, and the error was sufficiently serious to cause no
small risk if vessels trusted to the received reckoning. The Naval
Chronicle devoted some attention to the point; and to it Flinders sent a
communication stating that on consulting his nautical records he found
that on May 2nd, 1795, he made an observation, reduced from the preceding
noon, calculating the position of the Cape to be latitude 22 degrees 53
minutes south, longitude 41 degrees 43 minutes west. His memorandum was
printed over a facsimile of his signature as that of "a distinguished
navigator," and was hailed as "a valuable contribution towards clearing
up the difficulty concerning the geographical position of that important
headland."* (* Naval Chronicle Volume 26.) For us the incident serves as
an indication of Flinders' diligence and carefulness in the study of
navigation. He was but a midshipman at the time, and it will be noticed
that it was a personal observation which he was able to quote, not one
taken as part of his duty as an officer.

The Reliance arrived at Port Jackson on September 7th, and in the
following month Flinders, with a companion of whom it is time to speak,
commenced the series of explorations which made his fame.

This companion was George Bass, a Lincolnshire man like Flinders himself,
born at Aswarby near Sleaford. He was a farmer's son, but his father died
when he was quite a child, and his mother moved to Boston. She managed
out of her widow's resources to give her son an excellent education, and
designed that he should enter the medical profession. In due course he
was apprenticed to a Boston surgeon, Mr. Francis--a common mode of
securing training in medicine at that period. He "walked" the Boston
hospital for a finishing course of instruction, and won his surgeon's
diploma with marked credit.

Bass had from his early years shown a desire to go to sea. His mother was
able to buy for him a share in a merchant ship; but this was wrecked,
whereupon, not cured of his love of the ocean, he entered the navy as a
surgeon. It was in that capacity that he sailed in the Reliance. He was
then, in 1795, thirty-two years of age.

All the records of Bass, both the personal observations of those who came
in contact with him, and the tale of his own deeds, leave the impression
that he was a very remarkable man. He was six feet in height,
dark-complexioned, handsome in countenance, keen in expression, vigorous,
strong, and enterprising. His father-in-law spoke of his "very
penetrating countenance." Flinders called him "the penetrating Bass."
Governor Hunter, in official despatches, said he was "a young man of a
well-informed mind and an active disposition," and one who was "of much
ability in various ways out of the line of his profession." He was gifted
with a mind capable of intense application to any task that he took in
hand. Upon his firm courage, resourcefulness and strength of purpose,
difficulties and dangers acted merely as the whetstone to the finely
tempered blade. He undertook hazardous enterprises from the sheer love of
doing hard things which were worth doing. "He was one," wrote Flinders,
"whose ardour for discovery was not to be repressed by any obstacle nor
deterred by danger." He seemed to care nothing for rewards, and was not
hungry for honours. The pleasure of doing was to him its own recompense.
That "penetrating countenance" indexed a brain as direct as a drill, and
as inflexible. A loyal and affectionate comrade, preferring to enter upon
a task with his chosen mate, he nevertheless could not wait inactive if
official duties prevented co-operation, but would set out alone on any
piece of work on which he had set his heart. The portrait of Bass which
we possess conveys an impression of alert and vigorous intelligence, of
genial temper and hearty relish. It is the picture of a man who was
abundantly alive in every nerve.

Flinders and Bass, being both Lincolnshire men, born within a few miles
of each other, naturally became very friendly on the long voyage to
Australia. It was said of two other friends, who achieved great
distinction in the sphere of art, that when they first met in early
manhood they "ran together like two drops of mercury," so completely
coincident were their inclinations. So it was in this instance. Two men
more predisposed to formulate plans for exploration could not have been
thrown together. A passion for maritime discovery was common to both of
them. Flinders, from his study of charts and books of voyages, had a
sound knowledge of the field of work that lay open, and Bass's keen mind
eagerly grasped the plans explained to him. It would not have taken the
surgeon and the midshipman long to find that their ambitions were
completely in tune on this inviting subject. "With this friend," Flinders
wrote, "a determination was found of completing the examination of the
east coast of New South Wales by all such opportunities as the duty of
the ship and procurable means could admit. Projects of this nature, when
originating in the minds of young men, are usually termed romantic; and
so far from any good being anticipated, even prudence and friendship join
in discouraging, if not in opposing them. Thus it was in the present
case." The significance of that passage is that the two friends made for
themselves the opportunities by which they won fame and rendered service.
They did not wait on Fortune; they forced her hand. They showed by what
they did on their own initiative, with very limited resources, that they
were the right men to be entrusted with work of larger scope.

Nevertheless it is unwarrantable to assume that Governor Hunter
discountenanced their earliest efforts. It was presumably on the passage
quoted above that the author of a chapter in the most elaborate modern
naval history founded the assertion that "the plans of the young
discoverers were discouraged by the authorities. They, however, had
resolution and perseverance. All official help and countenance were
withheld."* (* Sir Clements Markham in The Royal Navy, a History, 4 565.)
But Flinders does not say that "the authorities" discouraged the effort.
"Prudence and friendship" did. They were not yet tried men in such
hazardous enterprises; the settlement possessed scarcely any resources
for exploratory work, and the dangers were unknown. Official countenance
implies official responsibility, and there was not yet sufficient reason
for setting the Governor's seal on the adventurous experiments of two
young and untried though estimable men. When they had shown their
quality, Hunter gave them every assistance and encouragement in his
power, and proved himself a good friend to them. In the circumstances,
"prudence and friendship" are hardly to be blamed for a counsel of
caution. The remark of Flinders is not to be interpreted to mean that the
Governor put hindrances in their way. They were under his orders, and his
positive discountenance would have been effectual to block their efforts.
They could not even have obtained leave of absence without his approval.
But John Hunter was not the man to prevent them from putting their powers
to the test.

No sooner had the two friends reached Sydney than they began to look
about them for means to undertake the exploratory work upon which their
minds were bent. Bass had brought out with him from England a small boat,
only eight feet long, with a five foot beam, named by him the Tom Thumb
on account of her size.* (* Flinders' Papers "Brief Memoir" manuscripts
page 5. Some have supposed the measurements given in Flinders' published
work to have been a misprint, the size of the boat being so absurdly
small. But Flinders' Journal is quite clear on the point: "We turned our
eyes towards a little boat of about 8 feet keel and 5 feet beam which had
been brought out by Mr. Bass and others in the Reliance, and from its
size had obtained the name of Tom Thumb.") In this diminutive craft the
two friends made preparations for setting out along the Coast. Taking
with them only one boy, named Martin, with provisions and ammunition for
a very short trip, they sailed the Tom Thumb out of Port Jackson and made
southward to Botany Bay, which they entered. They pushed up George's
River, which had been only partly explored, and pursued their
investigation of its winding course for twenty miles beyond the former
limit of survey. Upon their return they presented to Hunter a report
concerning the quality of the land seen on the borders of the river,
together with a sketch map. The Governor was induced from what they told
him to examine the country himself; and the result was that he founded
the settlement of Bankstown, which still remains, and boasts the
distinction of being one of the pioneer towns of Australia.

The adventurers were delayed from the further pursuit of their ambition
by ship's duties. The Reliance was ordered to convey to Norfolk Island an
officer of the New South Wales Corps required for duty there, as well as
the Judge Advocate. She sailed in January, 1796. After her return in
March, Bass and Flinders, being free again, lost no time in fitting out
for a second cruise. Their object this time was to search for a large
river, said to fall into the sea to the south of Botany Bay, which was
not marked on Cook's chart. As before, the crew consisted only of
themselves and the boy.

It has always been believed that the boat in which this second cruise was
made, was the same Tom Thumb as that which carried the two young
explorers to George's River; indeed, Flinders himself, in his Voyage to
Terra Australis, Volume 1, page 97, says that "Mr. Bass and myself went
again in Tom Thumb." But in his unpublished Journal there is a passage
that suggests a doubt as to whether, when he wrote his book, over a
decade later, he had not forgotten that a second boat was obtained for
the second adventure. He may not have considered the circumstance
important enough to mention. At all events in the Journal, he writes: "As
Tom Thumb had performed so well before, the same boat's crew had little
hesitation in embarking in another boat of nearly the same size, which
had been since built at Port Jackson." There was, it is evident, a second
boat, no larger than the first, or that fact would have been mentioned,
and she was also known as the Tom Thumb. She was Tom Thumb the Second.
Only by that assumption can we reconcile the Voyage statement with the
Journal, which, having been written up at the time, is an authoritative
source of information.

They left Sydney on March 25th, intending to stand off to sea till
evening, when it was expected that the breeze would bring them to the
coast. But they drifted on a strong current six or seven miles southward,
and being unable to land, passed the night in the boat. Next day, being
in want of water, but unable to bring the Tom Thumb to a safe landing
place, Bass swam ashore. While the filled cask was being got off a wave
carried the boat shoreward and beached her, leaving the three on the
beach with their clothes drenched, their provisions partly spoiled, and
their arms and ammunition thoroughly wet. The emptying and launching of
the boat on a surfy shore, and the replacing of the stores and cask in
her, were managed with some difficulty; and they ran for two islands for
shelter late in the afternoon. Finding a landing to be dangerous they
again spent the night, cramped, damp, and uncomfortable, in their tossing
little eight-foot craft, with their stone anchor dropped under the lee of
a tongue of land. Bass could not sleep because, from having for so many
hours during the day had his naked body exposed to the burning sun, he
was "one continued blister." On the third day they took aboard two
aboriginals--"two Indians," Flinders calls them--natives of Botany Bay,
who offered to pilot them to a place where they could obtain not only
water but also fish and wild duck.

They were conducted to a small stream descending from a lagoon, and rowed
up it for about a mile until it became too shallow to proceed. Eight or
ten aboriginals put in an appearance, and Bass and Flinders began to
entertain doubts of securing a retreat from these people should they be
inclined to be hostile. "They had the reputation at Port Jackson of being
exceedingly ferocious, if not cannibals."

The powder having become wet and the muskets rusty, Bass and Flinders
decided to land in order that they might spread their ammunition in the
sun to dry, and clean their weapons. The natives, who increased in number
to about twenty, gathered round and watched with curiosity. Some of them
assisted Bass in repairing a broken oar. They did not know what the
powder was, but, when the muskets were handled, so much alarm was excited
that it was necessary to desist. Some of them had doubtless learnt from
aboriginals about Port Jackson of the thunder and lightning made by these
mysterious pieces of wood and metal, and had had described to them how
blackfellows dropped dead when such things pointed and smoked at them.
Flinders, anxious to retain their confidence (because, had they assumed
the offensive, they must speedily have annihilated the three whites), hit
upon an amusing method of diverting them. The aboriginals were accustomed
to wear their coarse black hair and beards hanging in long, shaggy,
untrimmed locks, matted with accretions of oil and dirt. When the two
Botany Bay blacks were taken on board the Tom Thumb as pilots, a pair of
scissors was applied to their abundant and too emphatically odorous
tresses. Flinders tells the rest of the story:

"We had clipped the hair and beards of the two Botany Bay natives at Red
Point,* (* Near Port Kembla; named by Cook.) and they were showing
themselves to the others and persuading them to follow their example.
Whilst therefore the powder was drying, I began with a large pair of
scissors to execute my new office upon the eldest of four or five chins
presented to me, and as great nicety was not required, the shaving of a
dozen of them did not occupy me long. Some of the more timid were alarmed
at a formidable instrument coming so near to their noses, and would
scarcely be persuaded by their shaven friends to allow the operation to
be finished. But when their chins were held up a second time, their fear
of the instrument, the wild stare of their eyes, and the smile which they
forced, formed a compound upon the rough savage countenance not unworthy
the pencil of a Hogarth. I was almost tempted to try what effect a little
snip would produce; but our situation was too critical to admit of such

Flinders treats the incident lightly, and as a means of creating a
diversion while preparing a retreat it was useful; but it can hardly be
supposed to have been an agreeable occupation to barber a group of
aboriginals. What the heads were like that received Flinders'
ministrations, may be gathered from the description by Clarke, the
supercargo of the wrecked Sydney Cove, concerning the natives whom he
encountered in the following year (March 1797): "Their hair is long and
straight, but they are wholly inattentive to it, either as to cleanliness
or in any other respect. It serves them in lieu of a towel to wipe their
hands as often as they are daubed with blubber or shark oil, which is
their principal article of food. This frequent application of rancid
grease to their heads and bodies renders their approach exceedingly

But the adventure, by putting the blacks into a good humour, enabled Bass
and Flinders to collect their dried powder, obtain fresh water, and get
back to their boat. The natives became vociferous for them to go up to
the lagoon, but the natives "dragged her along down the stream shouting
and singing," until the depth of water placed them in safety. Flinders,
in his Journal, expressed the view that "we were perhaps considerably
indebted for the fear the natives entertained of us to an old red jacket
which Mr. Bass wore, and from which they took us to be soldiers, whom
they were particularly afraid of; and though we did not much admire our
new name, Soja, we thought it best not to undeceive them."

On March 25 they anchored "under the innermost of the northern
islets...We called these Martin's Isles after our young companion in the
boat."* (* Journal.)

They were now in the Illawarra district, one of the most prolific in New
South Wales;* (* McFarlane, Illawarra and Monaro, Sydney 1872 page 8.)
and the observation of Flinders that the land they saw was "probably
fertile, and the slopes of the back hills had certainly that appearance,"
has been richly justified by a century's experience.

The two friends and their boy had to remain on the Tom Thumb for a third
night; but next afternoon (March 28) they were able to land unmolested,
to cook a meal, and to take some rest on the shore. "The sandy beach was
our bed, and after much fatigue and passing three nights of cramp in Tom
Thumb it was to us a bed of down."

At about ten o'clock at night, on March 29th, the little craft was in
extreme danger of foundering in a gale. The anchor had been cast under
the lee of a range of cliffs, but the situation was insecure, so that
Bass and Flinders considered it prudent to haul up the stone and run
before the wind. The night was dark, the wind burst in a gale, and the
adventurers had no knowledge of any place of security to which they could
run. The frowning cliffs above them and the smashing of the surf on the
rocks, were their guide in steering a course parallel with the coast.
Bass held the sheet, Flinders steered with an oar, and the boy bailed out
the water which the hissing crests of wind-lashed waves flung into the
boat. "It required the utmost exertion to prevent broaching to; a single
wrong movement or a moment's inattention would have sent us to the

They drove along for an hour in this precarious situation, hoping for an
opening to reveal itself into which they could run for shelter. At last,
Flinders, straining his eyes in the darkness, distinguished right ahead
some high breakers, behind which there appeared to be no shade of cliffs.
So extremely perilous was their position at this time, with the water
increasing despite the efforts of the boy, that Flinders, an unusually
placid and matter-of-fact writer when dealing with dangers of the sea,
declares that they could not have lived ten minutes longer. On the
instant he determined to turn the boat's head for these breakers, hoping
that behind them, as there were no high cliffs, there might be sheltered
water. The boat's head was brought to the wind, the sail and mast were
taken down, and the oars were got out. "Pulling thus towards the reef,
through the intervals of the heaviest seas, we found it to terminate in a
point, and in three minutes were in smooth water under its lee. A white
appearance further back kept us a short time in suspense, but a nearer
approach showed it to be the beach of a well-sheltered cove, under which
we anchored for the rest of the night." They called the place of refuge
Providential Cove. The native name was Watta-Mowlee (it is now called

On the following morning, March 30th, the weather having moderated, the
Tom Thumb's sail was again hoisted, and she coasted northward. After a
progress of three or four miles, Flinders and Bass found the entrance of
Port Hacking, for the exploration of which they had made this cruise. It
was a much-indented inlet directly south of Botany Bay, divided from it
by a broad peninsula, and receiving at its head the waters of a wide
river, besides several small creeks; and was named after Henry Hacking, a
pilot who had indicated its whereabouts, having come near it "in his
kangaroo-hunting excursions." The two young explorers spent the better
part of two days in examining the neighbourhood; and anyone who has had
the good fortune to traverse that piece of country, with its grassed
glades, its timbered hillsides, its exquisite glimpses of sapphire sea
and cool silver river, its broken and diversified surface, rich with
floral colour--for they saw it in early autumn--can realise how satisfied
they must have felt with their work. After a nine days' voyage, they
sailed out of Port Hacking early on April 2nd, and, aided by a fine wind,
drew up alongside the Reliance in Port Jackson on the evening of the same

The Reliance was an old and leaky ship. She had seen much service and was
badly in need of repairs. "She is so extremely weak in her whole frame
that it is in our situation a difficult matter to do what is necessary,"
wrote Hunter to the Secretary of State. Shipwrights' conveniences could
hardly be expected to be ample in a settlement that was not yet ten years
old, and where skilled labour was necessarily deficient. But she had to
be repaired with the best material and direction available, for she was
the best ship which His Majesty's representative had at his disposal. The
Supply was pretty well beyond renovation. She was American built, and her
timbers of black birch were never suitable for service in warm waters.
Shortly after the discovery of Port Hacking, Hunter set about the
overhauling of the vessel that was at once his principal means of naval
defence, his saluting battery, his official inspecting ship, his
transport, and his craft of all work. He wanted her especially just now,
for a useful piece of colonial service.

The Governor had received intelligence from Major-General Craig, who had
commanded the land forces when Admiral Elphinstone occupied the Cape of
Good Hope, that a British protectorate had been established at that very
important station. As Hunter had himself made the suggestion to the
Government that such a step should be taken, the news was especially
gratifying to him. Amongst his instructions from the Secretary of State
was a direction to procure from South Africa live cattle for stocking the
infant colony. He had brought out with him, at Sir Joseph Banks'
suggestion, a supply of growing vegetables for transplantation and of
seeds for sowing at appropriate seasons. He now set about obtaining the
live stock.

The Reliance and the Supply sailed by way of Cape Horn to South Africa,
where they took on board a supply of domestic animals. The former vessel
carried 109 head of cattle, 107 sheep and three mares. Some of the
officers brought live stock on their own account. Thus Bass had on board
a cow and nineteen sheep, and Waterhouse had enough stock to start a
small farm; but it does not appear that Flinders brought any animals. "I
believe no ship ever went to sea so much lumbered," wrote Captain
Waterhouse; and the unpleasantness of the voyage can be imagined, apart
from that officer's assurance that it was "one of the longest and most
disagreeable passages I ever made." The vessels left Cape Town for Sydney
on April 11th, 1797. The Supply was so wretchedly leaky that it was
considered positively unsafe for her to risk the voyage. But her
commander, Lieutenant William Kent, had a high sense of duty, and his
courage was guided by the fine seamanship characteristic of the service.
Having in view the importance to the colony of the stock he had on board,
he determined to run her through. As a matter of fact, the Supply arrived
in Sydney forty-one days before the Reliance (May 16), though Hunter
reported that she reached port "in a most distressed and dangerous
condition," and would never be fit for sea again. Kent's memory is
worthily preserved on the map of Australia by the name (given by Flinders
or by Hunter himself) of the Kent group of islands at the eastern
entrance of Bass Strait.

The Reliance, meeting with very bad weather, made a very slow passage.
Captain Waterhouse mentioned that one fierce gale was "the most terrible
I ever saw or heard of," so that he "expected to go to the bottom every
moment." He wondered how they escaped destruction, but rounded off his
description with a seaman's joke: "possibly I may be intended to be hung
in room of being drowned." The ship was very leaky all the way, and
Hunter reported that she returned to port with her pumps going. She
reached Sydney on June 26th.

The unseaworthy condition of the Reliance had an important bearing on the
share Flinders took in Australian discovery, for it was unquestionably in
consequence of his being engaged upon her repair that he was prevented
from accompanying his friend Bass on the expedition which led to the
discovery of Bass Strait. This statement is proved not only by the
testimony of Flinders himself, but by concurrent facts. Waterhouse wrote
on the return of the ship to Port Jackson, "we have taken everything out
of her in hopes of repairing her." This was in the latter part of 1797. A
despatch from Hunter to the British Government in January, 1798, shows
that at that time she was still being patched up. Flinders recorded that
"the great repairs required by the Reliance would not allow of my
absence," but that "my friend Mr. Bass, less confined by his duty, made
several excursions." Finally, it was on December 3rd, 1797, while the
refitting was in progress, that Bass started out on the adventurous
voyage which led to the discovery of the stretch of water separating
Tasmania from the mainland of Australia. But for the work on the
Reliance, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that Flinders would have
been with him. Duty had to be done, however; the "ugly commanded work,"
in which, as the sage reminds us, genius has to do its part in common
with more ordinary mortals, made demands that must take precedence of
adventurous cruising along unknown coasts. So it was that the cobbling of
a debilitated tub separated on an historic occasion two brave and loyal
friends whose names will be thought of together as long as British people
treasure the memory of their choice and daring spirits.


The patching up of the Reliance not being surgeon's work, Bass, throbbing
with energy, looked about him for some useful employment. The whole of
the New South Wales settlement at this time consisted of an oblong--the
town of Sydney itself--on the south side of Port Jackson, a few sprawling
paddocks on either side of the fang-like limbs of the harbour, some small
pieces of cultivated land further west, at and beyond Parramatta, and a
cultivable area to the north-west on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. A
sketch-map prepared by Hunter, in 1796, illustrates these very small
early attempts of the settlement to spread. They show up against the
paper like a few specks of lettuce leaf upon a white table cloth. The
large empty spaces are traversed by red lines, principally to the
south-west, marking "country which has been lately walked over." The red
lines end abruptly on the far side of a curve in the course of the river
Nepean, where swamps and hills are shown. The map-maker "saw a bull" near
a hill which was called Mount Hunter, and marked it down.

West of the settlement, behind Richmond Hill on the Hawkesbury, the map
indicated a mountain range. Bass's first effort at independent
exploration was an endeavour to find a pass through these mountains. The
need was seen to be imminent. As the colony grew, the limits of
occupation would press up to the foot of this blue range, which, with its
precipitous walls, its alluring openings leading to stark faces of rock,
its sharp ridges breaking to sheer ravines, its dense scrub and timber,
defied the energies of successive explorers. Governor Phillip, in 1789,
reached Richmond by way of the Hawkesbury. Later in the same year, and in
the next, further efforts were made, but the investigators were beaten by
the stern and shaggy hills. Captain William Paterson, in 1793, organized
an attacking party, consisting largely of Scottish highlanders, hoping
that their native skill and resolution would find a path across the
barrier; but they proceeded by boat only, and did not go far. In the
following year quartermaster Hacking, with a party of hardy men, spent
ten days among the mountains, but no path or pass practicable for traffic
rewarded his endeavours. Sydney was shut in between the sea and this
craggy rampart. What the country on the other side was like no man knew.

In June, 1796, before the Reliance sailed for South Africa, George Bass
made his try. The task was hard, and worth attempting, two qualifications
which recommended it strongly to his mind. He collected a small party of
men upon whom he could rely for a tough struggle, took provisions for
about a fortnight, equipped himself with strong ropes with which to be
lowered down ravines, had scaling irons made for his feet, and hooks to
fasten on his hands, and set out ready to cut or climb his way over the
mountains, determined to assail their defiant fastnesses up to the limits
of possibility. It was a stiff enterprise, and Bass and his party did not
spare themselves. But the Blue Mountains were a fortress that was not to
be taken by storm. Bass's success, as Flinders wrote, "was not
commensurate to the perseverance and labour employed." After fifteen days
of effort, the baffled adventurers confessed themselves beaten, and,
their provisions being exhausted, returned to Sydney.

They had pushed research further than any previous explorers had done,
and had marked down the course of the river Grose as a practical result
of their work. But Bass now believed the mountains to be hopeless; and,
indeed, George Caley, a botanical collector employed by Sir Joseph Banks,
having seven years later made another attempt and met with repulse, did
not hesitate to tell a committee of the House of Commons, which summoned
him to appear as a witness, that the range was impassable. It seemed that
Nature had tumbled down an impenetrable bewilderment of rock, the
hillsides cracking into deep, dark crevices, and the crests of the
mountains showing behind and beyond a massed confusion of crags and
hollows, trackless and untraversable. Governor King declared himself
satisfied that the effort to cross the range was a task "as chimerical as
useless," an opinion strengthened by the fact that, as Allan Cunningham
had related,* the aboriginals known to the settlement were "totally
ignorant of any pass to the interior." (* On "Progress of Interior
Discovery in New South Wales," Journal of the Royal Geographical Society
1832 Volume 2 99.)

It was not, indeed, till 1813 that Gregory Blaxland, with Lieutenant
Lawson and William Charles Wentworth (then a youth), as companions,
succeeded in solving the problem. The story of their steady, persistent,
and desperate struggle being beyond the scope of this biography, it is
sufficient to say that after fifteen days of severe labour, applied with
rare intelligence and bushcraft, they saw beneath them waving
grass-country watered by clear streams, and knew that they had found a
path to the interior of the new continent.

Bass's eagerness to explore soon found other scope. In 1797, report was
brought to Sydney by shipwrecked mariners that, in traversing the coast,
they had seen coal. He at once set off to investigate. At the place now
called Coalcliff, about twenty miles south of Botany Bay, he found a vein
of coal about twenty feet above the surface of the sea. It was six or
seven feet thick, and dipped to the southward until it became level with
the sea, "and there the lowest rock you can see when the surf retires is
all coal." It was a discovery of first-class importance--the first
considerable find of a mineral that has yielded incalculable wealth to
Australia.* (* It is well to remember that the use of coal was discovered
in England in very much the same way. Mr. Salzmann, English Industries of
the Middle Ages, 1913 page 3, observes that "it is most probable that the
first coal used was washed up by the sea, and such as could be quarried
from the face of the cliffs where the seams were exposed by the action of
the waves." He quotes a sixteenth century account relative to Durham: "As
the tide comes in it bringeth a small wash sea coal, which is employed to
the making of salt and the fuel of the poor fisher towns adjoining."
Hence, originally, coal in England was commonly called sea-coal even when
obtained inland.) He made this useful piece of investigation in August;
and in the following month undertook a journey on foot, in company with
Williamson, the acting commissary, from Sydney to the Cowpastures,
crossing and re-crossing the River Nepean, and thence descending to the
sea a few miles south of his old resting place, Watta-Mowlee. His map and
notes are full of evidence of his careful observation. "Tolerably good
level ground," "good pastures," "mountainous brushy land," and so forth,
are remarks scored across his track line. But these were pastimes in
comparison with the enterprise that was now occupying his mind, and upon
which his fame chiefly rests.

Hunter's despatch to the Duke of Portland, dated March 1st, 1798,
explains the circumstances of the expedition leading to the discovery of
Bass Strait: "The tedious repairs which His Majesty's ship Reliance
necessarily required before she could be put in a condition for going
again to sea, having given an opportunity to Mr. George Bass, her
surgeon, a young man of a well-informed mind and an active disposition,
to offer himself to be employed in any way in which he could contribute
to the benefit of the public service, I enquired of him in what way he
was desirous of exerting himself, and he informed me nothing would
gratify him more effectually than my allowing him the use of a good boat
and permitting him to man her with volunteers from the King's ships. I
accordingly furnished him with an excellent whaleboat, well fitted,
victualled, and manned to his wish, for the purpose of examining the
coast to the southward of this port, as far as he could with safety and
convenience go."

It is clear from this despatch that the impulse was Bass's own, and that
the Governor merely supplied the boat, provisioned it, and permitted him
to select his own crew. Hunter gave Bass full credit for what he did, and
himself applied the name to the Strait when its existence had been
demonstrated. It is, however, but just to Hunter to observe, that he had
eight years before printed the opinion that there was either a strait or
a deep gulf between Van Diemen's Land and New Holland. In his Historical
Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island (London,
1793), he gave an account of the voyage of the Sirius, in 1789, from Port
Jackson to the Cape of Good Hope to purchase provisions. In telling the
story of the return voyage he wrote (page 125):

"In passing at a distance from the coast between the islands of Schooten
and Furneaux and Point Hicks, the former being the northernmost of
Captain Furneaux's observations here, and the latter the southernmost
part which Captain Cook saw when he sailed along the coast, there has
been no land seen, and from our having felt an easterly set of current
and when the wind was from that quarter (north-west), we had an uncommon
large sea, there is reason to believe that there is in that space either
a very deep gulf or a strait, which may separate Van Diemen's Land from
New Holland. There have no discoveries been made on the western side of
this land in the parallel I allude to, between 39 and 42 degrees south,
the land there having never been seen."

Hunter was, therefore, quite justified, in his despatch, in pointing out
that he had "long conjectured" the existence of the Strait. He seems, not
unwarrantably, to have been anxious that his own share in the
discoveries, as foreseeing them and encouraging the efforts that led to
them, should not be overlooked. The Naval Chronicle of the time mentioned
the subject, and returned to it more than once.* (* See Naval Chronicle
Volume 4 159 (1800); Volume 6 349 (1801); Volume 15 62 (1806), etc.) But
if we may suppose Hunter to have inspired some of these allusions, it
must be added that they are scrupulously fair, and claimed no more for
him than he was entitled to have remembered. Bass's work is in every
instance properly appreciated; and in one article (Naval Chronicle 15 62)
he is characterised, probably through Hunter's instrumentality--the
language is very like that used in the official despatch--as "a man of
considerable enterprise and ingenuity, a strong and comprehensive mind
with the advantage of a vigorous body and healthy constitution." The boat
was 28 feet 7 inches long, head and stern alike, fitted to row eight
oars, with banksia timbers and cedar planking.

One error relating to this justly celebrated voyage needs to be
corrected, especially as currency has been given to it in a standard
historical work. It is not true that Bass undertook his cruise "in a
sailing boat with a crew of five convicts.* (* The Royal Navy: a History
Volume 4 567.) His men were all British sailors. Hunter's despatch
indicates that Bass asked to be allowed to man his boat "with volunteers
from the King's ships," and that she was "manned to his wish," and
Flinders, in his narrative of the voyage, stated that his friend was
"furnished with a fine whaleboat, and six weeks' provisions by the
Governor, and a crew of six seamen from the ships."

It is, indeed, much to be regretted that, with one exception to be
mentioned in a later chapter, the names of the seamen who participated in
this remarkable cruise have not been preserved. Bass had no occasion in
his diary to mention any man by name, but it is quite evident that they
were a daring, enduring, well-matched and thoroughly loyal band, facing
the big waters in their small craft with heroic resolution, and never
failing to respond when their chief gave a lead. When, after braving foul
weather, and with food supplies running low, the boat was at length
turned homeward, Bass writes "we did it reluctantly," coupling his
willing little company with himself in regrets that discovery could not
be pushed farther than they had been able to pursue it. Throughout his
diary he writes in the first person plural, and he records no instance of
complaint of the hardships endured or of quailing before the dangers

It is likely enough that the six British sailors who manned Bass's boat
had very little perception that they were engaged upon a task that would
shine in history. An energetic ship's surgeon whom everybody liked had
called for volunteers in an affair requiring stout arms and hearts. He
got them, they followed him, did their job, and returned to routine duty.
They did not receive any extra pay, or promotion, or official
recognition. Neither did Bass, beyond Hunter's commendation in a
despatch. He wrote up his modest little diary, a terse record of
observations and occurrences, and got ready for the next adventure.

We will follow him on this one.

On the evening of Sunday, December 3, 1797, at six o'clock, Bass's men
rowed out of Port Jackson heads and turned south. The night was spent in
Little Bay, three miles north of Botany Bay, as Bass did not deem it
prudent to proceed further in the darkness, the weather having become
cloudy and uncertain, and things not having yet found their proper place
in the boat. Nor was very much progress made on the 4th, for a violent
wind was encountered, which caused Bass to make for Port Hacking. On the
following day, "the wind headed in flurries," and the boat did not get
further than Providential Cove, or Watta-mowley, where the Tom Thumb had
taken refuge in the previous year. On the 7th, Bass reached Shoalhaven,
which he named. He remained there three days, and described the soil and
situation with some care. "The country around it is generally low and
swampy and the soil for the most part is rich and good, but seemingly
much subject to extensive inundation." One sentence of comment reads
curiously now that the district is linked up by railway with Sydney, and
exports its butter and other produce to the markets of Europe. "However
capable much of the soil of this country might upon a more accurate
investigation be found to be of agricultural improvement, certain it is
that the difficulty of shipping off the produce must ever remain a bar to
its colonisation. A nursery of cattle might perhaps be carried on here
with advantage, and that sort of produce ships off itself." Bass, a
farmer's son, reared in an agricultural centre, was a capable judge of
good country, but of course there was nothing when he saw these rich
lands to foretell an era of railways and refrigerating machinery.

On December 10th the boat entered Jervis Bay, and on the 18th Bass
discovered Barmouth Creek (probably the mouth of the Bega River), "the
prettiest little model of a harbour we had ever seen." Were it not for
the shallowness of the bar, he considered that the opening would be "a
complete harbour for small craft;" but as things were, "a small boat even
must watch her times for going in." On the 19th, at seven o'clock in the
morning, Twofold Bay was discovered. Bass sailed round it, made a sketch
of it, and put to sea again, thinking it better to leave the place for
further examination on the return voyage, and to take advantage of the
fair wind for the southward course. He considered the nautical advantages
of the harbour--to become in later years a rather important centre for
whaling--superior to those of any other anchorage entered during the
voyage. A landmark was indicated by him with a quaint touch: "It may be
known by a red point on the south side, of the peculiar bluish hue of a
drunkard's nose." On the following day at about eleven o'clock in the
morning he rounded Cape Howe, and commenced his westerly run. He was now
nearing a totally new stretch of coast.

From the 22nd to the 30th bad weather was experienced. A gale blew
south-west by west, full in their teeth. The situation must have been
uncomfortable in the extreme, for the boat was now entering the Strait.
The heavy seas that roll under the lash of a south-west gale in that
quarter do not make for the felicity of those who face them on a
well-found modern steamer. For the seven Englishmen in an open boat,
groping along a strange coast, the ordeal was severe. But no doubt they
wished each other a merry Christmas, in quite the traditional English
way, and with hearty good feeling, on the 25th.

On the last day of the year, in more moderate weather, the boat was
coasting the Ninety Mile Beach, behind the sandy fringe of which lay the
fat pastures of eastern Gippsland. The country did not look very
promising to Bass from the sea, and he minuted his impressions in a few
words: "low beaches at the bottom of heights of no great depth, lying
between rocky projecting points; in the back lay some short ridges of
lumpy irregular hills at a little distance from the sea."

Nowhere in his diary did Bass seize upon any picturesque features of
scenery, though they are not lacking in the region that he traversed. If
he was moved by a sense of the oppressiveness of vast, silent solitudes,
or by any sensation of strangeness at feeling his way along a coast
hitherto unexplored, the emotion finds scarcely any reflection in his
record. Hard facts, dates, times, positions, and curt memoranda, were the
sole concern of the diarist. He did not even mention a pathetic, almost
tragic, incident of the voyage, to which reference will presently be
made. It did not concern the actual exploratory part of his work, and so
he passed it by. The one note signifying an appreciation of the
singularity of the position is conveyed in the terse words: "Sunday 31st,
a.m. Daylight, got out and steered along to the southward, in anxious
expectation, being now nearly come upon an hitherto unknown part of the

But men are emotional beings after all, and an entry for "January 1st,
1798" (really the evening of December 31), bare of the human touch as it
is, brings the situation of Bass and his crew vividly before the eye of
the reader. The dramatic force of it must have been keenly realised by
them. At night there was "bright moonlight, the sky without a cloud." A
new year was dawning. The seven Englishmen tossing on the waves in this
solitary part of the globe would not fail to remember that. They were
near enough to the land to see it distinctly; it was "still low and
level." A flood of soft light lay upon it, and rippled silvery over the
sea. They would hear the wash of the rollers that climb that bevelled
shore, and pile upon the water-line creaming leagues of phosphorescent
foam. And at the back lay a land of mystery, almost as tenantless as the
moon herself, but to be the future home of prosperous thousands of the
same race as the men in the whaleboat. To them it was a country of weird
forms, strange animals, and untutored savages. If ever boat breasted the
"foam of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn," it was this, and if ever
its occupants realised the complete strangeness of their situation and
their utter aloofness from the tracks of their fellowmen, it must have
been on this cloudless moonlit summer night. There was hardly a stretch
of the world's waters, at all events in any habitable zone, where they
could have been farther away from all that they remembered with affection
and hoped to see again. About half an hour before midnight a haze dimmed
the distinctness of the shore, and at midnight it had thickened so that
they could scarcely see land at all. But they crept along in their
course, "vast flights of petrels and other birds flying about us," the
watch peering into the mist, the rest wrapped in their blankets sleeping,
while the stars shone down on them from a brilliant steel-blue sky, and
the Cross wheeled high above the southern horizon.

Cook, on his Endeavour voyage in 1770, first sighted the Australian coast
at Point Hicks, called Cape Everard on many current maps. His second
officer, Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, at six in the morning of April 20,
"saw ye land making high," and Cook "named it Point Hicks because
Lieutenant Hicks was the first who discovered this land." Point Hicks is
a projection which falls away landward from a peak, backed by a sandy
conical hill, but Bass passed it without observing it. The thick haze
which he mentions may have obscured the outline. At all events, by dusk
on January 1st he found that he had filled up the hitherto unexplored
space between Point Hicks "a point we could not at all distinguish from
the rest of the beach," and the high hummocky land further west, which he
believed to be that sighted by Captain Tobias Furneaux in 1773. It is,
however, to be observed that Flinders pointed out that all Bass's
reckonings after December 31st were ten miles out. "It is no matter of
surprise," wrote his friend indicating an error, "if observations taken
from an open boat in a high sea should differ ten miles from the truth;
but I judge that Mr. Bass's quadrant must have received some injury
during the night of the 31st, for a similar error appears to pervade all
the future observations, even those taken under favourable
circumstances." The missing of Point Hicks, therefore, apart from the
thick haze, is not difficult to understand.

On Tuesday, January 2nd, Bass reached the most southerly point in the
continent of Australia, the extremity of Wilson's Promontory. The bold
outlines were sighted at seven o'clock in the morning. "We were surprised
by the sight of high hummocky land right ahead, and at a considerable
distance." Bass called it Furneaux Land in his diary, in the belief that
a portion of the great granite peninsula had been seen by the captain of
the Adventure in 1773. Furneaux' name is still attached to the group of
islands divided by Banks' Strait from the north-east corner of Tasmania.
But the name which Bass gave to the Promontory was not retained. It is
not likely that Furneaux ever saw land so far west. "It cannot be the
same, as Mr. Bass was afterwards convinced," wrote Flinders. Governor
Hunter, "at our recommendation," named it Wilson's Promontory, "in
compliment to my friend Thomas Wilson, Esq., of London." It has been
stated that the name was given to commemorate William Wilson, one of the
whaleboat crew, who "jumped ashore first."* (* Ida Lee, The Coming of the
British to Australia, London 1906 page 51.) Nobody "jumped ashore first"
on the westward voyage, when the discovery was made, because, as Bass
twice mentions in his diary, "we could not land." Doubly inaccurate is
the statement of another writer that "the promontory was seen and named
by Grant in 1800 after Admiral Wilson."* (* Blair, Cyclopaedia of
Australia, 748.) Grant himself, on his chart of Bass Strait, marked down
the promontory as "accurately surveyed by Matthew Flinders, which he
calls Wilson's Promontory," and on page 78 of his Narrative wrote that it
was named by Bass. The truth is, as related above, that it was named by
Hunter on the recommendation of Bass and Flinders; and the two
superfluous Wilsons have no proper place in the story. The Thomas Wilson
whose name was thus given to one of the principal features of the
Australian coast--a form of memorial far more enduring than "storied urn
or animated bust"--is believed to have been a London merchant, engaged
partly in the Australian trade. Nothing more definite is known about him.
He was as one who "grew immortal in his own despight." Of the Promontory
itself Bass wrote--and the words are exceedingly apt--that it was "well
worthy of being the boundary point of a large strait, and a corner stone
of this great island New Holland."

Bass found the neighbourhood of the Promontory to be the home of vast
numbers of petrels, gulls and other birds, as is still the case, and he
remarked upon the seals observed upon neighbouring rocks, with "a
remarkably long tapering neck and sharp pointed head." They were the
ordinary Bass Strait seal, once exceedingly plentiful, and still to be
found on some of the islands, but unfortunately much fewer in numbers
now. The pupping time was passed when Bass sailed through, and many of
the females had gone to sea, as is their habit. This cause of depletion
accounts for his remark on his return voyage that the number was "by no
means equal to what we had been led to expect." But, he added, "from the
quantity I saw I have every reason to believe that a speculation on a
small scale might be carried on with advantage."

Foul winds and heavy breaking seas were experienced while the boat was
nearing the Promontory. To make matters worse, leaks were causing
anxiety. Water was gushing in pretty freely near the water-line aft. The
crew had frequently remarked in the course of the morning of January 3rd
how much looser the boat had become during the last few days. Her planks
had received no ordinary battering. It had been Bass's intention to
strike for the northern coast of Van Diemen's Land, which he supposed to
be at no very great distance. He may at this time have been under the
impression that he was in a deep gulf. As a matter of fact, the nearest
point southward that he could have reached was 130 miles distant. Anxiety
about the condition of the boat made him resolve to continue his coasting
cruise westward. Water rushed in fast through the boat's side, there was
risk of a plank starting, and ploughing through a hollow, irregular sea,
the explorers were, as Flinders reviewing the adventure wrote, "in the
greatest danger." Bass's record of his night of peril is
characteristically terse: "we had a bad night of it, but the excellent
qualities of the boat brought us through." He says nothing of his own
careful steering and sleepless vigilance.

It was on the evening of the third day, January 3rd, that an incident
occurred to which, curiously enough, Bass made no allusion in his diary,
presumably because it did not concern the actual work of navigation and
discovery, but which throws a dash of tragic colour into the story of his
adventure. The boat having returned to the coast of what was supposed to
be Furneaux Land, was running along "in whichever way the land might
trend, for the state of the boat did not seem to allow of our quitting
the shore with propriety." The coast line was being scanned for a place
of shelter, when smoke was observed curling up from an island not far
from the Promontory. At first it was thought that the smoke arose from a
fire lighted by aboriginals, but it was discovered, to the amazement of
Bass and his crew, that the island was occupied by a party of white men.
They were escaped convicts. The tale they had to tell was one of a wild
dash for liberty, treachery by confederates, and abandonment to the
imminent danger of starvation.

In October of the previous year, a gang of fourteen convicts had been
employed in carrying stones from Sydney to the Hawkesbury River
settlement, a few miles to the north. Most of them were "of the last
Irish convicts," as Hunter explained in a despatch, part of the bitter
fruit of the Irish Mutiny Act of 1796, passed to strike at the movement
associated with the names of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone, which
encouraged the attempted French invasion of Ireland under Hoche. These
men seized the boat appointed for the service, appropriated the stores,
threatened the lives of all who dared to oppose them, and made their exit
through Port Jackson heads. As soon as the Governor heard of the escape
he despatched parties in pursuit in rowing boats. The coast was searched
sixty miles to the north and forty to the south; but the convicts, with
the breeze in their sail and the hope of liberty in their hearts, had all
the advantage on their side, and eluded their gaolers.

In April, 1797, news had been brought to the settlement of the wreck of
the ship Sydney Cove on an island to the southward. If the Irish
prisoners could reach this island, float the ship on the tide, and repair
her rents, they considered that they had an excellent chance of escape.
The provisions which they had on their boat, with such as they might find
on the ship, would probably be sufficient for a voyage. It was a daring
enterprise, but it may well have seemed to offer a prospect of success.

Some of the prisoners at the settlement, as appears from a "general
order" issued by Hunter, had "picked up somehow or other the idle story
of the possibility of travelling from hence to China, or finding some
other colony where they expect every comfort without the trouble of any
labour." It may have been the alluring hope of discovering such an
earthly paradise that flattered these men. As a matter of fact, some
convicts did escape from New South Wales and reached India, after
extraordinary perils and hardships. They endeavoured to sail up the River
Godavery, but were interrupted by a party of sepoys, re-arrested, and
sent to Madras, whence they were ordered to be sent back to Sydney.* (*
See Annual Register 1801 page 15.)

But the party whom Bass found never discovered the place of the wreck
upon which they reckoned. Instead, they drifted round Cape Howe, and
found themselves off a desolate, inhospitable coast, without knowledge of
their whereabouts, and with a scanty, rapidly diminishing stock of food.
In fear of starvation seven of them resolved to desert their companions
on this lonely island near Wilson's Promontory, and treacherously sailed
away with the boat while the others were asleep. It was the sad, sick,
and betrayed remnant of this forlorn hope, that Bass found on that
wave-beaten rock on the 3rd January. For five weeks the wretched men had
subsisted on petrels and occasional seals. Small prospect they had of
being saved; the postponement of their doom seemed only a prolongation of
their anguish. They were nearly naked, and almost starved to death. Bass
heard their story, pitied their plight, and relieved their necessities as
well as he could from his own inadequate stores. He also promised that on
his return he would call again at the island, and do what he could for
the party, who only escaped from being prisoners of man to become
prisoners of nature, locked in one of her straitest confines, and fed
from a reluctant and parsimonious hand.

Bass kept his word; and it may be as well to interrupt the narrative of
his westward navigation in order to relate the end of this story of
distress. On February 2nd, he again touched at the island. But what could
he do to help the fugitives? His boat was too small to enable him to take
them on board, and his provisions were nearly exhausted, his men having
had to eke out the store by living on seals and sea birds. He consented
to take on board two of the seven, one of whom was grievously sick and
the other old and feeble. He provided the five others with a musket and
ammunition, fishing lines and hooks, and a pocket compass. He then
conveyed them to the mainland, gave them a supply of food to meet their
immediate wants, and pointed out that their only hope of salvation was to
pursue the coastline round to Port Jackson. The crew of the whaleboat
gave them such articles of clothing as they could spare. Some tears were
shed on both sides when they separated, Bass to continue his homeward
voyage, the hapless victims of a desperate attempt to escape to face the
long tramp over five hundred miles of wild and trackless country, with
the prospect of a prolongation of their term of servitude should they
ever reach Sydney. "The difficulties of the country and the possibility
of meeting hostile natives are considerations which will occasion doubts
of their ever being able to reach us," wrote Hunter in a despatch
reporting the matter to the Secretary of State. It does not appear that
one of the five was even seen again.* (* What some convicts dared and
endured in the effort to escape, is shown in the following very
interesting paragraph, printed in a London newspaper of May 30th, 1797:
"The female convict who made her escape from Botany Bay, and suffered the
greatest hardships during a voyage of three thousand leagues [presumably
she was a stowaway] and who was afterwards retaken and condemned to
death, has been pardoned and released from Newgate. In the story of this
woman there is something extremely singular. A gentleman of high rank in
the Army visited her in Newgate, heard the details of her life, and for
that time departed. The next day he returned, and told the gentleman who
keeps the prison that he had procured her pardon, at the same time
requesting that she should not be apprized of the circumstances. The next
day he returned with his carriage, and took off the poor woman, who
almost expired with gratitude.")

To return to the discovery cruise: on January 5th, at seven in the
evening, Bass's whaleboat turned into Westernport, between the bold
granite headland of Cape Wollamai, on Phillip Island, and Point Griffith
on the mainland. The discovery of this port, now the seat of a naval base
for the Commonwealth, was a splendid crown to a remarkable voyage. "I
have named the place," Bass wrote, "from its relative situation to every
other known harbour on the coast, Western Port. It is a large sheet of
water, branching out into two arms, which end in wide flats of several
miles in extent, and it was not until we had been here some days that we
found it to be formed by an island, and to have two outlets to the sea,
an eastern and western passage."

Twelve days were spent in the harbour. The weather was bad; and to this
cause in the main we may attribute the paucity of the observations made,
and the defective account given of the port itself. It contains two
islands: Phillip Island, facing the strait, and French Island, the larger
of the two, lying between Phillip Island and the mainland. Bass was not
aware that this second island was not part of the mainland. Its existence
was first determined by the Naturaliste, one of the ships of Baudin's
French expedition, in 1802.

Bass's men had great difficulty in procuring good water. He considered
that there was every appearance of an unusual drought in the country.
This may also have been the reason why he saw only three or four blacks,
who were so shy that the sailors could not get near them. There must
certainly have been fairly large families of blacks on Phillip Island at
one time, for there are several extensive middens on the coast, with
thick deposits of fish bones and shells; and the author has found there
some good specimens of "blackfellows' knives"--that is, sharpened pieces
of flat, hard stone, with which the aboriginals opened their oysters and
mussels--besides witnessing the finding of a few fine stone axes. Bass
records the sight of a few brush kangaroos and "Wallabah"; of black swan
he observed hundreds, as well as ducks, "a small but excellent kind,"
which flew in thousands, and "an abundance of most kinds of wild fowl."

By the time the stay in Westernport came to an end, Bass had been at sea
a month and two days, and had sailed well into the strait now bearing his
name, though he was not yet quite sure that it was a strait. His
provisions had necessarily run very low. The condition of the boat, whose
repair occupied some time, increased his anxiety. Prudence pointed to the
desirableness of a return to Port Jackson with the least possible delay.
Yet one cannot but regret that so intrepid an explorer, who was making
such magnificent use of means so few and frail, was not able to follow
the coast a very few more miles westward. Another day's sail would have
brought him into Port Phillip, and he would have been the discoverer of
the bay at the head of which now stands the great city of Melbourne.
Perhaps if he had done so, his report would have saved Hunter from
writing a sentence which is a standing warning against premature
judgments upon territory seen at a disadvantage and insufficiently
examined. "He found in general," wrote the Governor to the Secretary of
State, "a barren, unpromising country, with very few exceptions, and were
it even better the want of harbours would render it less valuable." The
truth is that he had seen hardly the fringe of some of the fairest lands
on earth, and was within cannon shot of a harbour wherein all the navies
of the world could ride.

Shortly after dawn on January 18th the prow of the whaleboat was "very
reluctantly" turned ocean-wards for the home journey. The wind was fresh
when they started, but as the morning wore on it increased to a gale, and
by noon there were high seas and heavy squalls. As the little craft was
running along the coast, and the full force of the south-westerly gale
beat hard on her beam, her management taxed the nerve and seamanship of
the crew. Bass acknowledged that it was "very troublesome," and his
"very" means much. This extremely trying weather lasted, with a few brief
intervals, for eight days. As soon as possible Bass steered his boat
under the lee of Cape Liptrap, not only for safety, but also to salt down
for consumption during the remainder of the voyage a stock of birds taken
on the islands off Westernport.

On the night of the 23rd the boat lay snugly under the shelter of the
rocks, where Bass intended to remain until the weather moderated. But at
about one o'clock in the morning the wind shifted to the south, blowing
"stronger than before," and made the place untenable. At daybreak,
therefore, another resting place was sought, and later in the morning the
boat was beached on the west side of a sheltered cove, "having passed
through a sea that for the very few hours it has been blowing was
incredibly high." When the wind abated the sea went down, so that Bass
was able to round the Promontory to the east, enter Sealers' Cove, which
he named, and lay in a stock of seal-meat and salted birds.

"The Promontory," wrote Bass, "is joined to the mainland by a low neck of
sand, which is nearly divided by a lagoon that runs in on the west side
of it, and by a large shoal inlet on the east. Whenever it shall be
decided that the opening between this and Van Diemen's Land is a large
strait, this rapidity of tide and the long south-west swell that seems
continually running in upon the coast to the westward, will then be
accounted for." It is evident, therefore, that at this time Bass regarded
the certainty of there being a strait as a matter yet to "be decided." He
was himself thereafter to assist in the decision.

Though Bass does not give any particulars of aboriginals encountered at
Wilson's Promontory, it is apparent from an allusion in his diary that
some were seen. The sentence in which he mentions them is curious for its
classification of them with the other animals observed, a classification
biologically justifiable, no doubt, but hardly usual. "The animals," he
wrote, "have nothing new in them worth mentioning, with these exceptions;
that the men, though thieves, are kind and friendly, and that the birds
upon Furneaux's Land have a sweetness of note unknown here," i.e., at
Port Jackson. He would not, in February, have heard the song-lark, that
unshamed rival of an English cousin famed in poetry, and the sharp
crescendo of the coach-whip bird would scarcely be classed as "sweet."
"The tinkle of the bell-bird in the ranges may have gratified his ear;
but the likelihood is that the birds which pleased him were the
harmonious thrush and the mellow songster so opprobiously named the
thickhead, for no better reason than that collectors experience a
difficulty in skinning it.* (* Mr. Chas. L. Barrett, a well known
Australian ornithologist, and one of the editors of the Emu, knows the
Promontory well, and he tells me that he has no doubt that the birds
which pleased Bass were the grey shrike thrush (Collyriocincla harmonica)
and the white-throated thickhead (Pachycephala gutturalis.))

The cruise from the Promontory eastward was commenced on February 2nd.
Eight days later, the boat being in no condition for keeping the sea with
a foul wind, Bass beached her not far from Ram Head. He had passed Point
Hicks in the night. Cape Howe was rounded on the 15th, and on the 25th
the boat entered Port Jackson.

Bass and his men had accomplished a great achievement. In an open boat,
exposed to the full rigours of the weather in seas that are frequently
rough and were on this voyage especially storm-lashed, persecuted
persistently by contrary gales, they had travelled twelve hundred miles,
principally along an unknown coast, which they had for the first time
explored. Hunter in his official despatch commented on Bass's
"perseverance against adverse winds and almost incessant bad weather,"
and complimented him upon his sedulous examination of inlets in search of
secure harbours. But there can be no better summary of the voyage than
that penned by Flinders, who from his own experience could adequately
appreciate the value of the performance. Writing fifteen years later,
when Bass had disappeared and was believed to be dead, his friend said:--

"It should be remembered that Mr. Bass sailed with only six weeks'
provisions; but with the assistance of occasional supplies of petrels,
fish, seals'-flesh, and a few geese and black swans, and by abstinence,
he had been enabled to prolong his voyage beyond eleven weeks. His ardour
and perseverance were crowned, in despite of the foul winds which so much
opposed him, with a degree of success not to have been anticipated from
such feeble means. In three hundred miles of coast from Port Jackson to
the Ram Head, he added a number of particulars which had escaped Captain
Cook, and will always escape any navigator in a first discovery, unless
he have the time and means of joining a close examination by boats to
what may be seen from the ship.

"Our previous knowledge of the coast scarcely extended beyond the Ram
Head; and there began the harvest in which Mr. Bass was ambitious to
place the first reaping-hook. The new coast was traced three hundred
miles; and instead of trending southward to join itself to Van Diemen's
Land, as Captain Furneaux had supposed, he found it, beyond a certain
point, to take a direction nearly opposite, and to assume the appearance
of being exposed to the buffeting of an open sea. Mr. Bass himself
entertained no doubt of the existence of a wide strait separating Van
Diemen's Land from New South Wales, and he yielded with the greatest
reluctance to the necessity of returning before it was so fully
ascertained as to admit of no doubt in the minds of others. But he had
the satisfaction of placing at the end of his new coast an extensive and
useful harbour, surrounded with a country superior to any other harbour
in the southern parts of New South Wales.

"A voyage especially undertaken for discovery in an open boat, and in
which six hundred miles of coast, mostly in a boisterous climate, was
explored, has not, perhaps, its equal in the annals of maritime history.
The public will award to its high-spirited and able conductor--alas! now
no more--an honourable place in the list of those whose ardour stands
most conspicuous for the promotion of useful knowledge."

Bass would have desired no better recognition than this competent
appraisement of his work by one who, when he wrote these paragraphs, had
himself experienced a full measure of the perils of the sea.

Was Bass at the time of his return aware that he had discovered a strait?
It has been asserted that "it is evident that Bass was not fully
conscious of the great discovery he had made."* (* F.M. Bladen,
Historical Records of New South Wales 3 327 note.) Bass's language, upon
which this surmise is founded, was as follows: "Whenever it shall be
decided that the opening between this and Van Diemen's Land is a strait,
this rapidity of tide...will be accounted for." He also wrote: "There is
reason to believe it (i.e., Wilson's Promontory) is the boundary of a
large strait." I do not think these passages are to be taken to mean that
Bass was at all doubtful about there being a strait. On the contrary, the
words "whenever it shall be decided" express his conviction that it would
be so decided; but the diarist recognised that the existence of the
strait had not yet been proved to demonstration. His reluctance to turn
back when he reached Westernport was unquestionably due to the same
cause. The voyage in the whaleboat had not proved the strait. It was
still possible, though not at all probable, that the head of a deep gulf
lay farther westward. The subsequent circumnavigation of Tasmania by Bass
and Flinders proved the strait, as did also Grant's voyage through it
from the west in the Lady Nelson in 1800.

Hunter had no more evidence than that afforded by Bass's discoveries when
he wrote, in his despatch to the Secretary of State: "He found an open
ocean westward, and by the mountainous sea which rolled from that
quarter, and no land discoverable in that direction, we have much reason
to conclude that there is an open strait through." Hunter's "much reason
to conclude" implies no more doubt about the strait than do the words of
Bass, but the phrase does imply a recognition of the want of conclusive
proof, creditable to the restrained judgment of both men. Flinders also
wrote: "There seemed to want no other proof of the existence of a passage
than that of sailing positively through it," which is precisely what he
set himself to do in Bass's company, as soon as he could secure an
opportunity. Still stronger testimony is that of Flinders, when summing
up his account of the discovery: "The south-westerly swell which rolled
in upon the shores of Westernport and its neighbourhood sufficiently
indicated to the penetrating Bass that he was exposed to the southern
Indian Ocean. This opinion, which he constantly asserted, was the
principal cause of my services being offered to the Governor to ascertain
the principal cause of it." Further, although Colonel David Collins was
not in Sydney at the time of the discovery, what he wrote in his account
of the English Colony in New South Wales (2nd edition, London, 1804), was
based on first-hand information; and he was no less direct in his
statement: "There was every appearance of an extensive strait, or rather
an open sea"; and he adds that Bass "regretted that he had not been
possessed of a better vessel, which would have enabled him to
circumnavigate Van Diemen's Land" (pages 443 and 444).

These passages, when compared with Bass's own careful language, leave no
doubt that Bass was fully conscious of the great discovery he had made,
though a complete demonstration was as yet lacking.* (* The reasons given
above appear also to justify me in saying that there is insufficient
warrant for the statement of Sir J.K. Laughton (Dictionary of National
Biography XLX 326) that "Bass's observations were so imperfect that it
was not until they were plotted after his return that the importance of
what he had done was at once apparent.")

An interesting light is thrown on the admiration felt for Bass among the
colonists at Sydney, by Francois Peron, the historian of Baudin's voyage
of exploration. When the French were at Port Jackson in 1802, the
whaleboat was lying beached on the foreshore, and was preserved, says
Peron, with a kind of "religious respect." Small souvenirs were made of
its timbers; and a piece of the keel enclosed in a silver frame, was
presented by the Governor to Captain Baudin, as a memorial of the
"audacieuse navigation." Baudin's artist, in making a drawing of Sydney,
was careful to show Bass's boat stayed up on the sand; and Peron, in his
Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes, respectfully described the
discovery of "the celebrated Mr. Bass" as "precious from a marine point
of view."


During the absence of Bass in the whaleboat, the repairing of the
Reliance was finished, and in February, 1798, Flinders was able to carry
out a bit of exploration on his own account. The making of charts was
employment for which he had equipped himself by study and practice, and
he was glad to secure an opportunity of applying his abilities in a field
where there was original work to do. The schooner Francis (a small vessel
sent out in frame from England for the use of the colonial government,
but now badly decayed) was about to be despatched to the Furneaux
Islands--north-east of Van Diemen's Land, and about 480 miles from
Sydney--to bring to Sydney what remained of the cargo of the wrecked
Sydney Cove, and to rescue a few of the crew who had been left in charge.
Flinders obtained permission from the Governor to embark in the schooner,
"in order to make such observations serviceable to geography and
navigation as circumstances might afford," and instructions were given to
the officer in command to forward this purpose as far as possible.

The circumstances of the wreck that occasioned the cruise of the Francis
were these:--

The Sydney Cove, Captain Guy Hamilton, left Bengal on November 10th,
1796, with a speculative cargo of merchandise for Sydney. Serious
leakages became apparent on the voyage, but the ship made the coast of
New Holland, rounded the southern extremity of Van Diemen's Land, and
stood to the northward on February 1st, 1797. She encountered furious
gales which increased to a perfect hurricane, with a sea described in a
contemporary account as "dreadful." The condition of the hull was so bad
that the pumps could not keep the inrush of water under control, and the
vessel became waterlogged. On February 8th she had five feet of water in
the well, and by midnight the water was up to the lower deck hatches. She
was at daybreak in imminent peril of going to the bottom, so the Captain
headed for Preservation Island (one of the Furneaux Group), sent the
longboat ashore with some rice, ammunition and firearms, and ran her in
until she struck on a sandy bottom in nineteen feet of water. The whole
ship's company was landed safely, tents were rigged up, and as much of
the cargo as could be secured was taken ashore.

It was necessary to communicate with Sydney to procure assistance. The
long-boat was launched, and under the direction of the first mate, Mr.
Hugh Thompson, sixteen of the crew started north on February 28th. But
fresh misfortunes, as cruel as shipwreck and for most of these men more
disastrous, were heaped upon them. They were smitten by a violent storm,
terrific seas broke over the boat, and on the morning of March 2nd she
suddenly shipped enough water to swamp her. The crew with difficulty ran
her through the surf that beat on the coast off which they had been
struggling, and she went to pieces immediately. The seventeen were cast
ashore on the coast of New South Wales, hundreds of miles from the only
settlement, which could only be reached by the crossing of a wild, rough,
and trackless country, inhabited by tribes of savages. They were without
food, their clothing was drenched, and their sole means of defence
consisted of a rusty musket, with very little ammunition, a couple of
useless pistols, and two small swords.

The wretched band commenced their march along the coast northwards on
March 25th. They had to improvise rafts to cross some rivers; once a
party of kindly aboriginals helped them over a stream in canoes; at
another time they encountered blacks who hurled spears at them. They
lived chiefly on small shell-fish. Hunger and exposure brought their
strength very low. On April 16th, after over a month of weary tramping,
nine of the party dropped from fatigue and had to be left behind by their
companions, whose only hope was to push on while sufficient energy
lasted. Two days later, three of the remainder were wounded by blacks. At
last, in May, three only of the seventeen who started on this
heart-breaking struggle for life against distance, starvation and
exhaustion, were rescued, "scarcely alive," by a fishing boat, and taken
to Sydney. The others perished by the way.

Captain Hamilton, who had stayed by his wrecked ship, was rescued in
July, 1797; and, as already stated, in January of the following year,
Governor Hunter fitted out the schooner Francis to bring away a few
Lascar sailors and as much of the remaining cargo as could be saved. "I
sent in the schooner," wrote the Governor in a despatch, "Lieutenant
Flinders of the Reliance, a young man well-qualified, in order to give
him an opportunity of making what observations he could among those
islands." The Francis sailed on February 1st.

The black shadow of the catastrophe that had overtaken the Sydney Cove
crossed the path of the salvage party. The Francis was accompanied by the
ten-ton sloop Eliza, Captain Armstrong. But shortly after reaching the
Furneaux Islands the two vessels were separated in a storm, and the Eliza
went down with all hands. Neither the boat nor any soul of her company
were ever seen or heard of again.

Flinders had only twelve days available for his own work, from February
16th till the 28th, but he made full and valuable use of that time in
exploring, observing and charting. The fruits of his researches were
embodied in a drawing sent to the British Government by Hunter, when he
announced the discovery of Bass Strait later on in 1798. The principal
geographical result was the discovery of the Kent group of islands, which
Flinders named "in honour of my friend" the brave and accomplished
sailor, William Kent, who commanded the Supply.

The biological notes made by Flinders on this expedition are of unusual
interest. Upon the islands he found "Kanguroo" (his invariable spelling
of the word), "womat" (sic), the duck-billed platypus, aculeated
ant-eater, geese, black swan, gannets, shags, gulls, red bills, crows,
parrakeets, snakes, seals, and sooty petrels, a profusion of wild life
highly fascinating in itself, and, in the case of the animals, affording
striking evidence of connection with the mainland at a comparatively
recent period. The old male seals were described as of enormous size and
extraordinary power.

"I levelled my gun at one, which was sitting on the top of a rock with
his nose extended up towards the sun, and struck him with three musket
balls. He rolled over and plunged into the water, but in less than half
an hour had taken his former station and attitude. On firing again, a
stream of blood spouted forth from his breast to some yards distance, and
he fell back senseless. On examination the six balls were found lodged in
his breast; and one, which occasioned his death, had pierced the heart.
His weight was equal to that of a common ox...The commotion excited by
our presence in this assemblage of several thousand timid animals was
very interesting to me, who knew little of their manners. The young cubs
huddled together in the holes of the rocks and moaned piteously; those
more advanced scampered and bowled down to the water with their mothers;
whilst some of the old males stood up in defence of their families until
the terror of the sailors' bludgeons became too strong to be resisted.
Those who have seen a farmyard well stocked with pigs, with their mothers
in it, and have heard them all in tumult together, may form a good idea
of the confusion in connection with the seals at Cone Point. The sailors
killed as many of these harmless and not unamiable creatures as they were
able to skin during the time necessary for me to take the requisite
angles; and we then left the poor affrighted multitude to recover from
the effect of our inauspicious visit."

Flinders' observations upon the sooty petrels, or mutton birds, seen at
the Furneaux Islands, are valuable as forming a very early account of one
of the most remarkable sea-birds in the world:

"The sooty petrel, better known to us under the name of sheerwater,
frequents the tufted grassy parts of all the islands in astonishing
numbers. It is known that these birds make burrows in the ground like
rabbits; that they lay one or two enormous eggs in the holes and bring up
their young there. In the evening they come in from the sea, having their
stomachs filled with a gelatinous substance gathered from the waves, and
this they eject into the throats of their offspring, or retain for their
own nourishment, according to circumstances. A little after sunset the
air at Preservation Island used to be darkened with their numbers, and it
was generally an hour before their squabbling ceased and every one had
found its own retreat. The people of the Sydney Cove had a strong example
of perseverance in these birds. The tents were pitched close to a piece
of ground full of their burrows, many of which were necessarily filled up
from walking constantly over them; yet notwithstanding this interruption
and the thousands of birds destroyed (for they constituted a great part
of their food during more than six months), the returning flights
continued to be as numerous as before; and there was scarcely a burrow
less except in the places actually covered by the tents. These birds are
about the size of a pigeon, and when skinned and smoked we thought them
passable food. Any quantity could be procured by sending people on shore
in the evening. The sole process was to thrust in the arm up to the
shoulder and seize them briskly; but there was some danger of grasping a
snake at the bottom of the burrow instead of a petrel."

The remark that the egg of the sooty petrel is of enormous size is of
course only true relatively to the size of the bird. The egg is about as
large as a duck's egg, but longer and tapering more sharply at one end.
For the rest the description is an excellent one. The wings of the bird
are of great length and strength, giving to it wonderful speed and power
of flight. The colour is coal-black. Flinders saw more of the
sooty-petrel on his subsequent voyage round Tasmania; and it will be
convenient to quote here the passage in which he refers to the prodigious
numbers in which the birds were seen. It may be added that, despite a
century of slaughter by mankind, and after the taking of millions of
eggs--which are good food--the numbers of the mutton-birds are still
incalculably great.* (* The author may refer to a paper of his own, "The
Mutton Birds of Bass Strait," in the Field, April 18, 1903, for a study
of the sooty petrel during the laying season on Phillip Island. An
excellent account of the habits of the bird is given in Campbell's Nests
and Eggs of Australian Birds.) Writing of what he saw off the extreme
north-west of Tasmania in December, 1798, Flinders said:--

"A large flock of gannets was observed at daylight to issue out of the
great bight to the southward; and they were followed by such a number of
sooty petrels as we had never seen equalled. There was a stream of from
fifty to eighty yards in depth and of three hundred yards, or more, in
breadth; the birds were not scattered, but flying as compactly as a free
movement of their wings seemed to allow; and during a full hour and a
half this stream of petrels continued to pass without interruption at a
rate little inferior to the swiftness of a pigeon. On the lowest
computation I think the number could not have been less than a hundred

He explained how he arrived at this estimate, the reliableness of which
is beyond dispute, though it may seem incredible to those who have not
been in southern seas during the season when the sooty petrels "most do
congregate." Taking the stream of birds to have been fifty yards deep by
three hundred in width, and calculating that it moved at the rate of
thirty miles* an hour, and allowing nine cubic yards for each bird, the
number would amount to 151,500,000. The burrows required to lodge this
number would be 75,750,000, and allowing a square yard to each burrow
they would cover something more than 18 1/2 geographical square miles. (*
Flinders is calculating in nautical miles of 2026 2/3 yards each.)

The mutton-bird, it will therefore be allowed, is the most prolific of
all avian colonists. It has also played some part in the history of human
colonisation. When, in 1790, Governor Phillip sent to Norfolk Island a
company of convicts and marines, and the Sirius, the only means of
carrying supplies, was wrecked, the population, 506 in all, was reduced
to dire distress from want of food. Starvation stared them in the face,
when it was discovered that Mount Pitt was honeycombed with mutton-bird
burrows. They were slain in thousands. "The slaughter and mighty havoc is
beyond description," wrote an officer. "They are very fine eating,
exceeding fat and firm, and I think (though no connoisseur) as good as
any I ever eat." Many people who are not hunger-driven profess to relish
young mutton-bird, whose flesh is like neither fish nor fowl, but an oily
blend of both.

On this cruise Flinders came in sight of Cook's Point Hicks; and his
reference to it has some interest because Bass had missed it; because
Flinders himself did not on any of his other voyages sail close enough
inshore on this part of the coast to observe it, and did not mark it upon
his charts; and because the more recent substitution of the name Cape
Everard for the name given by Cook, makes of some consequence the
allusion of this great navigator to a projection which he saw only once.
The Francis on February 4th "was in 38 degrees 16 minutes and (by
account) 22 minutes of longitude to the west of Point Hicks. The schooner
was kept more northward in the afternoon; at four o'clock a moderately
high sloping hill was visible in the north by west, and at seven a small
rocky point on the beach bore north 50 degrees west three or four
leagues. At some distance inland there was a range of hills with wood
upon them, though scarcely sufficient to hide their sandy surface." That
describes the country near Point Hicks accurately.

The largest island in the Furneaux group, now called Flinders Island, was
not so named by Flinders. He referred to it as "the great island of
Furneaux." Flinders never named any of his discoveries after himself, not
even the smallest rock or cape. Flinders Island in the Bight
(Investigator Group) was named after his brother Samuel.

It is a little curious that no allusion to the useful piece of work done
by Flinders on this cruise was made by the Governor in his despatches.
The omission was not due to lack of appreciation on his part, as the
encouragement subsequently given to Bass and Flinders sufficiently
showed. But it was, in truth, work very well done, with restricted means
and in a very limited time.

The question whether the islands examined lay in a strait or in a deep
gulf was occupying the attention of Flinders at just about the same time
when his friend Bass, in his whaleboat on the north side of the same
stretch of water, was revolving the same problem in his mind. The reasons
given by Furneaux for disbelieving in the existence of a strait did not
satisfy Flinders. The great strength of the tides setting westward could,
in his opinion, only be occasioned by a passage through to the Indian
Ocean, unless the supposed gulf were very deep. There were arguments
tending either way; "the contradictory circumstances were very
embarrassing." Flinders would have liked to use the Francis forthwith to
settle the question; but, as she was commissioned for a particular
service, and not under his command, he had to subjugate his scientific
curiosity to circumstances.

Throughout his brief narrative of this voyage we see displayed the
qualities which distinguish all his original work. Promptness in taking
advantage of opportunities for investigation, careful and
cautiously-checked observations, painstaking accuracy in making
calculations, terse and dependable geographical description, and a fresh
quick eye for noting natural phenomena: these were always characteristics
of his work. He recorded what he saw of bird and animal with the same
care as he noted nautical facts. We may take his paragraph on the wombat
as an example. Bass was much interested in the wombats he saw, and with
his surgeon's anatomical knowledge gave a description of it which the
contemporary historian, Collins, quoted, enunciating the opinion that
"Bass's womb-bat seemed to be very oeconomically made"--whatever that may
mean. Flinders' description, which must be one of the earliest accounts
of the creature, is true:

"Clarke's Island afforded the first specimen of the new animal, called
wombat. This little bear-like quadruped is known in New South Wales, and
is called by the natives womat, wombat, or womback, according to the
different dialects--or perhaps to the different rendering of the
wood-rangers who brought the information. It does not quit its retreat
till dark; but it feeds at all times on the uninhabited islands, and was
commonly seen foraging amongst the sea refuse on the shore, though the
coarse grass seemed to be its usual nourishment. It is easily caught when
at a distance from its burrow; its flesh resembles lean mutton in taste,
and to us was acceptable food."

The original manuscript containing Flinders' narrative of the expedition
to the Furneaux Islands is in the Melbourne Public Library. It is a
beautiful manuscript, 22 quarto pages, neat and regular, every letter
perfect, every comma and semi-colon in place: a portrait in calligraphy
of its author.


Flinders arrived in Sydney in the Francis about a fortnight after Bass
returned in the whaleboat. It was, we may be certain, with delight that
he heard from the lips of his friend the story of his adventurous voyage.
The eye-sketch of the coastline traversed by Bass was, by the Governor's
direction, used by him for the preparation of a chart to be sent to
England. He was able to compare notes and discuss the probability of the
existence of a strait, and it was but natural that the two men who had so
recently been exploring, the one on the north the other on the south side
of the possible strait, should be eager to pursue enquiry to the point of
proof. Flinders acknowledged, in relating these events, his anxiety to
gratify his desire of positively sailing through the strait and round Van
Diemen's Land, and he chafed under the routine duties which postponed the
effort. The opportunity did not occur till September.

In the meantime, Flinders had to sail in the Reliance to Norfolk Island
to take over the surgeon, D'Arcy Wentworth, father of that William
Wentworth whose name has already figured in these pages, and who was then
a boy of seven. This trip took place in May to July.

In August he sat as a member of the Vice-Admiralty Court of New South
Wales to try a case of mutiny on the high seas. Certain members of the
New South Wales Corps were accused of plotting to seize the convict ship
Barwell, on her voyage between the Cape and Australia, and of drinking
the toast "damnation to the King and country." The Court considered the
evidence insufficient, and the men were acquitted, after a trial lasting
six days.

At last Flinders had an interview with the Governor about completing the
exploration of the seas to the southward, and offered his services.
Hunter, too, was anxious to have a test made of Bass's contention, which
Flinders' own observations supported. On September 3rd he wrote to the
Secretary of State that he was endeavouring to fit out a vessel "in which
I propose to send the two officers I have mentioned," Bass and Flinders.
Later in the month the Governor entrusted the latter with the command of
the Norfolk, a sloop of twenty-five tons burthen, built at Norfolk Island
from local pine. She was merely a small decked boat, put together under
the direction of Captain Townson of Norfolk Island for establishing
communication with Sydney. She leaked; her timbers were poor material for
a seaboat in quarters where heavy weather was to be expected; and the
accommodation she offered for a fairly extended cruise was cramped and
uncomfortable. But she was the best craft the Governor had to offer, and
Flinders was too keen for the quest to quarrel with the means. In those
days fine seamanship and endurance often had to make up for deficiencies
in equipment.

There were not two happier men in the King's service than these fast
friends, when they received the Governor's commission directing them to
sail "beyond Furneaux' Islands, and, should a strait be found, to pass
through it, and return by the south end of Van Diemen's Land." The
affection that existed between them is manifest in every reference which
Flinders made to Bass in his book, A Voyage to Terra Australis. "I had
the happiness to associate my friend Bass in this new expedition," he
wrote of the Norfolk's voyage; and it was a happiness based not only on
personal regard, but on kindred feeling for research work, and a
similarity in active, keen and ardent temperament.

The sloop was provisioned for twelve weeks, and "the rest of the
equipment was completed by the friendly care of Captain Waterhouse of the
Reliance." A crew of eight volunteers was chosen by Flinders from the
King's ships in port. It is likely that some of them were amongst the six
who had accompanied Bass to Westernport, and Flinders to the Furneaux and
Kent Islands, but their names have not been preserved.

The Norfolk sailed on October 7, 1798, in company with a sealing boat,
the Nautilus.* (* There are three accounts of the voyage: (1) that of
Flinders in diary form, printed in the Historical Records of New South
Wales Volume 3 appendix B; (2) that of Flinders in his Voyage to Terra
Australis Volume 1 page 138; and (3) that of Bass, embodied in Collins'
Account of New South Wales. It is probable that Bass's diary was lent to
Collins for the purpose of writing his narrative. The original is not
known to exist.) The plan was to make the Furneaux Group, then steer
westward through the strait till the open ocean was reached on the
further side; and, that accomplished, and the fact of strait's existence
conclusively demonstrated, to turn down the western coast of Van Diemen's
Land, round the southern extremity, and sail back to Port Jackson up the
east coast. This programme was successfully carried out.

An amusing incident, related by Flinders with dry humour, occurred in
Twofold Bay, which was entered "in order to make some profit of a foul
wind," Bass undertaking an inland excursion, and Flinders occupying
himself in making a survey of the port. An aboriginal made his

"He was of middle age, unarmed, except with a whaddie or wooden scimitar,
and came up to us seemingly with careless confidence. We made much of
him, and gave him some biscuit; and he in return presented us with a
piece of gristly fat, probably of whale. This I tasted; but, watching an
opportunity to spit it out when he should not be looking, I perceived him
doing precisely the same thing with our biscuit, whose taste was probably
no more agreeable to him, than his whale was to me." The native watched
the commencement of Flinders' trigonometrical operations, "with
indifference, if not contempt," and after a little while left the party,
"apparently satisfied that from people who could thus occupy themselves
seriously there was nothing to be apprehended."

It was not until November 1st that the Norfolk sailed from the Furneaux
Islands on the flood-tide westward. The intervening time had been
occupied with detailed exploring and surveying work. Soundings and
observations were made, capes, islands and inlets were charted and named.
The part of Flinders' narrative dealing with these phases abounds in
detail, noted with the most painstaking particularity. Such fulness does
not make attractive literature for the reader who takes up a book of
travel for amusement. But it was highly important to record these details
at the time of the publication of Flinders' book, when the coasts and
seas of which he wrote were very little known; and it has to be
remembered that he wrote as a scientific navigator, setting down the
results of his work with completeness and precision for those interested
in his subject, not as a caterer for popular literary entertainment. He
preferred the interest in his writing to lie in the nature of the
enterprise described and the sincerity with which it was pursued rather
than in such anecdotal garniture and such play of fancy as can give charm
to the history of a voyage. His book was a substantial contribution to
the world's knowledge, and it is his especial virtue to have set down his
facts with such exactitude that our tests of them, where they are still
capable of being tested, earn him credit for punctilious veracity in
respect of those observations on wild life and natural phenomena as to
which we have to rely upon his written word. He never succumbs to the
common sin of travellers--writing to excite astonishment in the reader,
rather than to tell the exact truth as he found it. He was by nature and
training an exact man.

On the afternoon of November 3rd the sloop entered the estuary of the
river Tamar, on which, forty miles from the mouth, now stands the fine
city of Launceston. It was a discovery of first-class importance. Apart
from the pleasure which they derived from having made it, the two friends
were charmed with the beauty of their surroundings. They derived the most
favourable impression of the quality of the land and its suitableness for
settlement. They worked up the river for several miles, but time did not
permit them to follow it as far as it was navigable. Thus they did not
reach the site of the present city, and left the superb gorge and
cataract to be discovered by Collins when he entered the Tamar again in
1804. The harbour was subsequently named Port Dalrymple by Hunter, after
Alexander Dalrymple, the naval hydrographer.

The extent of the survey, with delays caused by adverse weather, kept the
Norfolk in the Tamar estuary for a full month. On December 3rd her
westward course was resumed. From this time forth Bass and Flinders were
in constant expectancy of passing through the strait into the open ocean.
The northern trend of the coast for a time aroused apprehensions that
there was no strait after all, and that the northern shore of Van
Diemen's Land might be connected with the coast beyond Westernport. The
water was also discoloured, and this led Flinders to think that they
might be approaching the head of a bay or gulf. But on December 7th the
vigilant commander made an observation of the set of the tide, from which
he drew an "interesting deduction." "The tide had been running from the
eastward all the afternoon," wrote Flinders, "and, contrary to
expectation, we found it to be near low water by the shore; the flood
therefore came from the west, and not from the eastward, as at Furneaux'
Isles. This we considered to be a strong proof, not only of the real
existence of a passage betwixt this land and New South Wales, but also
that the entrance into the southern Indian Ocean could not be far

On the following day the deduction was confirmed. After the Norfolk had
rounded a headland, a long swell was observed to come from the
south-west, breaking heavily upon a reef a mile and a half away. This was
a new phenomenon; and both Bass and Flinders "hailed it with joy and
mutual congratulation, as announcing the completion of our
long-wished-for discovery of a passage into the southern Indian Ocean."
They were now through the strait. What Bass months before had believed to
be the case was at length demonstrated to a certainty. "The direction of
the coast, the set of the tides, and the great swell from the south-west,
did now completely satisfy us that a very wide strait did really exist
betwixt Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, and also now that we had
certainly passed it."

No time was lost in completing the voyage. The Norfolk sped rapidly past
Cape Grim and down the western coast of Van Diemen's Land. Amateur-built
as she was, and very small for her work in these seas, she was proving a
useful boat, and one can enjoy the sailors' pride in a snug craft in
Flinders' remark concerning her, that "upon the whole she performed
wonderfully; seas that were apparently determined to swallow her up she
rode over with all the ease and majesty of an old experienced petrel."

The wild and desolate aspect of the west coast, as seen from the ocean,
seems to have struck Flinders with a feeling of dread. He so rarely
allows any emotion to appear in his writing that the sentences in his
diary wherein he refers to the appearance of the De Witt range are
striking evidence of his revulsion. "The mountains which presented
themselves to our view in this situation, both close to the shore and
inland, were amongst the most stupendous works of nature I ever beheld,
and it seemed to me are the most dismal and barren that can be imagined.
The eye ranges over these peaks, and curiously formed lumps of adamantine
rock, with astonishment and horror." He acknowledged that he clapped on
all sail to get past this forbidding coast. The passage is singular.
Flinders was a fenland-bred man, and, passing from the low levels of
eastern England to a life at sea in early youth, had had no experience of
mountainous country. He had not even seen the mountains at the back of
Sydney, except in the blue distance. Now, the De Witt range, though
certainly giving to the coast that it dominates an aspect of desolate
grandeur, especially when, as is nearly always the case, its jagged peaks
are seen under caps of frowning cloud, would not strike a man who had
been much among mountains as especially horrid. Flinders' burst of
chilled feeling may therefore be noted as a curious psychological fact.*
(* The reader will perhaps find it interesting to compare this reference
with a passage in Ruskin's Modern Painters Volume 3 chapter 13: "It is
sufficiently notable that Homer, living in mountainous and rocky
countries, dwells thus delightedly on all the flat bits; and so I think
invariably the inhabitants of mountain countries do, but the inhabitants
of the plains do not, in any similar way, dwell delightedly on mountains.
The Dutch painters are perfectly contented with their flat fields and
pollards: Rubens, though he had seen the Alps, usually composes his
landscapes of a hay-field or two, plenty of pollards and willows, a
distant spire, a Dutch house with a mast about it, a windmill and a
ditch...So Shakspere never speaks of mountains with the slightest joy,
but only of lowland flowers, flat fields, and Warwickshire streams."
Ruskin's citation of the Lincolnshire farmer in Alton Locke is apt, with
his dislike of "Darned ups and downs o'hills, to shake a body's victuals
out of his inwards.")

The naming of Mounts Heemskirk and Zeehan, the latter since become a
mineral centre of vast wealth, were the most noteworthy events of the run
down the western coast. They were named by Flinders after the two ships
of Tasman, as he took them to be the two mountains seen by that navigator
on his discovery of Van Diemen's Land in 1642.

The Derwent, whose estuary is the port of Hobart, was entered on December
21. Bass's report on the fertility of the soil led to the choice of this
locality for a settlement four years later.

On the last day of the year the return voyage was commenced, and on
January 1st, 1799, the Norfolk was making for Port Jackson with her prow
set north-easterly. The winds were unfavourable, and prevented Flinders
from keeping close inshore, as he would have liked to do in order to make
a survey. But the prescribed period of absence having expired, and the
provisions being nearly exhausted, it was necessary to make as much haste
as possible. On January 8th the Babel Isles were marked down, and named
"because of the confusion of noises made by the geese, shags, penguins,
gulls, and sooty petrels." Anyone who has camped near a rookery of sooty
petrels is aware that they are quite capable of maintaining a
sufficiently "babelish confusion"--the phrase is Camden's--without any
aid from other fowls.

A little later in the month (January 12) the Norfolk sailed into harbour,
and was anchored alongside the Reliance. "To the strait which had been
the great object of research," wrote Flinders, "and whose discovery was
now completed, Governor Hunter gave at my recommendation the name of Bass
Strait. This was no more than a just tribute to my worthy friend and
companion for the extreme dangers and fatigues he had undergone in first
entering it in the whaleboat, and to the correct judgment he had formed,
from various indications, of the existence of a wide opening between Van
Diemen's Land and New South Wales."

Throughout this voyage we find Bass expending his abundant energies in
the making of inland excursions whenever an opportunity occurred. To take
a boat up rivers, to cut through rough country, to climb, examine soil,
make notes on birds and beasts, and exercise his enquiring mind in all
directions, was his constant delight.

The profusion of wild life upon the coasts and islands explored during
the voyage astonished the travellers. Seals were seen in thousands,
sea-birds in hundreds of millions. Flinders' calculation regarding the
sooty petrels has already been quoted. Black swans were observed in great
quantities. Bass, for example, stated that he saw three hundred of these
stately birds within a space a quarter of a mile square. The Roman poet
Juvenal could think of no better example of a thing of rare occurrence
than a black swan:

"Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno."

But here black swans could have been cited in a simile illustrating
profusion. Bass quaintly stated that the "dying song" of the swan, so
celebrated by poets, "exactly resembled the creaking of a rusty ale-house
sign on a windy day." The remark is not so pretty as, but far more true
than, that of the bard who would have us believe that the dying swan:

"In music's strains breathes out her life and verse,
And, chaunting her own dirge, rides on her watery hearse."

The couplet of Coleridge is vitiated by the same error, but may merit
commendation for practical wisdom:

"Swans sing before they die; 'twere no bad thing
Should certain persons die before they sing."

Flinders also saw from three to five hundred black swans on the lee side
of one point; and so tame were they that, as the Norfolk passed through
the midst of them, one incautious bird was caught by the neck.

Bass went ashore on Albatross Island to shoot. He was forced to fight his
way up the cliffs against the seals, which resented the intrusion; and
when he got to the top he was compelled "to make a road with his club
among the albatross. These birds were sitting upon their nests, and
almost covered the surface of the ground, nor did they otherwise derange
themselves for their new visitors than to peck at their legs as they
passed by."

In the Derwent Bass and Flinders encountered Tasmanian aboriginals, now
an extinct race of men. A human voice was heard coming from the hills.
The two leaders of the expedition landed, taking with them a swan as an
offering of friendship, and met an aboriginal man and two women. The
women ran off, but the man stayed and accepted the swan "with rapture."
He was armed with three spears, but his demeanour was friendly. Bass and
Flinders tried him with such words as they knew of the dialects of New
South Wales and the South Sea Islands, but could not make him understand
them, "though the quickness with which he comprehended our signs spoke in
favour of his intelligence." His hair was either close-cropped or
naturally short; but it had not a woolly appearance. "He acceded to our
proposition of going to his hut; but finding from his devious route and
frequent stoppings that he sought to tire our patience, we left him
delighted with the certain possession of his swan, and returned to the
boat. This was the sole opportunity we had of communicating with any of
the natives of Van Diemen's Land."

The results of the cruise of the Norfolk were of great importance. From
the purely utilitarian point of view, the discovery of Bass Strait
shortened the voyage to Sydney from Europe by quite a week. It opened a
new highway for commerce. Turnbull, in his Voyage Round the World (1814)
discussing the advantages of the new route, mentioned that "already has
the whole fleet of China ships, under the convoy of a 64, passed through
these Straits without the smallest accident;" and he pointed out that
ships which were late in the season for China, and availed themselves of
the prevailing winds by taking the easterly route round Australia, were
thus enabled to avoid the tempestuous weather which generally faced them
to the south of Van Diemen's Land. Governor King, too, writing to the
Governor of Bombay in 1802, sent him a chart of the strait, and pointed
out that the discovery would "greatly facilitate the passage of ships
from India to this colony."

The discovery also revealed a fresh and fertile field for the occupation
of mankind. Geographically no discovery of such consequence had been made
since the noble days of Cook. It brought the names of Bass and Flinders
prominently before the scientific world, and the thoroughness with which
the latter had done his work won him warm praise from men competent to
form a judgment. Intimations concerning the discovery published in the
Naval Chronicle and other journals valued the work very highly; and it
had the advantage of bringing the commander of the Norfolk under the
notice of Sir Joseph Banks, that earnest and steadfast supporter of all
sincere research work, who thus became the firm friend of Flinders, as he
had been the friend and associate of Cook thirty years before.

The turbulent state of Europe in and about 1799, with Napoleon Bonaparte
rising fast to meridian glory on the wings of war, did not incline
British statesmen to attach much significance to such events as the
discovery of an important strait and the increased opportunities for the
development of oversea dominions. Renewed activity in that direction came
a little later. There is a letter from Banks to Hunter, written just
after the return of the Norfolk, but before the news reached England
(February, 1799), wherein he conveys a concise idea of the perturbation
in official circles and the difficulty of getting anything done for
Australia. "The political situation is so difficult," said Banks, "and
His Majesty's Ministers so fully employed in business of the deepest
importance, that it is scarce possible to gain a moment's audience on any
subject but those which stand foremost in their minds; and colonies of
all kinds, you may be assured, are now put into the background."

But that was no more than a passing phase. The seeds of a vaster British
Empire than had ever existed before had already germinated, and when the
years of crisis occurred, the will and power of England were both ready
and strong enough to protect the growing plant from the trampling feet of
legions. Meanwhile, the work on the Norfolk secured for Flinders such
useful encouragement and help as enabled him very little later to crown
his achievements with a task that at once solidified his title to fame
and ultimately ended his life.


It has been already mentioned that Bass Strait was named by Governor
Hunter on the recommendation of Flinders. There is no reason to suppose
that George Bass himself made any claim that his name should be applied
to his discovery. One derives the impression, from a study of his
character as revealed in his words and acts, that he would have been
perfectly content had some other name been chosen. He was one of those
rare men who find their principal joy in the free exercise of an intrepid
and masculine energy, especially in directions affording a stimulus to
intellectual curiosity. He did not even write a book or an essay about
the work he had done. The whaleboat voyage was tersely recorded in a
diary for the information of the Governor; his other material was handed
over to Collins for the purposes of his History of New South Wales, and
Bass went about his business unrewarded, officially unhonoured.

It is curiously significant of the modesty of this really notable man
that when, in 1801, he again sailed to Australia, he mentioned quite
casually in a letter that he had passed through Bass Strait without any
reference to his own connection with the passage. It was not, to him,
"the strait which I discovered," or "my strait," or "the strait named
after me," but simply Bass Strait, giving it the proper geographical name
scored on the map, just as he might have mentioned the name of any other
part of the globe traversed during the voyage. The natural pride of the
discoverer assuredly would have been no evidence of egotism; but Bass was
singularly free from all semblance of human weakness of that kind. The
difficulties battled with, the effort joyfully made, the discovery
accomplished, he appears hardly to have thought any more about his own
part in it. Not only his essential modesty but his affectionate nature
and the frank charm of his manner are apparent in such of his letters as
have been preserved.

The association of Bass with Flinders was fruitful in achievement, and
their friendship was perfect in its manliness; it is pathetic to realise
that when they parted, within a few weeks after the return of the Norfolk
to Sydney, these two men, still young in years and rich in hope, ability
and enterprise, were never to meet again.

As from this time Bass disappears from the story of his friend's life,
what is known of his later years may be here related. His fate is a
mystery that has never been satisfactorily cleared up, and perhaps never
will be. He returned to England "shortly after" the voyage of the
Norfolk. So wrote Flinders; but "shortly after" means later than April,
1799, for in that month Bass sat on a board of inquiry into the Isaac
Nicholls case, to be mentioned again hereafter.

In England, Bass married Elizabeth Waterhouse, sister of his old shipmate
Henry Waterhouse, the captain of the Reliance. With a wife to maintain,
he was apparently dissatisfied with his pay and prospects as a naval
surgeon. Nor was he quite the kind of man who would, in the full flush of
his restless energy, settle down to the ordinary practice of his
profession. Confined to a daily routine in some English town, he would
have been like a caged albatross pining for regions of illimitable blue.

Within three months of his marriage Bass had become managing owner of a
smart little 140-ton brig, the Venus, in a venture in which a syndicate
of friends had invested 10,890 pounds. In the early part of 1801 he
sailed in her with a general cargo of merchandise for Port Jackson. The
brig, which carried twelve guns--for England was at war, and there were
risks to be run
--was a fast sailer, teak-built and copper-sheathed, and was described as
"one of the most complete, handsome and strong-built ships in the River
Thames, and will suit any trade." She was loaded "as deep as she can swim
and as full as an egg," Bass wrote to his brother-in-law; and there is
the sailor's jovial pleasure in a good ship, with, perhaps, a suggestion
of the surgeon's point of view, in his declaration that she was "very
sound and tight, and bids fair to remain sound much longer than any of
her owners."

But the speculation was not an immediate success. The market was "glutted
with goods beyond all comparison," in addition to which Governor King,
who succeeded Hunter in 1800, was conducting the affairs of the
settlement upon a plan of the most rigid economy. "Our wings are clipped
with a vengeance, but we shall endeavour to fall on our feet somehow or
other," wrote Bass early in October, 1801.

A contract made with the Governor, to bring salt pork from Tahiti at
sixpence per pound, provided profitable employment for the Venus. Hogs
were plentiful in the Society Islands, and could be procured cheaply. The
arrangement commended itself to the thrifty Governor, who had hitherto
been paying a shilling per pound for pork, and it kept Bass actively
engaged. He was "tired of civilised life." There was, too, money to be
made, and he sent home satisfactory bills "to stop a few holes in my
debts." "That pork voyage," he wrote to his brother-in-law, "has been our
first successful speculation"; and he spoke again in fond admiration of
the Venus; "she is just the same vessel as when we left England, never
complains or cries, though we loaded her with pork most unmercifully."
While he was pursuing this trade, the French expedition under Baudin
visited Sydney, and they, on their chart of Wilson's Promontory gave the
name of Venus Bay to an inlet on the west side of Cape Liptrap. They also
bought goods to the extent of 359 pounds 10 shillings from "Mr. George
Basse."* (* Manuscript accounts of Baudin, Archives Nationales BB4 999.)

Bass now secured fishing concessions in New Zealand waters, from which he
hoped much. "The fishery is not to be put in motion till after my return
to old England," he wrote in January, 1803. Then, he said playfully, "I
mean to seize upon my dear Bess, bring her out here, and make a poissarde
of her, where she cannot fail to find plenty of ease for her tongue. We
have, I assure you, great plans in our heads, but, like the basket of
eggs, all depends upon the success of the voyage I am now upon." It was
the voyage from which he never returned.

There is another charming allusion to his wife in a letter written from
Tahiti: "I would joke Bess upon the attractive charms of Tahiti females
but that they have been so much belied in their beauty that she might
think me attracted in good earnest. However, there is nothing to fear
here." He speaks of her again in writing to his brother: "I have written
to my beloved wife, and do most sincerely lament that we are so far
asunder. The next voyage I have she must make with me, for I shall badly
pass it without her." The pathos of his reference to her in a letter of
October, 1801, can be felt in its note of manly sympathy, and is deepened
by the recollection that the young bride never saw him again. "Our dear
Bess talks of seeing me in eighteen months. Alas! poor Bess, the when is
uncertain, very uncertain in everything except its long distances. Turn
our eyes where we will, we see nothing but glutted markets around us."

The pork-procuring ventures continued till 1803. In that year Bass
arranged to sail beyond Tahiti to the Chilian coast, to buy other
provisions for the use of the colony. Whether he intended to force the
hand of fortune by engaging in the contraband trade can only be inferred.
That there was certainly a large amount of illicit traffic with South
America on the part of venturesome captains who made use of Port Jackson
as a harbour of refuge, is clear from extant documents.

The position was this. The persistent policy of Spain in the government
of her South American possessions was to conserve trade exclusively for
Spanish ships and Spanish merchants; and for this purpose several
restrictions were imposed upon unauthorised foreign traders. Nevertheless
the inhabitants of these colonies urgently required more goods than were
imported under such excessive limitations, and wanted to get them much
cheaper than was possible while monopoly and heavy taxation prevailed.
There was, consequently, a tempting inducement to skippers who were
sufficiently bold to take risks, to ship goods for Chili and Peru, and
run them in at some place along the immense coast-line, evading the lazy
eyes of perfunctory Spanish officials, or securing their corrupt
connivance by bribes. Contraband trade was, in fact, extensively
practised, and plenty of people in the Spanish colonies throve on it. As
a modern historian writes: "The vast extent of the border of Spain's
possessions made it impossible for her to guard it efficiently. Smuggling
could therefore be carried on with impunity, and the high prices which
had been given to European wares in America by the system of restriction,
constituted a sufficient inducement to lead the merchants of other
nations to engage in contraband trade."* The profits from success were
great; but the consequences of detection were disastrous. (* Bernard
Moses, Spanish Rule in America, 289.)

Now Bass, as already related, had brought out to Sydney in the Venus a
large quantity of unsaleable merchandise. He could not dispose of it
under conditions of glut. He had hoped that the Governor would take the
cargo into the Government store and let it be sold even at a 50 per cent
reduction. But King declined to permit that to be done. Here, then, was a
singularly courageous man, fond of daring enterprises, in command of a
good ship, with an unsaleable cargo on his hands. On the other side of
the Pacific was a country where such a cargo might, with luck, be sold at
a bounding profit. He could easily find out how the trade was done. There
was more than one among those with whom he would associate in Sydney who
knew a great deal about it.

One or two sentences in Bass's last letters to Henry Waterhouse contain
mysterious hints, which to him, with his experience of Port Jackson,
would be significant. He explained that he intended taking the Venus to
visit the coast of Chili in search of provisions, "and that they may not
in that part of the world mistake me for a contrabandist, I go provided
with a very diplomatic-looking certificate from the Governor here,
stating the service upon which I am employed, requesting aid and
protection in obtaining the food wanted. And God grant you may fully
succeed, says your warm heart, in so benevolent an object; and thus also
say I; Amen, say many others of my friends."

But was the diplomatic-looking paper intended rather to serve as a screen
than as a guarantee of bona fides? "In a few hours," wrote Bass at the
beginning of February, 1803, "I sail again on another pork voyage, but it
combines circumstances of a different nature also"; and at the end of the
same letter he added: "Speak not of South America to anyone out of your
family, for there is treason in the very name." What did he mean by that?
He spoke of "digging gold in South America," and clearly did not mean it
in the strict literal sense.

It is true that the Governor was anxious to get South American cattle and
beef for the settlement in Sydney, but can that have been the only motive
for a voyage beyond Tahiti? "If our approaching voyage proves at all
fortunate in its issue, I expect to make a handsome thing out of it, and
to be much expedited on my return to old England," Bass wrote in January.
He would not have been likely to make so very handsome a thing out of
beef in one voyage, to enable him to expedite his return to England.

The factors of the case are, then, that Bass had on his hands a large
quantity of goods which he had failed to sell in Sydney; that there was a
considerable and enormously profitable contraband trade with South
America at the time; that he expected to make a very large and rapid
profit out of the venture he was about to undertake; that he warned
Waterhouse against mentioning the matter outside the family circle, "for
there is treason in the very name"; and that he was himself a man
distinguished by dash and daring, who was very anxious to make a
substantial sum and return to England soon. The inference from his
language and circumstances as to the scheme he had in hand is

The "very diplomatic-looking certificate" which the Governor gave him was
dated February 3, 1803. It certified that "Mr. George Bass, of the
brigantine Venus, has been employed since the first day of November,
1801, upon His Britannic Majesty's service in procuring provisions for
the subsistence of His Majesty's colony, and still continues using those
exertions;" and it went on to affirm that should he find it expedient to
resort to any harbour in His Catholic Majesty's dominions upon the west
coast of America, "this instrument is intended to declare my full belief
that his sole object in going there will be to procure food, without any
view to private commerce or any other view whatsoever."

Notwithstanding the terms of this certificate, however, there is clear
evidence that Governor King was fully aware of the nature of the trade
conducted with the Spanish-American colonies by vessels using Port
Jackson; and though it may be that Bass did not tell him in so many words
what his whole intentions were, King knew that Bass had a large stock of
commodities to sell, and could hardly have been ignorant that a
considerable portion of them were re-shipped on the Venus for this
voyage. In a later despatch he alluded to vessels which carried goods
"from hence to the coasts of the Spanish possessions on the west side of
America," and he observed "that this must be a forced trade, similar to
that carried on among the settlements of that nation and Portugal on the
east side of America, and that much risk will attend it to the

Bass sailed from Sydney on February 5th, 1803. He never returned, and no
satisfactory account of what became of him is forthcoming.* (* The writer
of the article on Bass in the Dictionary of National Biography says that
"except that he left Australia in 1799 to return to England nothing
certain is known of Bass's subsequent history." But we know fairly fully
what he was doing up till February, 1803, as related above. The Bass
mystery commences after that date. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th
edition) finds no space for a separate article on this very remarkable
man.) Later in 1803 the brig Harrington, herself concerned in the
contraband trade, reported that the Venus had been captured and
confiscated by the Spaniards in Peru, and that Bass and the mate, Scott,
had been sent as prisoners to the silver mines. In December, 1804,
Governor King remarked in a despatch to the Secretary of State that he
had been "in constant expectation" of hearing from Bass, "to whom, there
is no doubt, some accident has occurred." The Harrington had reported the
capture of the Venus before King wrote that. Why did he not mention the
circumstance to the British Government? Why did he not allude to the
country to which he well knew that Bass intended to sail? It would seem
that King carefully avoided referring in his official despatches to an
enterprise upon which he had good reason to be aware that Bass had

War between Great Britain and Spain did not break out till December,
1804, after the seizure of the Spanish treasure fleet by British frigates
off Cadiz (October 5th). But in previous years, while Spain, under
pressure from Napoleon, lent her countenance to his aggressive policy,
English privateers had freely plundered Spanish commerce in the south
Pacific, and some of them had brought their prizes to Sydney. That this
was done with the knowledge of the authorities cannot be doubted.
Everybody knew about it. When the French exploring ships were lying at
Sydney in 1802, Peron saw there vessels "provided with arms, fitting out
for the western coast of America, stored with merchandise of various
kinds. These vessels were intended to establish, by force of arms, a
contraband commerce with the inhabitants of Peru, extremely advantageous
to both parties."

It would not, therefore, be wonderful that the Spanish authorities in
Chili or Peru should regard Port Jackson as a kind of wasp's nest, and
should look with suspicion on any vessel coming thence which might fall
into their hands, however much her commander might endeavour to make of
his official certificate declaring the Governor's "full belief" in his
lawful intentions. The irritation caused by the use that was being made
of Sydney as a privateering and contraband base of operations can be well
imagined. As early as December, 1799, indeed, Governor Hunter related
that a captured Spanish merchant vessel had been brought into port, and
he acknowledged that "this being the second Spanish prize brought hither,
we cannot be surprised, should it be known that such captures make a
convenience of this harbour, if it should provoke a visit from some of
the ships of war from the Spanish settlements on that coast." The
Spaniards would naturally be thirsting for revenge; and a ship sailing
direct from the port of which the raiders made a "convenience" would be
liable to feel their ire, should there be the semblance of provocation.
The authorities would have been justified in holding up the Venus if they
suspected that she carried contraband goods; and their treatment of her
officers and crew might be expected to reflect the temper of their
disposition towards Port Jackson and all that concerned it.

If, as the Harrington reported, Bass and his companions were sent to the
mines, the Spanish officials managed their act of punishment, or revenge,
very quietly. But at that time there was not a formal state of
belligerency between England and Spain, though the tension of public
feeling in Great Britain concerning Spanish relations with France was
acute. If it were considered that such an act as the seizure of the Venus
would be likely to precipitate a declaration of war, the motive for
secrecy was strong. Secrecy, moreover, would have been in complete
conformity with Spanish methods in South America. It is not recorded
whether the seizure of the Venus occurred at Callao, Valparaiso or
Valdivia; but a British lieutenant, Fitzmaurice, who was at Valparaiso
five years later, heard that a man named Bass had been in Lima some years

A friend of the Bass family residing at Lincoln in 1852 wrote a letter to
Samuel Sidney, the author of The Three Colonies of Australia, stating
that Bass's mother last heard of him "in the Straits of China." But this
was evidently an error of memory. If Bass ever got out of South America,
he would have written to his "dear Bess," to Waterhouse, and to Flinders.
The latter, in 1814, wrote of him as "alas, now no more." There is on
record a report that he was seen alive in South America in that year, but
the story is doubtful. He was a man full of affectionate loyalty to his
friends, and it is not conceivable that he would have left them without
news of him if any channel of communication had been open, as would have
been the case had he been at liberty as late as 1814. His father-in-law
made enquiries, but failed to obtain news. The report of the Harrington
was probably true, but beyond that we really have no information upon
which we can depend. The internal history of Spanish America has been
very scantily investigated, and it is quite possible that even yet some
diligent student of archives may find, some day, particulars concerning
the fate of this brave and adventurous spirit.

The disappearance of Bass's letters to his mother is a misfortune which
the student of Australian history must deplore. He was observant, shrewd,
an untiring traveller, and an entertaining correspondent. He probably
related to his mother, to whom he wrote frequently, the story of his
excursions and experiences, and the historical value of all that he wrote
would be very great. The letters, said the Lincoln friend, were long,
"containing full accounts of his discoveries." His mother treasured them
till she died, when they came into the possession of a Miss Calder. She
kept them in a box, and used occasionally to amuse herself by reading
them. But some time before 1852 Miss Calder went to the box to look at
them again, and found that they had disappeared. Whether she had lent
them to some person who had failed to return them, or had mislaid them,
is unknown. It is possible that they may still be in existence in some
dusty cupboard in England, and that we may even yet be gratified by an
examination of documents which would assuredly enable us to understand
more of the noble soul of George Bass.

It has been mentioned that Flinders and Bass did not meet again after the
voyage of the Norfolk and Bass's return to England. Though Sydney was the
base of both Flinders in the Investigator and Bass in the Venus in 1802
and 1803, they always had the ill-luck to miss each other. Bass was at
Tahiti while Flinders lay in port from May 9th to July 21st, 1802. He
returned in November, and left once more on his final voyage in February,
1803. Flinders arrived in Sydney again, after his exploration of the Gulf
of Carpentaria, in June, 1803. A farewell letter from him to his friend
is quoted in a later chapter.


Two more incidents in the career of Flinders will concern us before we
deal with his important later voyages. The first of these is only worth
mentioning for the light it throws upon the character of the man. In
March, 1799, he sat as a member of a court of criminal judicature in
Sydney, for the trial of Isaac Nichols, who was charged with receiving a
basket of tobacco knowing it to have been stolen. The case aroused
passionate interest at the time. People in the settlement took sides upon
it, as upon a matter of acute party politics, and the Governor was hotly
at variance with the Judge Advocate, the chief judicial officer.

Nichols had been a convict, but his conduct was good, and he was chosen
to be chief overseer of a gang employed in labour of various kinds. On
the expiration of his sentence, he acquired a small farm, and by means of
sobriety and industry built himself a comfortable house. Through his very
prosperity he became "an object to be noticed," as the Governor wrote,
and by reason of his diligent usefulness securing him official
employment, "he stood in the way of others." In Hunter's opinion, the
ruin of Nichols was deliberately planned; and he was convicted on what
the Governor believed to be false and malicious evidence.

The striking feature of the trial was that the Court (consisting of seven
members--three naval officers and three officers of the New South Wales
Corps, presided over by the Judge Advocate) was sharply divided in
opinion. The three naval men, Flinders, Waterhouse, and Lieutenant Kent,
were convinced of the accused man's innocence; the three military men,
with the Judge Advocate, voted for his conviction. There was thus a
majority against Nichols; but the Governor, believing that an injustice
was being done, suspended the execution of the sentence, and submitted
the papers to the Secretary of State. Bass came into the matter in the
month after the trial, as a member of a Court of Inquiry into the
allegation that certain persons had carried the tobacco to Nichols' house
with the object of implicating him.

The only point that need concern us here, is that Flinders wrote a
memorandum analysing the evidence with minute care, in justification of
his belief in the prisoner's innocence. It was a skilfully drawn
document, and it exhibits Flinders in a light which enhances our respect
for him, as the strong champion of an accused man whom he believed to be
wronged. In the result, the Crown granted a pardon to Nichols; but this
did not arrive till 1802, so tardy was justice in getting itself done.
Apart from Flinders' share in it, the case is interesting as revealing
the strained relations existing between the principal officials in the
colony at the time. The Judge Advocate was a bitter enemy of the
Governor, and the very administration of the law, affecting the liberties
of the people, was tinctured by these animosities.

It is pleasant to turn from so grimy a subject to the work for which
Flinders' tastes and talents peculiarly fitted him. The explorations
which he had hitherto accomplished were sufficient to convince Hunter
that he had under him an officer from whom good work could be expected,
and, the Reliance not being required for service, he readily acquiesced
when Flinders proposed that he should take the Norfolk northward, to
Moreton Bay, the "Glasshouse Bay" of Cook, and Hervey Bay, east of
Bundaberg. On this voyage he was accompanied by his younger brother,
Samuel Flinders. He also took with him an aboriginal named Bongaree,
"whose good disposition and manly conduct had attracted my esteem."

He sailed on July 8th. The task did not occupy much time, for the sloop
was back in Sydney by August 20th. The results were disappointing. It had
been hoped to find large rivers, and by means of them to penetrate the
interior of the country; but none were found.

Flinders missed the Clarence, though he actually anchored off its
entrance. Nor did he find the Brisbane, though, ascending the Glasshouse
Mountains, he saw indications of a river, which he could not enter with
the Norfolk on account of the intricacy of the channel and the shortness
of the time available.

Uneasiness of mind respecting the condition of the sloop must have had
much to do with the missing of the rivers. She sprung a leak two days out
of Port Jackson, and this was "a serious cause of alarm," the more so as
grains of maize, with which the Norfolk had been previously loaded, were
constantly choking up the pump. Weather conditions, also, did not favour
taking the vessel close inshore on her northward course, and it would
have been almost impossible to detect the mouths of the New South Wales
rivers without a close scrutiny of the coastline. Those considerations
are quite sufficient, when duly weighed, to account for the omissions. It
certainly was a rash statement, after so imperfect an examination, that
"however mortifying the conviction might be, it was then an ascertained
fact that no river of importance intersected the east coast between the
24th and 39th degrees of south latitude." But it is equally certain that
he could not have found these rivers with the means at his disposal. They
could not well have been observed from the deck of a vessel off the
coast.* (* See Coote, History of Queensland, 1 7, and Lang, Cooksland,
page 17.) A closer inspection of the shore-line was required. In fact,
the rivers were not found by seaward exploration; they were discovered by
inland travellers.

The most interesting features of the voyage lay in the meeting with
aboriginals in Moreton Bay. Some of the incidents were amusing, though at
one time there seemed to be danger of a serious encounter. Flinders went
ashore to meet a party of the natives, and endeavoured to establish
friendly relations with them. But as he was leaving, one of them threw a
spear. Flinders snatched up his gun and aimed at the offender, but the
flint being wet missed fire. A second snap of the trigger also failed,
but on a third trial the gun went off, though nobody was hurt. Flinders
thought that it might obviate future mischief if he gave the blacks an
idea of his power, so he fired at a man who was hiding behind a tree; but
without doing him any harm. The sound of the gun caused the greatest
consternation among the natives, and the small party of white men had no
more serious trouble with them while they were in the bay. Flinders was
"satisfied of the great influence which the use of a superior power has
in savages to create respect and render their communications friendly";
but he was fortunately able to keep on good terms without resort to

An effort to tickle the aboriginal sense of humour was a failure. Two of
the crew who were Scotch, commenced to dance a reel for the amusement of
the blacks. "For want of music," it is related, "they made a very bad
performance, which was contemplated by the natives without much amusement
or curiosity." The joke, like Flinders' gun, missed fire. There have
been, it is often alleged, other occasions when jokes made by Scotsmen
have not achieved a shining success; and we do well to respect the
intention while we deplore the waste of effort.

An example of cunning which did not succeed occurred shortly after the
first landing. Flinders was wearing a cabbage-tree hat, for which a
native had a fancy. The fellow took a long stick with a hook at the end
of it, and, laughing and talking to divert attention from his purpose,
endeavoured to take the hat from the commander's head. His detection
created much laughter; as did that of another black with long arms, who
tried to creep up to snatch the hat, but was afraid to approach too near.
The account which Collins, writing from Flinders' notes, gave of the
Queensland natives seen at Moreton Bay, is graphic but hardly attractive.
Two paragraphs about their musical attainments and their general
appearance will bear quotation:--

"These people, like the natives of Port Jackson, having fallen to the low
pitch of their voices, recommenced their song at the octave, which was
accompanied by slow and not ungraceful motions of the body and limbs,
their hands being held up in a supplicating posture; and the tone and
manner of their song and gestures seemed to bespeak the goodwill and
forbearance of their auditors. Observing that they were attentively
listened to, they each selected one of our people and placed his mouth
close to his ear, as if to produce a greater effect, or, it might be, to
teach them the song, which their silent attention might seem to express a
desire to learn." As a recompense for the amusement they had afforded him
Flinders gave them some worsted caps, and a pair of blanket trousers,
with which they seemed well pleased. Several other natives now made their
appearance; and it was some time before they could overcome their dread
of approaching the strangers with the firearms; but, encouraged by the
three who were with them, they came up, and a general song and dance was
commenced. Their singing was not confined to one air; they gave three.

"Of those who came last, three were remarkable for the largeness of their
heads, and one, whose face was very rough, had much more the appearance
of a baboon than of a human being. He was covered with oily soot; his
hair matted with filth; his visage, even among his fellows, uncommonly
ferocious; and his very large mouth, beset with teeth of every hue
between black, white, green and yellow, sometimes presented a smile which
might make anyone shudder."

The Norfolk remained fifteen days in Moreton Bay. The judgment that
Flinders formed of it was that it was "so full of shoals that he could
not attempt to point out any passage that would lead a ship into it
without danger." The east side was not sounded, and he was of opinion
that if a good navigable channel existed it would be found there. His
visit to Hervey Bay, further north, did not lead to any interesting
observations. He left there on his return voyage on August 7th, and
reached Port Jackson at dusk on the 20th.


Flinders sailed from Port Jackson for England in the Reliance on March
3rd, 1800. The old ship was in such a bad condition that Governor Hunter
"judged it proper to order her home while she may be capable of
performing the voyage." She carried despatches, which Captain Waterhouse
was directed to throw overboard in the event of meeting with an enemy's
ship of superior force and being unable to effect his escape. She lived
through a tempestuous voyage, making nine or ten inches of water per
hour, according to the carpenter's report, and providing plenty of
pumping exercise for a couple of convict stowaways who emerged from
hiding two days out of Sydney. At St. Helena, reached at the end of May,
company was joined with four East India ships, and off Ireland H.M.S.
Cerberus took charge of the convoy till the arrival at Portsmouth on
August 26th.

When Flinders left England six years before, he was a midshipman. He
passed the examination qualifying him to become lieutenant at the Cape of
Good Hope in 1797, and was appointed provisionally to that rank on the
return of the Reliance to Sydney from the South African voyage in that
year. The prompt confirmation of his promotion by the admiralty he
attributed to the kind interest of Admiral Pasley.

When he quitted his ship at Deptford in October, 1800, he was a man of
mark. His name was honourably known to the elders of his profession,
whilst he was esteemed by men concerned with geography, navigation, and
kindred branches of study, for the importance of the work he had done,
and for the thorough scientific spirit manifested in it.

Chief among those who recognised his quality was Sir Joseph Banks, the
learned and wealthy squire who was ever ready to be to zealous men of
science a friend, a patron, and an influence. Banks was, indeed,
memorable for the men and work he helped, rather than for his own
original contributions to knowledge. During his presidency of the Royal
Society, from 1777 to 1820--a long time for one man to occupy the
principal place in the most distinguished learned body in the world--he
not only encouraged, but promoted and directed, a remarkable radiation of
research work, and was the accessible friend of every man of ability
concerned in extending the bounds of enquiry into phenomena.

Banks took a special interest in the young navigator, who was a native of
his own bit of England, Lincolnshire. He knew well what a large field for
geographical investigation there was in Australia, and recognised that
Flinders was the right man to do the work. Banks had always foreseen the
immense possibilities of the country; he was the means of sending out the
naturalists George Caley, Robert Brown, and Allan Cunningham, to study
its natural products. That he was quick to recognise the sterling
capacity of Matthew Flinders constitutes his principal claim to our
immediate attention. The spirit of our age is rather out of sympathy with
the attitude of patronage, which, as must be confessed, it gratified
Banks to assume; but at all events it was, in this instance, patronage of
the only tolerable sort, that which helps an able man to fulfil himself
and serve his kind.

Before he went to sea again, Flinders was married (April 1801) to Miss
Ann Chappell, stepdaughter of the Rev. William Tyler, rector of
Brothertoft, near Boston. She was a sailor's daughter, her own father
having died while in command of a ship out of Hull, engaged in the Baltic
trade. It is probable that there was an attachment between the pair
before Flinders left England in 1794; for during the Norfolk expedition
in 1798 he had named a smooth round hill in Kent's group Mount Chappell,
and had called a small cluster of islands the Chappell Isles. He does not
tell us why they were so named, as was his usual practice. He merely
speaks of them as "this small group to which the name of Chappell Isles
is affixed in the chart." But a tender little touch of sentiment may
creep in, even in the making of charts; and we cannot have or wish to
have, any doubt as to the reason in this case.

In his Observations, published in the year of his marriage, Flinders
remarks (page 24) that the hill "had received the name of Mount Chappell
in February, 1798, and the name is since extended to the isles which lie
in its immediate neighbourhood." The fact that the name was given in
1798, indicates that a kindly feeling, to say the least of it, was
entertained for Miss Chappell before Flinders left England in 1795. The
lover in As You Like It carved his lady's name on trees:

"O Rosalind, these trees shall be my books,
And in their barks my thoughts I'll character."

Here we find our young navigator writing his lady's name on the map. It
is rather an uncommon symptom of a very common complaint.

Miss Chappell and her sister, the sisters of Flinders, and the young
ladies of the Franklin family, were a group of affectionate friends who
lived in the same neighbourhood, and were constantly together. The boys
of the families were brothers to all the girls, who were all sisters to
them. Matthew on the Reliance wrote to them letters intended to be read
by all, addressing them as "my charming sisters." In one of these
epistles he told the girls: "never will there be a more happy soul than
when I return. O, may the Almighty spare me all those dear friends
without whom my joy would be turned into sorrow and mourning." But that
he nourished the recollection of Ann Chappell in his heart with especial
warmth is apparent from a letter he wrote to her very shortly after the
Reliance returned to England (September 25th, 1800):* (* Flinders'
Papers.) "You are one of those friends," he assured her, "whom I consider
it indispensably necessary to see. I should be glad to have some little
account of your movements, where you reside, and with whom, that my
motions may be regulated accordingly...You see that I make everything
subservient to business. Indeed, my dearest friend, this time seems to be
a very critical period of my life. I have long been absent--have done
services abroad that were not expected, but which seem to be thought a
good deal of. I have more and greater friends than before, and this seems
to be the moment that their exertions may be most serviceable to me. I
may now perhaps make a bold dash forward, or may remain a poor lieutenant
all my life." And he ended this letter, which Miss Chappell would not
fail to read "between the lines," by assuring "my dear friend Annette,"
that "with the greatest sincerity, I am her most affectionate friend and
brother, Matthew Flinders."

From this point the comforting understanding between the two young people
developed in ways as to which there is no evidence in correspondence; but
shortly after Flinders received promotion he must have proposed marriage.
He wrote a short time afterwards in these terms:

"H.M.S. Investigator, at the Nore, April 6, 1801.

"My dearest friend,

"Thou hast asked me if there is a POSSIBILITY of our living together. I
think I see a PROBABILITY of living with a moderate share of comfort.
Till now I was not certain of being able to fit myself out clear of the
world. I have now done it, and have accommodation on board the
Investigator, in which as my wife a woman may, with love to assist her,
make herself happy. This prospect has recalled all the tenderness which I
have so sedulously endeavoured to banish. I am sent for to London, where
I shall be from the 9th to the 19th, or perhaps longer. If thou wilt meet
me there, this hand shall be thine for ever. If thou hast sufficient love
and courage, say to Mr. and Mrs. Tyler* (* Her mother and stepfather.)
that I require nothing more with thee than a sufficient stock of clothes
and a small sum to answer the increased expenses that will necessarily
and immediately come upon me; as well for living on board as providing
for it at Port Jackson; for whilst I am employed in the most dangerous
part of my duty, thou shalt be placed under some friendly roof there. I
need not, nor at this time have I time to enter into a detail of my
income and prospects. It will, I trust, be sufficient for me to say that
I see a fortune growing under me to meet increasing expenses. I only want
a fair start, and my life for it, we will do well and be happy. I will
write further to-morrow, but shall most anxiously expect thy answer at 86
Fleet Street, London, on my visit on Friday; and, I trust, thy presence
immediately afterwards. I have only time to add that most anxiously I am,
Most sincerely thine,


He appended a postscript which covertly alludes to the manner in which
Sir Joseph Banks might be expected to regard the marriage on the eve of
commencing the new voyage: "It will be much better to keep this matter
entirely secret. There are many reasons for it yet, and I have also a
powerful one: I do not know how my great friends might like it."

But, taking all the risks in this direction, he snatched the first
opportunity that presented itself to hurry down to Lincolnshire, get
married, and bring his bride up to London, stuffing into his boot, for
safe keeping, a roll of bank notes given to him by Mr. Tyler at the
moment of farewell.

In a letter* to his cousin Henrietta, (* Flinders' Papers.) he relates
how hurriedly the knot matrimonial was at length tied, on the 17th of

"Everything was agreed to in a very handsome manner, and just at this
time I was called up to town and found that I might be spared a few days
from thence. I set off on Wednesday evening from town, arrived next
evening at Spilsby, was married next morning,* which was Friday; on
Saturday we went to Donington, on Sunday reached Huntingdon, and on
Monday were in town. Next morning I presented myself before Sir Joseph
Banks with a grave face as if nothing had happened, and then went on with
my business as usual. We stayed in town till the following Sunday, and
came on board the Investigator next day, and here we have remained ever
since, a few weeks on shore and a day spent on the Essex side of the
Thames excepted." (* Captain F.J. Bayldon, of the Nautical Academy,
Sydney, tells me an interesting story about the Flinders-Chappell
marriage registration. His father was rector of Partney, Lincolnshire, a
village lying two or three miles from Spilsby. When the Captain and his
brothers were boys, they found in the rectory a large book, such as was
used for parish registers. It was apparently unused. They asked their
father if they might have the blank pages for drawing paper, and he gave
them permission. But they found upon a single page, a few marriage
entries, and one of these was the marriage of Matthew Flinders to Ann
Chappell. Captain Bayldon, a student of navigation then as he has been
ever since, knew Flinders' name at once, and took the book to his father.
The marriage was celebrated at Partney, where the Tylers lived.)

In a letter* written on the day of the marriage to Elizabeth Flinders the
bride's fluttered and mixed emotions were apparent. (* Mitchell Library
manuscripts.) At this time she believed that she was to make the voyage
to Australia in the Investigator with her husband, and hardly knew
whether the happiness of her new condition or the regretful prospect of a
long farewell to her circle of friends prevailed most in her heart.

"April 17th, 1801.

"My beloved Betsy,

"Thou wilt be much surprised to hear of this sudden affair; indeed I
scarce believe it myself, tho' I have this very morning given my hand at
the altar to him I have ever highly esteemed, and it affords me no small
pleasure that I am now a part, tho' a distant one, of thy family, my
Betsy. It grieves me much thou art so distant from me. Thy society would
have greatly cheered me. Thou wilt to-day pardon me if I say but little.
I am scarce able to coin one sentence or to write intelligibly. It pains
me to agony when I indulge the thought for a moment that I must leave all
I value on earth, save one, alas, perhaps for ever. Ah, my Betsy, but I
dare not, must not, think [that]. Therefore, farewell, farewell. May the
great God of Heaven preserve thee and those thou lovest, oh,
everlastingly. Adieu, dear darling girl; love as ever, though absent and
far removed from your poor


We are afforded a confidential insight into Mrs. Flinders' opinion of her
husband in a letter from her to another girl friend. It was written after
the marriage, and when Matthew was again at sea, prosecuting that voyage
from which he was not to return for over nine years. "I don't admire want
of firmness in a man. I love COURAGE and DETERMINATION in the male
character. Forgive me, dear Fanny, but INSIPIDS I never did like, and
having not long ago tasted such delightful society I have now a greater
contempt than in former days for that cast of character." An "insipid"
Ann Chappell certainly had not married, and she found in Matthew Flinders
no lack of the courage and determination she admired.

A second marriage contracted by the elder Matthew Flinders, connecting
his family with the Franklins, had an important influence upon the life
of another young sailor who had commenced his career in the Navy in the
previous year. The Franklin family, which sprang from the village of
Sibsey (about six miles north-east of Boston), was now resident at
Spilsby. At the time of the Flinders-Chappell wedding, young John
Franklin was serving on the Polyphemus, and had only a few days
previously (April 1) taken part in the battle of Copenhagen. In the
ordinary course of things he would, there can hardly be a doubt, have
followed his profession along normal lines. His virile intellect and
resourceful courage would probably have won him eminence, but it is not
likely that he would have entered upon that career of exploration which
shed so much lustre on his name, and in the end found him a grave beneath
the immemorial snows of the frozen north. It was by Flinders that young
Franklin was diverted into the glorious path of discovery; from Flinders
that he learnt the strictly scientific part of navigation. "It is very
reasonable for us to infer," writes one of Franklin's biographers* (*
Admiral Markham, Life of Sir John Franklin page 43.) "that it was in all
probability in exploring miles of practically unknown coastline, and in
surveying hitherto undiscovered bays, reefs, and islands in the southern
hemisphere, that John Franklin's mind became imbued with that ardent love
of geographical research which formed such a marked and prominent feature
in his future professional career. Flinders was the example, and
Australian exploration was the school, that created one of our greatest
Arctic navigators and one of the most eminent geographers of his day."

Another matter with which Flinders was occupied during his stay in
England was the preparation of a small publication dealing with his
recent researches. It was entitled "Observations on the coasts of Van
Diemen's Land, on Bass's Strait and its Islands, and on parts of the
coasts of New South Wales, intended to accompany the charts of the late
discoveries in those countries, by Matthew Flinders, second lieutenant of
His Majesty's ship Reliance." It consisted of thirty-five quarto pages,
issued without a wrapper, and stitched like a large pamphlet. John
Nichols, of Soho, was the publisher, but some copies were issued with the
imprint of Arrowsmith, the publisher of charts. Very few copies now
remain, and the little book, which is one of the rare things of
bibliography, is not to be found even in many important libraries.

Flinders dedicated the issue to Sir Joseph Banks. "Your zealous exertions
to promote geographical and nautical knowledge, your encouragement of men
employed in the cultivation of the sciences that tend to this
improvement, and the countenance you have been pleased to show me in
particular, embolden me to lay the following observations before you."
Generally speaking, the Observations contain matter that was afterwards
embodied in the larger Voyage to Terra Australis, and taken from reports
that have been used in the preceding pages. The special purpose of the
book was to be of use to navigators who might sail in Australian waters,
and it is therefore full of particulars likely to guide them. He pointed
out that there might be some errors in the longitude records of the
Norfolk voyage because "no time-keepers could be procured for this
expedition," but he pointed out that the survey was made with great care.
"The sloop was kept close to the shore, and brought back every morning
within sight of the same point it had been hauled off during the
preceding evening, by which means the chain of angles was never broken."
This was, as will be seen later, the method employed on the more
important voyage about to be undertaken.

The task that mainly occupied his attention during these few months in
England, was the making of preparations for a voyage of discovery
intended to complete the exploration of the coasts of Australia. It has
already been remarked that the initiative in regard to the Francis and
Norfolk explorations sprang from Flinders' own eager desire, and not from
the governing authorities. Precisely the same occurred in the case of the
far more important Investigator voyage. He did not wait for something to
turn up. Immediately after his arrival in England, he formulated a plan,
pointed out the sphere of investigation to which attention ought to be
directed, and approached the proper authorities. He wrote to Sir Joseph
Banks, "offering my services to explore minutely the whole of the coasts,
as well those which were imperfectly known as those entirely unknown,
provided the Government would provide me with a proper ship for the
purpose. I did not address myself in vain to this zealous promoter of
science; and Earl Spencer, then First Lord of the Admiralty, entering
warmly into the views of his friend, obtained the approbation of his
Majesty, and immediately set out a ship that could be spared from the
present demands of war, which Great Britain then waged with most of the
Powers of Europe."* (* Flinders' Papers.)

Lord Spencer's prompt and warm acquiescence in the proposition is not
less to be noted than the friendly interest of Banks. His administration
of the Admiralty in Pitt's Government was distinguished by his selection
of Nelson as the admiral to frustrate the schemes of the French in sea
warfare; and it stands as an additional tribute to his sagacity that he
at once recognised Flinders to be the right man to maintain the prowess
of British seamanship in discovery.

Three reasons made the Government the more disposed to equip an
expedition for the purpose. The first was that in June, 1800, L.G. Otto,
the representative of the French Republic in London, applied for a
passport for two discovery ships which were being despatched to the south
seas. French men of science had for many years interested themselves in
the investigation of these unknown portions of the globe. The expeditions
of Laperouse (1785 to 1788) and of Dentrecasteaux (1791 to 1796) were
evidence of their concern with the problems awaiting elucidation. The
professors of the Museum in Paris were eager that collections of minerals
and plants should be made in the southern hemisphere. The Institute of
France was led by keen men of science, one of whom, the Comte de
Fleurieu, had prepared the instructions for the two previous voyages.
They had found a warm friend to research in Louis XVI, and the fall of
the monarchy did not diminish their anxiety that France should win honour
from pursuing the enquiry. They represented to Napoleon, then First
Consul, the utility of undertaking another voyage, and his authorisation
was secured in May. A passport was granted by Earl Spencer when Otto made
the application, but there was a suspicion that the French Government was
influenced by motives of policy lying deeper than the ostensible desire
to promote discovery.

Secondly, the East India Company was concerned lest the French should
establish themselves somewhere on the coast of Australia, and, with a
base of operations there, menace the Company's trade.

Thirdly, Sir Joseph Banks, after conversations with Flinders and an
examination of his charts, saw the importance of the work remaining to be
done, and used his influence with the Admiralty to authorise a ship to be
detailed for the purpose.

Thus imperial policy, trade interests and scientific ardour combined to
procure the equipment of a new research expedition. In view of the fact
that the Admiralty became officially aware in June of the intentions of
the French, it cannot be said that they were precipitate in making their
own plans; for it was not until December 12 that they issued their

The vessel allotted for the employment was a 334-ton sloop, built in the
north of England for the merchant service. She had been purchased by the
Government for naval work, and, under the name of the Xenophon, had been
employed in convoying merchant vessels in the Channel. Her name was
changed to the Investigator, her bottom was re-coppered, the plating
being put on "two streaks higher than before," and she was equipped for a
three years' voyage. Flinders took command of her at Sheerness on January
25th, 1801. He was promoted to the rank of commander on the 16th of the
following month.

The renovated ship was good enough to look at, and she commended herself
to Flinders' eye as being the sort of vessel best fitted for the work in
contemplation. In form she "nearly resembled the description of vessel
recommended by Captain Cook as best calculated for voyages of discovery."
But, though comfortable, she was old and unsound. Patching and caulking
merely plugged up defects which the buffetings of rough seas soon
revealed. But she was the best ship the Admiralty was able to spare at
the time. Long before she had completed her outward voyage, however, the
senility of the Investigator had made itself uncomfortably evident.
Writing of the leaks experienced on the run down to the Cape, Flinders

"The leakiness of the ship increased with the continuance of the
southwest winds, and at the end of a week amounted to five inches of
water an hour. It seemed, however, that the leaks were above the water's
edge, for on tacking to the westward they were diminished to two inches.
This working of the oakum out of the seams indicated a degree of weakness
which, in a ship destined to encounter every hazard, could not be
contemplated without uneasiness. The very large ports, formerly cut in
the sides to receive thirty-two pound carronades, joined to what I have
been able to collect from the dockyard officers, had given me an
unfavourable opinion of her strength; and this was now but too much
confirmed. Should it be asked why representations were not made and a
stronger vessel procured, I answer that the exigencies of the navy were
such at that time, that I was given to understand no better ship could be
spared from the service; and my anxiety to complete the investigation of
the coasts of Terra Australis did not admit of refusing the one offered."

The history of maritime discovery is strewn with rotten ships. Certainly
if the great navigators, before venturing to face the unknown, had waited
to be provided with vessels fit to make long voyages, the progress of
research would have been much slower than was the case. It sounds like
hyperbole to say that, when pitch and planks failed, these gallant seamen
stopped their leaks with hope and ardour; but really, something like that
is pretty near the truth.

The fitting out of the Investigator proceeded busily during January and
February, 1801. The Admiralty was liberal in its allowances. Indeed, the
equipment was left almost entirely to Banks and Flinders. The commander
"obtained permission to fit her out as I should judge necessary, without
reference to the supplies usually allotted to vessels of the same class."
The extent to which the Admiralty was guided by Banks is indicated in a
memorandum by the Secretary, Evan Nepean, penned in April. Banks wrote
"Is my proposal for an alteration in the undertaking in the Investigator
approved?" Nepean replied "Any proposal you may make will be approved;
the whole is left entirely to your decision."

In addition to plentiful supplies and special provision for a large store
of water, the Investigator carried an interesting assortment of "gauds,
nick-nacks, trifles," to serve as presents to native peoples with whom it
was desired to cultivate friendly relations. The list included useful
articles as well as glittering toys, and is a curious document as
illustrating a means by which civilisation sought to tickle the barbarian
into complaisance. Flinders carried for this purpose 500 pocket-knives,
500 looking-glasses, 100 combs, 200 strings of blue, red, white and
yellow beads, 100 pairs of ear-rings, 200 finger rings, 1000 yards of
blue and red gartering, 100 red caps, 100 small blankets, 100 yards of
thin red baize, 100 yards of coloured linen, 1000 needles, five pounds of
red thread, 200 files, 100 shoemakers' knives, 300 pairs of scissors, 100
hammers, 50 axes, 300 hatchets, a quantity of other samples of
ironmongery, a number of medals with King George's head imprinted upon
them, and some new copper coins.

It is a curious assortment, but it may be observed that the materials, as
well as the method of ingratiation, were very much the same with the
earlier as with the later navigators. An early instance occurs in Rene
Laudonniere's account of his relations with the natives of Florida in
1565:* (* Hakluyt's Voyages edition of 1904 Volume 9 pages 31 and 49.) "I
gave them certaine small trifles, which were little knives or tablets of
glasse, wherein the image of King Charles the Ninth was drawen very
lively...I recompensed them with certaine hatchets, knives, beades of
glasse, combes and looking-glasses."

The crew of the Investigator was selected with particular care. Flinders
desired to carry none but young sailors of good character. He was given
permission to take men from the Zealand, and he explained to those who
volunteered the nature of the service, and its probably severe and
protracted character. The readiness with which men came forward gave him
much pleasure.

"Upon one occasion, when eleven volunteers were to be received from the
Zealand, a strong instance was given of the spirit of enterprise
prevalent amongst British seamen. About three hundred disposable men were
called up, and placed on one part of the deck; and after the nature of
the voyage, with the number of men wanted, had been explained to them,
those who volunteered were desired to go over to the opposite side. The
candidates were no less than two hundred and fifty, most of whom sought
with eagerness to be received; and the eleven who were chosen proved,
with one single exception, to be worthy of the preference they obtained."

Of the whole crew (and the total ship's company numbered 83) only two
caused any trouble to the commander. As these two "required more severity
in reducing to good order than I wished to exercise in a service of this
nature," when the Investigator reached the Cape, Flinders arranged with
the Admiral there, Sir Roger Curtis, to exchange them--as well as two
others who from lack of sufficient strength were not suitable--for four
sailors upon the flagship, who made a pressing application to go upon a
voyage of discovery. Thus purged of a very few refractories and
inefficients, the ship's company was a happy, loyal and healthy crew, of
whom the commander was justifiably proud.

The officers and scientific staff were chosen with a view to making the
voyage fruitful in utility. The first lieutenant, Robert Fowler, had
served on the ship when she was the Xenophon. He was a Lincolnshire man,
hailing from Horncastle, and had been a schoolfellow of Banks. But it was
not through Sir Joseph's influence that he was selected. Flinders made
his acquaintance while the refitting of the vessel was in progress, and
found him desirous of making the voyage. As his former captain spoke well
of him, his services were accepted. Samuel Ward Flinders went as second
lieutenant, and there were six midshipmen, of whom John Franklin was one.

Originally it was intended that Mungo Park, the celebrated African
traveller, who was at this time in England looking round for employment,
should go to Australia on the Investigator, and act as naturalist. But no
definite engagement was entered into; the post remained vacant, and a
Portuguese exile living in London, Correa de Sena, introduced to Banks a
young Scottish botanist who desired to go, describing him as one "fitted
to pursue an object with a staunch and a cold mind." Robert Brown was
then not quite twenty-seven years of age. Like the gusty swashbuckler,
Dugald Dalgetty, he had been educated at the Marischal College, Aberdeen.
For a few years he served as ensign and assistant surgeon of a Scottish
regiment, the Fife Fencibles. Always a keen botanist, he found a ready
friend in Banks, who promised to recommend him "for the purpose of
exploring the natural history, amongst other things." His salary was 420
pounds a year, and he earned it by admirable service. Brown remained in
Australia for two years after the discovery voyage, and his great
Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae, which won the praise of Humboldt, is a
classic monument to the extent and value of his researches.

William Westall was appointed landscape and figure draftsman to the
expedition at a salary of 315 pounds per annum. The nine fine engravings
which adorn the Voyage to Terra Australis are his work. He was but a
youth of nineteen when he made this voyage. Afterwards he attained repute
as a landscape painter, and was elected as Associate of the Royal
Academy. One hundred and thirty-eight of his drawings made on the
Investigator are preserved.

Ferdinand Bauer was appointed botanical draftsman to the expedition at a
salary of 315 pounds. He was an Austrian, forty years of age, an
enthusiast in his work, and a man of uncommon industry. He made 1600
botanical drawings which, in Robert Brown's opinion, were "for beauty,
accuracy and completion of detail unequalled in this or in any other
country in Europe." Bauer's Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae,
published in 1814, consisted of plates which were drawn, engraved and
coloured by his own hand. Flinders formed a very high opinion of the
capacity of both Brown and Bauer. "It is fortunate for science," he wrote
to Banks "that two men of such assiduity and abilities have been
selected; their application is beyond what I have been accustomed to

Peter Good, appointed gardener to the expedition at a salary of 105
pounds, was a foreman at the Kew Gardens when he was selected for this
service. Brown found him a valuable assistant, and an indefatigable
worker. He died in Sydney in June, 1803, from dysentery contracted at
Timor. Of John Allen, engaged as a miner at a salary of 105 pounds,
nothing is known.

John Crossley was engaged to sail as astronomer, at a salary of 420
pounds, but he did not accompany the Investigator further than the Cape
of Good Hope, where his health broke down, and he returned to England.
The instruments with which he had been furnished by the Board of
Longitude were, however, left on board, and Flinders undertook to do his
work in cooperation with his brother Samuel, who had been assisting
Crossley, and was able to take charge of the astronomical clocks and

The interest taken by the East India Company's Court of Directors in the
expedition was manifested in their vote of 600 pounds for the table money
of the officers and staff.* (* The East India Company, through its Court
of Directors, actually voted 1200 pounds in May, 1801; but only 600
pounds of this sum was paid at the commencement of the voyage. The
remainder was to be paid to the commander and officers as a reward if
they successfully accomplished their task. Flinders' manuscript
letter-book contains a copy of a letter dated November 14, 1810, wherein
he reminds the Company of their promise. I have found no record of the
payment of the remaining 600 pounds, but Flinders' Journal shows him to
have dined with the directors a few weeks after the letter was sent, and
a little later the Journal contains a record of a merry evening spent
together by Flinders and a party of his old Investigator shipmates. It is
a fair assumption that the money was divided up on that occasion.) They
gave this sum "from the voyage being within the limits of the Company's
charter, from the expectation of the examinations and discoveries proving
advantageous, and partly, as they said"--so Flinders modestly
observed--"for my former services." The Company's charter gave to it a
complete monopoly of trade with the east and the Pacific, and it was
therefore interested in the finding of fresh harbours for its vessels in
the South Seas. But, despite this display of concern, the East India
Company had been no friend to Australian discovery and colonization. In
the early years of the settlement at Port Jackson, it resisted the
opening of direct trade between Great Britain and New South Wales, with
as jealous a dislike as ever the Spanish monopolists at Seville displayed
in the sixteenth century concerning all trade with America that did not
flow through their hands. Even so recently as 1806 the Company
opposed--and, strangely enough, successfully--the sale of a cargo of
sealskins and whale oil from Sydney, on the ground "that the charter of
the colony gave the colonists no right to trade, and that the transaction
was a violation of Company's charter and against its welfare." The grant
to Flinders was not, therefore, a manifestation of zeal for Australian
development, except in the matter of finding harbours, and except, also,
that there was an uneasy feeling that the French would be mischievously
busy on the north coast. "I hope the French ships of discovery will not
station themselves on the north-west coast of Australia," wrote C.F.
Greville, one of the Company's directors.

The instructions furnished to Flinders prescribed the course of the
voyage very strictly. They were that he should first run down the coast
from 130 degrees of east longitude (that is, from about the head of the
Great Australian Bight) to Bass Strait, and endeavour to discover such
harbours as there might be. Then, proceeding through the Strait, he was
to call at Sydney to refresh his company and refit the ship. After that
he was to return along the coast and diligently examine it as far as King
George's Sound. As the sailing was delayed till the middle of July,
Flinders expressed a wish that he should not be ordered to return to the
south coast from Port Jackson. "If my orders do not forbid it, I shall
examine the south coast more minutely in my first run along it, and if
anything material should present itself, as a strait, gulf, or very large
river, shall take as much time in its examination as the remaining part
of the summer shall then consist of; for I consider it very material to
the success of the voyage and to its early completion that we should be
upon the northern coasts in winter and the southern ones in summer."

This was written to Banks, who, as we have seen, could probably have
secured an alteration of the official instructions had he desired to do
so. But they were not modified; and about a fortnight later (July 17)
Flinders wrote: "The Admiralty have not thought good to permit me to
circumnavigate New Holland in the way that appears to me (underlined)
best suited to expedition and safety." It is probable that, if Banks
discussed the proposed alteration with the Admiralty, the more rapid run
along the south coast was insisted upon, because that was the field to
which the French expedition might be expected to apply itself with most
diligence; as, in fact, was actually the case. Governor King had also
written to Banks pointing out the importance of a southern survey, "to
see what shelter it affords in case a ship should be taken before she can
clear the land to the southward and the western entrance to the Strait."

The instructions continued that after the exploration of the south of New
Holland, the Investigator was to sail to the north-west and examine the
Gulf of Carpentaria, carefully investigating Torres Strait and the whole
of the remainder of the north-west and north-east coasts. After that, the
east coast was to be more fully explored; and when the whole programme
was finished Flinders was to return to England for further instructions.

The functions of the "scientific gentlemen" were carefully defined.
Flinders was directed to afford facilities for the naturalists to collect
specimens and the artists to make drawings. The hand of Banks is apparent
in the nice balancing of liberty of independent study with liability to
direction from the commander; and his forethought in these particulars
was probably inspired by his experience with Cook's expedition many years

One other set of instructions from the Admiralty is of great importance
in view of what subsequently occurred, and had a bearing upon the
expedition as it affected political relations. Great Britain was at war
with France, and the Investigator, though on a peaceful mission, was a
sloop belonging to the British navy. Flinders wrote to the Admiralty
(July 2) soliciting instructions as to what he was to do in case he met
French vessels at sea, "for without an order to desist, the articles of
war will oblige me to act inimically to them." The directions that he
received were explicit. He was to act towards any French ship "as if the
two countries were not at war; and with respect to the ships and vessels
of other powers with which this country is at war, you are to avoid, if
possible, having any communication with them; and not to take letters or
packets other than such as you may receive from this office or the office
of his Majesty's Secretary of State." The concluding words of the
instruction intimately concern the events which, in the next year but
one, commenced that long agony of imprisonment which Flinders had to
endure in Ile-de-France.

He was also provided with a passport from the French Government, and the
terms in which it was couched are of the utmost importance for the
understanding of what followed. It was issued for the Investigator,
commanded by Captain Matthew Flinders, for a voyage of discovery of which
the object was to extend human knowledge and promote the progress of
nautical science. It commanded all French officers, at sea or on shore,
not to interfere with the ship and its officers, but on the contrary to
assist them if they needed help. But this treatment was only to be
extended as long as the Investigator did not announce her intention of
committing any act of hostility against the French Republic and her
allies, did not render assistance to her enemies, and did not traffic in
merchandise or contraband goods. The passport was signed by the French
Minister of Marine and Colonies, Forfait, on behalf of the First Consul.*
(* A transcript of Flinders' own copy of the French passport is now at
Caen, amongst the Decaen Papers Volume 84 page 133.)

Before the expedition sailed, Flinders became engaged in a correspondence
which must have been embarrassing to him, relating to his wife. He was
married, as has been stated, in April, after he had been promoted
commander, and while the Investigator was lying at Sheerness, awaiting
sailing orders. As the voyage would in all probability extend over
several years, his intention was to take his bride with him to Sydney,
and leave her there while he prosecuted his investigations in the south,
north and east. He had no reason to think that his doing so would give
offence in official quarters, especially as he was aware of cases where
commanders of ships had been permitted to take their wives on cruises
when their vessels were not protected by passports securing immunity from
attack. There are even instances of wives of British naval officers being
on board ship during engagements. During Nelson's attack on Santa Cruz,
in 1797, Captain Fremantle of the Seahorse had with him his wife, whom he
had lately married. It was in that engagement that Nelson lost an arm;
and when he returned, bleeding and in great pain, he would not go on
board the Seahorse, saying that he would not have Mrs. Fremantle alarmed
by seeing him in such a condition, without any news of her husband, who
had accompanied the landing. The amputation of the shattered limb was
therefore performed on the Theseus.

The wisdom of permitting a naval officer to take his wife on a long
voyage in a ship of the navy may well be questioned, and the contrary
rule is now well established. But it was not invariably observed a
century or more ago; and that Flinders acted in perfect good faith in the
matter is evident from the correspondence, which, on so delicate a
subject, he conducted with a manliness and good taste that display his
character in an amiable light.

In all probability Mrs. Flinders would have been allowed to proceed to
Port Jackson unchallenged but for the unlucky circumstance that, when the
commissioners of the Admiralty paid an official visit of inspection to
the ship, she was seen "seated in the captain's cabin without her
bonnet."* (* Flinders' Papers.) They considered this to be "too open a
declaration of that being her home." Her husband first heard of the
matter semi-officially from Banks, who wrote on May 21st:--

"I have but time to tell you that the news of your marriage, which was
published in the Lincoln paper, has reached me. The Lords of the
Admiralty have heard also that Mrs. Flinders is on board the
Investigator, and that you have some thought of carrying her to sea with
you. This I was very sorry to hear, and if that is the case I beg to give
you my advice by no means to adventure to measures so contrary to the
regulations and the discipline of the Navy; for I am convinced by
language I have heard, that their Lordships will, if they hear of her
being in New South Wales, immediately order you to be superseded,
whatever may be the consequences, and in all likelihood order Mr. Grant
to finish the survey.

To threaten to supercede Flinders if it were even heard that his wife was
in New South Wales was surely an excess of rigour. His reply was written
from the Nore, May 24th, 1801:

"I am much indebted to you, Sir Joseph, for the information contained in
your letter of the 21st. It is true that I had an intention of taking
Mrs. Flinders to Port Jackson, to remain there until I should have
completed the voyage, and to have then brought her home again in the
ship, and I trust that the service would not have suffered in the least
by such a step. The Admiralty have most probably conceived that I
intended to keep her on board during the voyage, but this was far from my
intentions. As some vindication of the step I was about to take, I may be
permitted to observe that until it was intended to apply for a passport,
I not only did not take the step, but did not intend it--which is perhaps
a greater attention to that article of the Naval Instructions than many
commanders have paid to it. If their Lordships understood this matter in
its true light, I should hope that they would have shown the same
indulgence to me as to Lieutenant Kent of the Buffalo, and many others
who have not had the plea of a passport.

"If their Lordships' sentiments should continue the same, whatever may be
my disappointment, I shall give up the wife for the voyage of discovery;
and I would beg of you, Sir Joseph, to be assured that even this
circumstance will not damp the ardour I feel to accomplish the important
purpose of the present voyage, and in a way that shall preclude the
necessity of any one following after me to explore.

"It would be too much presumption in me to beg of Sir Joseph Banks to set
this matter in its proper light, because by your letters I judge it meets
with your disapprobation entirely; but I hope that this opinion has been
formed upon the idea of Mrs. Flinders continuing on board the ship when
engaged in real service."

Banks promised to lay before the Admiralty the representations made to
him, but Flinders a few days later (June 3rd) wrote another letter in
which he conscientiously expressed his determination not to risk a
misunderstanding with his superiors by taking his wife:

"I feel much obliged by your offer to lay the substance of my letter
before the Admiralty, but I foresee that, although I should in the case
of Mrs. Flinders going to Port Jackson have been more particularly
cautious of my stay there, yet their Lordships will conclude naturally
enough that her presence would tend to increase the number of and to
lengthen my visits. I am therefore afraid to risk their Lordships' ill
opinion, and Mrs. Flinders will return to her friends immediately that
our sailing orders arrive.

It can well be believed that "my Lords" of the Admiralty did not feel
very considerate towards ladies just at that time; for one of their most
brilliant officers, Nelson, was, while this very correspondence was
taking place, gravely compromising himself with Emma Hamilton at Naples.
St. Vincent and Troubridge, salt-hearted old veterans as they were, were
just the men to be suspicious on the score of petticoats fluttering about
the decks of the King's ships. It seems that they were inclined unjustly
and ungallantly to frown and cry cherchez la femme about small things
that went wrong, even when Flinders was in no way to blame for them. They
blamed him for some desertions before properly apprehending the
circumstances, and when he had merely reported a fact for which he was
not responsible.

The next two letters close the whole incident, which gave more annoyance
to all parties than ought to have been the case in connection with an
officer so sedulously scrupulous in matters concerning the honour and
efficiency of the service as Flinders was. Banks, in quite a patron's
tone, wrote on June 5th:

"I yesterday went to the Admiralty to enquire about the Investigator, and
was indeed much mortified to learn there that you had been on shore in
Hythe Bay, and I was still more mortified to hear that several of your
men had deserted, and that you had had a prisoner entrusted to your
charge, who got away at a time when the quarter-deck was in charge of a
midshipman. I heard with pain many severe remarks on these matters, and
in defence I could only say that as Captain Flinders is a sensible man
and a good seaman, such matters could only be attributed to the laxity of
discipline which always takes place when the captain's wife is on board,
and that such lax discipline could never again take place, because you
had wisely resolved to leave Mrs. Flinders with her relations."

It was a kindly admonishment from an elderly scholar to a young officer
of twenty-seven only recently married; but to attribute affairs for which
Flinders was not to blame to the presence of his bride, was a little
unamiable. With excellent taste, Flinders, in his answer, avoided keeping
his wife's name in the controversy, and he disposed of the allegations
both effectively and judiciously:

"My surprise is great that the Admiralty should attach any blame to me
for the desertion of these men from the Advice brig, which is the next
point in your letter, Sir Joseph. These men were lent, among others, to
the brig, by order of Admiral Graeme. From her it was that they absented
themselves, and I reported it to the Admiralty. I had been so particular
as to send with the men a request to the commanding officer to permit
none of them to go on shore, but Lieutenant Fowler pointed out to him
such of them as might be most depended on to go in boats upon duty.
Nothing more could have been done on our part to prevent desertion, and
if blame rests anywhere it must be upon the officers of the Advice. The
three men were volunteers for this voyage, but having gotten on shore
with money in their pockets most probably stayed so long that they became
afraid to return."

On the subject of discipline he said: "It is only a duty to myself to
assert that the discipline and good order on board the Investigator is
exceeded in very few ships of her size, and is at least twice what it was
under her former commander. I beg to refer to Lieutenant Fowler on this
subject, who knows the ship intimately both as the Xenophon and
Investigator. On the last subject I excuse myself from not having thought
the occurrence of sufficient consequence to trouble Sir Joseph with, and
it was what I least suspected that my character required a defender, for
it was in my power to have suppressed almost the whole of those things
for which I am blamed; but I had the good of the service sufficiently at
heart to make the reports which brought them into light. That the
Admiralty have thrown blame on me, and should have represented to my
greatest and best friend that I had gotten the ship on shore, had let a
prisoner escape, and three of my men run away, without adding the
attendant circumstances, is most mortifying and grievous to me; but it is
impossible to express so gratefully as I feel the anxious concern with
which you took the part of one who has not the least claim to such

The last two paragraphs refer to an incident which will be dealt with

Although the Investigator was ready to sail in April, 1801, the Admiralty
withheld orders till the middle of July. Flinders, vexed as he naturally
was at having to leave his young wife behind, was impatient at the delay
for two good reasons. First, he was anxious to have the benefit of the
Australian summer months, between November and February, for the
exploration of the south-west, the winter being the better time for the
northern work; and secondly, reports had appeared in the journals about
the progress of the French expedition, and he did not wish to be
forestalled in the making of probably important discoveries. The "Annual
Register" for 1801, for example (page 33) stated that letters were
received from the Isle of France, dated April 29th, stating that Le
Naturaliste and Le Geographe had left that station on their voyage to New
Holland. While "my Lords" were warming up imaginary errors in the heat of
an excited imagination on account of poor Mrs. Flinders, the commander of
the Investigator was losing valuable time. In May he wrote to Sir Joseph
Banks: "The advanced state of the season makes me excessively anxious to
be off. I fear that a little longer delay will lose us a summer and
lengthen our voyage at least six months. Besides that, the French are
gaining time upon us."

On May 26th, the Investigator left the Nore for Spithead to wait further
orders. She was provided, by the Admiralty itself, with a chart published
by J.H. Moore, upon which a sandbank known as the Roar, extending from
Dungeness towards Folkestone, between 2 1/2 to 4 miles from land, was not
marked. On the evening of the 28th, in a perfectly calm sea, and at a
time when, sailing by the chart, there was no reason to apprehend any
danger, the ship glided on to the bank. She did not suffer a particle of
injury, and in a very short time had resumed her voyage. If Flinders had
said nothing at all about the incident, nobody off the ship would have
been any the wiser. But as the Admiralty had furnished him with a
defective chart, and might do the same to other commanders, who might
strike the sand in more inimical circumstances, he considered it to be
his duty to the service to report the matter; when lo! the Admiralty,
instead of censuring its officials for supplying the Investigator with a
faulty chart, gravely shook its head, and made those "severe remarks"
about Flinders, which induced Sir Joseph Banks to admonish him so
paternally in the letter already quoted. The Investigator had, it seemed
to be the opinion of their Lordships, struck the sand, not because it was
uncharted, but because Mrs. Flinders was on board between the Nore and
Spithead! Flinders' letter to Banks, June 6th, stated his position quite

"Finding so material a thing as a sandbank three or four miles from the
shore unlaid down in the chart, I thought it a duty incumbent upon me to
endeavour to prevent the like accident from happening to others, by
stating the circumstances to the Admiralty, and giving the most exact
bearings from the shoal that our situation would enable me to take, with
the supposed distance from the land. It would have been very easy for me
to have suppressed every part of the circumstance, and thus to have
escaped the blame which seems to attach to me, instead of some share of
praise for my good intentions. I hope that it will not be thought
presumptuous in me to say that no blame ought to be attributed to
me...The Admiralty do not seem to take much into consideration that I had
no master appointed, who ought to be the pilot, or that having been
constantly employed myself in foreign voyages I cannot consequently have
much personal knowledge of the Channel. In truth, I had nothing but the
chart and my own general observations to direct me; and had the former
been at all correct we should have arrived here as safe as if we had any
number of pilots."

It is significant of Flinders' truth-telling habit of mind that when he
came to write the history of the voyage, published thirteen years later,
he did not pass over the incident at the Roar, though he can hardly have
remembered as agreeable an event for which he was blamed when he was not
wrong. But perhaps he found satisfaction in being able to write that the
circumstance "showed the necessity there was for a regulation, since
adopted, to furnish His Majesty's ships with correct charts." A natural
comment is that it is odd that so obviously sensible a thing was not done
until an accident showed the danger of not doing it. The blame
temporarily put upon Flinders did no harm to his credit, and was probably
merely an oblique form of self-reproach on the part of the Admiralty.

The Investigator arrived at Spithead on June 2nd, but did not receive
final sailing orders till more than another month had elapsed. "I put an
end, I hope, to our correspondence for some months, concluding that you
will sail immediately," wrote Sir Joseph Banks in June, "and with sincere
good wishes for your future prosperity, and with a firm belief that you
will, in your future conduct, do credit to yourself as an able
investigator, and to me as having recommended you." The true spirit of
friendship breathes in those words, the friendship, too, of a discerning
judge of character for a younger man whom he respected and trusted. The
trust was nobly justified. Flinders undertook the work with the firm
determination to do his work thoroughly. "My greatest ambition," he had
written some weeks previously (April 29),"is to make such a minute
investigation of this extensive and very interesting country that no
person shall have occasion to come after me to make further discoveries."
It was with that downright resolve that Flinders set out, and in that
spirit did he pursue his task to its end. It was not for nothing that
this man was the nautical grandson of Cook.

Sailing orders arrived from London on July 17th, and on the following day
the Investigator sailed from Spithead. Mrs. Flinders was at this time
residing with her friends in Lincolnshire. She had been ill from fretful
disappointment when forbidden to sail with her husband, but had recovered
before they parted. Many a weary, bitter year was to pass before she
would see him again; years of notable things done, and of cruel wrongs
endured; and then they were only to meet for a few months, till death
claimed the brave officer and fine-spirited gentleman who was Matthew

From the correspondence of these weeks a few passages may be chosen, as
showing the heart-side of a gallant sailor's nature. He wrote to his wife
in June: "The philosophical calmness which I imposed upon thee is fled
from myself, and I am just as awkward without thee as one half of a pair
of scissors without its fellow," an image for separation which may be
commended to any poet ingenious enough to find a rhyme for "scissors."
The following is dated July 7th: "I should not forget to say that the
gentle Mr. Bauer seldom forgets to add 'and Mrs. Flinders' good health'
after the cloth is withdrawn, and even the bluff Mr. Bell does not forget
you...Thou wilt write me volumes, my dearest love, wilt thou not? No
pleasure is at all equal to that I receive from thy letters. The idea of
how happy we MIGHT be will sometimes intrude itself and take away the
little spirits that thy melancholy situation leaves me. I can write no
longer with this confounded pen. I will find a better to-morrow. May the
choicest blessings of Heaven go with thee, thou dearest, kindest, best of

This one was written from the Cape in November: "Write to me constantly;
write me pages and volumes. Tell me the dress thou wearest, tell me thy
dreams, anything, so do but talk to me and of thyself. When thou art
sitting at thy needle and alone, then think of me, my love, and write me
the uppermost of thy thoughts. Fill me half a dozen sheets, and send them
when thou canst. Think only, my dearest girl upon the gratification which
the perusal and reperusal fifty times repeated will afford me, and thou
wilt write me something or other every day. Adieu, my dearest, best love.
Heaven bless thee with health and comfort, and preserve thy full
affection towards thy very own, Matthew Flinders."

To return from these personal relations to the voyage: Some days before
the Investigator reached Madeira, a Swedish brig was met, and had to
receive a lesson in nautical manners during war-time. The incident is
reported by seaman Samuel Smith with a pretty mixture of pronouns,
genders and tenses: "At night we was piped all hands in the middle watch
to quarters. A brig was bearing down upon our starboard bow. Our Captn
spoke her, but receiving no answer we fired a gun past his stern. Tacked
ship and spoke her, which proved to be a Swede."* (* Manuscript, Mitchell
Library: "Journal of Samuel Smith, Seaman, who served on board the
Investigator, Captain Flinders, on a voyage of discovery in the South
Seas." The manuscript covers 52 small quarto pages, and is neatly
written. Some of Smith's dates are wrong. It may be noted here that
Smith, on his return from the voyage, was impressed in the Downs and
retained in the Navy till 1815. He died at Thornton's Court, Manchester,
in 1821, aged 50. He was therefore 30 years of age when he made this

Flinders was, it has been said, the nautical grandson of Cook. How
thoroughly he followed the example of the great sailor is apparent from
the lines upon which he managed his ship and governed his crew. This is
what he was able to write of the voyage down to the Cape of Good Hope,
reached on October 16th: "At this time we had not a single person in the
sick list, both officers and men being fully in as good health as when we
sailed from Spithead. I had begun very early to put in execution the
beneficial plan first practised and made known by the great Captain Cook.
It was in the standing orders of the ship, that on every fine day the
deck below and the cockpit should be cleaned, washed, aired with stoves,
and sprinkled with vinegar. On wet and dull days they were cleaned and
aired, without washing. Care was taken to prevent the people from
sleeping upon deck or lying down in their wet clothes; and once in every
fortnight or three weeks, as circumstances permitted, their beds, and the
contents of their chests and bags were opened out and exposed to the sun
and air. On the Sunday and Thursday mornings, the ship's company was
mustered, and every man appeared clean-shaved and dressed; and when the
evenings were fine the drum and fife announced the forecastle to be the
scene of dancing; nor did I discourage other playful amusements which
might occasionally be more to the taste of the sailors, and were not

"Within the tropics lime juice and sugar were made to suffice as
antiscorbutics; on reaching a higher latitude, sour-krout and vinegar
were substituted; the essence of malt was served for the passage to New
Holland, and for future occasions, on consulting with the surgeon, I had
thought it expedient to make some slight changes in the issuing of the
provisions. Oatmeal was boiled for breakfast four days in the week, as
usual; and at other times, two ounces of portable broth, in cakes, to
each man, with such additions of onions, pepper, etc., as the different
messes possessed, made a comfortable addition to their salt meat. And
neither in this passage, nor, I may add, in any subsequent part of the
voyage, were the officers or people restricted to any allowance of fresh
water. They drank freely at the scuttled cask, and took away, under the
inspection of the officer of the watch, all that was requisite for
culinary purposes; and very frequently two casks of water in the week
were given for washing their clothes. With these regulations, joined to a
due enforcement of discipline, I had the satisfaction to see my people
orderly and full of zeal for the service in which we were engaged; and in
such a state of health that no delay at the Cape was required beyond the
necessary refitment of the ship."

How wise, considerate, and farseeing this policy was! It reads like the
sageness of a gray-headed veteran. Yet Flinders had only attained his
27th birthday precisely seven months before he reached the Cape on this
voyage. He had learned how men, as well as ships, should be managed. "It
was part of my plan for preserving the health of the people to promote
active amusements amongst them," he said of the jollity on crossing the
line; and we can almost see the smile of recollection which played upon
his lips when he wrote that "the seamen were furnished with the means and
the permission to conclude the day with merriment." Seaman Smith, who
shared in the fun, tells us what occurred with his own peculiar disregard
of correct spelling and grammatical construction: "we crossd the
equinocial line and had the usuil serimony of Neptune and his attendance
hailing the ship and coming on board. The greatest part of officers and
men was shaved, not having crossd the line before. At night grog was
servd out to each watch, which causd the evening to be spent in

At the Cape the seams were re-caulked, and the ship gave less trouble on
the voyage across the Indian Ocean than she had done on the run south.
She left False Bay on November 4th. The run across the Indian Ocean was
uneventful, except that the ship ran foul of a whale apparently sleeping
on the water, and "caused such an alarm that he sank as expeditiously as
possible"; and that an albatross was captured which, "being caught with
hook and line it had its proper faculties and appeared of a varocious
nature."* (* Smith's Journal, Mitchell Library manuscripts.) On December
6th the coast of Australia was sighted near Cape Leeuwin.


It will be necessary to devote some attention to the French expedition of
discovery, commanded by Nicolas Baudin, which sailed from Havre on
October 19th, 1800, nearly two months before the British Admiralty
authorised the despatch of the Investigator, and nine months all but two
days before Flinders was permitted to leave England.

The mere fact that this expedition was despatched while Napoleon
Bonaparte was First Consul of the French Republic, has led many writers
to jump to the conclusion that it was designed to cut out a portion of
Australia for occupation by the French; that, under the thin disguise of
being charged with a scientific mission, Baudin was in reality an
emissary of Machiavellian statecraft, making a cunning move in the great
game of world-politics. The author has, in an earlier book* endeavoured
to show that such was not the case. (* Terre Napoleon (London, 1910).
Since that book was published, I have had the advantage of reading a
large quantity of manuscript material, all unpublished, preserved in the
Archives Nationales and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. It strengthens
the main conclusions promulgated in Terre Napoleon, but of course
amplifies the evidence very considerably. The present chapter is written
with the Baudin and other manuscripts, as well as the printed material,
in mind.) Bonaparte did not originate the discovery voyage. He simply
authorised it, as head of the State, when the proposition was laid before
him by the Institute of France, a scientific body, concerned with the
augmentation of knowledge, and anxious that an effort should be made to
complete a task which the abortive expeditions of Laperouse and
Dentrecasteaux had failed to accomplish.

Moreover, if Bonaparte had wished to acquire territory in Australia, he
was not so foolish a person as to fit out an expedition estimated to cost
over half a million francs,* and which actually cost a far larger sum,
when he could have obtained what he wanted simply by asking. (* Report of
the Commission of the Institute manuscripts, Bibliotheque Nationale,
nouveaux acquisitions, France 9439 page 139.) The treaty of Amiens was
negotiated and signed while Baudin's ships were at sea. The British
Government at that time was very anxious for peace, and was prepared to
make concessions--did, in fact, surrender a vast extent of territory won
by a woful expenditure of blood and treasure. It cannot be said that
Australia was greatly valued by Great Britain at the time. She occupied
only a small portion of an enormous continent, and would certainly not
have seriously opposed a project that the French should occupy some other
portion of it, if Bonaparte had put forward a claim as a condition of
peace. But he did nothing of the kind.

If we are to form sound views of history, basing conclusions on the
evidence, we must set aside suspicions generated at a time of fierce
racial antipathy, when it was almost part of an Englishman's creed to
hate a Frenchman. Neither the published history of Baudin's voyage, nor
the papers relating to it which are now available for study--except two
documents to which special attention will be devoted hereafter, and which
did not emanate from persons in authority--afford warrant for believing
that there was any other object in view than that professed when
application for a passport was made to the Admiralty. The confidential
instructions of the Minister* of Marine (* Manuscripts, Archives
Nationales BB4 999, Marine. I have given an account of this important
manuscript, with copious extracts, in the English Historical Review,
April, 1913.) to Baudin* leave no doubt that the purpose was quite bona
fide. (* Fleurieu to Forfait, manuscripts, Bibliotheque Nationale,
nouveaux acquisitions, France 9439 page 137.) "Your labours," wrote
Forfait, "having for their sole object the perfecting of scientific
knowledge, you should observe the most complete neutrality, allowing no
doubt to be cast upon your exactitude in confining yourself to the object
of your mission, as set forth in the passports which have been furnished.
In your relations with foreigners, the glorious success of our arms, the
power and wisdom of your government, the grand and generous views of the
First Consul for the pacification of Europe, the order that he has
restored in the interior of France, furnish you with the means of giving
to foreign peoples just ideas upon the real state of the Republic and
upon the prosperity which is assured to it." The men of science who had
promoted the voyage were anxious that not even a similitude of
irregularity should be permitted. Thus we find the Comte de Fleurieu, who
drew up the itinerary, writing to the Minister urging him to include in
the instructions a paragraph prohibiting the ships from taking on board,
under any pretext, merchandise which could give to a scientific
expedition the appearance of a commercial venture, "because if an English
cruiser or man-of-war should visit them, and find on board other goods
than articles of exchange for dealing with aboriginal peoples, this might
serve as a pretext for arresting them, and Baudin's passport might be
disregarded on the ground that it had been abused by being employed as a
means of conducting without risk a traffic which the state of war would
make very lucrative."

The question of the origin and objects of the expedition is, however, an
entirely different one from that of the use which Napoleon would have
made of the information collected, had the opportunity been available of
striking a blow at Great Britain through her southern colony. It is also
different from the question (as to which something will be said later) of
the advantage taken by two members of Baudin's staff of the scope allowed
them at Port Jackson, to "spy out the land" with a view of furnishing
information valuable in a military sense to their Government.

The instructions to Baudin were very similar to those which had been
given to Laperouse and Dentrecasteaux in previous years, being drafted by
the same hand, and some paragraphs in an "instruction particuliere," show
that the French were thoroughly up-to-date with their information, and
knew in what parts of the coast fresh work required to be done.* (*
"Projet d'itineraire pour le Commandant Baudin; memoire pour servir
d'instruction particuliere." Manuscripts, Archives Nationales, Marine BB4

Nicolas Baudin was not a French naval officer. He had been in the
merchant service, and, more recently, had had charge of an expedition
despatched to Africa by the Austrian Government to collect specimens for
the museum at Vienna. War between France and Austria broke out before he
returned; and Baudin, feeling less loyal to his Austrian employers than
to his own country, handed over the whole collection to the Museum in
Paris. This action, which in the circumstances was probably regarded as
patriotic, brought him under the notice of Jussieu, the famous French
botanist; and when the South Sea expedition was authorised, that
scientist recommended Baudin as one who had taken an interest in natural
history researches, and who had given "a new proof of his talent and of
his love for science by the choice of the specimens composing his last
collection, deposited in the museum." The Minister of Marine minuted
Jussieu's recommendation in the margin: "No choice could be happier than
that of Captain Baudin,"* and so he was appointed. (* Manuscripts,
Bibliotheque Nationale, nouveaux acquisitions, France 9439 page 121.) He
was by no means the kind of officer whom Napoleon would have selected had
his designs been such as have commonly been alleged.

Two ships of the navy were commissioned for the service. Under the names
La Serpente and Le Vesuve they had been built with a view to an invasion
of England, contemplated in 1793.* (* Manuscripts, Bibliotheque
Nationale, nouveaux acquisitions, France 9439 report of de Bruix to the
Minister.) They were re-named Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste on being
allotted to a much safer employment. Both were described as solidly
built, good sailers, and easy to control; and the officer who surveyed
them to determine whether they would be suitable reported that without
impairing their sea-going qualities it would be easy to construct upon
their decks high poops to hold quantities of growing plants, which it was
intended to collect and bring home. On these ships Baudin and his
selected staff embarked at Havre, and, a British passport being obtained
under the circumstances already related, sailed south in October.

If Baudin had been the keen and capable commander that those who secured
his appointment believed him to be, he should have discovered and charted
the whole of the unknown southern coast of Australia, before Flinders was
many days' sail from England. The fact that this important work was
actually done by the English navigator was in no measure due to the
sagacity of the Admiralty--whose officials procrastinated in an
inexplicable fashion even after the Investigator had been commissioned
and equipped--but to his own promptness, competence and zeal, and the
peculiar dilatoriness of his rivals. Baudin's vessels reached
Ile-de-France (Mauritius) in March, 1801, and lay there for the leisurely
space of forty days. Two-thirds of a year had elapsed before they came
upon the Australian coast. But Baudin did not even then set to work where
there was discovery to be achieved. Winter was approaching, and sailing
in these southern seas would be uncomfortable in the months of storm and
cold; so he dawdled up the west coast of Australia, in warm, pleasant
waters, and made for Timor, where he arrived in August. He remained in
the Dutch port of Kupang till the middle of November--three whole months
wasted, nearly eleven months consumed since he had sailed from France. In
the meantime, the alert and vigorous captain of the Investigator was
speeding south as fast as the winds would take him, too eager to lose a
day, flying straight to his work like an arrow to its mark, and doing it
with the thoroughness and accuracy that were part of his nature.

The French on board Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste were as unhappy as
their commander was slow. Scurvy broke out, and spread among the crew
with virulence. Baudin appeared to have little or no conception of the
importance of the sanitary measures which Cook was one of the earliest
navigators to enjoin, and by which those who emulated his methods were
able to keep in check the ravages of this scourge of seafaring men. He
neglected common precautions, and paid no heed to the counsel of the
ship's surgeons. As a consequence, the sufferings of his men were such
that it is pitiful to read about them in the official history of the

From Timor Baudin sailed for southern Tasmania, arriving there in
January, 1802, and remaining in the neighbourhood till March. There was
no European settlement upon the island at that time, and Baudin described
it as a country "which ought not to be neglected, and which a nation that
does not love us does not look upon with indifference."* (* Baudin to the
Minister of Marine, manuscripts, Archives Nationales BB4 995 Marine.) A
severe storm separated Le Geographe from her escort on March 7 and 8, in
the neighbourhood of the eastern entrance of Bass Strait. Le Naturaliste
spent some time in Westernport, making a survey of it, and discovering
the second island, which Bass had missed on his whaleboat cruise. Her
commander, Captain Hamelin, then took her round to Port Jackson, to
solicit aid from the Governor of the English colony there. Meanwhile
Baudin sailed through the Strait from east to west. He called at
Waterhouse Island, off the north-east coast of Van Diemen's Land, misled
by its name into thinking that he would find fresh water there. The
island was named after Captain Henry Waterhouse of the Reliance, but
Baudin, unaware of this, considered that it belied its name. "It does not
seem," he wrote, "to offer any appearance of water being discoverable
there, and I am persuaded that it can have been named Water House only
because the English visited it at a time when heavy rains had fallen."*
(* Baudin's Diary, manuscripts, Bibliotheque Nationale: "Je suis persuade
qu'on ne l'a nomme Wather House que par ce que les Anglais qui l'ont
visite y auront eu beaucoup de pluie.") Baudin passed Port Phillip,
rounded Cape Otway, and coasted along till he came to Encounter Bay,
where occurred an incident with which we shall be concerned after we have
traced the voyage of Flinders eastward to the same point.


We now resume the story of Flinders' voyage along the southern coast of
Australia, from the time when he made Cape Leeuwin on December 6th, 1801.

That part of the coast lying between the south-west corner of the
continent and Fowler's Bay, in the Great Australian Bight, had been
traversed prior to this time. In 1791 Captain George Vancouver, in the
British ship Cape Chatham, sailed along it from Cape Leeuwin to King
George's Sound, which he discovered and named. He anchored in the
harbour, and remained there for a fortnight. He would have liked to
pursue the discovery of this unknown country, and did sail further east,
as far as the neighbourhood of Termination Island, in longitude 122
degrees 8 minutes. But, meeting with adverse winds, he abandoned the
research, and resumed his voyage to north-west America across the
Pacific. In 1792, Bruny Dentrecasteaux, with the French ships Recherche
and Esperance, searching for tidings of the lost Laperouse, followed the
line of the shore more closely than Vancouver had done, and penetrated
much further eastward. His instructions, prepared by Fleurieu, had
directed him to explore the whole of the southern coast of Australia; but
he was short of water, and finding nothing but sand and rock, with no
harbour, and no promise of a supply of what he so badly needed, he did
not continue further than longitude 131 degrees 38 1/2 minutes east,
about two and a half degrees east of the present border line of Western
and South Australia. These navigators, with the Dutchman Pieter Nuyts, in
the early part of the seventeenth century, and the Frenchman St. Alouarn,
who anchored near the Leeuwin in 1772, were the only Europeans known to
have been upon any part of these southern coasts before the advent of
Flinders; and the extent of the voyage of Nuyts is by no means clear.

Flinders, as we have seen, laid it down as a guiding principle that he
would make so complete a survey of the shores visited by him as to leave
little for anybody to do after him. He therefore commenced his work
immediately he touched land, constructing his own charts as the ship
slowly traversed the curves of the coast. The result was that many
corrections and additions to the charts of Vancouver and Dentrecasteaux
were made before the entirely new discoveries were commenced. In
announcing this fact, Flinders, always generous in his references to good
work done by his predecessors, warmly praised the charts prepared by
Beautemps-Beaupre, "geographical engineer" of the Recherche. "Perhaps no
chart of a coast so little known as this is, will bear a comparison with
its original better than this of M. Beaupre," he said. His own charts
were of course fuller and more precise, but he made no claim to
superiority on this account, modestly observing that he would have been
open to reproach if, after following the coast with an outline of M.
Beaupre's chart before him, he had not effected improvements where
circumstances did not permit so close an examination to be made in 1792.

Several inland excursions were made, and some of the King George's Sound
aboriginals were encountered. Flinders noted down some of their words,
and pointed out the difference from words for the same objects used by
Port Jackson and Van Diemen's Land natives. An exception to this rule was
the word used for calling to a distance--cau-wah! (come here). This is
certainly very like the Port Jackson cow-ee, whence comes the one
aboriginal word of universal employment in Australia to-day, the coo-ee
of the townsman and the bushman alike, a call entered in the vocabulary
collected by Hunter as early as 1790.

The method of research adopted by Flinders was similar to that employed
on the Norfolk voyage. The ship was kept all day as close inshore as
possible, so that water breaking on the shore was visible from the deck,
and no river or opening could escape notice. When this could not be done,
because the coast retreated far back, or was dangerous, the commander
stationed himself at the masthead with a glass. All the bearings were
laid down as soon as taken, whilst the land was in sight; and before
retiring to rest at night Flinders made it a practice to finish up his
rough chart for the day, together with his journal of observations. The
ship hauled off the coast at dusk, but especial care was taken to come
upon it at the same point next morning, as soon after daylight as
practicable, so that work might be resumed precisely where it had been
dropped on the previous day. "This plan," said Flinders, "to see and lay
down everything myself, required constant attention and much labour, but
was absolutely necessary to obtaining that accuracy of which I was
desirous." When bays or groups of islands were reached, Flinders went
ashore with the theodolite, took his angles, measured, mapped, and made
topographical notes. The lead was kept busy, making soundings. The rise
and fall of the tides were observed; memoranda on natural phenomena were
written; opportunities were given for the naturalists to collect
specimens, and for the artist to make drawings. The net was frequently
drawn in the bays for examples of marine life. Everybody when ashore kept
a look out for plants, birds, beasts, and insects. In short, a keenness
for investigation, an assiduity in observation, animated the whole ship's
company, stimulated by the example of the commander, who never spared
himself in his work, and interested himself in that of others.

As in a drama, "comic relief" was occasionally interposed amid more
serious happenings. The blacks were friendly, though occasionally shy and
suspicious. In one scene the mimicry that is a characteristic of the
aboriginal was quaintly displayed. The incident, full of colour and
humour, is thus related by Flinders:

"Our friends, the natives, continued to visit us; and an old man with
several others being at the tents this morning, I ordered the party of
marines on shore, to be exercised in their presence. The red coats and
white crossed belts were greatly admired, having some resemblance to
their own manner of ornamenting themselves; and the drum, but
particularly the fife, excited their astonishment; but when they saw
these beautiful red and white men, with their bright muskets, drawn up in
a line, they absolutely screamed with delight; nor were their wild
gestures and vociferation to be silenced but by commencing the exercise,
to which they paid the most earnest and silent attention. Several of them
moved their hands, involuntarily, according to the motions; and the old
man placed himself at the end of the rank, with a short staff in his
hand, which he shouldered, presented, grounded, as did the marines their
muskets, without, I believe, knowing what he did. Before firing, the
Indians were made acquainted with what was going to take place; so that
the volleys did not excite much terror."

Seaman Smith was naturally much interested in the aboriginals, whose
features were however to him "quite awful, having such large mouths and
long teeth." They were totally without clothing, and "as soon as they saw
our tents they run into the bushes with such activity that would pawl any
European to exhibit. Because our men would not give them a small
tommy-hawk they began to throw pieces of wood at them, which exasperated
our men; but orders being so humane towards the natives that we must put
up with anything but heaving spears." Furthermore, "they rubbd their skin
against ours, expecting some mark of white upon their's, but finding
their mistake they appeared surprised."

Pleasures more immediately incidental to geographical discovery--those
pleasures which eager and enterprising minds must experience, however
severe the labour involved, on traversing portions of the globe
previously unknown to civilised mankind--commenced after the head of the
Great Bight was passed. From about the vicinity of Fowler's Bay (named
after the first lieutenant of the Investigator) the coast was virgin to
geographical science. Comparisons of original work with former charts
were no longer possible. The ship was entering un-navigated waters, and
the coasts delineated were new to the world's knowledge. The quickening
of the interest in the work in hand, which touched both officers and men
of the expedition, can be felt by the reader of Flinders' narrative.
There was a consciousness of having crossed a line separating what simply
required verification and amplification, from a totally fresh field of
research. Every reach of coastline now traversed was like a cable, long
buried in the deep of time, at length hauled into daylight, with its oozy
deposits of seaweed, shell and mud lying thick upon it.

Contingent upon discovery was the pleasure of naming important features
of the coast. It is doubtful whether any other single navigator in
history applied names which are still in use to so many capes, bays and
islands, upon the shores of the habitable globe, as Flinders did. The
extent of coastline freshly discovered by him was not so great as that
first explored by some of his predecessors. But no former navigator
pursued extensive new discoveries so minutely, and, consequently, found
so much to name; while the precision of Flinders' records left no doubt
about the places that he named, when in later years the settlement of
country and the navigation of seas necessitated the use of names.
Compare, for instance, in this one respect, the work of Cook and Dampier,
Vasco da Gama and Magellan, Tasman and Quiros, with that of Flinders.
Historically their voyages may have been in some respects more important;
but they certainly added fewer names to the map. There are 103 names on
Cook's charts of eastern Australia from Point Hicks to Cape York; but
there are about 240 new names on the charts of Flinders representing
southern Australia and Tasmania. He is the Great Denominator among
navigators. He named geographical features after his friends, after his
associates on the Investigator, after distinguished persons connected
with the Navy, after places in which he was interested. Fowler's Bay,
Point Brown, Cape Bauer, Franklin's Isles, Point Bell, Point Westall,
Taylor's Isle, and Thistle Island, commemorate his shipmates. Spencer's
Gulf was named "in honour of the respected nobleman who presided at the
Board of Admiralty when the voyage was planned and the ship was put in
commission," and Althorp Isles celebrated Lord Spencer's heir.* (*
Cockburn, Nomenclature of South Australia, (Adelaide 1909) page 9, is
mistaken in speculating that "there is a parish of Althorp in Flinders'
native country in Lincolnshire which probably accounts for the choice of
the name here." Althorp, which should be spelt without a final "e," is
not in Lincolnshire, but in Northamptonshire.) St. Vincent's Gulf was
named "in honour of the noble admiral" who was at the head of the
Admiralty when the Investigator sailed from England, and who had
"continued to the voyage that countenance and protection of which Earl
Spencer had set the example." To Yorke's Peninsula, between the two
gulfs, was affixed the name of the Right Hon. C.P. Yorke, afterwards Lord
Hardwicke, the First Lord who authorised the publication of Flinders'
Voyage. Thus, the ministerial heads of the Admiralty in three Governments
(Pitt's, Addington's and Spencer Perceval's) came to be commemorated. It
may be remarked as curious that a naval officer so proud of his service
as Flinders was, should nowhere have employed the name of the greatest
sailor of his age, Nelson. There is a Cape Nelson on the Victorian coast,
but that name was given by Grant.

In Spencer's Gulf we come upon a group of Lincolnshire place-names, for
Flinders, his brother Samuel, the mate, Fowler, and Midshipman John
Franklin, all serving on this voyage, were Lincolnshire men. Thus we find
Port Lincoln, Sleaford Bay, Louth Bay, Cape Donington, Stamford Hill,
Surfleet Point, Louth Isle, Sibsey Isle, Stickney Isle, Spilsby Isle,
Partney Isle, Revesby Isle, Point Boston, and Winceby Isle. Banks' name
was given to a group of islands, and Coffin's Bay must not be allowed to
suggest any gruesome association, for it was named after Sir Isaac
Coffin, resident naval commissioner at Sheerness, who had given
assistance in the equipment of the Investigator. A few names, like
Streaky Bay, Lucky Bay, and Cape Catastrophe, were applied from
circumstances that occurred on the voyage. A poet of the antipodes who
should, like Wordsworth, be moved to write "Poems on the Naming of
Places," would find material in the names given by Flinders.

Interest in this absorbing work rose to something like excitement on
February 20th, when there were indications, from the set of the tide,
that an unusual feature of the coast was being approached. "The tide from
the north-eastward, apparently the ebb, ran more than one mile an hour,
which was the more remarkable from no set of the tide worthy to be
noticed having hitherto been observed upon this coast." The ship had
rounded Cape Catastrophe, and the land led away to the north, whereas
hitherto it had trended east and south. What did this mean? Flinders must
have been strongly reminded of his experience in the Norfolk in Bass
Strait, when the rush of the tide from the south showed that the
north-west corner of Van Diemen's Land had been turned, and that the
demonstration of the Strait's existence was complete. There were many
speculations as to what the signs indicated. "Large rivers, deep inlets,
inland seas and passages into the Gulf of Carpentaria, were terms
frequently used in our conversations of this evening, and the prospect of
making an interesting discovery seemed to have infused new life and
vigour into every man in the ship." The expedition was, in fact, in the
bell-mouth of Spencer's Gulf, and the next few days were to show whether
the old surmise was true--that Terra Australis was cloven in twain by a
strait from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the southern ocean. It was,
indeed, a crisis-time of the discovery voyage.

But before the gulf was examined, a tragedy threw the ship into mourning.
On the evening of Sunday, February 21st, the cutter was returning from
the mainland, where a party had been searching for water in charge of the
Master, John Thistle. She carried a midshipman, William Taylor, and six
sailors. Nobody on the ship witnessed the accident that happened; but the
cutter had been seen coming across the water, and as she did not arrive
when darkness set in, the fear that she had gone down oppressed everybody
on board. A search was made, but ineffectually; and next day the boat was
found floating bottom uppermost, stove in, and bearing the appearance of
having been dashed against rocks. The loss of John Thistle was especially
grievous to Flinders. The two had been companions from the very beginning
of his career in Australia. Thistle had been one of Bass's crew in the
whaleboat; he had been on the Norfolk when Van Diemen's Land was
circumnavigated; and he had taken part in the cruise to Moreton Bay. His
memory lives in the name of Thistle Island, on the west of the entrance
to the gulf, and in the noble tribute which his commander paid to his
admirable qualities. It would be wrong to deprive the reader of the
satisfaction of reading Flinders' eulogy of his companion of strenuous

"The reader will pardon me the observation that Mr. Thistle was truly a
valuable man, as a seaman, an officer, and a good member of society. I
had known him, and we had mostly served together, from the year 1794. He
had been with Mr. Bass in his perilous expedition in the whaleboat, and
with me in the voyage round Van Diemen's Land, and in the succeeding
expedition to Glass House and Hervey's Bays. From his merit and prudent
conduct, he was promoted from before the mast to be a midshipman and
afterwards a master in His Majesty's service. His zeal for discovery had
induced him to join the Investigator when at Spithead and ready to sail,
although he had returned to England only three weeks before, after an
absence of six years.* Besides performing assiduously the duties of his
situation, Mr. Thistle had made himself well acquainted with the practice
of nautical astronomy, and began to be very useful in the surveying
department. His loss was severely felt by me, and he was lamented by all
on board, more especially by his messmates, who knew more intimately the
goodness and stability of his disposition." (* In a letter to Banks from
Spithead on June 3rd, 1801, Flinders had written: "I am happy to inform
you that the Buffalo has brought home a person formerly of the Reliance
whom I wish to have as master. He volunteers, the captain of the ship
agrees, and I have made application by to-day's post and expect his
appointmnt by Friday." The reference was evidently to John Thistle.)

Taylor's Isle was named after the young midshipman of this catastrophe,
and six small islands in the vicinity bear the names of the boat's crew.
It is a singular fact that only two of the eight sailors drowned could
swim. Even Captain Cook never learnt to swim!

Before leaving the neighbourhood, Flinders erected a copper plate upon a
stone post at the head of Memory Cove, and had engraved upon it the names
of the unfortunates who had perished, with a brief account of the
accident. Two fragments of the original plate are now in the museum at
Adelaide. In later years it was beaten down by a storm, and the South
Australian Government erected a fresh tablet in Memory Cove to replace

A thorough survey of Port Lincoln was made while the ship was being
replenished with water. Some anxiety had been felt owing to the lack of
this necessity, and Flinders showed the way to obtain it by digging holes
in the white clay surrounding a brackish marsh which he called Stamford
Mere. The water that drained into the holes was found to be sweet and
wholesome, though milky in appearance. As the filling of the casks and
conveying them to the ship--to a quantity of 60 tons--occupied several
days, the surveying and scientific employments were pursued diligently on

The discovery of Port Lincoln was in itself an event of consequence,
since it is a harbour of singular commodiousness and beauty, and would,
did it but possess a more prolific territory at its back, be a maritime
station of no small importance. Nearly forty years later, Sir John
Franklin, then Governor of Tasmania, paid a visit to Port Lincoln,
expressly to renew acquaintance with a place in the discovery of which he
had participated in company with a commander whose memory he honoured;
and he erected on Stamford Hill, at his own cost, an obelisk in
commemoration of Flinders. In the same way, on his first great overland
arctic journey in 1821, Franklin remembered Flinders in giving names to

It was on March 6th that the exploration of Spencer's Gulf commenced. As
the ship sailed along the western shore, the expectations which had been
formed of a strait leading through the continent to the Gulf of
Carpentaria faded away. The coast lost its boldness, the water became
more and more shallow, and the opposite shore began to show itself. The
gulf was clearly tapering to an end. "Our prospects of a channel or
strait cutting off some considerable portion of Terra Australis grew
less, for it now appeared that the ship was entering into a gulph." On
the 10th, the Investigator having passed Point Lowly, and having on the
previous day suddenly come into two-and-a-half fathoms, Flinders decided
to finish the exploration in a rowing boat, accompanied by Surgeon Bell.
They rowed along the shore till night fell, slept in the boat, and
resumed the journey early next morning (March 11th). At ten o'clock, the
oars touched mud on each side, and it became impossible to proceed
further. They had reached the head of the gulf, then a region of mangrove
swamps and flat waters, but now covered by the wharves of Port Augusta,
and within view of the starting point of the transcontinental railway.

The disappointment was undoubtedly great at not finding even a large
river flowing into the gulf. The hope of a strait had been abandoned as
the continually converging shores, shallow waters, and diminishing banks
made it clear, long before the head was reached, that the theory of a
bifurcated Terra Australis was impossible. But as Flinders completed his
chart and placed it against the outline of the continent, he might fairly
enjoy the happiness of having settled an important problem and of taking
one more stride towards completing the map of the world.

The Investigator travelled down by the eastern shore, once hanging upon a
near bank for half an hour, and by March 20th was well outside. The
length of the gulf, from the head to Gambier Island, Flinders calculated
to be 185 miles, and its width at the mouth, in a line from Cape
Catastrophe, 48 miles. At the top it tapered almost to a point. The whole
of it was personally surveyed and charted by Flinders, who was able to
write that for the general exactness of his drawing he could "answer with
tolerable confidence, having seen all that is laid down, and, as usual,
taken every angle which enters into the construction."

The next discovery of importance was that of Kangaroo Island, separated
from the foot-like southern projection of Yorke's Peninsula by
Investigator Strait. The island was named on account of the quantity of
kangaroos seen and shot upon it; for a supply of fresh meat was very
welcome after four months of salt pork. Thirty-one fell to the guns of
the Investigator's men. Half a hundredweight of heads, forequarters and
tails were stewed down for soup, and as much kangaroo steak was available
for officers and men as they could consume "by day and night." It was
declared to be a "delightful regale."

The place where Flinders is believed to have first landed on Kangaroo
Island is now marked by a tall cairn, which was spontaneously built by
the inhabitants, the school children assisting, in 1906. An inscription
on a faced stone commemorates the event. The white pyramid can be seen
from vessels using Backstairs Passage.* (* See the account of the making
of the cairn, by C.E. Owen Smythe, I.S.O., who initiated and
superintended the work, South Australian Geographical Society's
Proceedings 1906 page 58.)

A very short stay was made at Kangaroo Island on this first call. On
March 24th Investigator Strait was crossed, and the examination of the
mainland was resumed. The ship was steered north-west, and, the coast
being reached, no land was visible to the eastward. The conclusion was
drawn that another gulf ran inland, and the surmise proved to be correct.
The new discovery, named St. Vincent's Gulf, was penetrated on the 27th,
and was first explored on the eastern shore, not on the western as had
been the case with Spencer's Gulf. Mount Lofty was sighted at dawn on
Sunday, March 28th. The nearest part of the coast was three leagues
distant at the time, "mostly low, and composed of sand and rock, with a
few small trees scattered over it; but at a few miles inland, where the
back mountains rise, the country was well clothed with forest timber, and
had a fertile appearance. The fires bespoke this to be a part of the
continent." The coast to the northward was seen to be very low, and the
soundings were fast decreasing. From noon to six o'clock the Investigator
ran north thirty miles, skirting a sandy shore, and at length dropped
anchor in five fathoms.

On the following morning land was seen to the westward, as well as
eastward, and there was "a hummocky mountain, capped with clouds,
apparently near the head of the inlet." Wind failing, very little
progress was made till noon, and at sunset the shores appeared to be
closing round. The absence of tide gave no prospect of finding a river at
the head of the gulf. Early on the morning of the 30th Flinders went out
in a boat, accompanied by Robert Brown, and rowed up to the mud-flats at
the head of the gulf. Picking out a narrow channel, it was found possible
to get within half a mile of dry land. Then, leaving the boat, Flinders
and Brown walked along a bank of mud and sand to the shore, to examine
the country. Flinders ascended one of the foot-hills of the range that
forms the backbone of Yorke's Peninsula, stretching north and south
upwards of two hundred miles.

At dawn on March 31st the Investigator was got under way to proceed down
the eastern side of Yorke's Peninsula. The wind was contrary, and the
work could be done only "partially," though, of course, sufficiently well
to complete the chart. The peninsula was described as "singular in form,
having some resemblance to a very ill-shaped leg and foot." Its length
from Cape Spencer to the northern junction with the mainland was
calculated to be 105 miles. On April 1st Flinders was able to write that
the exploration of St. Vincent's Gulf was finished.

The general character of the country, especially on the east, he
considered to be superior to that on the borders of Spencer's Gulf; and
the subsequent development of the State of South Australia has justified
his opinion. He would assuredly have desired to linger longer upon the
eastern shore, could he have foreseen that within forty years of the
discovery there would be laid there the foundations of the noble city of
Adelaide, with its fair and fruitful olive-groves, vineyards, orchards
and gardens, and its busy port, whither flow the wheat of vast plains and
the wool from a million sheep leagues upon leagues away.

A second visit to Kangaroo Island was necessitated by a desire to make
corrections in the Investigator's timekeepers, and on this occasion a
somewhat longer stay was made. The ship arrived on April 2nd, and did not
leave again till the 7th.

Very few aboriginals were seen upon the shores of the two gulfs, and
these only through a telescope. At Port Lincoln some blacks were known to
be in the neighbourhood, but the expedition did not succeed in getting
into contact with them. Flinders scrupulously observed the policy of
doing nothing to alarm them; and his remarks in this relation are
characterised by as much good sense as humane feeling. Writing of a small
party of natives who were heard calling but did not show themselves,
probably having hidden in thick scrub to observe the boat's crew, he

"No attempt was made to follow them, for I had always found the natives
of this country to avoid those who seemed anxious for communication;
whereas, when left entirely alone, they would usually come down after
having watched us for a few days. Nor does this conduct seem to be
unnatural; for what, in such case, would be the conduct of any people,
ourselves for instance, were we living in a state of nature, frequently
at war with our neighbours, and ignorant of the existence of any other
nation? On the arrival of strangers so different in complexion and
appearance to ourselves, having power to transplant themselves over, and
even living upon, an element which to us was impossible, the first
sensation would probably be terror, and the first movement flight. We
should watch these extraordinary people from our retreats in the woods
and rocks, and if we found ourselves sought and pursued by them, should
conclude their designs to be inimical; but if, on the contrary, we saw
them quietly employed in occupations which had no reference to us,
curiosity would get the better of fear, and after observing them more
closely, we should ourselves risk a communication. Such seemed to have
been the conduct of these Australians;* and I am persuaded that their
appearance on the morning when the tents were struck was a prelude to
their coming down; and that, had we remained a few days longer, a
friendly communication would have ensued. The way was, however, prepared
for the next ship which may visit this port, as it was to us in King
George's Sound by Captain Vancouver and the ship Elligood; to whose
previous visits and peaceable conduct we were most probably indebted for
our early intercourse with the inhabitants of that place. So far as could
be perceived with a glass, the natives of this port were the same in
personal appearance as those of King George's Sound and Port Jackson. In
the hope of conciliating their goodwill to succeeding visitors, some
hatchets and various other articles were left in their paths, fastened to
stumps of trees which had been cut down near our watering pits." (* The
only occasion, I think, where Flinders uses this word. He usually called
aboriginals "Indians.")

More wild life was seen at Kangaroo Island than in the gulf region.
Thirty emus were observed on one day; kangaroos, as has been remarked,
were plentiful; and a large colony of pelicans caused the name of Pelican
Lagoon to be given to a feature of the island's eastern lobe. The
marsupial, the seal, the emu, and the bag-billed bird that nature built
in one of her whimsical moods, had held unchallenged possession for tens
of thousands of years, probably never visited by any ships, nor even
preyed upon by blacks. The reflections of Flinders upon Pelican Lagoon
have a tinting of poetic feeling which we do not often find in his solid

"Flocks of the old birds were sitting upon the beaches of the lagoon, and
it appeared that the islands were their breeding places; not only so, but
from the number of skeletons and bones there scattered it should seem
that they had for ages been selected for the closing scene of their
existence. Certainly none more likely to be free from disturbance of
every kind could have been chosen, than these inlets in a hidden lagoon
of an uninhabited island, situate upon an unknown coast near the
antipodes of Europe; nor can anything be more consonant to the feelings,
if pelicans have any, than quietly to resign their breath whilst
surrounded by their progeny, and in the same spot where they first drew
it. Alas, for the pelicans! their golden age is past; but it has much
exceeded in duration that of man."

The picture of the zoological interests of Kangaroo Island is heightened
by Flinders' account of the seals and marsupials. "Never perhaps has the
dominion possessed here by the kangaroo been invaded before this time.
The seal shared with it upon the shores, but they seemed to dwell
amicably together. It not unfrequently happened that the report of a gun
fired at a kangaroo, near the beach, brought out two or three bellowing
seals from under bushes considerably further from the water side. The
seal, indeed, seemed to be much the more discerning animal of the two;
for its actions bespoke a knowledge of our not being kangaroos, whereas
the kangaroo not unfrequently appeared to consider us to be seals." In
the quotation, it may be as well to add, the usual spelling of "kangaroo"
is followed, but Flinders invariably spelt it "kanguroo." The orthography
of the word was not settled in his time; Cook wrote "kangooroo" and
"kanguru," but Hawkesworth, who edited his voyages, made it "kangaroo."

The quantity of fallen timber lying upon the island prompted the
curiosity of Flinders. Trunks of trees lay about in all directions "and
were nearly of the same size and in the same progress towards decay; from
whence it would seem that they had not fallen from age nor yet been
thrown down in a gale of wind. Some general conflagration, and there were
marks apparently of fire on many of them, is perhaps the sole cause which
can be reasonably assigned; but whence came the woods on fire? There were
no inhabitants upon the island, and that the natives of the continent did
not visit it was demonstrated, if not by the want of all signs of such
visits, yet by the tameness of the kangaroo, an animal which, on the
continent, resembles the wild deer in timidity. Perhaps lightning might
have been the cause, or possibly the friction of two dead trees in a
strong wind; but it would be somewhat extraordinary that the same thing
should have happened at Thistle's Island, Boston Island, and at this
place, and apparently about the same time. Can this part of Terra
Australis have been visited before, unknown to the world? The French
navigator, Laperouse, was ordered to explore it, but there seems little
probability that he ever passed Torres Strait.

"Some judgment may be formed of the epoch when these conflagrations
happened, from the magnitude of the growing trees; for they must have
sprung up since that period. They were a species of eucalyptus, and being
less than the fallen tree, had most probably not arrived at maturity; but
the wood is hard and solid, and it may thence be supposed to grow slowly.
With these considerations, I should be inclined to fix the period at not
less than ten, nor more than twenty years before our arrival. This brings
us back to Laperouse. He was in Botany Bay in the beginning of 1788, and,
if he did pass through Torres Strait, and come round to this coast, as
was his intention, it would probably be about the middle or latter end of
that year, or between thirteen and fourteen years before the
Investigator. My opinion is not favourable to this conjecture; but I have
furnished all the data to enable the reader to form his own opinion upon
the cause which might have prostrated the woods of these islands."

The passage is worth quoting, if only for the interesting allusion to
Laperouse, whose fate was, at the time when Flinders sailed and wrote, an
unsolved mystery of the sea. Captain Dillon's discovery of relics at
Vanikoro, in 1826, twelve years after the death of Flinders, informed the
world that the illustrious French navigator did not pass through Torres
Strait, but was wrecked in the Santa Cruz group.* (* See the author's
Laperouse, Sydney 1912 pages 90 et sqq.) The fire, so many signs of which
were observed on Kangaroo Island, was in all probability caused naturally
in the heat of a dry summer.

Very shortly after leaving Kangaroo Island Flinders met one of the
vessels of the French exploring expedition; and the story of that
occurrence must occupy our particular consideration in the next chapter.


Flinders did not complete the examination of Kangaroo island. The
approach of the winter season, and an apprehension that shortness of
provisions might compel him to make for Port Jackson before concluding
the discovery of the south coast, induced him to leave the south and west
parts of the island, with the intention of making a second visit at a
later time. Therefore, in the afternoon of Tuesday, April 6th, the anchor
was weighed and he resumed the exploration of the mainland eastward from
Cape Jervis, at the extremity of St. Vincent's Gulf. Wind and tide made
against a rapid passage, and the east end of Kangaroo Island had not been
cleared by eight o'clock on the following evening.

At four o'clock on the afternoon of April 8th the sloop was making slow
progress eastward, when the man aloft reported that a white rock was to
be seen ahead. The attention of everybody on board was at once turned in
the direction of the object. Very soon it became apparent that it was not
a rock but a ship, which had sighted the Investigator, and was making
towards her. As no sail had been seen for five months, and it seemed
beyond all likelihood that another ship should be spoken in these
uncharted seas, where there was no settlement, no port at which
refreshment could be obtained, no possibility of trade, no customary
maritime route, it may be imagined that there was a feeling of excitement
among the ship's company. Flinders of course knew that the French had a
discovery expedition somewhere in Australasian waters, and the fact that
it had secured some months' start of him had occasioned a certain amount
of anxiety before he left England. He was aware that it was protected by
a passport from the British Government. The approaching vessel might be
one of Baudin's; but she might by some strange chance be an enemy's ship
of war. In any case, he prepared for emergencies: "we cleared for action
in case of being attacked."

Glasses were turned on the stranger, which proved on closer scrutiny to
be "a heavy-looking ship, without any top-gallant masts up." The
Investigator hoisted her colours--the Union Jack, it may be remarked,
since that flag was adopted by Great Britain at the beginning of 1801,
before the expedition sailed. The stranger put up the tricolour, "and
afterwards an English Jack forward, as we did a white flag."* (* Flinders
relates the story of his meeting with Baudin, in his Voyage to Terra
Australis, 1 188, and in letters to the Admiralty; and to Sir Joseph
Banks, printed in Historical Records of New South Wales, 4 749 and 755.
The official history of the French voyage was written by Francois Peron,
and is printed in his Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes, 1 324.
But Peron was not present at the interviews between Flinders and Baudin.
Captain Baudin's own account of the incident is related in his manuscript
diary, and in a long letter to the French Minister of Marine, dated "Port
Jackson, 10th November, 1802," both of which are in the Archives
Nationales, BB4, 995, Marine. These sources have been compared and used
in the writing of this chapter. Baudin's narrative is translated in an

It has already been explained (Chapter 11) that Le Geographe, commanded
by the commodore of the French expedition, separated from Le Naturaliste
at the eastern entrance to Bass Strait on March 7th and 8th, and that
Baudin sailed through the Strait westward. We take up the thread again at
that point, and will follow Baudin until he met Flinders. He was between
Wilson's Promontory and Cape Otway from March 28th to 31st, in very good
weather. The most important fact relating to this part of his voyage is
that he missed the entrance to Port Phillip. In his letter to the
Minister of Marine, he described the Promontory and the situation of
Westernport, and then proceeded to relate that "from the 9th to the 11th
(of the month Germinal in the French Revolutionary calendar, by which of
course Baudin dated events; equivalent to March 30 to April 1st) the
winds having been very favourable to us, we visited an extensive portion
of the coast, where the land is high, well-wooded, and of an agreeable
appearance, but does not present any place favourable to debarkation. All
the points were exactly determined, and the appearance of the shores
depicted." That describes the Cape Otway country; and the part of the
letter which follows refers to the land on the west of the Otway. There
is no word of any port being sighted. The letter agrees with what Baudin
told Flinders, that "he had found no ports, harbours or inlets, or
anything to interest"; and Flinders was subsequently surprised to find
that so large a harbour as Port Phillip had been missed by Baudin, "more
especially as he had fine winds and weather."* (* Flinders to Banks,
Hist. Rec. 4 755.) Nevertheless, when Peron and Freycinet came to write
the history of the French voyage--knowing then of the existence of Port
Phillip, and having a chart of it before them--they very boldly claimed
that they had seen it, and had distinguished its contours from the
masthead,* a thing impossible to do from the situation in which they
were. (* Voyage de Decouvertes 1 316 and 3 115.)

The company on board Le Geographe were as excited about the ship sailing
eastward, as were the Investigator's men when the reported white rock
ahead proved to be the sails of another vessel. The French crew were in a
distressingly sick condition. Scurvy had played havoc among them, much of
the ship's meat was worm-eaten and stinking, and a large number of the
crew were incapacitated. On the morning of April 8th some of Baudin's
people had been engaged in harpooning dolphins. They were desperately in
need of fresh food, and a shoal of these rapid fish, appearing and
playing around the prow, appeared to them "like a gift from heaven." Nine
large dolphins had been caught, giving a happy promise of enough meat to
last a day or two, when the man at the masthead reported that there was a
sail in sight. At first Baudin was of opinion that the ship ahead was Le
Naturaliste, rejoining company after a month's separation. But as the
distance between the two ships diminished, and the Investigator ran up
her ensign, her nationality was perceived, and Baudin hoisted the

The situation of the Investigator when she hove to was in 35 degrees 40
minutes south and 138 degrees 58 minutes east. The time was half-past
five o'clock in the evening; the position about five miles south-west of
the nearest bit of coast, in what Flinders called Encounter Bay, in
commemoration of the event. Le Geographe passed the English ship with a
free wind, and as she did so Flinders hailed her, enquiring "Are you
Captain Baudin?" "It is he," was the response. Flinders thereupon called
out that he was very glad to meet the French explorer, and Baudin
responded in cordial terms, without, however, knowing whom he was
addressing. Still the wariness of the English captain was not to be
lulled; he records, "we veered round as Le Geographe was passing, so as
to keep our broadside to her, lest the flag of truce should be a
deception." But being now satisfied of her good faith, Flinders brought
his ship to the wind on the opposite tack, had a boat hoisted out, and
prepared to go on board the French vessel.

As Flinders did not speak French, he took with him Robert Brown, who was
an accomplished French scholar. On board Le Geographe they were received
by an officer, who indicated Baudin, and the three passed into the
captain's cabin.

It is curious that Baudin, in his letter to the Minister of Marine, makes
no reference to the presence of Brown at this interview, and at a second
which occurred on the following morning. He speaks of inviting Flinders
to enter his cabin, and proceeds to allude to the conversation which
followed when they were "alone" ("nous trouvant seul"). But Flinders'
statement, "as I did not understand French, Mr. Brown, the naturalist,
went with me in the boat; we were received by an officer who pointed out
the commander, and by him were conducted into the cabin," can have no
other meaning than that Brown was present. He also says, further on in
his narrative, "no person was present at our conversations except Mr.
Brown, and they were mostly carried on in English, which the captain
spoke so as to be understood." It may be that Baudin regarded Brown
merely as an interpreter, but certainly his presence was a fact.

In the cabin Flinders produced his passport from the French Government,
and asked to see Baudin's from the Admiralty. Baudin found the document
and handed it to his visitor, but did not wish to see the passport
carried by Flinders. He put it aside without inspection.

The conversation then turned upon the two voyages. Flinders explained
that he had left England about eight months after the departure of the
French ships, and that he was bound for Port Jackson. Baudin related the
course of his voyage, mentioning his work in Van Diemen's Land, his
passage through Bass Strait, and his run along the coast of what is now
the State of Victoria, where he had not found "any river, inlet or other
shelter which afforded anchorage." Flinders enquired about a large island
said to lie in the western entrance to Bass Strait (that is, King
Island), but Baudin said he had not seen it, and seemed to doubt whether
it existed. Baudin observed in his letter that Flinders appeared to be
pleased with this reply, "doubtless in the hope of being able to make the
discovery himself."

Baudin was very critical about an English chart of Bass Strait, published
in 1800. He found fault with the representation of the north side, but
commended the drawing of the south side, and of the neighbouring islands.
Flinders pointed to a note upon the chart, explaining that it was
prepared from material furnished by George Bass, who had merely traversed
the coast in a small open boat, and had had no good means of fixing the
latitude and longitude; but he added that a rectified chart had since
been published, and offered, if Baudin would remain in the neighbourhood
during the night, to visit Le Geographe again in the morning, and bring
with him a copy of this improved drawing, with a memorandum on the
navigation of the strait. He was alluding to his own small quarto book of
Observations, published before he left England, as related in Chapter 12.
Baudin accepted the offer with pleasure, and the two ships lay near
together during the night.

The story of the interviews, as related by the two captains, is not in
agreement on several points, and the differences are not a little
curious. Baudin states that he knew Flinders at the very beginning of the
first interview, on April 8th: "Mr. Flinders, who commanded the ship,
presented himself, and as soon as I learnt his name I had no doubt that
he, like ourselves, was occupied with the exploration of the south coast
of New Holland." But Flinders affirms that Baudin did not learn his name
until the end of the second interview on April 9th: "At parting...on my
asking the name of the captain of Le Naturaliste he bethought himself to
ask mine; and finding it to be the same as the author of the chart which
he had been criticising, expressed not a little surprise, but had the
politeness to congratulate himself on meeting me." There may well have
been some misunderstanding between the two captains, especially as
Flinders did not speak French and Baudin only spoke English "so as to be
understood," which, as experience teaches, usually means so as to be
misunderstood. It is not very likely that Baudin was unaware of the name
of the English captain until the end of the second meeting. While the
interview of April 8th was taking place in the cabin, Flinders' boatmen
were questioned by some of Le Geographe's company who could speak
English, and Peron tells us that the men related the story of the
Investigator's voyage.* (* Peron, Voyage de Decouvertes 1 323. Flinders
also said that "some of his officers learnt from my boat's crew that our
object was also discovery.") It is difficult to believe that Flinders'
name would not be ascertained in this manner; equally difficult to
believe that Captain Baudin would sustain two interviews with the
commander of another ship without knowing to whom he was talking. In
fact, Baudin had the name of Flinders before him on the Bass Strait chart
which he had been criticising. It was a chart copied in Paris from an
English print, and was inscribed as "levee par Flinders." Baudin in his
letter to the Minister observed that he pointed out to Flinders errors in
the chart "that he had given us." Flinders was of opinion that Baudin
criticised the chart without knowing that he was the author of it. Baudin
may have been surprised at first to learn that the Captain Flinders with
whom he was conversing was the same as he whose name appeared on the
chart; but his own statement that he knew the name at the first interview
appears credible.

Again, Baudin was of opinion that at the first interview Flinders was
"reserved"; whilst Flinders, on the other hand, was surprised that Baudin
"made no enquiries concerning my business on this unknown coast, but as
he seemed more desirous of communicating information I was happy to
receive it." Reading the two narratives together, it is not apparent
either that Flinders wished to be reserved or that Baudin lacked
curiosity as to what the Investigator had been doing. The probable
explanation is that the two men were not understanding each other

At half-past six o'clock on the morning of April 9th Flinders again
visited Le Geographe, where he breakfasted with Baudin.* (* Flinders does
not mention this circumstance; but as he boarded Le Geographe at 6.30 in
the morning and did not return to the Investigator till 8.30, Baudin's
statement is not doubtful.) On this occasion they talked freely about
their respective voyages, and, said the French commodore, "he appeared to
me to have been happier than we were in the discoveries he had made."
Flinders pointed out Cape Jervis, which was in sight, related the
discovery of Spencer's and St. Vincent's Gulfs, and described Kangaroo
Island, with its abundance of fresh food and water. He handed to Baudin a
copy of his little book on Bass Strait and its accompanying chart,
related the story of the loss of John Thistle and his boat's crew, and
listened to an account which his host gave of a supposed loss of one of
his own boats with a number of men on the east coast of Van Diemen's
Land. Baudin intimated that it was likely that Flinders, in sailing east,
would fall in with the missing Naturaliste, and he requested that, should
this occur, the captain of that ship might be informed that Baudin
intended to sail to Port Jackson as soon as the bad winter weather set
in. Flinders himself had invited Baudin to sail to Sydney to refresh,
mentioning that he would be able to obtain whatever assistance he
required there. The interview was thoroughly cordial, and the two
captains parted with mutual expressions of goodwill. Flinders and Brown
returned to the Investigator at half-past eight o'clock.

Seaman Smith has nothing new to tell us concerning the Encounter Bay
incident, but his brief reference is of some interest as showing how it
struck a member of the Investigator crew, and may be cited for that
purpose. "In the morning (9th April) we unmoord and stood for sea between
Van Diemen's Land and New Holland. In the afternoon we espied a sail
which loomd large. Cleared forequarters, not knowing what might be the
consequence. On the ship coming close, our captn spoke her. She proved to
be the Le Geography (sic) French ship upon investigation. Our boats being
lowerd down our captn went on board of her, and soon returnd. Both ships
lay to untill the next morning, when our captn went on board of her and
soon returnd. We found her poorly mannd, having lost a boat and crew and
several that run away. Her acct. was that they had parted compy with the
Naturalizer (sic) on investigation in a gale of wind. Have been from
France 18 months. On the 20th we parted compy."

Baudin sailed for Kangaroo Island, where his men enjoyed a similar feast
to that which had delighted the English sailors a little while before.
But the scurvy-stricken condition of his crew made the pursuit of
exploration painful, and he did not continue on these coasts beyond
another month. On May 8th he abandoned the work for the time being,
resolving to pay a second visit to the region of the gulfs after he had
refreshed his people. Sailing for Sydney, he arrived there on June 20th,
in circumstances that it will be convenient to relate after describing
the remainder of the voyage of the Investigator up to her arrival in the
same port.


Flinders' actual discovery work on the south coast was completed when he
met Baudin in Encounter Bay; for the whole coast line to the east had
been found a short while before he appeared upon it, though he was not
aware of this fact when completing his voyage. For about a hundred and
fifty miles, from the mouth of the Murray eastward to Cape Banks, the
credit of discovery properly belongs to Baudin, and Flinders duly marked
his name upon the chart. Further eastward, from Cape Banks to the deep
bend of the coast at the head of which lies Port Phillip, the discoverer
was Captain Grant of the Lady Nelson. His voyage was projected under the
following circumstances.

When Philip Gidley King, who in 1800 succeeded Hunter as Governor of New
South Wales, was in England in 1799, he represented to the Admiralty the
desirability of sending out to Australia a small, serviceable ship,
capable of being used in shallow waters, so that she might explore bays
and rivers. One of the Commissioners of the Transport Board, Captain John
Schanck, had designed a type of vessel that was considered suitable for
this purpose. She was to be fitted with a sliding keel, or centreboard,
and was deemed to be a boat of staunch sea-going qualities, as well as
being good for close-in coastal service. A sixty-ton brig, the Lady
Nelson, was built to Schanck's plans, and was entrusted to the command of
Lieutenant Grant. She was tried in the Downs in January, 1800, when Grant
reported enthusiastically on her behaviour. She rode out a gale in five
fathoms of water without shipping "even a sea that would come over the
sole of your shoe." Running her into Ramsgate in a heavy sea, Grant wrote
of her in terms that, though somewhat crabbed to a non-nautical ear, were
a sailor's equivalent for fine poetry: "though it blew very strong, I
found the vessel stand well up under sail, and with only one reef out of
the topsails, no jib set, a lee tide going, when close hauled she brought
her wake right aft and went at the rate of five knots."

Grant was ambitious to make discoveries on his own account, and did not
lack zeal. He was a skilful sailor, but was lacking in the scientific
accomplishment required for the service in which he aspired to shine.
When at length he returned from Australia, King summed him up in a
sentence: "I should have been glad if your ability as a surveyor, or
being able to determine the longitude of the different places you might
visit, was any ways equal to your ability as an officer and a seaman."

Grant left England early in 1800, intending to sail to Australia by the
usual route, making the Cape of Good Hope, and then rounding the south of
Van Diemen's Land. But news of the discovery of Bass Strait was received
after the Lady Nelson had put to sea; and the Admiralty (April, 1800)
sent instructions to reach him at the Cape, directing him to sail through
the strait from the west. This he did. Striking the Australian coast
opposite Cape Banks on December 3rd, 1800, he followed it along past Cape
Otway, thence in a line across to Wilson's Promontory and, penetrating
the strait, was the first navigator to work through it from the far
western side. He attempted no survey, and shortness of water and
provisions deterred him from even pursuing the in-and-out curves of the
shore; but he marked down upon a rough eye-sketch such prominent features
as Mount Gambier, Cape Northumberland, Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson,
Portland Bay, Julia Percy Island, and Cape Otway. "I took the liberty of
naming the different capes, bays, etc., for the sake of distinction," he
reported to the Governor on his arrival at Sydney on December 16th.

It was in this way that both Baudin and Flinders were anticipated in the
discovery of the western half of the coast of Victoria. The Investigator
voyage had not been planned when the Lady Nelson sailed; and when
Flinders was commissioned the Admiralty directed that Grant should be
placed under his orders, the brig being used as a tender.

The baffling winds that had delayed Flinders' departure from Kangaroo
Island on April 8th, 1802, continued after he sailed from Encounter Bay,
so that he did not pass the fifty leagues or so first traversed by Le
Geographe for eight tedious days. On April 17th he reached Grant's Cape
Banks; on April 18th passed Cape Northumberland; and on the 19th Capes
Bridgewater, Nelson and Grant. But the south-west gale blew so hard
during this part of the voyage that, the coast trending south-easterly,
it was difficult to keep the ship on a safe course; and Flinders
confessed that he was "glad to miss a small part of the coast." Thick
squally weather prevented the survey being made with safety; and, indeed,
it was rarely that the configuration of the land could be distinguished
at a greater distance than two miles. On the 21st Flinders noticed a
subsidence of the sea, which made him conclude that he was to the
windward of the large island concerning which he had questioned Baudin.
He resolved to take advantage of a period when the close examination of
the mainland had become dangerous to determine the exact position of this
island, of whose whereabouts he had heard from sealers in 1799.

The south part of King Island had been found by the skipper of a sealing
brig, named Reid, in 1799, but the name it bears was given to it by John
Black, commander of the brig Harbinger, who discovered the northern part
in January, 1801. Flinders was occupied for three days at King Island. On
the 24th, the wind having moderated, he made for Cape Otway. But it was
still considered imprudent to follow the shore too closely against a
south-east wind; and on the 26th the ship ran across the water to Grant's
Cape Schanck.

The details of these movements are of some moment, for the ship was
nearing the gates of Port Philip. "We bore away westward," Flinders
records, "in order to trace the land round the head of the deep bight."
In view of the importance of the harbour which he was about to enter, we
may quote his own description of his approach to it, and his surprise at
what he found:

"On the west side of the rocky point,* (* Point Nepean.) there was a
small opening, with breaking water across it. However, on advancing a
little more westward the opening assumed a more interesting aspect, and I
bore away to have a nearer view. A large extent of water presently became
visible withinside, and although the entrance seemed to be very narrow,
and there were in it strong ripplings like breakers, I was induced to
steer in at half-past one; the ship being close upon a wind and every man
ready for tacking at a moment's warning. The soundings were irregular,
between 6 and 12 fathoms, until we got four miles within the entrance,
when they shoaled quick to 2 3/4. We then tacked; and having a strong
tide in our favour, worked to the eastward, between the shoal and the
rocky point, with 12 fathoms for the deepest water. In making the last
stretch from the shoal, the depth diminished from 10 fathoms quickly to
3; and before the ship could come round, the flood tide set her upon a
mud bank and she stuck fast. A boat was lowered down to sound; and,
finding the deep water lie to the north-west, a kedge anchor was carried
out; and, having got the ship's head in that direction, the sails were
filled, and she drew off into 6 and 10 fathoms; and it being then dark,
we came to an anchor.

"The extensive harbour we had thus unexpectedly found I supposed must be
Westernport; although the narrowness of the entrance did by no means
correspond with the width given to it by Mr. Bass. It was the information
of Captain Baudin, who had coasted along from thence with fine weather,
and had found no inlet of any kind, which induced this supposition; and
the very great extent of the place, agreeing with that of Westernport,
was in confirmation of it. This, however, was not Westernport, as we
found next morning; and I congratulated myself on having made a new and
useful discovery. But here again I was in error. This place, as I
afterwards learned at Port Jackson, had been discovered ten weeks before
by Lieutenant John Murray, who had succeeded Captain Grant in the command
of the Lady Nelson. He had given it the name of Port Phillip, and to the
rocky point on the east side of the entrance that of Point Nepean."

It was characteristic of Flinders that he allowed no expression of
disappointment to escape him, on finding that he had been anticipated by
a few weeks in the discovery of Port Phillip. Baudin, it will be
remembered, observed the satisfaction felt by his visitor in Encounter
Bay, when he learnt that Le Geographe had not found King Island, because
he thought he would have the happiness of being the first to lay it down
upon a chart. In this he had been forestalled by Black of the Harbinger;
and now again he was to find that a predecessor had entered the finest
harbour in southern Australia. Disappointment he must have felt; but he
was by no means the man to begrudge the success that had accrued to
another navigator. He made no remark, such as surely might have been
forgiven to him, about the determining accidents of time and weather;
though it is but right for us to observe that, had the Investigator been
permitted to sail from England when she was ready (in April, 1801)
instead of being delayed by the Admiralty officials till July, Port
Phillip, as well as the stretch of coast discovered by Baudin, would have
been found by Flinders. That delay was caused by nothing more than a
temporary illness of the Secretary of the Admiralty, Evan Nepean, whose
name is commemorated in Point Nepean, one of the headlands flanking the
entrance to the Port.

A perfectly just recognition of the real significance of Flinders in
southern exploration has led to his name being honoured and commemorated
even with respect to parts where he was not the actual discoverer. It is
a function of history to do justice in the large, abiding sense,
discriminating the spiritual potency of personalities that dominate
events from the accidental connection of lesser persons with them. In
that wider sense, Flinders was the true discoverer of the whole of the
southern coast of Australia. He, of course, made no such claim; but we
who estimate the facts after a long lapse of years can see clearly that
it was so. Only the patching up of the old Reliance kept him in Sydney
while Bass was creeping round the coast to Westernport. Only the illness
of an official and other trifling causes prevented him from discovering
Port Phillip. It was the completion of his chart of Bass Strait, based
upon his friend's memoranda, that led the Admiralty to direct Grant to
sail through the strait from the west, and so enabled him to be the first
to come upon the coast from Cape Banks to Cape Schanck. It was only the
delay before-mentioned and the contrary winds that hindered him from
preceding Baudin along the fifty leagues that are credited to that

Thus it is that although not a league of the coastline of Victoria is in
strict verity to be attributed to Flinders as discoverer, he is
habitually cited as if he were. Places are named after him, memorials are
erected to him. The highest mountain in the vicinity of Port Phillip
carries on its summit a tablet celebrating the fact that Flinders entered
the port at the end of April, 1802; but there is nowhere a memorial to
remind anyone that Murray actually discovered it in January of the same
year. The reason is that, while it is felt that time and circumstance
enabled others to do things which must be inscribed on the historical
page, the triumph that should have followed from skill, knowledge,
character, preparation and opportunities well and wisely used, was fairly
earned by Flinders. The dates, not the merits, prevent their being
claimed for him. His personality dominates the whole group of
discoveries. We chronicle the facts in regard to Grant, Baudin, Murray,
and Bass, but we feel all the time that Flinders was the central man.

Not being aware of Murray's good fortune in January, Flinders treated
Port Phillip as a fresh discovery, and examined its approaches with as
much thoroughness as his resources would allow. At this time, however,
the store of provisions was running low. The Investigator was forty weeks
out from England, and re-equipment was fast becoming imperative. Her
commander had felt the urgency of his needs before he reached Port
Phillip. He had seriously considered whether he should not make for
Sydney from King Island. "I determined, however, to run over to the high
land we had seen on the north side of Bass Strait, and to trace as much
of the coast from thence eastward as the state of the weather and our
remaining provisions could possibly allow."

As related in the passage quoted above, Flinders at first thought he had
reached Westernport, though the narrowness of the entrance did not
correspond with Bass's description of the harbour he had discovered four
years previously. But Baudin had told him that he found no port or
harbour of any kind between Westernport and Encounter Bay. Consequently,
it was all the more astonishing to behold this great sheet of blue water
broadening out to shores overlooked by high hills, and extending
northward further than the eye could penetrate. It was not until the
following day, April 27th, that he found he was not in the port which his
friend had discovered in the whaleboat. Immediately after breakfast he
rowed away from the ship in a boat, accompanied by Brown and Westall, to
ascend the bluff mountain on the east side which Murray had named
Arthur's Seat. From the top he was able to survey the landscape at a
height of a thousand feet; and then he saw the waters and islands of
Westernport lying beneath him only a few miles further to the east,
whilst, to his surprise, the curves of Port Phillip were seen to be so
extensive "that even at this elevation its boundary to the northward
could not be distinguished."

Next morning, April 28th, Flinders commenced to sail round the bay. But
the wind was slight and progress was slow; with his fast diminishing
store of provisions vexing his mind, he felt that he could not afford the
time for a complete survey. Besides, the lead showed many shallows, and
there was a constant fear of running the ship aground. He therefore
directed Fowler to take the Investigator back to the entrance, whilst, on
the 29th, he went with Midshipman Lacy, in a boat provisioned for three
days, to make a rapid reconnaissance of as much as could be seen in that
time. He rowed north-east nine miles from Arthur's Seat, reaching about
the neighbourhood of Mornington. Then he crossed to the western side of
the bay, and on the 30th traversed the opening of the arm at the head of
which Geelong now stands.

At dawn on May 1st he landed with three of the boat's crew, for the
purpose of ascending the highest point of the You-yang range, whose
conical peaks, standing up purple against the evening sky, had been
visible when the ship first entered Port Phillip. "Our way was over a low
plain, where the water appeared frequently to lodge. It was covered with
small-bladed grass, but almost destitute of wood, and the soil was clayey
and shallow. One or two miles before arriving at the feet of the hills,
we entered a wood, where an emu and a kangaroo were seen at a distance;
and the top of the peak was reached at ten o'clock."

From the crest of this granite mountain he would command a superb view.
Towards the north, in the interior, the dark bulk of Mount Macedon was
seen; and all around lay a fertile, promising country, mile after mile of
green pastures, as fair a prospect as the eye could wish to rest upon.
There can be little doubt that Flinders made his observations from the
flat top of a huge granite boulder which forms the apex of the peak. "I
left the ship's name," he says, "on a scroll of paper deposited in a
small pile of stones upon the top of the peak." He called it Station
Peak, for the reason that he had made it his station for making
observations. In 1912 a fine bronze tablet was fastened on the eastern
face of the boulder on which Flinders probably stood and worked.* (* It
is much to be regretted that this very laudable mark of honour to his
memory was not effected without doing a thing which is contrary to a good
rule and was repugnant to Flinders' practice. The name Station Peak was
sought to be changed to Flinders' Peak, and those who so admirably
occasioned the erection of the tablet managed to secure official sanction
for the alteration by its notification in the Victorian Government
Gazette. But nobody with any historical sense or proper regard for the
fame of Flinders will ever call the mountain by any other name than
Station Peak. It was his name; and names given by a discoverer should be
respected, except when there is a sound reason to the contrary, as there
is not in this instance. As previously observed, Flinders never named any
discovery after himself. Honour him by calling any other places after him
by all means; the name Flinders for the Commonwealth Naval Base in
Westernport is an excellent one, for instance. But his names for natural
features should not be disturbed.)

The boat was reached, after the descent of the mountain and the return
tramp across the sodden flats, at three o'clock in the afternoon. The
party were very weary from this twenty-mile excursion, a feat requiring
some power of endurance, as one who has walked along the same route and
climbed Station Peak several times can testify; and especially hard on
men who were fresh from a long voyage. The party camped for the night at
Indented Head, on the west side of the port, and on Sunday, May 2nd, they
again boarded the Investigator.

The ship was anchored under the shelter of the Nepean Peninsula, nearly
opposite the present Portsea. On the way back Flinders shot "some
delicate teal," near the piece of water which Murray had called Swan
Harbour, and a few black swans were caught.

Port Phillip has since become important as the seat of one of the great
cities of the world, and its channels are used by commercial fleets
flying every colour known to the trading nations. Scarcely an hour of the
day goes by, but the narrow waters dividing the port from the ocean are
churned by the propellers of great ships. The imagination sets itself a
task in trying to realize those few days in May, 1802, when Flinders
called it a "useful but obscure port" and when the only keels that lay
within the bay were those of one small sloop at anchor near the entrance,
and one tiny boat in which her captain was rowing over the surface and
making a map of the outline. And if it is difficult for us to recapture
that scene of spacious solitude, it was quite impossible for Flinders to
foresee what a century would bring forth. He recognised that the
surrounding country "has a pleasing and in many places a fertile
appearance." He described much of it as patently fit for agricultural
purposes. "It is in great measure a grassy country, and capable of
supporting much cattle, though much better calculated for sheep." It was,
indeed, largely on his report that settlement was attempted at Port
Phillip in 1803. But it is quaint, at this time of day, to read his
remark that "were a settlement made at Port Phillip, as doubtless there
will be some time hereafter, the entrance could be easily distinguished,
and it would not be difficult to establish a friendly intercourse with
the natives, for they are acquainted with the effect of firearms, and
desirous of possessing many of our conveniences."

Seaman Smith devotes a paragraph in his Journal to the visit to Port
Phillip, and it may as well be quoted for its historical interest: "On
the 28th we came to an anchor in a bay of very large size. Thinking there
was a good channel in a passage through, we got aground; but by good
management we got off without damadge. Here we caught a Shirk which
measured 10 feet 9 inch in length; in girt very large. 29th the captn and
boats went to investigate the interior part of the harbr for 3 days,
while those on board imploy'd in working ship to get as near the mouth of
the harbr as possible. May 2nd our boat and crew came on board. Brought
with them 2 swanns and a number of native spears."

At daylight on May 3rd the Investigator dropped out of Port Phillip with
the tide. Westall, the artist, made a drawing of the heads from a
distance of 5 miles.

At dusk on Saturday, May 8th, she stood seven miles off the entrance to
Port Jackson. Flinders was so thoroughly well acquainted with the harbour
that he tried to beat up in the night; but the wind was adverse, and he
did not pass the heads till one o'clock on the following day. At three
o'clock the ship was brought to anchor, and the long voyage of discovery,
which had had larger results than any voyage since the great days of
Cook, was over. It had lasted nine months and nine days.

The horrors of scurvy were such a customary accompaniment of long voyages
in those days that the condition of Flinders' company at the termination
of this protracted navigation was healthy almost beyond precedent. But
this young captain had learnt how to manage a ship in Cook's school, and
had profited from his master's admonitions. Cook, in his Endeavour voyage
of 1770 and 1771, brought his people through a protracted period at sea
with, "generally speaking," freedom from scurvy, and showed how by
scrupulous cleanliness, plenty of vegetable food, and anti-scorbutic
remedies the dreadful distemper could be kept at bay. But, fine as Cook's
record is in this respect, it is eclipsed by that of Flinders, who
entered Port Jackson at the end of this long period aboard ship with an
absolutely clean bill of health. There is no touch of pride, but there is
a note of very proper satisfaction, in the words which he was able to
write of this remarkable record:--

"There was not a single individual on board who was not on deck working
the ship into harbour; and it may be averred that the officers and crew
were, generally speaking, in better health than on the day we sailed from
Spithead, and not in less good spirits. I have said nothing of the
regulations observed after we made Cape Leeuwin. They were very little
different from those adopted in the commencement of the voyage, and of
which a strict attention to cleanliness and a free circulation of air in
the messing and sleeping places formed the most essential parts. Several
of the inhabitants of Port Jackson expressed themselves never to have
been so strongly reminded of England as by the fresh colour of many
amongst the Investigator's ship's company."

As soon as the anchor was dropped, Flinders went ashore and reported
himself to Governor King, to whom he delivered his orders from the
Admiralty. He also reported to Captain Hamelin of Le Naturaliste, who had
sought refuge in the port and had been lying there since April 24th, the
intention of Baudin to bring round Le Geographe in due course. Then he
set about making preparations for refitting the ship and getting ready
for further explorations.


The condition of Le Geographe when she made her appearance outside Port
Jackson, on June 20th, 1802, was in striking and instructive contrast
with that of the Investigator on her entry forty-two days before.
Flinders had not a sick man on board. His crew finished the voyage a
company of bronzed, jolly, hearty sailors, fit for any service. Baudin,
on the contrary, had not a single man on board who was free from disease.
His men were covered with sores and putrid ulcers;" the surgeon,
Taillefer, found the duty of attending upon them revolting; they lay
groaning about the decks in misery and pain, and only four were available
for steering and management, themselves being reduced almost to the
extremity of debility. "Not a soul among us was exempt from the
affliction," wrote the commandant in his journal.

The utmost difficulty had been experienced in working the vessel round
the south of Van Diemen's Land and up the east coast in tempestuous
weather. Baudin obstinately refused, in the teeth of the urgent
recommendation of his officers, to sail through Bass Strait, and thus
save several days; though, as he had already negotiated the strait from
the east, he knew the navigation, and the distressful condition of his
people should have impelled him to choose a route which would take them
to succour in the briefest period of time. He insisted on the longer
course, and in consequence brought his ship to the very verge of
disaster, besides intensifying the sufferings of his crew. The voyage
from the region of the gulfs to the harbour of refuge was full of pain
and peril. Man after man dropped out. The sailors were unable to trim the
sails properly; steersmen fell at the wheel; they could not walk or lift
their limbs without groaning in agony. It was a plague ship that crept
round to Port Jackson Heads in that month of storms:

"And as a full field charging was the sea,
And as a cry of slain men was the wind."

All this bitter suffering was caused because, as the official historian
of the expedition tells us, Baudin "neglected the most indispensable
precautions relative to the health of the men." He disregarded
instructions which had been furnished with reference to hygiene, paid no
heed to the experience of other navigators, and permitted practices which
could not but conduce to disease. His illustrious predecessor, Laperouse,
a true pupil of Cook, had conducted a long voyage with fine immunity from
scurvy, and Baudin could have done the same had he possessed valid
qualifications for his employment.

There is no satisfaction in dwelling upon the pitiful condition to which
Baudin's people were reduced; but it is necessary to set out the facts
clearly, because the visit paid by Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste to
Sydney, and what the French officers did there, is of the utmost
importance in relation to what happened to Flinders at a later date.

Baudin brought his vessel up to the entrance to the harbour on June 20th,
but so feeble were his crew that they could not work her into port. It
was reported that a ship in evident distress was outside, and at once a
boat's crew of Flinders' men from the Investigator was sent down to
assist in towing her to an anchorage. "It was grievous," Flinders said,
"to see the miserable condition to which both officers and men were
reduced by scurvy, there being not more out of one hundred and seventy,
according to the Captain's account, than twelve men capable of doing
their duty." Baudin's own journal says they were only four; but, whatever
the number may have been, even these were sick, and could only perform
any kind of work under the whip of absolute necessity. All the sufferers
were attended with "the most touching activity" by the principal surgeon
of the settlement, James Thomson.

The resources of Sydney at that time were slender, but such as they were
Governor King immediately placed them at the disposal of the French
commodore. The sick were removed to the hospital, permission was given to
pitch tents close to where the Investigator's were erected, at Cattle
Point on the east side of Sydney Cove,* and everything was done to extend
a cordial welcome to the visitors. (* Flinders, Voyage, 1 227. The
"Cattle Point" of Flinders is the present Fort Macquarie, or Bennelong
Point, behind which Government House stands.) "Although," wrote the
Governor to Baudin, "last night I had the pleasure of announcing that a
peace had taken place between our respective countries, yet a continuance
of the war would have made no difference in my reception of your ship,
and affording every relief and assistance in my power; and, although you
will not find abundant supplies of what are most requisite and acceptable
to those coming off so long a voyage, yet I offer you a sincere welcome.
I am much concerned to find from Monsieur Ronsard that your ship's
company are so dreadfully afflicted with the scurvy. I have sent the
Naval Officer with every assistance to get the ship into a safe
anchorage. I beg you would give yourself no concern about saluting. When
I have the honour of seeing you, we will then concert means for the
relief of your sick." That was, truly, a letter replete in every word of
it with manly gentleness, generous humanity and hospitable warmth. The
same spirit was maintained throughout of the six months of the
Frenchmen's stay at Port Jackson. King even reduced the rations of his
own people in order that he might have enough to share with the
strangers. Fresh meat was so scarce in the colony that when the
Investigator arrived Flinders could not buy any for his men; but as soon
as the French appeared, King, pitying their plight, at once ordered the
slaughtering of some oxen belonging to the Government in order that they
might be fed on fresh food. Baudin was daily at the Governor's house,*
and King entertained his officers frequently. (* Historical Records 4
952.) His tact was as conspicuous as his good nature. Baudin was not on
good terms with some of his officers, and the Governor was made aware of
this fact. He conducted himself as host with a resourceful consideration
for the feelings of his quarrelsome guests. And as the Governor comported
himself towards them, so also did the leading people of Sydney. "Among
all the French officers serving in the division which I command," wrote
Baudin, "there is not one who is not, like myself, convinced of the
indebtedness in which we stand to Governor King and the principal
inhabitants of the colony for the courteous, affectionate, and
distinguished manner in which they have received us."

Not only on the social side was this extreme kindness displayed. King did
everything in his power to further the scientific purposes of the
expedition and to complete the re-equipment of Baudin's ships. Le
Geographe required to be careened, and to have her copper lining
extensively repaired. Facilities were at once granted for effecting these
works. Baudin, intending to send Le Naturaliste back to France with
natural history specimens and reports up to date, desired to purchase a
small Australian-built vessel to accompany him on the remainder of his
voyage. King gave his consent, "as it is for the advancement of science
and navigation," and the Casuarina, a locally-built craft of between 40
and 50 tons, was acquired for the purpose. The French men of science were
assisted in making excursions into the country in prosecution of their
researches. Baudin refused the application of his geologist, Bailly, who
wished to visit the Hawkesbury River and the mountains to collect
specimens and study the natural formation. The British, thereupon,
furnished him with boats, guides and even food for the journey, since his
own commander declined to supply him. Peron, the naturalist, who
afterwards wrote the history of the voyage, was likewise afforded
opportunities for travelling in prosecution of his studies, and the
disreputable use which he made of the freedom allowed to him will
presently appear.

There is no reason to believe that any of the French officers, or the men
of science on Baudin's staff, abused the hospitality so nobly extended to
them, with two exceptions. The conduct of the crew appears to have been
exemplary. Baudin himself won King's confidence, and was not unworthy of
it. His demeanour was perfectly frank. "Entre nous," wrote King to Banks
in May, 1803, "he showed me and left with me all his journals, in which
were contained all his orders from the first idea of the voyage taking
place...He informed me that he knew of no idea that the French had of
settling on any part or side of this continent."

After the departure of the two ships, on November 17th, a rumour came to
the Governor's ears that some of the French officers had informed
Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson that it was their intention to establish a
settlement on Dentrecasteaux Channel in the south of Van Diemen's Land.
The news occasioned grave anxiety to King, who immediately took steps to
frustrate any such plans. He sent acting-Lieutenant Robbins in the
Cumberland in pursuit of Baudin, informing him of what was alleged, and
calling upon him for an explanation. Baudin positively denied that he had
entertained such an intention; and certainly he had not acted, after
leaving Port Jackson, as if he had the design to lay the foundations of a
settlement at the place specified, for he had not sailed anywhere near
southern Van Diemen's Land. He had made direct for King Island, and was
quietly continuing his exploratory work when Robbins found him. This
vague and unsubstantial rumour, which Paterson had not even taken the
trouble to report officially to the Governor when he heard it, was the
only incident with which Baudin was connected that gave King any cause to
doubt his perfect good faith; and Baudin's categorical denial of the
allegation is fully confirmed by his diary and correspondence--now
available for study--which contain no particle of evidence to suggest
that the planting of a settlement, or the choice of a site for one, was a
purpose of the expedition.

Baudin's gratitude for King's hospitality was expressed in a cordial
personal letter, and also in an open letter which he addressed to the
Governors of the French colonies of Ile-de-France and Reunion. Twelve
copies of the letter were left in King's hands, to be given by him to the
captain of any British ships that might have occasion to put in to any
port in those colonies. Blanks were left in the letter, to be filled up
by King, with the name of the captain to whom he might give a copy and
the name of the ship.* (* Mr. F.M. Bladen, in a note appended to a copy
of this interesting letter, in the Historical Records of New South Wales,
Volume 4 page 968 says: "The letter was handed to Governor King by
Commodore Baudin, in case it should be required, but was retained by King
amongst his papers, and never used. Had it been in the hands of Flinders
when forced to touch at the Isle of France it might have prevented any
question, real or pretended, as to his bona fides. Indeed, it is not
unlikely that it was originally intended for Flinders." But, although the
letter was not used by Flinders, Baudin gave a copy of it to General
Decaen, Governor of Ile-de-France, when he called there on his homeward
voyage. The copy is now among Decaen's manuscripts at Caen, Volume 84.
The blanks are in it, as in King's copy. Decaen was therefore fully aware
of the generous treatment accorded to his countrymen at Port Jackson.) In
this document, it will be noticed, Baudin was bespeaking from
representatives of his country in their own colonies such consideration
as he had experienced from his British hosts at Sydney. The fulness of
his obligation could scarcely have been expressed in more thorough terms:

"The assistance we have found here, the kindness of Governor King towards
us, his generous attentions for the recovery of our sick men, his love
for the progress of science, in short, everything seemed to have united
to make us forget the hardships of a long and painful voyage, which was
often impeded by the inclemency of the weather; and yet the fact of the
peace being signed was unknown, and we only heard of it when our sick men
had recovered, our vessels had been repaired, our provisions shipped, and
when our departure was near at hand. Whatever the duties of hospitality
may be, Governor King had given the whole of Europe the example of a
benevolence which should be known, and which I take a great pleasure in

"On our arrival at Port Jackson, the stock of wheat there was very
limited, and that for the future was uncertain. The arrival of 170 men
was not a happy circumstance at the time, yet we were well received; and
when our present and future wants were known, they were supplied by
shortening part of the daily ration allowed to the inhabitants and the
garrison of the colony. The Governor first gave the example. Through
those means, which do so great honour to the humane feelings of him who
put them into motion, we have enjoyed a favour which we would perhaps
have experienced much difficulty in finding anywhere else.

"After such treatment, which ought in future to serve as an example for
all the nations, I consider it my duty, as much out of gratitude as by
inclination, to recommend particularly to you Mr. ---- commander of
H.M.S. ----. Although he does not propose to call at the Isle of France,
it may be possible some unforeseen circumstance might compel him to put
into port in the colony, the government of which is entrusted to you.
Having been a witness of the kind manner with which his countrymen have
treated us on every occasion, I hope he will be convinced by his own
experience that Frenchmen are not less hospitable and benevolent; and
then his mother-country will have over us the advantage only of having
done in times of war what happier times enabled us to return to her in
time of peace."

That letter has been quoted, and the circumstances attending Baudin's
arrival and stay at Sydney have been narrated with some fulness, in order
to give particular point to the conduct of two members of his expedition,
Francois Peron and Lieutenant Louis de Freycinet. As will be seen from
what follows, both of them used the latitude allowed to them while
receiving King's generous hospitality, to spy, to collect information for
the purpose of enabling an attack to be made upon Port Jackson, and to
supply it with mischievous intent to the military authorities of their

Le Naturaliste returned to Europe from King Island on December 8th. She
took with her all the natural history specimens collected up to that
time, and reports of the work done. Baudin, with Le Geographe and the
Casuarina, spent six months longer in Australian waters, exploring
Spencer's and St. Vincent's Gulfs, completing the chart of Kangaroo
Island, and making a second voyage along the coast. On July 7th, 1803, he
determined to return to France. He reached Ile-de-France on August 7th,
became seriously ill there, and died on September 16th. The Casuarina was
dismantled, and Le Geographe, which stayed there for three months after
her commander's death, arrived in France on March 24th, 1804.

The military Governor of Ile-de-France at this time was General Charles
Decaen. As a later chapter will be devoted to his career and character,
it is only necessary to say here that he was a dogged, strong-willed
officer, imbued with a deep-rooted hatred of British policy and power,
and anxious to avail himself of any opportunity that might occur of
striking a blow at the rival of his own nation. Francois Peron very soon
found that the Governor was eager to get information that might, should a
favourable chance present itself, enable him to attack the British colony
in Australia, and he lost no time in ministering to the General's
belligerent animosity.

On December 11th, 1804, four days before Le Geographe sailed for Europe,
Peron furnished to Decaen a long report on Port Jackson, containing some
very remarkable statements.* (* Manuscripts, Decaen Papers Volume 92. The
complete document is translated in appendix B to this volume.) He alleged
that the First Consul, Bonaparte, in authorising Baudin's expedition, had
given to it a scientific semblance with the object of disguising its real
intent from the Governments of Europe, and especially from the cabinet of
Great Britain. "If sufficient time were available to me," said Peron, "it
would be very easy to demonstrate to you that all our natural history
researches, extolled with so much ostentation by the Government, were
merely the pretext of its enterprise." The principal object was "one of
the most brilliant and important conceptions," which would, if
successful, have made the Government for ever illustrious. The
unfortunate circumstance was, however, Peron declared, that after so much
had been done to conduce to the success of these designs, the execution
of them had been confided to a man utterly unsuited to conduct them to a
successful issue.

That there were such designs as those alleged by Peron is disclosed by no
word in Napoleon's Correspondance; there is no suggestion of anything of
the kind in the papers communicated to Baudin by the Minister of Marine,
or in Baudin's confidential reports to his Government. It is in the
nature of a spy to flavour with his own conjectures the base fruit of his
illicit inquisitions, and Peron knew that he was writing to a man greedy
to obtain such material as he was ready to supply. There is no word from
any other member of the expedition, except Freycinet, written before or
after, to support Peron's allegations; and it is extremely unlikely that,
if the purpose he indicated had been the real one, he would have been the
man to know about it. Peron had not originally been a member of the staff
of the expedition. Baudin's ships had been equipped, their complement was
complete, and they were lying at Havre in October, 1800, awaiting sailing
orders, when Peron sought employment. He had been a student under Jussieu
at the Museum, and to that savant he applied for the use of his
influence. Jussieu, with the aid of the biologist, Lacepede, secured an
opportunity for Peron to read a paper before the Institute, expounding
his views as to research work which might be done in Australasia; the
result was that at almost the last moment he obtained appointment.* (*
See the biographies of Peron by Deleuze (1811) and Girard (1857).) He was
not in the confidence of Baudin, with whom he was on bad terms throughout
the voyage, and his hatred for whom continued relentlessly after the
unfortunate captain's death. On the point in question, therefore, Peron
is by no means a trustworthy witness. The very terms in which Baudin
wrote of Sydney, in his confidential letter to the Minister of Marine,
indicate that he was innocent of any knowledge of a secret purpose. If he
had known he would have referred to it here; and if he did not know of
one, Peron certainly did not. "I believe it to be my duty," wrote Baudin,
"to warn you that the colony of Port Jackson ought to engage the
attention of the Government and indeed of other European power also.
People in France or elsewhere are very far from imagining that the
English, in the space of fourteen years, have been able to build up their
colony to such a degree of prosperity, which will be augmented every year
by the dispositions of their Government. It seems to me that policy
demands (il me semble que la politique exige) that by some means the
preparations they are making for the future, which foreshadow great
projects, ought to be balanced." That was simply Baudin's personal
opinion: "it seemed to him." But the statement Peron made to Decaen, as
to what he could demonstrate "if he had time," together with his other
assertions, may have had an influence on the general's mind, and may have
affected the later treatment of Flinders; and that constitutes its
importance for our purpose.

Peron went on to allege that while he was at Port Jackson, "I neglected
no opportunity of procuring all the information that I foresaw would be
of interest. I was received in the house of the Governor with much
consideration; he himself and his secretary spoke our language well. Mr.
Paterson, the commandant of the New South Wales troops, always treated me
with particular regard. I was received in his house, as one may say, like
a son. Through him I knew all the officials of the colony. The surgeon,
Mr. Thomson, honoured me with his friendship. Mr. Grimes, the
surveyor-general, Mr. Palmer the commissary-general, Mr. Marsden a
clergyman at Parramatta, and a cultivator as wealthy as he was
discerning, were all capable of furnishing me with valuable information.
My functions permitted me to hazard the asking of a number of questions
which would have been indiscreet on the part of another, especially on
military matters. I have, in a word, known all the principal people of
the colony, in all walks of life, and all of them have furnished me with
information as valuable as it is new. Finally, I made in Mr. Paterson's
company long journeys into the interior of the country; I have seen the
best farms, and I assure you that I have collected everywhere interesting
ideas, and have stated them in as exact a form as possible."

After this illuminating dissertation as to his own value as a spy, and
the clever use he had made of his functions as a naturalist to exploit
unsuspecting people, Peron proceeded to describe the British
establishment in detail. But he omitted to tell Decaen how kindly he and
his countrymen had been treated there; not a word had he to say on that
subject; no circumstance was mentioned that might tend to withhold an
attack if a favourable chance for one should occur. He gave an
interesting description of Sydney and its environs, spoke of the growth
of its trade, the spread of cultivation, the increase of wealth. Then he
gave his views on the designs of the British to extend their power in the
Pacific. Their ambitions were not confined to New Holland itself, vast as
it was. Their cupidity had been excited by Van Diemen's Land. They did
not intend, if they could avoid it, to permit any other nation to occupy
that country. They would soon extend their dominion to New Zealand. They
were even casting avaricious glances across the Pacific. They had
occupied Norfolk Island, and he did not hesitate to say that they were
looking for a place further east, whence they might assail Chili and
Peru. The British were quite aware of the feebleness of the Spaniards in
those regions, and meant to appropriate their possessions in time.

Next Peron gave an account of the transportation system, of which he
approved, as making for rapid colonization, and as having valuable
reformatory effects. The climate and productiveness of New South Wales
were enthusiastically praised by him, and its eminent suitability for
European occupation was extolled. In all that the British had done in
Australia were to be recognised great designs for the future. Steps had
been taken to convert felons into good colonists, to educate their
children, and to train them for useful avocations.

He drew attention to the number of Irish prisoners who had been
transported for participation in rebellious movements at home, and to
their implacable hatred of Great Britain. "The Irish, kept under by an
iron sceptre, are quiet to-day; but if ever the Government of our
country, alarmed by the rapidly increasing power of that colony, formed
the project of taking or destroying it, at the very name of the French
the Irish would rise. We had a striking example of what might be expected
on our first arrival in the colony. Upon the appearance of the French
flag, the alarm became general in the country. The Irish began to flock
together from all parts, and if their error had not been speedily
dissipated, there would have been a general rising among them. One or two
were put to death on that occasion, and several were deported to Norfolk

The troops at Port Jackson, said Peron, did not number more than 700 or
800 men while the French ships were there, but he believed that as many
as 8,000 were expected. He doubted, however, whether Great Britain could
maintain a very large force there, in view of the demands upon her
resources elsewhere owing to the war; but was of opinion that she would
use Port Jackson as a depot for India, on account of the healthiness of
the climate. He summed up in eighteen paragraphs the advantage which
Great Britain drew, and was likely to draw, from her possession of Port
Jackson; and he terminated these by telling Decaen that "my opinion, and
that of all those among us who have been particularly occupied with the
organization of that colony, would be that we should destroy it as soon
as possible. To-day we can do that easily; we shall not be able to do it
in a few years to come." There followed a postscript in which Peron
informed the General that Lieutenant de Freycinet "has particularly
occupied himself with examining all the points on the coast in the
neighbourhood of Port Jackson that are favourable for the debarkation of
troops. He has made especial enquiries concerning the entry to the port,
and if ever the Government thought of putting into execution the project
of destroying this freshly set trap of a great Power, that distinguished
officer's services would be of precious value in such an operation." The
recommendation of Peron's fellow-spy at the end of the report is
interesting, as indicating how the pair worked together. Peron, under the
guise of a man of science collecting facts about butterflies and
grasshoppers, exploited his hosts for information of a political and
military nature; whilst Freycinet, ostensibly examining the harbour in
the interest of navigation, made plans of places suitable for landing
troops. Both together, having been nourished and nursed in their day of
dire calamity by the abundant kindness of the people of Sydney, concocted
plans for bringing destruction upon their benefactors, and proffered
their services to show the way. One thinks perforce of a rough speech of
Dol Common in Ben Jonson's Alchemist:

"S'death, you perpetual curs,
Fall to your couples again, and cozen kindly."

Five days after the arrival of Le Geographe in France, on March 29th,
1804, Peron wrote to the Minister of Marine* in similar terms, relating
the valuable opportunities he had had of making himself acquainted with
the situation of Port Jackson, and mentioning the names of leading
citizens with whom he had associated, and from whom he had collected
information. (* Arch. Nat. BB4 996.)

A second report upon Port Jackson was furnished to General Decaen, giving
precise information as to where troops could be landed if an invasion
were undertaken. The document is unsigned,* but, having regard to Peron's
statement concerning Freycinet's investigations, there can be no doubt
that the information came from him. (* "Coup d'oeil rapide sur
l'establissement des Anglais de la Nouvelle Hollande," manuscripts,
Decaen Papers Volume 92 page 74.) The writer described Sydney as "perhaps
the most beautiful port in the world," and observed that, though its
natural defences were strong, the English had employed no means to
fortify the approaches. Many of the convicts were Irish, and were capable
of everything except good.* (* "Ils sont capable de tout, excepte le
bien.") Persons who had played a part in connection with the recent
rebellion in Ireland were subject to transportation, and were naturally a
disaffected class. England had only 600 troops to maintain order in that
"society of brigands," and discipline was not very well observed amongst
them. Particulars were given as to how an invasion could be effected:

"The conquest of Port Jackson would be very easy to accomplish, since the
English have neglected every species of means of defence. It would be
possible to make a descent through Broken Bay, or even through the port
of Sydney itself; but in the latter case it would be necessary to avoid
disembarking troops on the right side of the entrance, on account of the
arm of the sea of which I have already spoken.* (* Middle Harbour.) That
indentation presents as an obstacle a great fosse, defended by a battery
of ten or twelve guns, firing from eighteen to twenty-four-pound balls.
The left shore of the harbour is undefended, and is at the same time more
accessible. The town is dominated by its outlying portions to such an
extent, that it might be hoped to reduce the barracks in a little time.
There is no battery, and a main road leads to the port of Sydney. Care
ought to be taken to organize the invaders in attacking parties. The
aboriginals of the country need not be reckoned with. They make no
distinctions between white men. Moreover, they are few in numbers. The
residence of the Governor, that of the colonel of the New South Wales
Regiment, the barracks, and one public building, are the principal
edifices. The other houses, to the number of three or four hundred, are
small. The chief buildings of the establishment captured, the others
would fall naturally into the hands of the conqueror. If the troops had
to retreat, they would best do so by the River Oxbury* (* i.e., the
Hawkesbury; the Frenchman guessed at the spelling from the
pronunciation.) and thence to Broken Bay. I regret very much that I have
not more time to give* to this slight review of the resources, means of
defence of and methods of attack on that colony. I conclude by observing
that scarcely any coinage is to be found in circulation there. They use a
currency of copper with which they pay the troops, and some paper money."
(* Compare Peron's remark concerning the little time at his disposal.
Both reports were written only a few days before Le Geographe left
Ile-de-France for Europe.)

There is no need to emphasise the circumstances in which this piece of
duplicity was perpetrated. They are made sufficiently clear from the
plain story related in the preceding pages. But it should be said in
justice to Baudin that there is no reason to associate him with the
espionage of Peron. Nor is it the case that the expedition originally had
any intention of visiting Port Jackson, for this or any other purpose. As
explained in the chapter relating to the Encounter Bay incident, it was
Flinders who suggested to Baudin that he should seek the succour he so
sorely needed at Sydney; and Le Naturaliste, which preceded him thither,
was driven by a like severity of need to his own. "It does not appear by
his orders," wrote King to Banks "that he was at all instructed to touch
here, which I do not think he intended if not obliged by distress." Such
was the case; and it was this very distress, and the generous alleviation
of it by the British colonists, that make the singular turpitude of Peron
and Freycinet in pursuing nefarious designs of their own and plotting to
rend the breast that fed them. The great war gave rise to many noble acts
of chivalry on both sides, deeds which are luminous with a spirit
transcending the hatreds of the time, and glorify human nature; but it is
happily questionable whether it produced an example to equal that
expounded in these pages, of ignoble treachery and ungrateful baseness.

Flinders, when reviewing the unjust account of his own discoveries given
by Peron in his Voyage de Decouvertes, adopted the view that what he
wrote was under compulsion from authority. "How came M. Peron to advance
what was so contrary to truth?" he asked. "Was he a man destitute of all
principle? My answer is that I believe his candour to have been equal to
his acknowledged abilities; and that what he wrote was from over-ruling
authority, and smote him to the heart." Could Flinders have known what
Peron was capable of doing, in the endeavour to advance himself in favour
with the rulers of his country, he would certainly not have believed him
so blameless.

That Port Jackson was never attacked during these years of war was not
due to its own capabilities of defence, which were pitifully weak; nor to
reluctance on the part of Napoleon and Decaen; but simply to the fact
that the British Navy secured and kept the command of the sea. In 1810
Napoleon directed the equipment of a squadron to "take the English colony
of Port Jackson, where considerable resources will be found."* (*
Napoleon's Correspondance Volume 20 document 16 544.) But it was a futile
order to give at that date. Trafalgar had been fought, and the defence of
the colony in Australia was maintained effectively wherever British
frigates sailed.

Peron's report, then, did no mischief where he intended that it should.
But by inflaming Decaen's mind with suspicions it may not have been
ineffectual in another unfortunate direction, as we shall presently see.

The action of Peron in trying to persuade Decaen that the object of
Baudin's expedition was not truly scientific was all the more remarkable
because he himself, as one of its expert staff, did work which earned him
merited repute. His papers on marine life, on phosphorescence in the sea,
on the zoology of the South Seas, on the temperature of the sea at
measured depths, and on other subjects pertaining to his scientific
functions, were marked by conspicuous originality and acumen. But he was
not content to allow the value of his services to be estimated by
researches within his own sphere. He knew the sort of information that
would please General Decaen, and evidently considered that espionage
would bring him greater favour from his Government, at that time, than

Nevertheless, it is right to bring out the fact, in justice to the
diligent savants who worked under Baudin, that their researches generally
were of real importance. Professor Jussieu, one of the foremost men of
science in Europe, was deputed to report upon them, and did so in a
comprehensive document.* (* Manuscripts, Archives of the Museum
d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris.) "Of all the collections which have come
to us from distant countries at different times," wrote Jussieu, "those
which Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste have brought home are certainly the
most considerable." The botanist Leschenalt had found over 600 species of
plants which were believed to be new to science; and he eulogised the
zoological work of Peron, who had succeeded in bringing to France alive
seven kinds of kangaroo, an emu, a lyre-bird and several black swan.
Altogether, 18,414 specimens of Australian fauna had been collected,
comprised in 3872 species, of which 2592 species were new to the museum.
The men of science had "succeeded beyond all our hopes." Their task had
been perfectly fulfilled, and their services to science deserved to be
liberally rewarded by a just and generous government.

It would have been a source of satisfaction if it could be recorded that
work so laborious and so well performed had earned for Peron a reputation
unstained by such conduct as has been exhibited in the preceding pages.


Preparations for the continuance of researches in the Investigator
proceeded speedily during June and July, 1802. Friendly relations were
maintained with the staff of the French ships, who on one occasion dined
on board with Flinders, and were received with a salute of eleven guns. A
new chart of the south coast was then shown to Baudin, with the part
which he had discovered marked with his name. He made no objection to the
justice of the limits indicated, though he expressed himself surprised
that they were so small; for up to this time he was not aware of the
discovery by Grant of the coast eastward from Cape Banks. "Ah, Captain,"
said Freycinet, when he recognised the missed opportunities, "if we had
not been kept so long picking up shells and catching butterflies at Van
Diemen's Land, you would not have discovered the south coast before us."

A glimpse of the social life of the settlement is afforded in a letter to
Mrs. Flinders, concerning the King's birthday celebrations.* (* Flinders'
Papers.) Very little is known about the amusements and festivities of
Sydney in those early days, but that gaiety and ceremony were not absent
from the convict colony is apparent from this epistle, which was dated
June 4th, 1802: "This is a great day in all distant British settlements,
and we are preparing to celebrate it with due magnificence. The ship is
covered with colours, and every man is about to put on his best apparel
and to make himself merry. We go through the form of waiting on His
Excellency the Governor at his levee, to pay our compliments to him as
the representative of majesty; after which, a dinner and ball are given
to the colony, at which not less than 52 gentlemen and ladies will be
present. Amidst all this, how much preferable is such a 'right hand and
left' as that we have had at Spilsby with those we love, to that which we
shall go through this evening."

A few alterations were made in the ship, which was re-rigged and
overhauled; and a new eight-oar boat was built to replace the one lost in
Spencer's Gulf. She cost 30 pounds, and was constructed after the model
of the boat in which Bass had made his famous expedition to Westernport.
She proved, "like her prototype, to be excellent in a sea, as well as for
rowing and sailing in smooth water."

Fourteen men were required to make up the ship's complement. A new master
was found in John Aken of the Hercules, a convict transport, and five
seamen were engaged; but it was impossible to secure the services of nine
others from amongst the free people. Flinders thereupon proposed to the
Governor that he should ship nine convicts who could bring "respectable
recommendations." King concurred, and the number required were permitted
to join the Investigator, with the promise that they should receive
conditional or absolute pardons on their return, "according to Captain
Flinders' recommendation of them." Several of them were experienced
seamen, and proved a great acquisition to the strength of the ship.
Flinders also took with him his old friend Bongaree, "the worthy and
brave fellow" who had accompanied him on the Norfolk voyage in 1799, and
a native lad named Nambaree.

It was determined, after consultation with King, to sail to the north of
Australia and explore Torres Strait and the east side of the Gulf of
Carpentaria, as well as to examine the north-east coast with more care
than Cook had been able to give to it. The Lady Nelson, under Murray's
direction, was to accompany the Investigator; if rivers were found, it
was hoped that she would be able to penetrate the country by means of

On the 21st July the provisioning of the ship was completed, the new boat
was hoisted into her place, and the Investigator dropped down the harbour
to make her course northward.

The Lady Nelson proved more of a hindrance than a help to the work of
exploration. She was painfully slow, and, to make matters worse, Murray,
"not being much accustomed to make free with the land," hugged the coast,
and kept the Investigator waiting for him at every appointed rendezvous.
In August she bumped on a reef in Port Curtis and lost her sliding keel;
in September she ran aground in Broad Sound and injured her main keel.
Her capacity for beating to windward was never great, and after she had
been repaired her tardiness became irritating. Murray had also lost one
anchor and broken another. His ship sailed so ill, in fact, and required
so much attention, that she dragged on Flinders' vessel; and Murray had
given many proofs that he "was not much acquainted with the kind of
service" in which they were engaged. On October 18th, therefore, Flinders
sent her back to Sydney, with an expression of regret at depriving
Murray, who had shown zeal to make himself useful, of the advantage of
continuing the voyage.

On August 7th Port Curtis was discovered, and was named after Sir Roger
Curtis, the admiral at the Cape who had been so attentive to the
requirements of the Investigator on her voyage out from England. In
Keppel Bay (discovered by Cook in 1770) the master's mate and a seaman
became bogged in a mangrove swamp, and had to pass the night persecuted
by clouds of mosquitoes. In the morning their plight was relieved by a
party of aboriginals, who took them to a fire whereat they dried
themselves, and fed them on broiled wild duck. Natives were encountered
at every landing-place, and were invariably friendly.

Another important discovery was made on August 21st, when Port Bowen was
entered. It had not only escaped Cook's notice, but, owing to a change of
wind, was nearly missed by Flinders also. He named it after Captain James
Bowen of the Royal Navy.

In every bay he entered Flinders examined the refuse thrown up by the
sea, with the object of finding any particle of wreckage that might have
been carried in. If, as was commonly believed (and was, in fact, the
case), Laperouse had been wrecked somewhere in the neighbourhood of New
Caledonia, it was possible that remnants of his vessels might be borne to
the Queensland coast by the trade winds. "Though the hope of restoring
Laperouse or any of his companions to their country and friends could
not, after so many years, be rationally entertained, yet to gain some
certain knowledge of their fate would do away the pain of suspense."* (*
In 1861, remains of a small vessel were found at the back of Temple
Island, not far from Mackay, 150 miles or more north of Flinders'
situation when he wrote this passage. The wreckage is believed by some to
be part of the craft built by Laperouse's people at Vanikoro, after the
disaster which overtook them there. The sternpost recovered from the
wreckage is, I am informed, included among the Laperouse relics preserved
at Paris. See A.C. Macdonald, on "The Fate of Laperouse," Victorian
Geographical Journal 26 14.)

The Percy Islands (September 28th) were a third discovery of importance
on this northern voyage. Flinders now desired to find a passage through
the Barrier Reef to the open Pacific, in order that he might make the
utmost speed for Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Several
openings were tried. At length an opening was found. It is known as
Flinders' Passage, in latitude 18 degrees 45 minutes south, longitude 148
degrees 10 minutes east, and is frequently used nowadays. It is about 45
miles north-east from Cape Bowling Green, and is the southernmost of the
passages used by shipping through the Barrier. Three anxious days were
spent in tacking through the intricacies of the untried passage. The
perplexity and danger of the navigation must have recalled to the
commander's mind his experiences as a midshipman under Bligh ten years
before. It was not until the afternoon of October 20th that a heavy swell
from the eastward was felt under the ship, and Flinders knew by that sign
that the open sea had been gained. He finished his description of this
treacherous piece of reef-ribbed sea by a bit of seaman's advice to
brother sailors. A captain who wished to make the experiment of getting
through the Barrier Reef "must not be one who throws his ship's head
round in a hurry so soon as breakers are announced from aloft. If he do
not feel his nerves strong enough to thread the needle, as it is called,
amongst the reefs, while he directs the steerage from the masthead, I
would strongly recommend him not to approach this part of the coast."
Strong nerves and seamanship had pulled through in this case, with a few
exciting phases; and the Investigator, in the open ocean, was headed for
Torres Strait.

The strait was entered eight days later, by a passage through the reef
which had been found by Captain Edwards of the Pandora in 1791, and which
Flinders marked on his chart as Pandora's Entrance.* (* It is generally
marked Flinders' Entrance on modern maps; but Flinders himself held to
his principle of never calling a place after himself, and of invariably
ascribing full credit to his predecessors.) He preferred this opening to
the one further north, found by Bligh in 1792. The ship was brought to
anchor on October 29th under the lee of the largest of Murray's Islands.

Immediately afterwards three long Papuan canoes, carrying about fifty
natives, came in sight. Remembering the attacks he had witnessed in the
Providence, Flinders kept his marines under arms and his guns ready, and
warned his officers to watch every movement of the visitors. But the
Papuans were merely bent on barter on this occasion, hatchets especially
being in demand. Seven canoes appeared on the following morning. "Wishing
to secure the friendship and confidence of these islanders to such
vessels as might hereafter pass through Torres Strait, and not being able
to distinguish any chief amongst them, I selected the oldest man, and
presented him with a handsaw, a hammer and nails, and some other trifles;
of all which we attempted to show him the use, but I believe without
success; for the poor old man became frightened on finding himself to be
so particularly noticed."

Darwin, in writing his treatise on the Structure and Distribution of
Coral Reefs, in 1842, made use of Flinders' chart and description of the
Great Barrier Reef, which extends for more than a thousand miles along
the east side of the continent, and into the throat of Torres Strait. The
hypothesis that as the bed of the ocean subsides the coral polyps go on
building steadily upwards, occurred to Darwin more than thirty years
after Flinders sailed along the Reef; and what the navigator wrote was
the result of his own observation and thought. Many absurd and fanciful
speculations about coralline formation were current in his day, and have
often been repeated since. But the reader who has given any study to
Darwin's array of facts and powerful reasoning will be interested in the
ideas of the earlier observer:

"It seems to me, that, when the animalcules which form the corals at the
bottom of the ocean cease to live, their structures adhere to each other,
by virtue either of the glutinous remains within, or of some property in
salt water; and the interstices being gradually filled up with sand and
broken pieces of coral washed by the sea, which also adhere, a mass of
rock is at length formed. Future races of these animalcules erect their
habitations upon the rising bank, and die in their turn, to increase, but
principally to elevate, this monument of their wonderful labours. The
care taken to work perpendicularly in the early stages would mark a
surprising instinct in these diminutive creatures. Their wall of coral,
for the most part in situations where the winds are constant, being
arrived at the surface, affords a shelter to leeward of which their
infant colonies may be safely sent forth; and to their instructive
foresight it seems to be owing that the windward side of a reef exposed
to the open sea is generally, if not always, the highest part, and rises
almost perpendicular, sometimes from the depth of 200, and perhaps many
more fathoms. To be constantly covered with water seems necessary to the
existence of the animalcules, for they do not work, except in holes upon
the reef, beyond low-water mark; but the coral, sand, and other broken
remnants thrown up by the sea adhere to the rock, and form a solid mass
with it, as high as the common tides reach. That elevation surpassed, the
future remnants, being rarely covered, lose their adhesive property, and,
remaining in a loose state, form what is usually called a key upon the
top of the reef. The new bank is not long in being visited by sea-birds;
plants take root upon it; a cocoanut, or the drupe of a pandanus is
thrown on shore; land-birds visit it and deposit the seeds of shrubs and
trees; every high tide, and still more every gale, adds something to the
bank; the form of an island is gradually assumed; and last of all comes
man to take possession."

The Gulf of Carpentaria was entered on November 3rd, and a suitable place
was found for careening the ship. As the carpenters proceeded with their
work, their reports became alarming. Many of her timbers were found to be
rotten, and the opinion was confidently expressed that in a strong gale
with much sea running she could hardly escape foundering. She was totally
unfit to encounter much bad weather. The formal report to the commander
concluded with the depressing warning, "from the state to which the ship
seems now to be advanced, it is our joint opinion that in twelve months
there will scarcely be a sound timber in her, but that, if she remain in
fine weather and no accident happen, she may run six months longer
without much risk."

Upon receipt of this report Flinders, with much surprise and sorrow, saw
that a return to Port Jackson was almost immediately necessary. "My
leading object had hitherto been to make so accurate an investigation of
the shores of Terra Australis that no future voyage to this country
should be necessary; and with this always in view, I had ever endeavoured
to follow the land so closely that the washing of the surf upon it should
be visible, and no opening, nor anything of interest, escape notice. Such
a degree of proximity is what navigators have usually thought neither
necessary nor safe to pursue, nor was it always persevered in by us;
sometimes because the direction of the wind or shallowness of the water
made it impracticable, and at other times because the loss of the ship
would have been the probable consequence of approaching so near to a lee
shore. But when circumstances were favourable, such was the plan I
pursued, and, with the blessing of God, nothing of importance should have
been left for future discoverers upon any part of these extensive coasts;
but with a ship incapable of encountering bad weather, which could not be
repaired if sustaining injury from any of the numerous shoals or rocks
upon the coast--which, if constant fine weather could be ensured and all
accidents avoided, could not run more than six months--with such a ship I
knew not how to accomplish the task."

Very serious consideration had to be given to the route by which the
return voyage should be made. If Flinders returned as he had come, the
monsoon season made it certain that storms would be encountered in Torres
Strait, and to thread the Barrier Reef in a rotten ship in tempestuous
weather was to court destruction. Weighing the probabilities carefully
Flinders, with a steady nerve and cool judgment, resolved to continue his
exploration of the gulf until the monsoon abated, and then to make for
Port Jackson round the north-west and west of Australia--or, if it should
appear that the Investigator could not last out a winter's passage by
this route, to run for safety to the nearest port in the East Indies. In
the meantime all that the carpenters could do was to replace some of the
rottenest parts of the planking and caulk the bends.

Flinders remained on these coasts, in pursuit of his plan, till the
beginning of March, doing excellent work. The Cape Van Diemen of Dutch
charts, at the head of the gulf, was found to be not a projection from
the mainland but an island, which was named Mornington Island, after the
Governor-General of India; and the group of which it is the largest
received the designation of Wellesley Islands* after the same nobleman.
(* Richard, Earl of Mornington, afterwards the Marquess Wellesley, was
Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805.) The Sir Edward Pellew
group, discovered on the south-west of the gulf, was named after a
British admiral who will figure in a later part of this biography.

Traces of the visits of Malays to this part of Australia were found in
the form of fragments of pottery, bamboo basket-work, and blue cotton
rags, as well as a wooden anchor and three boat rudders. The Cape Maria
of Dutch charts was found to be an island, which received the name of
Maria Island. In Blue Mud Bay, Morgan, the master's mate, was speared by
a native, and died. A seaman shot another native in revenge, and Flinders
was "much concerned" and "greatly displeased" about the occurrence. His
policy throughout was to keep on pleasant terms with all natives, and to
encourage them to look upon white men as friendly. Nothing that could
annoy them was countenanced by him at any time. The incident was so
unusual a departure from his experience on this voyage as to set him
conjecturing that the natives might have had differences with Asiatic
visitors, which led them to entertain a common enmity towards foreigners.

Melville Bay, the best harbour near the gulf, was discovered on February
12th, and on the 17th the Investigator moved out of the gulf and steered
along the north coast of Australia. Six Malay vessels were sighted on the
same day. They hung out white flags as the English ship approached and
displayed her colours; and the chief of one of them came on board. It was
found that sixty prows from Macassar were at this time on the north
coast, in several divisions; they were vessels of about twenty-five tons,
each carrying about twenty men; their principal business was searching
for beche-de-mer, which was sold to the Chinese at Timor.

Arnhem Bay was found marked, but not named, upon an old Dutch chart, and
Flinders gave it the name it bears from the conviction that Tasman or
some other navigator had previously explored it. In the early part of
March he came to the conclusion that it would be imprudent to delay the
return to Sydney any longer. Not only did the condition of the ship cause
anxiety, but the health of the crew pointed to the urgency of quitting
these tropical coasts. Mosquitoes, swarms of black flies, the debility
induced by the moist heat of the climate, and the scarcity of nourishing
food, made everybody on board anxious to return. Scorbutic ulcers broke
out on Flinders' feet, so that he was no longer able to station himself
at his customary observation-point, the mast-head. Nevertheless, though
driven by sheer necessity, it was not without keen regret that he
determined to sail away. "The accomplishment of the survey was, in fact,"
he said, "an object so near to my heart, that could I have foreseen the
train of ills that were to follow the decay of the Investigator and
prevent the survey being resumed, and had my existence depended upon the
expression of a wish, I do not know that it would have received
utterance; but Infinite Wisdom has, in infinite mercy, reserved the
knowledge of futurity to itself."

Even in face of the troubles facing him, Flinders fought hard to continue
his work to a finish. He planned to make for the Dutch port of Kupang, in
Timor, and thence send Lieutenant Fowler home in any ship bound for
Europe to take to the Admiralty his reports and charts, and a scheme for
completing the survey. He hoped then to spend six months upon the north
and north-west coasts of Australia, and on the run to Port Jackson, and
there to await Fowler's return with a ship fit for the service. But this
plan was frustrated. He reached Timor at the end of March, and was
courteously received by the Dutch Governor, also renewing acquaintance
with Baudin and his French officers, who had put into port to refresh.
But no ship bound for England was met. A homeward-bound vessel from India
had touched at Kupang ten days before the Investigator arrived, but when
another one would put in was uncertain. A vessel was due to sail for
Batavia in May, and the captain consented to take charge of a packet of
letters for transmission to England; but there was no opportunity of
sending Fowler. A few days were spent in charting a reef about which the
Admiralty had given instructions, and by April 16th the voyage to Port
Jackson was being pursued at best speed by way of the west and south
coasts. Flinders did not even stay to examine the south of Kangaroo
Island, which had not been charted during the visit in 1802, for
dysentery made its appearance on board--owing, it was believed, to a
change of diet at Timor--and half a dozen men died. Sydney was reached on
June 9th, after a voyage of ten months and nineteen days.

Australia had thus been, for the first time, completely circumnavigated
by Flinders.

An examination of the Investigator showed how perilously near destruction
she had been since she left the Gulf of Carpentaria. On the starboard
side some of the planks were so rotten that a cane could be thrust
through them. By good fortune, when she was running along the south coast
the winds were southerly, and the starboard bow, where the greatest
weakness lay, was out of the water. Had the wind been northerly, Flinders
was of opinion that it would not have been possible to keep the pumps
going sufficiently to keep the ship afloat, whilst a hard gale must
inevitably have sent her to the bottom.

As Flinders said in a letter to his wife:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "It was
the unanimous opinion of the surveying officers that, had we met with a
severe gale of wind in the passage from Timor, she must have crushed like
an egg and gone down. I was partly aware of her bad state, and returned
sooner to Port Jackson on that account before the worst weather came. For
me, whom this obstruction in the voyage and the melancholy state of my
poor people have much distressed, I have been lame about four months, and
much debilitated in health and I fear in constitution; but am now
recovering, and shall soon be altogether well." In another letter he
describes the ship as "worn out--she is decayed both in skin and bone."

Of the nine convicts who were permitted to make this voyage, one died;
the conduct of a second did not warrant Flinders in recommending him for
a pardon; the remaining seven were fully emancipated. Four sailed with
Flinders on his next voyage; but two of them, no longer having to gain
their liberty by good behaviour, conducted themselves ill, and a third
was convicted again after he reached England.

Upon his arrival in port after this voyage Flinders learnt of the death
of his father. The occasion called forth a letter to his step-mother,
which is especially valuable from the light it throws upon his
character.* (* Flinders' Papers.) The manly tenderness of his sorrow and
sympathy throbs through every sentence of it. In danger, in adversity, in
disappointment, in difficulty, under tests of endurance and throughout
perilous cruises, we always find Flinders solicitous for the good of
others and unsparing of himself; and perhaps there is no more moving
revelation of his quality as a man than that made in this letter:

"Investigator, Port Jackson, June 10th, 1803.

"My dearest Mother,

"We arrived here yesterday from having circumnavigated New Holland, and I
received numerous and valuable marks of the friendship of all those whose
affection is so dear to me; but the joy which some letters occasioned is
dreadfully embittered by what you, my good and kind mother, had occasion
to communicate. The death of so kind a father, who was so excellent a
man, is a heavy blow, and strikes deep into my heart. The duty I owed
him, and which I had now a prospect of paying with the warmest affection
and gratitude, had made me look forward to the time of our return with
increased ardour. I had laid such a plan of comfort for him as would have
tended to make his latter days the most delightful of his life; for I
think an increased income, retirement from business, and constant
attention from an affectionate son whom he loved, would have done this.
Indeed, my mother, I thought the time fast approaching for me to fulfil
what I once said in a letter, that my actions should some day show how I
valued my father. One of my fondest hopes is now destroyed. O, my
dearest, kindest father, how much I loved and reverenced you, you cannot
now know!

"I beg of you, my dear mother, to look upon me with affection, and as one
who means to contribute everything in his power to your happiness.
Independent of my dear father's last wish, I am of myself desirous that
the best understanding and correspondence should exist between us; for I
love and reverence you, and hope to be considered by you as the most
anxious and affectionate of your friends, whose heart and purse will be
ever ready for your services.

"I know not who at present can receive my dividend from his legacy to me;
but if you can, or either Mr. Franklin or Mr. Hursthouse, I wish the
yearly interest to be applied to the education of my young sisters,* (*
His step-sisters.) in such manner as you will think best. This, my dear
Madam, I wish to continue until such time as I can see you and put things
upon the footing that they ought to remain.

"Do not let your economy be carried too far. I hope you will continue to
visit and see all our good friends, and have things comfortable about
you. I should be sorry that my dear mother should lose any of the
comforts and conveniences she has been accustomed to enjoy.

"I have much satisfaction in hearing both from you and Susan that Hannah*
(* The elder of his two step-sisters.) makes so good use of the
opportunities she has for improvement. If she goes on cultivating her
mind, forming her manners from the best examples before her, and behaves
respectfully and kindly to her mother and elder friends, she shall be my
sister indeed, and I will love her dearly.

"With great regard for you and my young sisters, I am your anxious and
affectionate son,


In another vein is a playful letter to his wife written in the same
month, June, 1803.* (* Flinders' Papers.)

"If I could laugh at the effusion of thy tenderness, it would be to see
the idolatrous language thou frequently usest to me. Thou makest an idol
and then worshippest it, and, like some of the inhabitants of the East,
thou also bestowest a little castigation occasionally, just to let the
ugly deity know the value of thy devotion. Mindest thou not, my dearest
love, that I shall be spoiled by thy endearing flatteries? I fear it, and
yet can hardly part with one, so dear to me is thy affection in whatever
way expressed."

Some account of his companions on the voyage is given in a letter to Mrs.
Flinders written at this time (June 25th, 1803).* (* Flinders' Papers.)
In a letter previously quoted he had referred to being debilitated in
health, "and I fear in constitution"; and in this one he mentions that
he, like the ship's cat, Trim, was becoming grey. Such hard unsparing
service as he had given was writing its tale on his form and features,
and there were worse trials to come: "Mr. Fowler is tolerably well and my
brother is also well; he is becoming more steady, and is more friendly
and affectionate with me since his knowledge of our mutual loss. Mr.
Brown is recovering from ill health and lameness. Mr. Bauer, your
favourite, is still polite and gentle. Mr. Westall wants prudence, or
rather experience, but is good-natured. The two last are well, and have
always remained on good terms with me. Mr. Bell* (* The surgeon.) is
misanthropic and pleases nobody. Elder* (* Flinders' servant.) continues
to be faithful and attentive as before; I like him, and he apparently
likes me. Whitewood I have made a master's mate, and he behaves well.
Charrington is become boatswain, and Jack Wood is now my coxswain. Trim,
like his master, is becoming grey; he is at present fat and frisky, and
takes meat from our forks with his former dexterity. He is commonly my
bedfellow. The master we have in poor Thistle's place* (* John Aken.) is
an easy, good-natured man." In another letter to his wife* (* Flinders'
Papers.) he tells her: "Thou wouldst have been situated as comfortably
here as I hoped and told thee. Two better or more agreeable women than
Mrs. King and Mrs. Paterson are not easily found. These would have been
thy constant friends, and for visiting acquaintances there are five or
six ladies very agreeable for short periods and perhaps longer."

In a previous chapter it was remarked that Flinders and Bass did not meet
again after their separation following on the Norfolk voyage. Bass was
not in Sydney when the Investigator lay there, greatly to Flinders'
disappointment. "Fortune seems determined to give me disappointments," he
wrote to Mrs. Kent; "when I came into Port Jackson all the most esteemed
of my friends were absent. In the case of Bass I have been twice served
this way."* But he left a letter for his friend with Governor King.* (*
Flinders' Papers.) It was the last word which passed between these two
men; and, remembering what they did together, one can hardly read the end
of the letter without feeling the emotion with which it was penned:

"I shall first thank you, my dear Bass, for the two letters left for me
with Bishop, and then say how much I am disappointed that the speculation
is not likely to afford you a competency so soon as we had hoped. This
fishing and pork-carrying may pay your expenses, but the only other
advantage you get by it is experience for a future voyage, and this I
take to be the purport of your Peruvian expedition.

"Although I am so much interested in your success, yet what I say about
it will be like one of Shortland's letters, vague conjectures only,
mingled with 'I hope'. Concerning the Investigator and myself, there will
be more certainty in what I write. In addition to the south coast, we
have explored the east coast as far as Cape Palmerston, with the islands
and extensive reefs which lie off. These run from a little to the
north-west of Breaksea Spit to those of the Labyrinth. The passage
through Torres Straits you will learn as much of here as I can tell you.
The newspaper of June 12 last will give you information enough to go
through, and it is the best I have (the chart excepted) until the strait
is properly surveyed. Should these three ships go through safely, and I
do not fear the contrary, the utility of the discovery will be well
proved, and the consequences will probably be as favourable to me as the
CONCLUSION of the voyage might have been without it. I do indeed
privately hope that, whether the voyage is or is not further prosecuted,
I may attain another step; many circumstances are favourable to this, but
the peace and the non-completion of the voyage are against it. To balance
these, I must secure the interest of the India House, by means of Sir
Joseph, Mr. Dalrymple, and the owner of the Bridgewater, Princeps, with
whom I am acquainted. I am fortunate in having the attachment of Governor
King, who by introductions, favourable reports, and I believe every
proper means in his power, has, and is still, endeavouring to assist me;
and you are to understand that my going home for another ship is in
conformity to an opinion first brought forward by him. The shores of the
Gulf of Carpentaria have undergone a minute examination.

"It might appear that the presence of the French upon these coasts would
be much against me; but I consider that circumstance as favourable,
inasmuch as the attention of the world will be more strongly attracted
towards New Holland, and some comparisons will no doubt be found between
our respective labours. Now, in the department of geography, or rather
hydrography, the only one where the execution rests with me, they seem to
have been very vague and inconclusive, even by their own testimony. By
comparison, therefore, my charts will rise in value. It is upon these
that I wish to rest my credit. You must, however, make the requisite
allowance for the circumstances under which each part was examined, and
these circumstances I have made the charts themselves explain, I hope to
your satisfaction, as you will see on publication.

"I shall see your wife, if in London, as well as her family. Accounts
speak indifferently of her brother* and his prospects. (* Captain Henry
Waterhouse.) His sun seems to have passed the meridian, if they speak
true. Your good mother I shall endeavour to see too, if my business will
anyway fit it.

"God bless you, my dear Bass; remember me, and believe me to be,

"Your very sincere and affectionate friend,


One other letter of this period may be quoted for the insight it gives
into the relations between the Governor and the principal residents of
the colony at this time. The urbanity and good sense of Flinders, and the
fact that his voyages kept him out of the official circle for prolonged
periods, enabled him to avoid offence under such circumstances. The
letter was written to Captain Kent's wife, a treasured friend:

"The attention of the Governor to me has been indeed very great, as well
as that which I have received from my kind friend, Mrs. King. It is a
cause of much uneasiness to me that Colonel and Mrs. P---* (* The quarrel
between King and Paterson was bitter, and affected the affairs of the
colony in many directions.) should be upon terms of disagreement with
----. There is now Mrs. K---,* (* King.) Mrs. P---* (* Paterson.) and
Mrs. M---,* (* Marsden.) for all of whom I have the greatest regard. who
scarcely speak to each other. It is really a miserable thing to split a
small society into such small parts. Why do you ladies meddle with
politics? But I do not mean YOU."

What subsequently happened to the Investigator, a ship which had played
so memorable a part in discovery, may be chronicled in a few lines. She
was used as a store ship in Sydney harbour till 1805. In that year she
was patched sufficiently to take her to England. Captain William Kent
commanded her on the voyage, leaving Sydney on May 24th. She arrived in
Liverpool in a shattered condition on October 24th, having been driven
past the Channel in a storm. The Admiralty ordered Kent to take her round
to Plymouth. He carried out the order, but not without great difficulty.
"A more deplorably crazy vessel than the Investigator is perhaps not to
be seen," Kent informed the Admiralty on reaching Falmouth. She was sold
and broken up in 1810. But those rotten planks had played a part in
history, and if only a few splinters of them remained to-day they would
be preserved with the tenderest reverence.


There was some anxious discussion between King and Flinders as to the
best course to follow for the expeditious completion of the survey of the
coasts of Australia. The Investigator being no longer fit for the
service, consideration was given to the qualifications of the Lady
Nelson, the Porpoise, the Francis, and the Buffalo, all of which were
under the Governor's direction. King was most willing to give his
concurrence and assistance in any plan that might be considered
expedient. He confessed himself convinced of Flinders' "zealous
perseverance in wishing to complete the service you have so beneficially
commenced," and cheerfully placed his resources at the explorer's

Flinders went for a few days to the Hawkesbury settlement, where fresh
air, a vegetable diet and medical care promoted his recovery from the
ailments occasioned by prolonged ship-life in the tropics; and on his
return, at the beginning of July, determined upon a course of action. The
Porpoise was the best of the four vessels mentioned, but she was by no
means a sound ship, and it did not seem justifiable to incur the expense
of fitting her for special service only to find her incapable of
finishing the task. It was determined, therefore, that she should be sent
to England under Fowler's command, and that Flinders should go in her as
a passenger, in order that he might lay his charts and journals before
the Admiralty, and solicit the use of another vessel to continue his
explorations. Brown, the botanist,* and Bauer, the botanical draftsman.
desired to remain in Port Jackson to pursue their scientific work, but
Westall accompanied Flinders, who with twenty-one of the remainder of the
Investigator's company, embarked on the Porpoise. (* Brown, in the
preface to his Prodromus (which, being intended for the elect, was
written in Latin), made but one allusion to the discovery voyage whereby
his botanical researches became possible. Dealing with the parts of
Australia where he had collected his specimens, he spoke of the south
coast, "Oram meridionalem Novae Hollandiae, a promontorio Lewin ad
promontorium Wilson in Freto Bass, complectentem Lewin's Land, Nuyt's
Land et littora Orientem versus, a Navarcho Flinders in expeditione cui
adjunctus fui, primum explorata, et paulo post a navigantibus Gallicis
visa: insulis adjacentibus inclusis.") She sailed on August 10th, in
company with the East India Company's ship Bridgewater and the Cato, of
London, both bound for Batavia. It was intended to go north, and through
Torres Strait, in order that further observations might be made there;
and Fowler was ordered to proceed "by the route Captain Flinders may
indicate." Had not Flinders been so eager to take advantage of this as of
every other opportunity to prosecute his researches--had he sailed by the
Bass Strait and Cape of Good Hope route--the misfortunes that were soon
to come upon him would have been averted. But he deliberately chose the
Torres Strait course, not only because he considered that a quick passage
could be made at that season of the year, but chiefly for the reason that
"it will furnish me with a second opportunity of assuring myself whether
that Strait can or cannot become a safe general passage for ships from
the Pacific into the Indian Ocean."

He was destined to see once again the settlement at Sydney, whence had
radiated the series of his valuable and unsparing researches; but on the
next and final occasion he was "caught in the clutch of circumstance."
His leave-taking in August, 1803, was essentially his farewell; and his
general observations on the country he had served, and which does not
forget the service, are, though brief, full of interest. He had seen the
little town grow from a condition of dependence to one of self-reliance,
few as were the years of his knowledge of it. Part of his early
employment had been to bring provisions to Sydney from abroad. In 1803,
he saw large herds spreading over the country. He saw forests giving way
before the axe, and spreading fields of grain and fruit ripening for the
harvest. The population was increasing, the morale was improving, "and
that energetic spirit of enterprise which characterises Britannia's
children seemed to be throwing out vigorous shoots in this new world." He
perceived the obstacles to progress. The East India Company's charter,
which prohibited trade between Sydney and India and the western coasts of
America, was one of them. Convict labour was another deterrent. But he
had vision, and found in the signs of development which he saw around him
phenomena "highly interesting to the contemplator of the rise of

Seven days out of Sydney, on August 17th, the Porpoise struck a reef and
was wrecked.

The three vessels were running under easy sail, the Porpoise leading on
what was believed to be a clear course. At half-past nine o'clock at
night the look-out man on the forecastle called out "Breakers ahead."
Aken, the master, who was on watch, immediately ordered the helm to be
put down, but the ship answered slowly. Fowler sprang on deck at once;
but Flinders, who was conversing in the gun-room, had no reason to think
that anything serious had occurred, and remained there some minutes
longer. When he went on deck, he found the ship beyond control among the
breakers, and a minute later she struck a coral reef and heeled over on
her starboard beam ends. "It was," says Seaman Smith, "a dreadful shock."
The reef--now called Wreck Reef--was in latitude 22 degrees 11 minutes
south, longitude 155 degrees 13 minutes east, about 200 miles north-east
of Hervey Bay, and 739 miles north of Sydney.* (* Extract from the
Australia Directory Volume 2 (Published by the Admiralty): "Wreck Reef,
on the central portion of which the ships Porpoise and Cato were wrecked
in 1803, consists of a chain of reefs extending 18 1/2 miles and includes
5 sand cays; Bird Islet, the easternmost, is the only one known to
produce any vegetation. Of the other four bare cays none are more than
130 yards in extent, or exceed six feet above high water; they are at
equal distances apart of about four miles, and each is surrounded by a
reef one to one and a half miles in diameter. The passages between these
reefs are about two miles wide...On the northern side of most of them
there is anchorage.") The wind was blowing fresh, and the night was very
dark. The heave of the sea lifted the vessel and dashed her on the coral
a second and third time; the foremast was carried away, and the bottom
was stove in. It was realised at once that so lightly built and unsound a
ship as the Porpoise was must soon be pounded to pieces under the
repeated shocks.

Anxiety for the safety of the Cato and the Bridgewater was felt, as they
were following the lead of the King's vessel. An attempt was made to fire
a gun to warn them, but the heavy surf and the violent motion of the
wrecked ship prevented this being done. Before any warning could be given
the Cato dashed upon the coral about two cables' length from the
Porpoise, whose company saw her reel, fall over, and disappear from view.
The Bridgewater happily cleared the reef.

After the first moments of confusion had passed, Flinders ordered the
cutter and the gig to be launched. He informed Fowler that he intended to
save his charts and journals, and to row to the Bridgewater to make
arrangements for the rescue of the wrecked people. The gig, in which he
attempted to carry out this plan, was compelled to lie at a little
distance from the ship, to prevent being stove in; so he jumped overboard
and swam to her. She leaked badly, and there was nothing with which to
bale her out but the hats and shoes of the ship's cook and two other men
who had taken refuge under the thwarts. Flinders steered towards the
Bridgewater's lights, but she was standing off, and it was soon seen to
be impossible to reach her. It was also unsafe to return to the Porpoise
through the breakers in the darkness; so that the boat was kept on the
water outside the reef till morning, the small party on board being
drenched, cold under a sharp south-easter, and wretchedly miserable.
Flinders did his best to keep up their spirits, telling them that they
would undoubtedly be rescued by the Bridgewater at daylight; but he
occupied his own mind in devising plans for saving the wrecked company in
case help from that ship was not forthcoming.

Meanwhile blue lights had been burnt on the ship every half-hour, as a
guide to the Bridgewater, whose lights were visible till about two
o'clock in the morning. Fowler also occupied time in constructing a raft
from the timbers, masts and yards of the Porpoise. "Every breast," says
Smith's narrative, "was filled with horror, continual seas dashing over
us with great violence." Of the Cato nothing could be seen. She had
struck, not as the Porpoise had done, with her decks towards the reef,
but opposed to the full force of the lashing sea. Very soon the planks
were torn up and washed away, and the unfortunate passengers and crew
were huddled together in the forecastle, some lashed to timber heads,
others clinging to any available means of support, and to each other,
expecting every moment that the stranded vessel would be broken asunder.
In Smith's expressive words, the people were "hanging in a cluster by
each other on board the wreck, having nothing to take to but the
unmerciful waves, which at this time bore a dreadful aspect."

At dawn, Flinders climbed on to the Porpoise by the help of the fallen
masts. As the light grew, it was seen that about half a mile distant lay
a dry sandbank above high-water mark, sufficiently large to receive the
whole company, with such provisions as could be saved from the ship.
Orders were at once given to remove to this patch, that gave promise of
temporary safety, everything that could be of any service; and the Cato's
company, jumping overboard and swimming through the breakers with the aid
of planks and spars, made for the same spot. All were saved except three
lads, one of whom had been to sea on three or four voyages and was
wrecked on every occasion. "He had bewailed himself through the night as
the persecuted Jonah who carried misfortune wherever he went. He launched
himself upon a broken spar with his captain; but, having lost his hold in
the breakers, was not seen afterwards."

The behaviour of the Bridgewater in these distressing circumstances was
inhuman and discreditable to such a degree as is happily rare in the
history of seamanship. On the day following the wreck (August 18th) it
would have been easy and safe for her captain, Palmer, to bring her to
anchor in one of the several wide and sufficiently deep openings in the
reef, and to take the wrecked people and their stores on board. Flinders
had the gig put in readiness to go off in her, to point out the means of
rescue. A topsail was set up on the highest part of the reef, and a large
blue ensign, with the union downwards, was hoisted to it as a signal of
distress. But Palmer, who saw the signal, paid no heed to it. Having
sailed round the reef, deluding the unfortunates for a while with the
false hope of relief, he stood off and made for Batavia, leaving them to
their fate. Worse still, he acted mendaciously as well as with a
heartless disregard of their plight; for on his arrival at Tellicherry he
sent his third mate, Williams, ashore with an untrue account of the
occurrence, reporting the loss of the Porpoise and Cato, and saying that
he had not only found it impossible to weather the reef, but even had he
done so it would have been too late to render assistance. Williams,
convinced that the crews were still on the reef, and that Palmer's false
account had been sent ashore to excuse his own shameful conduct, and
"blind the people," left his captain's narrative as instructed, but only
"after relating the story as contrary as possible" on his own account. He
told Palmer what he had done, and his action "was the cause of many
words." What kind of words they were can be easily imagined. The result
of Williams' honest independence was in the end fortunate for himself.
Though he left the ship, and forfeited his wages and part of his clothes
by so doing, he saved his own life from drowning. The Bridgewater left
Bombay for London, and was never heard of again. "How dreadful," Flinders
commented, "must have been his reflections at the time his ship was going

On the reef rapid preparations were made for establishing the company in
as much comfort as means would allow, and for provisioning them until
assistance could be procured. They were 94 men "upon a small
uncertainty"--the phrase is Smith's--nearly eight hundred miles from the
nearest inhabited port. But they had sufficient food for three months,
and Flinders assured them that within that time help could be procured.
Stores were landed, tents were made from the sails and put up, and a
proper spirit of discipline was installed, after a convict-sailor had
been promptly punished for disorderly conduct. Spare clothing was served
out to some of the Cato's company who needed it badly, and there was some
fun at the expense of a few of them who appeared in the uniforms of the
King's navy. With good humour came a feeling of hope. "On the fourth
day," wrote Flinders in a letter,* "each division of officers and men had
its private tent, and the public magazine contained sufficient provisions
and water to subsist us three months. We had besides a quantity of other
things upon the bank, and our manner of living and working had assumed
the same regularity as on board His Majesty's ships. I had to punish only
one man, formerly a convict at Port Jackson; and on that occasion I
caused the articles of war to be read, and represented the fatal
consequences that might ensue to our whole community from any breach of
discipline and good order, and the certainty of its encountering
immediate punishment." (* Flinders' Papers.)

The stores available,* with the periods for which they would suffice on
full allowance, consisted of:
Biscuit, 940 pounds and Flour, 9644 pounds : 83 days.
Beef in four pounds, 1776 pieces and Pork in two pounds, 592 pieces : 94
Pease, 45 bushels : 107 days.
Oatmeal, 50 bushels : 48 days.
Rice, 1225 pounds : 114 days.
Sugar, 320 pounds and Molasses, 125 pounds : 84 days.
Spirits, 225 gallons, Wine, 113 gallons and Porter, 60 gallons : 49 days.
Water, 5650 gallons at half a gallon per day.

(* Sydney Gazette, September 18th, 1803.)

In addition there were some sauer kraut, essence of malt, vinegar, salt,
a new suit of sails, some spars, a kedge anchor, iron-work and an
armourer's forge, canvas, twine, various small stores, four-and-a-half
barrels of gunpowder, two swivels, and several muskets and pistols, with
ball and flints. A few sheep were also rescued. When they were being
driven on to the reef under the supervision of young John Franklin, they
trampled over some of Westall's drawings. Their hoof-marks are visible on
one of the originals, preserved in the Royal Colonial Institute Library,
to this day.

As soon as the colony on the reef had been regularly established, a
council of officers considered the steps most desirable to be taken to
secure relief. It was resolved that Flinders should take the largest of
the Porpoise's two six-oar cutters, with an officer and crew, and make
his way to Port Jackson, where the aid of a ship might be obtained. The
enterprise was hazardous at that season of the year. The voyage would in
all probability have to be undertaken in the teeth of strong southerly
winds, and the safe arrival of the cutter, even under the direction of so
skilful a seaman as Flinders, was the subject of dubious speculation. But
something had to be done, and that promptly; and Flinders unhesitatingly
undertook the attempt. He gave directions for the government of the reef
during his absence, and ordered that two decked boats should be built by
the carpenters from wreckage, so that in the event of his failure the
whole company might be conveyed to Sydney.

By the 25th August the cutter had been prepared for her long voyage, and
on the following day she was launched and appropriately named the Hope.
It was a Friday morning, and some of the sailors had a superstitious
dread of sailing on a day supposed to be unlucky. But the weather was
fine and the wind light. Flinders laughed at those who talked of luck.
With Captain Park of the Cato as his assistant officer, and a double set
of rowers, fourteen persons in all, he set out at once. He carried three
weeks' provisions. "All hands gave them 3 chears, which was returned by
the boat's crew," says Seaman Smith. At the moment when the Hope rowed
away a sailor sprang to the flagstaff whence the signal of distress had
been flying since the morning when help from the Bridgewater had been
hoped for, and hauled down the blue ensign, which was at once rehoisted
with the union in the upper canton. "This symbolic expression of contempt
for the Bridgewater and of confidence in the success of our voyage, I did
not see without lively emotion," Flinders relates.

Leaving the Hope to continue her brave course, we may learn from Smith
how the 80 men remaining on the reef occupied themselves:

"From this time our hands are imployd, some about our new boat, whose
keel is laid down 32 feet; others imployd in getting anything servisible
from the wreck. Our gunns and carriadges we got from the wreck and placed
them in a half moon form, close to our flag staf, our ensign being dayly
hoisted union downward. Our boats sometimes is imployd in going to an
island about ten miles distant; and sometimes caught turtle and fish.
This island was in general sand. Except on the highest parts, it produced
sea spinage; very plentifully stockd with birds and egs. In this manner
the hands are imployd and the month of October is set in. Still no acct.
of our Captn's success. Our boat likewise ready for launching, the
rigging also fitted over her masthead, and had the appearance of a rakish
schooner. On the 4th of Octr. we launchd her and gave her name of the
Hope.* (* Smith was in error. The boat built at the reef was named the
Resource. The Hope, as stated above, was the cutter in which Flinders
sailed from the reef to Sydney. See A Voyage to Terra Australis 2 315 and
329.) On the 7th we loaded her with wood in order to take it over to the
island before mentiond to make charcoal for our smith to make the
ironwork for the next boat, which we intend to build directly. She
accordingly saild."

A letter by John Franklin to his father* gives an entertaining account of
the wreck and of some other points pertaining to our subject (*
Manuscript, Mitchell Library.):

"Providential Bank, August 26th, 1803,

"Latitude 22 degrees 12 minutes, longitude 155 degrees 13 minutes
(nearly) east.

"Dear Father,

"Great will be your surprise and sorrow to find by this that the late
investigators are cast away in a sandy patch of about 300 yards long and
200 broad, by the wreck of H.M.S. Porpoise on our homeward bound passage
on the reefs of New South Wales. You will then wonder how we came into
her. I will explain: The Investigator on her late voyage, was found when
surveying the Gulf of Carpentaria to be rotten, which obliged us to make
our best way to Port Jackson; but the bad state of health of our crew
induced Captain Flinders to touch at Timor for refreshment; which being
done he sailed, having several men died on the passage of dysentery. On
our arrival she was surveyed and condemned as being unfit for service.
There being no other ship in Sydney fit to complete her intended voyage,
Governor King determined to send us home in the Porpoise. She sailed
August 10th, 1803, in company with the Bridgewater, extra Indiaman, and
Cato, steering to the north-west intending to try how short a passage
might be made through Torres Straits to England. On Wednesday, 17th, we
fell in with reefs,* (* Cato Islet and reefs.) surveyed them, and kept
our course, until half-past nine, when I was aroused by the cry of
breakers, and before I got on deck the ship struck on the rocks.* (*
Wreck Reef.) Such boats as could be were got out, the masts cut away, and
then followed the horrors of ship-wreck, seas breaking over, men
downcast, expecting the ship every moment to part. A raft of spars was
made, and laid clear, sufficiently large to take the ship's company in
case the ship should part; but as Providence ordained she lasted until
morning, when happy were we to see this sandbank bearing north-west
quarter of a mile. But how horrible on the other hand to see the Cato in
a worse condition than ourselves, the men standing forward shouting for
assistance, but could get none, when their ship was parting. All except
three of them committed themselves to the waves, and swam to us, and are
now living on this bank. The Bridgewater appeared in sight, and then in a
most shameful and inhuman manner left us, supposing probably every soul
had perished. Should she make that report on her arrival consider it as
false. We live, we have hopes of reaching Sydney. The Porpoise being a
tough little ship hath, and still does in some measure, resist the power
of the waves, and we have been able to get most of her provisions, water,
spars, carpenter's tools, and every other necessary on the bank,
fortunate spot that it is, on which 94 souls live. Captain Flinders and
his officers have determined that he and fourteen men should go to Port
Jackson in a cutter and fetch a vessel for the remainder; and in the
meantime to build two boats sufficiently large to contain us if the
vessels should not come. Therefore we shall be from this bank in six or
eight weeks, and most probably in England by eight or nine. Our loss was
more felt as we anticipated the pleasure of seeing our friends and
relations after an absence of two years and a half. Let me recommend you
to give yourselves no anxiety, for there is every hope of reaching
England ere long. I received the letters by the Glatton and was sorry to
find that Captain F. had lost his father. He was a worthy man. You would
not dislike to have some account of our last voyage, I suppose. We were
11 months from Sydney, and all that time without fresh meat or
vegetables, excepting when we were at Timor, and now and then some fish,
and mostly in the torrid zone, the sun continually over our head, and the
thermometer at 85, 86, and 89. The ship's company was so weakened by the
immense heat that when we were to the southward they were continually ill
of the dysentery; nay, nine of them died, besides eight we lost on our
last cruise. Thus you see the Investigator's company has been somewhat
shattered since leaving England. Our discoveries have been great, but the
risks and misfortunes many.

"Have you got the prize money? I see it is due, and may be had by
applying at No. 21 Milbank Street, Westminster; due July 22, 1802. If you
do not, it will go to Greenwich Hospital. I had occasion to draw for
necessaries at Sydney this last time 24 pounds from Captain F.



Governor King received the news of the wreck of the Porpoise immediately
after the arrival of the Hope in Port Jackson, on the evening of
September 8th. King and his family were at dinner when to his great
amazement Flinders was announced. "A razor had not passed over our faces
from the time of the shipwreck," he records, "and the surprise of the
Governor was not little at seeing two persons thus appear whom he
supposed to be many hundred leagues on their way to England; but so soon
as he was convinced of the truth of the vision before him, and learned
the melancholy cause, an involuntary tear started from the eye of
friendship and compassion, and we were received in the most affectionate

King in an official letter confessed that he could not "sufficiently
commend your voluntary services, and those who came with you, in
undertaking a voyage of 700 miles in an open boat to procure relief for
our friends now on the reef." It was, indeed, an achievement of no small
quality in itself.

Plans for the relief of the wrecked people were immediately formed.
Captain Cumming of the Rolla, a 438-ton merchant ship, China-bound,
agreed to call at the reef, take some of them on board, and carry them to
Canton, whilst the Francis, which was to sail in company, was to bring
the remainder back to Sydney. Flinders himself was to take command of the
Cumberland, a 29-ton schooner, and was to sail in her to England with his
charts and papers as rapidly as possible.

The Cumberland was a wretchedly small vessel in which to traverse fifteen
thousand miles of ocean. She was "something less than a Gravesend passage
boat" and hardly better suited for the effort than a canal barge. But,
given anything made of wood that would float and steer, inconvenience and
difficulty never baffled Matthew Flinders when there was service to
perform. She was the first vessel that had been built in Australia.
Moore, the Government boat-builder, had put her together for colonial
service, and she was reputed to be strong, tight, and well behaved in a
sea; but of course she was never designed for long ocean voyages.
However, she was the only boat available; and though Flinders regretted
that the meagre accommodation she afforded would prevent him from working
at his charts while making the passage, he was too eager to accomplish
his purpose to hesitate about accepting the means. "Fortuna audaces
juvat" might at any time have been his motto; fortune helpeth them that
dare. An unavoidable delay of thirteen days caused some anxiety. "Every
day seemed a week," until he could get on his way towards the reef. But,
at length, on September 21st, the Cumberland in company with the Rolla
and Francis sailed out of Port Jackson. The crew consisted of a boatswain
and ten men.

On Friday, October 7th, exactly six weeks after the Hope had left Wreck
Reef, the ensign on the flagstaff was sighted from the mast-head of the
Rolla. At about the same time a seaman who was out with Lieutenant
Fowler, in a new boat that had been constructed from the wreckage, saw a
white object in the distance against the blue of the sky. At first he
took it for a sea-bird; but, looking at it more steadfastly, he suddenly
jumped up, exclaiming, "damn my blood, what's that?" It was, in truth,
the top-gallant sail of the Rolla. Everybody looked at it; a sail indeed
it was; Flinders had not failed them, and rescue was imminent. A shout of
delight went up, and the boat scurried back to the reef to announce the

At about two o'clock in the afternoon, Flinders anchored under the lee of
the bank. The shell of the Porpoise still lay on her beam side high up on
the reef, but, her carronades having been landed, the happy people
welcomed their deliverers with a salute of eleven guns. "Every heart was
overjoyed at this unexpected delivery," as seaman Smith's narrative
records; and when Flinders stepped ashore, he was long and loudly
cheered. Men pressed around him to shake his hands and thank him, and
tears of joy rolled down the hard, weather-worn faces of men not
over-given to a display of feeling. For his own part "the pleasure of
rejoining my companions so amply provided with the means of relieving
their distress made this one of the happiest moments of my life."

In singular contrast with the pleasure of everyone else was the cool
demeanour of Samuel Flinders. A letter previously cited contains a
reference to him, which suggests that he was not always quite brotherly
or generally satisfactory. On this occasion he was oddly stiff and
uncordial. Flinders relates the incident: "Lieutenant Flinders, then
commanding officer on the bank, was in his tent calculating some lunar
distances, when one of the young gentlemen ran to him calling, 'Sir, sir,
a ship and two schooners in sight.' After a little consideration, Mr.
Flinders said he supposed it was his brother come back, and asked if the
vessels were near. He was answered, not yet; upon which he desired to be
informed when they should reach the anchorage, and very calmly resumed
his calculations. Such are the varied effects produced by the same
circumstances upon different minds. When the desired report was made, he
ordered the salute to be fired, and took part in the general

After the welcoming was over, Flinders assembled all the people and
informed them what his plans were. Those who chose might go to Sydney in
the Francis; the others, with the exception of ten, would sail in the
Rolla to Canton and others take ship for England. To accompany him in the
Cumberland he chose John Aken, who had been master of the Investigator,
Edward Charrington, the boatswain, his own servant, John Elder, and seven
seamen. Their names are contained in the logbook which General Decaen
detained at Ile-de-France. They were George Elder, who had been carpenter
on the Porpoise, John Woods, Henry Lewis, Francis Smith, N. Smith, James
Carter, and Jacob Tibbet, all picked men.

Young Franklin went in the Rolla. As he explained in a letter to his
mother* (* Manuscripts, Mitchell Library.): "The reason I did not
accompany Captain Flinders was the smallness of the vessel and badness of
accommodation, he having only taken the master with him." The young
sailor's application had won the commendation of the commander, who was a
hero to him throughout his adventurous life. We find Flinders writing to
his wife* "John Franklin approves himself worthy of notice. He is capable
of learning everything that we can show him, and but for a little
carelessness I would not wish to have a son otherwise than he is." (*
Flinders Papers.)

At noon on October 11th, four days after the arrival of the relieving
ships at the reef, they parted company, with cheers and expressions of
good will. The Rolla accomplished her voyage to China safely, and in the
following year Lieutenant Fowler, Samuel Flinders, John Franklin, and the
remainder of the old Investigator's company who sailed in her returned to
England. On their return voyage they participated in as remarkable a
comedy as the history of naval warfare contains. Their ship was one of a
company of thirty-one sail, all richly laden merchantmen, under the
general command of the audacious Commodore Nathaniel Dance; and he,
encountering a French squadron under Rear-Admiral Linois, succeeded by
sheer, impudent "bluff" in making him believe that they were convoyed by
British frigates, and deterred him from capturing or even seriously
attacking them.* (* Lieutenant Fowler was presented with a sword valued
at 50 guineas for his part in this action, which took place on 14th
February, 1804, off Polo Aor, Malacca Strait. See the author's Terre
Napoleon page 16.)

From the very commencement of the voyage the little Cumberland caused
trouble and anxiety. She leaked to a greater extent than had been
reported, and the pumps were so defective that a fourth part of every day
had to be spent at them to keep the water down. They became worse with
constant use, and by the time Timor was reached, on November 10th, one of
them was nearly useless. At Kupang no means of refitting the worn-out
pump or of pitching the leaky seams in the upper works of the boat were
obtainable; and Flinders had to face a run across the Indian Ocean with
the prospect of having to keep down the water with an impaired equipment.

When discussing the route with Governor King before leaving Sydney,
Flinders had pointed out that the size of the Cumberland, and the small
quantity of stores and water she could carry, would oblige him to call at
every convenient port; and he mentioned that the places which he
contemplated visiting were Kupang in Timor, Ile-de-France (Mauritius),
the Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, and one of the Canaries. But King took
exception to a call being made at Ile-de-France, partly because he did
not wish to encourage communication between Port Jackson and the French
colony, and partly because he understood that hurricane weather prevailed
in the neighbourhood at about the time of the year when the Cumberland
would be in the Indian Ocean. To respect King's wishes, Flinders on
leaving Kupang set a course direct for the Cape of Good Hope. But when
twenty-three days out from Timor, on the 4th of December, a heavy
south-west ground swell combined with a strong eastern following sea
caused the vessel to labour exceedingly, and to ship such quantities of
water that the one effective pump had to be kept working day and night
continually. If anything went wrong with this pump, a contingency to be
feared from its incessant employment, there was a serious risk of

After enduring two days of severe shaking, Flinders came to the
determination that considerations of safety compelled him to make for
Ile-de-France. On December 6th, therefore, he altered the Cumberland's
course for that island.

When he wrote his Voyage to Terra Australis, he had not his journal in
his possession, and worked from notes of his recollections. In telling
the story now, the author has before him not only what Flinders wrote in
this way, but also a copy of the French translation of the journal which
Decaen had prepared for his own use, and several letters written by
Flinders, wherein he related what passed in his mind when he resolved to
alter his course.

The first and most imperative reason was the necessity for repairing the
ship and refitting the pumps. Secondly, rations had had to be shortened,
and victuals and water were required. Thirdly, Flinders had come to the
conclusion that the Cumberland was unfit to complete the voyage to
England, and he hoped to be able to sell her, and procure a passage home
in another ship. "I cannot write up my journal unless the weather is
extremely fine," he wrote. Fourthly, he desired "to acquire a knowledge
of the winds and weather at the island of the actual state of the French
colony, of what utility it and its dependencies in Madagascar, might be
to Port Jackson, and whether the colony could afford me resources in my
future voyages."* (* Journal.)

When he sailed from Port Jackson there was, as far as he knew, peace
between England and France. But there was a possibility that war had
broken out again. In that event, the thought occurred to him that it
would be safer to call at the French colony than at the Cape, since he
had a passport from the French Government, but not from the Dutch, who
would probably be involved in hostilities against England. He did not
forget that the passport was made out for the Investigator, not for the
Cumberland. "But I checked my suspicions by considering that the passport
was certainly intended to protect the voyage and not the Investigator
only. A description of the Investigator was indeed given in it, but the
intention of it could be only to prevent imposition. The Cumberland was
now prosecuting the voyage, and I had come in her for a lawful purpose,
and upon such an occasion as the passport allowed me to put into a French
port. The great desire also that the French nation has long shown to
promote geographical researches, and the friendly treatment that the
Geographe and the Naturaliste had received at Port Jackson, rose up
before me as guarantees that I should not be impeded, but should receive
the kindest welcome and every assistance."* (* Flinders to Fleurieu; copy
in Record Office, London. An entry in his Journal shows that only when he
was informed that the war had been renewed did it occur to Flinders that
the French authorities would interpret literally the fact that the
passport was granted to the Investigator.)

He had no chart of Ile-de-France, but a description in the third edition
of the Encyclopaedia Britannica informed him that the principal harbour,
Port Louis, was on the north-west side, and thither he intended to steer.

On December 15th the peaks of the island showed up against the morning
sky. At noon the Cumberland was running along the shore, close enough to
be observed, and made a signal for a pilot from the fore-topmast head. A
small French schooner came out of a cove, and Flinders, wishing to speak
with her to make enquiries, followed her. She ran on, and entered a port,
which proved to be Baye du Cap (now Cape Bay) on the south-west coast.
Flinders steered in her wake, thinking that she was piloting him to
safety. The truth was that the French on board thought they were being
pursued by an English fighting ship, which meant to attack them; and
immediately they came to anchor, without even waiting to furl sails, they
hurried ashore in a canoe and reported accordingly. Thus from the very
beginning of his appearance at Ile-de-France, was suspicion cast on
Flinders. So began his years of sore trouble.

It was evident from the commotion on shore that the arrival of the
Cumberland had aroused excitement. Flinders saw the people from the
schooner speaking to a soldier, who, from the plumes in his hat, appeared
to be an officer. Presently some troops with muskets appeared in sight.
Apparently orders had been given to call out the guard. Flinders
concluded that a state of war existed, and hastened to inform the
authorities by sending Aken ashore in a boat, that he had a passport, and
was free from belligerent intentions.

Aken returned with an officer, Major Dunienville, to whom the passport
was shown, and the necessities of the Cumberland explained. He politely
invited Flinders to go on shore and dine with him. It was pointed out
that the immediate requirements were fresh water and a pilot who would
take the ship round to Port Louis, as repairs could not be effected at
Baye du Cap. The pilot was promised for the next day, and Major
Dunienville at once sent a boat for the Cumberland's empty casks.

As soon as he got ashore again, Dunienville wrote a report of what had
occurred to the Captain-General, or Military Governor of the island,
General Decaen, and sent it off by a special messenger. In this document*
he related that a schooner flying the English flag had chased a coastal
schooner into the bay; that the alarm had been given that she was a
British privateer; that he had at once called out the troops; and that,
expecting an attack, he had ordered the women and children to retire to
the interior, and had given orders for cattle and sheep to be driven into
the woods! "Happily," he proceeded, "all these precautions, dictated by
circumstances, proved to be unnecessary." (* Decaen Papers Volume 84.)
The English captain had explained to him that he had merely followed the
coastal boat because he had no pilot, and wished to enter the bay to
solicit succour; "adding that he did not know of the war, and
consequently had no idea that he would spread alarm by following it.

Later in the afternoon Dunienville returned to the Cumberland with the
district commandant, Etienne Bolger, and an interpreter. The passport was
again examined, when Bolger pointed out that it was not granted to the
Cumberland but to the Investigator, and that the matter must be dealt
with by the Governor personally. At first he desired to send the passport
to him, but Flinders objected to allowing it to leave his possession, as
it constituted his only guarantee of protection from the French
authorities. Then it was arranged that he should travel overland to Port
Louis, while Aken took round the ship. But finally Bolger allowed
Flinders to sail round in the Cumberland, under the guidance of a pilot.
He was hospitably entertained at dinner by Major Dunienville, who invited
a number of ladies and gentlemen to meet him; and on the morning of
December 16th he sailed, with the major on board, for Port Louis, where
he was to confront General Decaen.

The character and position of the Captain-General of Ile-de-France are so
important in regard to the remainder of Flinders' life, that it will be
desirable to devote a chapter to some account of him.


Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen was born at Caen, the ancient and
picturesque capital of Normandy, on April 13th, 1769. Left an orphan at
the age of twelve, his education was superintended by a friend of his
father, who had been a public official. At the end of his schooldays he
studied law under an advocate of local celebrity, M. Lasseret. Though his
juristic training was not prolonged, the discipline of the office gave a
certain bent to his mind, a certain lawyer-like strictness and method to
his mode of handling affairs, that remained characteristic during his
military career, and was exceedingly useful to him while he governed
Ile-de-France. Very often in perusing his Memoires* the reader perceives
traces of the lawyer in the language of the soldier. (* The Memoires et
Journaux du General Decaen were prepared for publication by himself, and
the portion up to the commencement of his governorship has been printed,
with notes and maps, by Colonel Ernest Picard, Chief of the Historical
Section of the Staff of the French Army (2 volumes Paris 1910). Colonel
Picard informed me that he did not intend to print the remainder,
thinking that the ground was sufficiently covered by Professor Henri
Prentout's admirable book L'Ile de France sous Decaen. I have, therefore,
had the section relating to Flinders transcribed from the manuscript, and
used it freely for this book.) Thus, when during the campaign of the
Rhine he found that his superior officer, General Jourdan, was taking
about with him as his aide-de-camp a lady in military attire, Decaen,
with a solemnity that seems a little un-French under the circumstances,
condemned the breach of the regulations as conduct "which was not that of
a father of a family, a legislator and a general-in-chief." As for the
lady, "les charmes de cette maussade creature" merely evoked his scorn.
It does not appear that Jourdan's escapade produced any ill effects in a
military sense, but it was against the regulations, and Decaen was as yet
as much lawyer as soldier.

When the revolutionary wars broke out, and France was ringed round by a
coalition of enemies, the voice of "la patrie en danger" rang in the ears
of the young student like a call from the skies. He was twenty-two years
of age when two deputies of the Legislative Assembly came down to Caen
and made an appeal to the manhood of the country to fly to arms. Decaen,
fuming with patriotic indignation, threw down his quill, pitched his
calf-bound tomes on to their shelf, and was the first to inscribe his
name upon the register of the fourth battalion of the regiment of
Calvados, an artillery corps. He was almost immediately despatched to
Mayence on the Rhine, where Kleber (who was afterwards to serve with
distinction under Bonaparte in Egypt) hard pressed by the Prussians,
withdrew the French troops into the city (March, 1793) and prepared to
sustain a siege.

Decaen rose rapidly, by reason not merely of his bull-dog courage and
stubborn tenacity, but also of his intelligence and integrity. He
received his "baptism of fire" in an engagement in April, when Kleber
sent a detachment to chase a Prussian outpost from a neighbouring village
and to collect whatever forage and provisions might be obtained. He was
honest enough to confess--and his own oft-proved bravery enabled him to
do so unashamed--that, when he first found the bullets falling about him,
he was for a moment afraid. "I believe," he wrote, "that there are few
men, however courageous they may be, who do not experience a chill, and
even a feeling of fear, when for the first time they hear around them the
whistling of shot, and above all when they first see the field strewn
with killed and wounded comrades."* (* Memoires 1 13.) But he was a
sergeant-major by this time, and remembered that it was his duty to set
an example; so, screwing up his courage to the sticking-place by an
effort of will, and saying to himself that it was not for a soldier of
France to quail before a ball, he deliberately wheeled his horse to the
front of a position where a regiment was being shaken by the enemy's
artillery fire, and by his very audacity stiffened the wavering troops
and saved the situation.

After the capitulation of Mayence in July, 1793, Decaen fought with
distinction in the war in La Vendee. In this cruel campaign he displayed
unusual qualities as a soldier, and attained the rank of
adjutant-general. Kleber gave him a command calling for exceptional
nerve, with the comment, "It is the most dangerous position, and I
thought it worthy of your courage." It was Decaen, according to his own
account, who devised the plan of sending out a number of mobile columns
to strike at the rebels swiftly and unexpectedly. But though he was
succeeding in a military sense, these operations against Frenchmen, while
there were foreign foes to fight beyond the frontiers, were thoroughly
distasteful to him. The more he saw of the war in La Vendee, and the more
terribly the thumb of the national power pressed upon the throat of the
rebellion, the more he hated the service. It was at his own solicitation,
therefore, that he was transferred to the army of the Rhine in January,

Here he served under the ablest general, saving only Bonaparte himself,
whom the wars of the Revolution produced to win glory for French arms,
Jean Victor Moreau. His bravery and capacity continued to win him
advancement. Moreau promoted him to the command of a brigade, and
presented him with a sword of honour for his masterly conduct of a
retreat through the Black Forest, when, in command of the rear-guard, he
fought the Austrians every mile of the road to the Rhine.

He became a general of division in 1800. At the battle of Hohenlinden,
where Moreau concentrated his troops to give battle to the Austrians
under the Archduke John, Decaen performed splendid service; indeed it was
he who chose the position, and recommended it as a favourable place for
taking a stand.* (* Memoires 2 89.) Moreau knew him well by now, and on
the eve of the fight (December 2nd) when he brought up his division to
the plateau in the forest of Ebersberg, where the village of Hohenlinden
stands, and presented himself at headquarters to ask for orders, the
commander-in-chief rose to greet him with the welcome, "Ah, there is
Decaen, the battle will be ours to-morrow." It was intended for a
personal compliment, we cannot doubt, though Decaen in his Memoires (2
136) interpreted it to mean that the general was thinking of the 10,000
troops whose arrival he had come to announce.

Moreau's plan was this. He had posted his main force strongly fronting
the Austrian line of advance, on the open Hohenlinden plateau. The enemy
had to march through thickly timbered country to the attack. The French
general instructed Decaen and Richepance to manoeuvre their two
divisions, each consisting of 10,000 men, through the forest, round the
Austrian rear, and to attack them there, as soon as they delivered their
attack upon the French front. The Archduke John believed Moreau to be in
full retreat, and hurried his army forward from Haag, east of
Hohenlinden, amid falling snow.

"By torch and trumpet fast array'd
Each horseman drew his battle-blade,
And furious every charger neigh'd
  To join the dreadful revelry.
Then shook the hills with thunder riven;
Then rush'd the steed, to battle driven,
And louder than the bolts of Heaven
  Far flashed the red artillery."

Decaen's division marched at five o'clock on the morning of December 3rd,
and shortly before eight the boom of the Austrian cannon was heard. His
troops pressed forward in a blinding snowstorm. An officer said that the
guns seemed to show that the Austrians were turning the French position.
"Ah, well," said Decaen, "if they turn ours, we will turn theirs in our
turn." It was one of the few jokes he made in his whole life, and it
exactly expressed the situation. The Austrian army was caught like a nut
in a nut-cracker. Battered from front and rear, their ranks broke, and
fugitives streamed away east and west, like the crumbled kernel of a
filbert. Decaen threw his battalions upon their rear with a furious
vigour, and crumpled it up; and almost at the very moment of victory the
snow ceased to fall, the leaden clouds broke, and a brilliant sun shone
down upon the scene of carnage and triumph. Ten thousand Austrians were
killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, whilst 80 guns and about two hundred
baggage waggons fell as spoils to the French. In this brilliant victory
Decaen's skill and valour, rapidity and verve, had been of inestimable
value, as Moreau was prompt to acknowledge.

The quick soldier's eye of Bonaparte recognised him at once as a man of
outstanding worth. The Consulate had been established in December, 1799,
and the First Consul was anxious to attach to him strong, able men. In
1802 Decaen ventured to use his influence with the Government regarding
an appointment to the court of appeal at Caen, for which Lasseret, his
old master in law, was a candidate; and we find Bonaparte writing to
Cambaceres, who had charge of the law department, that "if the citizen
possesses the requisite qualifications I should like to defer to the
wishes of General Decaen, who is an officer of great merit."* (*
Napoleon's Correspondance Document 5596.) He saw much of Bonaparte in
Paris during 1801 and 1802, when the part he had to play was an extremely
difficult one, demanding the exercise of tact and moral courage in an
unusual measure. The Memoires throw a vivid light on the famous quarrel
between Moreau and Napoleon, which in the end led to the exile of the
victor of Hohenlinden.

Moreau was Decaen's particular friend, the commander who had given him
opportunities for distinction, one whom he loved and honoured as a man
and a patriot. But he was jealous of Napoleon's success, was disaffected
towards the consular government, and was believed to be concerned in
plots for its overthrow. On the other hand, Napoleon was not only the
head of the State, but was the greatest soldier of his age. Decaen's
admiration of him was unbounded, and Napoleon's attitude towards Decaen
was cordial. He tried to reconcile these two men whom he regarded with
such warm affection, but failed. One day, when business was being
discussed, Napoleon said abruptly, "Decaen, General Moreau is conducting
himself badly; I shall have to denounce him." Decaen was moved to tears,
and insisted that Napoleon was ill informed. "You are good yourself,"
said the First Consul, "and you think everybody else is like you. Moreau
is corresponding with Pichegru," whose conspiracy was known to the
Government. "It is not possible." "But I have a letter which proves it."
Moreover, Moreau was openly disrespectful to the Government. He had
presented himself out of uniform on occasions when courtesy demanded that
he should wear it. If Moreau had anything to complain about, he did not
make it better by associating with malcontents. "He has occupied a high
position, which gives him influence, and a bad influence upon public
opinion hampers the work of the Government. I have not fallen here out of
the sky, you know; I follow my glory. France wants repose, not more
disturbance." Decaen manfully championed his friend, "I am persuaded," he
said, "that if you made overtures to Moreau you would easily draw him
towards you." "No," said Napoleon "he is a shifting sand." Moreau said to
Decaen, "I am too old to bend my back"; but the latter was of opinion
that the real source of the mischief was that Moreau had married a young
wife, and that she and his mother-in-law considered they were entitled to
as much attention as Madame Bonaparte received. Pride, jealousy and
vanity, he declared, were the real source of the quarrel. Decaen, indeed,
has a story that when Madame Moreau once called upon Josephine at
Malmaison, she returned in an angry state of mind because she was not at
once admitted, bidding a servant tell her mistress that the wife of
General Moreau was not accustomed to be kept waiting. The simple
explanation was that Josephine was in her bath!

Decaen came to be appointed Governor of Ile-de-France in this way. One
day, after dining with Napoleon at Malmaison, the First Consul took a
stroll with him, and in the course of conversation asked him what he
wanted to do. "I have my sword for the service of my country," said
Decaen. "Very good," answered Napoleon, "but what would you like to do
now?" Decaen then mentioned that he had been reading the history of the
exploits of La Bourdonnaye and Dupleix in India, and was much attracted
by the possibilities for the expansion of French power there. "Have you
ever been to India?" enquired Napoleon. "No, but I am young, and,
desiring to do something useful, I should like to undertake a mission
which I believe would not be likely to be coveted by many, having regard
to the distance between France and that part of the world. And even if it
were necessary to spend ten years of my life awaiting a favourable
opportunity of acting against the English, whom I detest because of the
injury they have done to our country, I should undertake the task with
the utmost satisfaction." Napoleon merely observed that what he desired
might perhaps be arranged.

A few months later Decaen was invited to breakfast with Napoleon at
Malmaison. He was asked whether he was still inclined to go to India, and
replied that he was. "Very well, then, you shall go." "In what capacity?"
"As Captain-General. Go and see the Minister of Marine, and tell him to
show you all the papers relative to the expedition that is in course of
being fitted out."

Under the treaty of Amiens, negotiated in 1801, Great Britain agreed to
restore to the French Republic and its allies all conquests made during
the recent wars except Trinidad and Ceylon. From the British point of
view it was an inglorious peace. Possessions which had been won in fair
fight, by the ceaseless activity and unparalleled efficiency of the Navy,
and by the blood and valour of British manhood, were signed away with a
stroke of the pen. The surrender of the Cape was especially lamentable,
because upon security at that point depended the safety of India and
Australia. But the Addington ministry was weak and temporising, and was
alarmed about the internal condition of England, where dear food,
scarcity of employment and popular discontent, consequent upon prolonged
warfare, made the King's advisers nervously anxious to put an end to the
struggle. The worst feature of the situation was that everybody
thoroughly well understood that it was a mere parchment peace. Cornwallis
called it "an experimental peace." It was also termed "an armistice" and
"a frail and deceptive truce"; and though Addington declared it to be "no
ordinary peace but a genuine reconciliation between the two first nations
of the world," his flash of rhetoric dazzled nobody but himself. He was
the Mr. Perker of politics, an accommodating attorney rubbing his hands
and exclaiming "My dear sir!" while he bartered the interests of his
client for the delusive terms of a brittle expediency.

Decaen was to go to India to take charge of the former French possessions
there, under the terms of the treaty, and from Pondicherry was also to
control Ile-de-France (Mauritius) which the English had not taken during
the war. Napoleon's instructions to him clearly indicated that he did not
expect the peace to endure. Decaen was "to dissimulate the views of the
Government as much as possible"; "the English are the tyrants of India,
they are uneasy and jealous, it is necessary to behave towards them with
suavity, dissimulation and simplicity." He was to regard his mission
primarily as one of observation upon the policy and military dispositions
of the English. But Napoleon informed him in so many words that he
intended some day to strike a blow for "that glory which perpetuates the
memory of men throughout the centuries." For that, however, it was first
necessary "that we should become masters of the sea."* (* Memoires 2

Decaen sailed from Brest in February, 1803. Lord Whitworth, the British
ambassador to Paris, watched the proceedings with much care, and promptly
directed the attention of his Government to the disproportionate number
of officers the new Captain-General was taking with him. The Government
passed the information on to the Governor-General of India, Lord
Wellesley, who was already determined that, unless absolutely ordered so
to do, he would not permit a French military force to land. Before Decaen
arrived at Pondicherry, indeed, in June, 1803, Wellesley had received a
despatch from Lord Hobart, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies,
warning him that, notwithstanding the treaty of Amiens, "certain
circumstances render desirable a delay in the restitution of their
possessions in India" to the French, and directing that territory
occupied by British troops was not to be evacuated by them without fresh
orders. Great Britain already perceived the fragility of the peace, and,
in fact, was expediting preparations for a renewal of war, which was
declared in May, 1803.

When, therefore, the French frigate Marengo, with Decaen on board,
arrived at Pondicherry, the British flag still flew over the Government
buildings, and he soon learnt that there was no disposition to lower it.
Moreover, La Belle Poule, which had been sent in advance from the Cape to
herald the Captain-General's coming, was anchored between two British
ships of war, which had carefully ranged themselves alongside her. Decaen
grasped the situation rapidly. A few hours after his arrival, the French
brig Belier appeared. She had left France on March 25th, carrying a
despatch informing the Captain-General that war was anticipated, and
directing him to land his troops at Ile-de-France, where he was to assume
the governorship.

Rear-Admiral Linois, who commanded the French division, wanted to sail at
once. Decaen insisted on taking aboard some of the French who were
ashore, but Linois pointed to the strong British squadron in sight, and
protested that he ought not to compromise the safety of his ships by
delaying departure. Linois was always a very nervous officer. Decaen
stormed, and Linois proposed to call a council of his captains. "A
council!" exclaimed Decaen, "I am the council!" It was worthy of what
Voltaire attributed to Louis XIV: "l'etat, c'est mois." After sunset
Decaen visited the ships of the division in a boat, and warned their
captains to get ready to follow the Marengo out of the roadstead of
Pondicherry in the darkness. He considered that it would be extremely
embarrassing if the British squadron, suspecting their intentions,
endeavoured to frustrate them. At an appointed hour the Marengo quietly
dropped out of the harbour, cutting the cable of one of her anchors
rather than permit any delay.

On August 15th Decaen landed at Port Louis, Ile-de-France, and on the
following day he took over the government. He had therefore been in
command exactly four months when Matthew Flinders, in the Cumberland, put
into Baye du Cap on December 15th.

For his conduct in the Flinders affair Decaen has been plentifully
denounced. "A brute," "a malignant tyrant," "vindictive, cruel and
unscrupulous"--such are a few shots from the heavy artillery of language
that have been fired at his reputation. The author knows of one admirer
of Flinders who had a portrait of Decaen framed and hung with its face to
the wall of his study. It is, unfortunately, much easier to denounce than
to understand; and where resonant terms have been flung in freest
profusion, it does not appear that an endeavour has been made to study
what occurred from the several points of view, and to examine Decaen's
character and actions in the light of full information. A postponement of
epithets until we have ascertained the facts is in this, as in so many
other cases, extremely desirable.

No candid reader of Decaen's Memoires, and of Prentout's elaborate
investigation of his administration, can fail to recognise that he was a
conspicuously honest man. During his governorship he handled millions of
francs. Privateers from Ile-de-France captured British merchant ships, to
a value, including their cargo, of over 3 million pounds sterling,* a
share of which it would have been easy for Decaen to secure. (*
"Prentout, page 509, estimates the value of captures at 2 million pounds,
but Mr. H. Hope informed Flinders in 1811, that insurance offices in
Calcutta had actually paid 3 million pounds sterling on account of ships
captured by the French at Mauritius. Flinders, writing with exceptional
opportunities for forming an opinion, calculated that during the first
sixteen months of the war the French captures of British merchant ships
brought to Ile-de-France were worth 1,948,000 pounds (Voyage 2 416).) But
his financial reputation is above suspicion. His management was
economical and efficient. He ended his days in honourable poverty.

He was blunt and plainspoken; and though he could be pleasant, was when
ruffled by no means what Mrs. Malaprop called "the very pineapple of
politeness." His quick temper brought him into continual conflict with
superiors and subordinates. He quarrelled repeatedly with generals and
ministers; with Admiral Linois, with Soult, with Decres, with Barras,
with Jourdan, and with many others. When General Lecourbe handed him a
written command during the Rhine campaign, he says himself that, "when I
received the order I tightened my lips and turned my back upon him." He
speaks of himself in one place as being "of a petulant character and too
free with my tongue." That concurs with Flinders' remark, after bitter
experience of Decaen, that he possessed "the character of having a good
heart, though too hasty and violent."

Decaen's military capacity was much higher than his historical reputation
might lead one to suppose. During the fierce wars of the Napoleonic
empire, whilst Ney, Oudinot, Murat, Junot, Augereau, Soult, St. Cyr,
Davoust, Lannes, Marmont, Massena and Suchet, were rendering brilliant
service under the eye of the great captain, and were being converted into
dukes and princes, Decaen was shut up in a far-off isle in the Indian
Ocean, where there was nothing to do but hold on under difficulties, and
wait in vain for the turn of a tide that never floated a French fleet
towards the coveted India. Colonel Picard, than whom there is hardly a
better judge, is of opinion that had Decaen fought with the Grand Army in
Europe, his military talents would have designated him for the dignity of
a marshal of the Empire. On his return he did become a Comte, but then
the Napoleonic regime was tottering to its fall.

Such then was the man--stubborn, strong-willed, brusque, honest,
irritable, ill-tempered, but by no means a bad man at heart--with whom
Matthew Flinders had to do. We may now follow what occurred.


At four o'clock in the afternoon of December 17th the Cumberland entered
Port Louis, where Flinders learnt that Le Geographe had sailed for France
on the previous day. As soon as he could land he went ashore to present
himself to the Governor, whom he found to be at dinner. To occupy the
time until an interview could be arranged, he joined a party of officers
who were lounging in a shady place, and gossiped with them about his
voyage, about Baudin's visit to Port Jackson, about the English
settlement there, "and also concerning the voyage of Monsieur Flindare,
of whom, to their surprise, I knew nothing, but afterwards found it to be
my own name which they so pronounced."

In a couple of hours he was conducted to Government House, where, after a
delay of half an hour, he was shown into a room. At a table stood two
officers. One was a short, thick man in a gold-laced mess jacket, who
fixed his eyes sternly on Flinders, and at once demanded his passport and
commission. This was General Decaen. Beside him stood his aide-de-camp,
Colonel Monistrol. The General glanced over the papers, and then enquired
"in an impetuous manner," why Flinders had come to Ile-de-France in the
Cumberland, when his passport was for the Investigator. The necessary
explanation being given, Decaen exclaimed impatiently, "You are imposing
on me, sir! It is not probable that the Governor of New South Wales
should send away the commander of a discovery expedition in so small a
vessel." Decaen's own manuscript Memoires show that when this story was
told to him, he thought it "very extraordinary that he should have left
Port Jackson to voyage to England in a vessel of 29 tons;" and, in truth,
to a man who knew nothing of Flinders' record of seamanship it must have
seemed unlikely. He handed back the passport and commission, and gave
some orders to an officer; and as Flinders was leaving the room "the
Captain-General said something in a softer tone about my being well
treated, which I could not comprehend."

It is clear that Decaen's brusque manner made Flinders very angry. He did
not know at this time that it was merely the General's way, and that he
was not at all an ill-natured man if discreetly handled. On board the
Cumberland, in company with the interpreter and an officer, who were very
polite, he confesses having "expressed my sentiments of General Decaen's
manner of receiving me," adding "that the Captain-General's conduct must
alter very much before I should pay him a second visit, or even set my
foot on shore again." It is very important to notice Flinders' state of
mind, because it is apparent that a whole series of unfortunate events
turned upon his demeanour at the next interview. His anger is perfectly
intelligible. He was a British officer, proud of his service; he had for
years been accustomed to command, and to be obeyed; he knew that he was
guiltless of offence; he felt that he had a right to protection and
consideration under his passport. Believing himself to have been
affronted, he was not likely to be able to appreciate the case as it
presented itself at the moment to this peppery general; that here was the
captain of an English schooner who, as reported, had chased a French
vessel into Baye du Cap, and who gave as an explanation that he had
called to seek assistance while on a 16,000 mile voyage, in a 29-ton
boat. Surely Flinders' story, as Decaen saw it at this time, was not a
probable one; and at all events he, as Governor of Ile-de-France, had a
duty to satisfy himself of its truth. We can well understand Flinders'
indignation; but can we not also appreciate Decaen's doubt?

The officers, acting under instructions, collected all the charts,
papers, journals, letters, and packets, found on board, and put them in a
trunk which, says Flinders, "was sealed by me at their desire." They then
requested him to go ashore with them, to a lodging at an inn, which the
General had ordered to be provided for him. In fact, they had orders to
take him there. "What! I exclaimed in the first transports of surprise
and indignation, I am then a prisoner!" The officers expressed the hope
that the detention would not last more than a few days, and assured him
that in the meantime he should want for nothing. Flinders, accompanied by
Aken, went ashore, and the two were escorted to a large house in the
middle of the town, the Cafe Marengo, where they were shown into a room
approached by a dark entry up a dirty staircase, and left for the night
with a sentry on guard in the passage outside.

That Flinders had no doubt that he would soon be released, is shown by
the fact that he wrote from the tavern the following letter to the
captain of the American ship Hunter, then lying in Port Louis: "Sir,
understanding that you are homeward bound, I have to represent to you
that I am here with an officer and nine men belonging to His Britannic
Majesty's ship Investigator, lately under my command, and if I am set at
liberty should be glad to get a passage on board your vessel to St.
Helena, or on any other American who does not touch at the Cape of Good
Hope* and may be in want of men. I am, Sir, etc., etc., MATTHEW FLINDERS.

"If it is convenient for you to call upon me at the tavern where I am at
present confined, I shall be glad to see you as soon as possible."

(* He did not wish to call at the Cape, because if he got clear of the
French frying-pan he did not want to jump into the Dutch fire.)

Early in the afternoon of the following day Colonel Monistrol came to the
inn to take Flinders and Aken before the General, who desired to ask
certain questions. The interrogatories were read from a paper, as
dictated by Decaen, and Flinders' answers were translated and written
down. In the document amongst Decaen's papers the French questions and
answers are written on one side of the paper, with the English version
parallel; the latter being signed by Flinders. The translation is crude
(the scribe was a German with some knowledge of English) but is printed
below literally:

"Questions made to the commanding officier of an English shooner anchored
in Savanna Bay, at the Isle of France, on the 24th frimaire 12th year (on
the 17th December, 1803) chasing a coaster, which in consequence of the
declaration of war between the French Republic and Great Britain, had
intention to avoid the poursuit of said shooner. Said shooner carried the
next day in the harbour of Port North-West, where she anchored under
cartel colours, the commanding officer having declared to the officer of
the health boat that his name was Matthew Flinders, and his schooner the

"Demanded: the Captain's name?

"Answered: Matthew Flinders.

"D.: From what place the Cumberland sailed?

"A.: From Port Jackson.

"D.: At what time?

"A.: The Captain does not recollect the date of his departure. He thinks
it is on the 20th of September.

"D.: What is the purpose of his expedition?

"A.: His only motive was to proceed on to England as soon as possible, to
make the report of his voyages and to request a ship to continue them.

"D.: What can be the reason which has determined Captain Flinders to
undertake a voyage on board of the so small a vessel?

"A.: To avoid losing two months on proceeding by China, for a ship
sailing from Port Jackson was to put in China.

"D.: Does not Port Jackson offer frequent opportunities for Europe?

"A.: There are some, as he has observed it above, but that ship putting
in China is the reason which determined him not to proceed that way.

"D.: At what place had the Cumberland put in?

"A.: At Timor.

"D.: What could be the reason of her putting in at Timor?

"A.: To take fresh provision and water. He has left Timor 34 days ago.

D.: What passports or certificates has he taken in that place?

"A.: None.

"D.: What has been his motive for his coming at the Isle of France?

"A.: The want of water. His pumpers (sic) are bad, and his vessel is very

"D.: To what place does Captain Flinders intend to go to from this

"A.: Having no passport for the Dutch Government, he cannot put in the
Cape, according to his wishes, and will be obliged to stop at St. Helena.

"D.: What can be the reason of his having none of his officiers,
naturalis, or any of the other persons employed in said expedition?

"A.: Two of these gentlemen have remained in Port Jackson to repair on
board of the ship Captain Flinders expected to obtain in England,* and
the rest have proceeded on to China. (* "Pour s'embarquer sur le vaisseau
que le Cap. Flinders a espoir d'obtenir en Angleterre," in the French.
That is to say, Brown and Bauer remained behind till Flinders came out
again with another ship.)

"D.: What reason induced Captain Flinders to chase a boat in sight of the

"A.: Being never to this island, he was not acquainted with the harbour.
Seeing a French vessel he chased her* for the only purpose of obtaining a
pilot, and seeing her entering a bay he followed her. (* It is singular
that Flinders did not take exception to this word "chased" in the
translation when he signed it. The French version of his statement is
correct: "il forca de voile, NON POUR LUY APPUYER CHASSE mais pour luy
demander un pilote." The German translator boggled between the French and
the English.)

"D.: What reason had he to make the land to leewards, the different
directories pointing out the contrary route to anchor in the harbour.

"A.: He came to windwards, but the wind shifting contrary he took to
leewards and perceiving said vessel he followed her and anchored in the
same bay. He has no chart of the island.

"D.: Why has he hoisted cartel colours?

"A.: He answers that it is the custom, since Captain Baudin coming to
Port Jackson hoisted the colours of both nations.

"D.: Was he informed of the war?

"A.: No.

"D.: Has he met with any ship either at sea or in the different ports
where he put in?

"A.: He met one ship only, by the 6 or 7 degrees to the east of the Isle
of France. He did not speak her, though desirous of so doing, being
prevented by the night. He met with no ship at Timor.

"In consequence of the questions made to Captain Flinders respecting to
his wreck, he declares that after putting in at Port Jackson with the
ship under his command, he was through her bad condition obliged to leave
her, being entirely decayed. The Governor at that time furnished him with
a ship thought capable of transporting him to Europe. He had the
misfortune to wreck on the east coast of New Holland by the 22 degrees 11
minutes of latitude south on some rock distant 700 miles from Port
Jackson, and 200 miles from the coast. He embarked in the said ship's
boat, taking with him 14 men, and left the remainder of his crew on a
sand bank. He lost on this occasion three charts respecting his voyages
and particularly Golph Carpentary. After 14 days' passage he arrived at
Port Jackson. After tarrying in said place 8 or 9 days, the Governor
furnished him with the small vessel he is now in, and a ship to take the
remainder of the crew left on the bank. This vessel not being a
government ship and bound to China, proceeded on her intended voyage with
the officers and the crew which had been left on the bank.

"Captain Flinders declares that of the two boxes remitted by him one
contains despatches directed to the Secretary of State and the other was
entrusted to him by the commanding officer of the troops in Port Jackson,
and that he is ignorant what they contain.

"Captain Mw. Flinders to ascertain the legality of this expedition and
the veracity of what he expose,* (* "La verite de son expose," i.e., the
truth of his statement.) has opened in our presence a trunk sealed by him
containing the papers having a reference to his expedition, and to give
us a copy by him certified of the passport delivered to him by the First
Consul and His Majesty King of Great Britain; equally the communication
of his journal since the condemnation of his ship Investigator.

"Port North-West, Ile of France, the 26th frimaire 12th year of the
French Republic (answering to the 19th December, 1803).


Flinders corroborates the statement regarding the taking of papers from
the trunk, stating that they consisted of the third volume of his rough
log-book, which contained "the whole of what they desired to know,"
respecting his voyage to Ile-de-France. He told Decaen's Secretary to
make such extracts as were considered requisite, "pointing out the
material passages." "All the books and papers, the third volume of my
rough log-book excepted, were then returned into the trunk, and sealed as
before." It is important to notice that at no time were papers taken from
the trunk without Flinders' knowledge and concurrence, because the charge
has frequently been made, even by historical writers of authority,* that
his charts were plagiarised by the cartographers of Baudin's expedition.
(* In the Cambridge Modern History, for instance (9 739): "The French
authorities at Mauritius having captured and imprisoned the explorer
Flinders on his passage to England, attempted by the use of his papers to
appropriate for their ships the credit of his discoveries along the south
coast of Australia.") Flinders himself never made any such allegation,
nor is there any foundation for it. On the contrary, as will be made
clear hereafter, neither Decaen and his officers, nor any of the French,
ever saw any of Flinders' charts at any time.

Immediately after the examination the General, on behalf of Madame
Decaen, sent Flinders an invitation to dine, dinner being then served. At
this point, one cannot help feeling, he made a tactical mistake. It is
easily understood, and allowance can be made for it, but the consequences
of it were serious. He was angry on account of his detention, irritated
by the treatment to which he had been subjected, and unable in his
present frame of mind to appreciate the Governor's point of view. He
refused to go, and said he had already dined. The officer who bore the
invitation pressed him in a kindly manner, saying that at all events he
had better go to the table. Flinders replied that he would not; if the
General would first set him at liberty he would accept the invitation
with pleasure, and be flattered by it. Otherwise he would not sit at
table with Decaen. "Having been grossly insulted both in my public and
private character, I could not debase the situation I had the honour to

The effect of so haughty a refusal upon an inflammatory temper like that
of Decaen may be readily pictured. Presently an aide-de-camp returned
with the message that the General would renew the invitation when Captain
Flinders was set at liberty. There was a menace in the cold phrase.

Now, had Flinders bottled up his indignation and swallowed his pride--had
he frankly recognised that he was in Decaen's power--had he acknowledged
that some deference was due to the official head of the colony of a
foreign nation with whom his country was at war--his later troubles might
have been averted. An opportunity was furnished of discussing the matter
genially over the wine and dessert. He would have found himself in the
presence of a man who could be kind-hearted and entertaining when not
provoked, and of a charming French lady in Madame Decaen. He would have
been assisted by the secretary, Colonel Monistrol, who was always as
friendly to him as his duty would permit. He would have been able to hold
the company spell-bound with the story of the many adventures of his
active, useful life. He would have been able to demonstrate his bona
fides completely. It is a common experience that the humane feelings of
men of Decaen's type are easily touched; and his conduct regarding the
Napoleon-Moreau quarrel has been related above with some fulness for the
purpose of showing that there was milk as well as gunpowder in his
composition. But Flinders was angry; justifiably angry no doubt, but
unfortunately angry nevertheless, since thereby he lost his chance.

He learnt afterwards that "some who pretended to have information from
near the fountain-head hinted that, if his invitation to dinner had been
accepted, a few days would have been the whole" of his detention.* (*
Flinders Voyage 2 398.) That seems probable. He had no better friend than
Sir Joseph Banks; and he learnt to his regret that Banks "was not quite
satisfied with his conduct to the Government of Mauritius, thinking he
had treated them perhaps with too much haughtiness." His comment upon
this was, "should the same circumstances happen to me again I fear I
should follow nearly the same steps."* (* Flinders' Papers.) That is the
sort of thing that strong-willed men say; but a knowledge of the good
sense and good feeling that were native to the character of Matthew
Flinders enables one to assert with some confidence that if, after this
experience, the choice had been presented to him, on the one hand of
conquering his irritation and going to enjoy a pleasant dinner in
interesting company with the prospect of speedy liberation; on the other
of scornfully disdaining the olive branch, with the consequence of
six-and-a-half years of heart-breaking captivity; he would have chosen
the former alternative without much reluctance. There is a sentence in
one of his own letters which indicates that wisdom counted for more than
obstinacy in his temperament: "After a misfortune has happened, we all
see very well the proper steps that ought to have been taken to avoid it;
to be endowed with a never-failing foresight is not within the power of

That the view presented above is not too strong is clear from a passage
in an unpublished portion of Decaen's Memoires. He stated that after the
examination of Flinders, "I sent him an invitation from my wife* to come
to dine with us, (* Flinders does not state that the invitation came from
Madame Decaen. He may not have understood. But the refusal of it would on
that account have been likely to make the General all the more angry.)
although he had given me cause to withhold the invitation on account of
his impertinence; but from boorishness, or rather from arrogance, he
refused that courteous invitation, which, if accepted, would indubitably
have brought about a change favourable to his position, through the
conversation which would have taken place."* (* Decaen Papers Volume 10.
Decaen said in his despatch to the Minister: "Captain Flinders imagined
that he would obtain his release by arguing, by arrogance, and especially
by impertinence; my silence with regard to his first letter led him to
repeat the offence.") Here it is distinctly suggested that if the
invitation had been accepted, and a pleasant discussion of the case had
ensued, the detention of the Cumberland and her commander would probably
not have been prolonged.

Further light is thrown on these regrettable occurrences by a manuscript
history of Ile-de-France, written by St. Elme le Duc,* (* Bibliotheque
Nationale, nouveaux acquisitions, France Number 1 775.) a friend of
Decaen, who possessed intimate knowledge of the General's feelings. It is
therein stated that Decaen received Flinders "in uniform, the head
uncovered," but that "Captain Flinders presented himself with arrogance,
his hat upon his head; they had to ask him to remove it." The same writer
alleges that Flinders disregarded all the rules of politeness. It is fair
to state these matters, since the candid student must always wish to see
a case presented from several points of view. But it must be said that
only an intense feeling of resentment could have unhinged the courteous
disposition which was habitual with Flinders. A gentler man in his
relations with all could hardly have been found. He was not more
respectful to authority than he was considerate to subordinates; and
throughout his career a close reading of his letters and journals, and of
documents relating to him, can discover no other instance of even
temporary deviation from perfect courtesy. Even in this case one can
hardly say that he was to blame. There was sufficient in what occurred to
make an honest man angry. But we wish to understand what occurred and why
it occurred, and for that reason we cannot ignore or minimise the
solitary instance wherein a natural flame of anger fired a long train of
miserable consequences.

What, then, did Decaen intend to do with Flinders, at the beginning? He
never intended to keep him six-and-a-half years. He simply meant to
punish him for what he deemed to be rudeness; and his method of
accomplishing that object was to report to Paris, and allow the case to
be determined by the Government, instead of settling it himself
forthwith. Here again Flinders was well informed. His journal for May
24th, 1806, contains the following entry:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "It has
been said that I am detained a prisoner here solely because I refused the
invitation of General Decaen to dine; that to punish me he referred the
judgment of my case to the French Government, knowing that I should
necessarily be detained twelve months before an answer arrived." Or, as
he stated the matter in his published book (2 489): "My refusal of the
intended honour until set at liberty so much exasperated the
Captain-General that he determined to make me repent it."

It will be seen presently that the term of detention, originally intended
to endure for about a year, was lengthened by circumstances that were
beyond Decaen's control; that the punishment which sprang from the hasty
ire of a peppery soldier increased, against his own will, into what
appeared to all the world, and most of all to the victim, to be a piece
of malevolent persecution. The ball kicked off in a fit of spleen rolled
on and on beyond recovery.

There was, it must be admitted, quite enough in the facts brought under
Decaen's notice to warrant a reference to Paris, if he chose to be
awkward. In the first place, Flinders was carrying on board the
Cumberland a box of despatches from Governor King for the Secretary of
State. As pointed out in Chapter 12, the Admiralty instructions for the
Investigator voyage cautioned him "not to take letters or packets other
than those such as you may receive from this office or the office of His
Majesty's Secretary of State." Governor King was well aware of this
injunction. Yet he entrusted to Flinders this box of despatches,
containing material relative to military affairs. It is true that a state
of war was not known to exist at the time when the Cumberland sailed from
Port Jackson in September, 1803, although as a matter of fact it had
broken out in the previous May. But it was well known that war was
anticipated. It is also true that Flinders knew nothing of the contents
of the despatches. But neither, as a rule, does any other despatch
carrier in war time. When the Cumberland's papers were examined by
Decaen's officers, and these despatches were read and translated, there
was at once a prima facie ground for saying, "this officer is not engaged
on purely scientific work; he is the bearer of despatches which might if
delivered have an influence upon the present war." Flinders himself,
writing to Banks,* (* Historical Records 6 49.) said: "I have learnt
privately that in the despatches with which I was charged by Governor
King, and which were taken from me by the French General, a demand was
made for troops to be sent out to Port Jackson for the purpose of
annoying Spanish America in the event of another war, and that this is
considered to be a breach of my passport. 'Tis pity that Governor King
should have mentioned anything that could involve me in the event of a
war, either with the French at Mauritius, or the Dutch at Timor or the
Cape; or that, having mentioned anything that related to war, he did not
make me acquainted in a general way with the circumstances, in which case
I should have thrown them overboard on learning that war was declared;
but as I was situated, having little apprehension of being made a
prisoner, and no idea that the despatches had any reference to war, since
it was a time of peace when I left Port Jackson, I did not see the
necessity of throwing them overboard at a hazard. To be the bearer of any
despatches in time of peace cannot be incorrect for a ship on discovery
more than for any other; BUT WITH A PASSPORT, AND IN TIME OF WAR, IT
CERTAINLY IS IMPROPER." With characteristic straightforwardness, Flinders
did not hesitate to tell King himself that the despatches had cast
suspicion on him:* (* Historical Records 6 105.) "I have learned
privately that in your despatches to the Secretary of State there is
mention of Spanish America, which rendered me being the bearer, criminal
with respect to my passport. 'Tis pity I had not known anything of this,
for on finding myself under the necessity of stopping at the Isle of
France, and learning the declaration of war, I should have destroyed the
despatches; but leaving Port Jackson in time of peace, and confiding in
my passport, I did not think myself authorised to take such a step, even
after I knew of the war, having no idea there was anything in the
despatches that could invalidate my passport; neither, indeed, is it
invalidated in justice, but it is said to be the under-plea against me."

These despatches of King are preserved among Decaen's papers,* (* Decaen
Papers Volumes 84 and 105.) and an examination of them reveals that they
did contain material of a military character. In one of them, dated
August 7th, 1803, King referred to the possibility in any future war "of
the Government of the Isle of France annoying this colony, as the voyage
from hence may be done in less than seven weeks; and on the same idea
this colony may hereafter annoy the trade of the Spanish settlements on
the opposite coast. But to defend this colony against the one, and to
annoy the other, it would be necessary that some regard should be had to
the military and naval defences. The defences of the port may be made as
strong as in any port I know of. By the return of cannon and batteries
your Lordship will observe that those we have are placed in the best
situation for annoying an enemy. Still, a small establishment of
artillery officers and men are wanted to work those guns effectually in
case of necessity." King went on to make recommendations for the increase
of the military strength in men, officers, and guns. The originals of
those despatches, which could furnish the French Government with valuable
information concerning Port Jackson and the Flinders affair, are
endorsed, "letters translated and sent to France;" and Decaen commented
upon them that in his opinion the despatches alone afforded a sufficient
pretext for detaining Flinders. "Ought a navigator engaged in discovery,
and no longer possessing a passport for his ship, to be in time of war in
command of a despatch-boat,* especially when, having regard to the
distance between the period of the declaration of war and his departure
from Port Jackson he could have obtained there the news that war had
broken out?" (* "Devait-il en temps de guerre conduire un paquebot?")

In reporting to his Government Decaen related the story of the
Cumberland's arrival from his point of view at considerable length. He
expressed himself as satisfied that her commander really was Captain
Flinders of the Investigator, to whom the French Government had issued a
passport; detailed the circumstances of the examination; and complained
of Flinders' "impertinence" and "arrogance." Then he proceeded to
describe "several motives which have caused me to judge it to be
indispensable to detain Captain Flinders."

The first motive alleged was "the conduct of the English Government in
Europe, where she has violated all treaties, her behaviour before
surrendering the Cape of Good Hope, and her treatment of our ships at
Pondicherry." In no way could it be pretended that Flinders was connected
with these events.

The second motive was "the seizing of Le Naturaliste, as announced by the
newspapers." Decaen was here referring to the fact that, when Le
Naturaliste was on her homeward voyage from Port Jackson, conveying the
natural history collections, she was stopped by the British frigate
Minerva and taken into Portsmouth. But no harm was done to her. She was
merely detained from May 27th, 1803, till June 6th, when she was released
by order of the Admiralty. In any case Flinders had nothing to do with

The third motive was that Captain Flinders' logbook showed an intention
to make an examination of Ile-de-France and Madagascar, from which Decaen
drew the inference that, if the English Government received no check,
they would extend their power, and would seize the French colony. Herein
the General did a serious injustice to Flinders. His log-book did indeed
indicate that he desired "to acquire a knowledge of the winds and weather
periodically encountered at Ile-de-France, of the actual state of the
French colony, and of what utility it and its dependencies in Madagascar
might be to Port Jackson, and whether that island could afford resources
to myself in my future voyages." But information of this description was
such as lay within the proper province of an explorer; and the log-book
contained no hint, nor was there a remote intention, of acquiring
information which, however used, could be inimical to the security of the
French colony.

Decaen's mind had been influenced by reading Francois Peron's report to
him concerning the expansive designs of the British in the Pacific and
Indian Oceans. "There is no doubt," he informed his Government, "that the
English Government have the intention to seize the whole trade of the
Indian Ocean, the China Seas and the Pacific, and that they especially
covet what remains of the Dutch possessions in these waters." He derived
that extravagant idea from Peron's inflammatory communication, as will be
seen from a perusal of that interesting document.

By these strained means, then, did Decaen give a semblance of public
policy to his decision to detain Flinders. It would have been puerile to
attempt to justify his action to his superiors on the personal ground
that the English captain had vexed him; so he hooked in these various
pretexts, though ingenuously acknowledging that they would have counted
for nothing if Flinders had dined with him and talked the matter over

On the day following the examination and the refusal of the invitation,
Flinders was again conducted on board the Cumberland by Colonel Monistrol
and the official interpreter, who "acted throughout with much politeness,
apologising for what they were obliged by their orders to execute." On
this occasion all remaining books and papers, including personal letters,
were collected, locked up in a second trunk, and sealed. The document
noting their deposition and sealing was signed by Flinders,* who was
ordered to be detained in the inn under guard. (* Decaen Papers.) It was,
Decaen reported, the best inn in the island, and orders were given to
furnish the prisoner with all that he could want; but Flinders described
it as an exceedingly dirty place.

On his return to the inn from the ship Flinders wrote a letter to the
Governor, recounting the history of his explorations, and making two
requests: that he might have his printed books ashore, and that his
servant, John Elder, might be permitted to attend him. On the following
day Elder was sent to him. On the 22nd he wrote again, soliciting "that I
may be able to sail as soon as possible after you shall be pleased to
liberate me from my present state of purgatory."* (* Decaen Papers.) On
Christmas Day he sent a letter suffused with indignant remonstrance,
wherein he alleged that "it appears that your Excellency had formed a
determination to stop the Cumberland previously even to seeing me, if a
specious pretext were wanting for it," and reminded Decaen that "on the
first evening of my told me impetuously that I was imposing
on you." He continued, in a strain that was bold and not conciliatory: "I
cannot think that an officer of your rank and judgment to act either so
ungentlemanlike or so unguardedly as to make such a declaration without
proof; unless his reason had been blinded by passion, or a previous
determination that it should be so, nolens volens. In your orders of the
21st last it is indeed said that the Captain-General has acquired the
conviction that I am the person I pretend to be, and the same for whom a
passport was obtained by the English Government from the First Consul. It
follows then, as I am willing to explain it, that I AM NOT and WAS NOT an
imposter. This plea was given up when a more plausible one was thought to
be found; but I cannot compliment your Excellency upon this alteration in
your position, for the first, although false, is the more tenable post of
the two."

Decaen's reply was stiff and stern. He attributed "the unreserved tone"
of Flinders to "the ill humour produced by your present situation," and
concluded: "This letter, overstepping all the bounds of civility, obliges
me to tell you, until the general opinion judges of your faults or of
mine, to cease all correspondence tending to demonstrate the justice of
your cause, since you know so little how to preserve the rules of

Flinders in consequence of this snub forebore to make further appeals for
consideration; but three days later he preferred a series of requests,
one of which related to the treatment of his crew:

"To his Excellency Captain-General Decaen,
"Governor in Chief, etc., etc., etc., Isle of France.

"From my confinement, December 28th, 1803.


"Since you forbid me to write to you upon the subject of my detainer I
shall not rouse the anger or contempt with which you have been pleased to
treat me by disobeying your order. The purpose for which I now write is
to express a few humble requests, and most sincerely do I wish that they
may be the last I shall have occasion to trouble your Excellency with.

"First. I repeat my request of the 23rd to have my printed books on shore
from the schooner.

"Second. I request to have my private letters and papers out of the two
trunks lodged in your secretariat, they having no connection with my
Government or the voyage of discovery.

"Third. I beg to have two or three charts and three or four manuscript
books out of the said trunks, which are necessary to finishing the chart
of the Gulf of Carpentaria and some parts adjacent. It may be proper to
observe as an explanation of this last request that the parts wanting
were mostly lost in the shipwreck, and I wish to replace them from my
memory and remaining materials before it is too late. Of these a
memorandum can be taken, or I will give a receipt for them, and if it is
judged necessary to exact it I will give my word that nothing in the
books shall be erased or destroyed, but I could wish to make additions to
one or two of the books as well as to the charts, after which I shall be
ready to give up the whole.

"Fourth. My seamen complain of being shut up at night in a place where
not a breath of air can come to them, which in a climate like this must
be not only uncomfortable in the last degree, but also very destructive
to European constitutions; they say, further, that the people with whom
they are placed are much affected with that disagreeable and contagious
disorder the itch; and that the provisions with which they are fed are
too scanty, except in the article of meat, the proportion of which is
large but of bad quality. Your Excellency will no doubt make such an
amendment in their condition as circumstances will permit.

"A compliance with the above requests will not only furnish me with a
better amusement in this solitude than writing letters to your
Excellency, but will be attended with advantages in which the French
nation may some time share. This application respecting the charts is not
altogether made upon a firm persuasion that you will return everything to
me, for if I could believe that they were never to be given to me or my
Government I should make the same request.

"Your prisoner,


On the day when the letter was despatched, Colonel Monistrol called, and
promised that the books and papers requested should be supplied; and, in
fact, the trunk containing them was without delay brought to the inn. The
Colonel courteously expressed his regret that Flinders had adopted such a
tone in his letters to the General, thinking "that they might tend to
protract rather than terminate" his confinement. The complaint respecting
the seamen was attended to forthwith, and they were treated exactly on
the same footing as were French sailors on service.* (* St. Eleme le
Duc's manuscript History.)

The first thing Flinders did, when he received the trunk, was to take out
his naval signal-book and tear it to pieces. Next day he was conducted to
Government House, and was allowed to take from the second trunk all his
private letters and papers, his journals of bearings and observations,
two log-books, and such charts as were necessary to complete his drawings
of the Gulf of Carpentaria. All the other books and papers "were locked
up in the trunk and sealed as before."

Until the end of March, 1804, Flinders was kept at the inn, with a sentry
constantly on guard over the rooms. St. Elme le Duc, in the manuscript
history already cited, declares that "Captain Flinders was never put in
prison," and that his custom of addressing letters "from my prison" was
an "affectation." But a couple of inn rooms wherein a person is kept
against his will, under the strict surveillance of a military custodian,
certainly constitute a prison. It is true that the Governor allotted 450
francs per month for his maintenance, sent a surgeon to attend to him
when scorbutic sores broke out upon his body, and gave him access to the
papers and books he required in order that he might occupy his time and
divert his mind with the work he loved. But it is surely quibbling to
pretend that even under these conditions he was not a prisoner. Even the
surgeon and the interpreter were not admitted without a written order;
and when the interpreter, Bonnefoy, took from Flinders a bill, which he
undertook to negotiate, the sentry reported that a paper had passed
between the two, and Bonnefoy was arrested, nor was he liberated until it
was ascertained that the bill was the only paper he had received. The
bill was the subject of an act of kindness from the Danish consul, who
negotiated it at face value at a time when bills upon England could only
be cashed in Port Louis at a discount of 30 per cent. This liberal
gentleman sent the message that he would have proffered his assistance
earlier but for the fear of incurring the Governor's displeasure.

An attempt was made in February to induce Decaen to send his prisoner to
France for trial. It was submitted in the following terms:* (* Decaen


"Having waited six weeks with much anxiety for your Excellency's decision
concerning me, I made application for the honour of an audience, but
received no answer; a second application obtained a refusal. It was not
my intention to trouble the Captain-General by recounting my grievances,
but to offer certain proposals to his consideration; and in now doing
this by letter it is my earnest wish to avoid everything that can in the
most distant manner give offence; should I fail, my ignorance and not
intention must be blamed.

"First. If your Excellency will permit me to depart with my vessel,
papers, etc., I will pledge my honour not to give any information
concerning the Isle of France, or anything belonging to it, for a limited
time, if it is thought that I can have gained any information; or if it
is judged necessary, any other restrictions can be laid upon me. If this
will not be complied with I request:

"Second, to be sent to France.

"Third. But if it is necessary to detain me here, I request that my
officer and my people may be permitted to depart in the schooner. I am
desirous of this as well for the purpose of informing the British
Admiralty where I am, as to relieve our families and friends from the
report that will be spread of the total loss of the two ships with all on
board. My officer can be laid under what restrictions may be thought
necessary, and my honour shall be a security that nothing shall be
transmitted by me but what passes under the inspection of the officer who
might be appointed for that purpose.

"If your Excellency does not think proper to adopt any of these modes, by
which, with submission, I conceive my voyage of discovery might be
permitted to proceed without any possible injury to the Isle of France or
its dependencies, I then think it necessary to remind the Captain-General
that since the shipwreck of the Porpoise, which happened now six months
back, my officers and people as well as myself have been mostly confined
either on a very small sandbank in the open sea, or in a boat, or
otherwise on board the small schooner Cumberland, where there is no room
to walk, or been kept prisoners as at present; and also, that previous to
this time I had not recovered from a scorbutic and very debilitated state
arising from having been eleven months exposed to great fatigue, bad
climates and salt provisions. From the scorbutic sores which have again
troubled me since my arrival in this port the surgeon who dressed them
saw that a vegetable diet and exercise were necessary to correct the
diseased state of the blood and to restore my health; but his application
through your Excellency's aide-de-camp for me to walk out, unfortunately
for my health and peace of mind, received a negative. The Captain-General
best knows whether my conduct has deserved, or the exigencies of his
Government require, that I should continue to remain closely confined in
this sickly town and cut off from all society.

"With all due consideration, I am,

"Your Excellency's prisoner,


To this petition Decaen returned no reply. Feeling therefore that his
detention was likely to be prolonged, Flinders, weary of confinement, and
longing for human fellowship, applied to be removed to the place where
British officers, prisoners of war, were kept. It was a large house with
spacious rooms standing in a couple of acres of ground, about a mile from
the tavern, and was variously called the Maison Despeaux, or the Garden
Prison. Here at all events fresh air could be enjoyed. The application
was acceded to immediately, and Colonel Monistrol himself came, with the
courtesy that he never lost an opportunity of manifesting, to conduct
Flinders and Aken and to assist them to choose rooms. "This little walk
of a mile," Flinders recorded, "showed how debilitating is the want of
exercise and fresh air, for it was not without the assistance of Colonel
Monistrol's arm that I was able to get through it. Conveyances were sent
in the evening for our trunks, and we took possession of our new prison
with a considerable degree of pleasure, this change of situation and
surrounding objects producing an exhilaration of spirits to which we had
long been strangers."


We shall now see how a detention which had been designed as a sharp
punishment of an officer who had not comported himself with perfect
respect, and which Decaen never intended to be prolonged beyond about
twelve months, dragged itself into years, and came to bear an aspect of
obstinate malignity.

Decaen's despatch arrived in France during the first half of the year
1804. Its terms were not calculated to induce the French Government to
regard Flinders as a man entitled to their consideration, even if events
had been conducive to a speedy determination. But the Departments,
especially those of Marine and War, were being worked to their full
capacity upon affairs of the most pressing moment. Napoleon became
Emperor of the French in that year (May), and his immense energy was
flogging official activities incessantly. War with England mainly
absorbed attention. At Boulogne a great flotilla had been organized for
the invasion of the obdurate country across the Channel. A large fleet
was being fitted out at Brest and at Toulon, the fleet which Nelson was
to smash at Trafalgar in the following year. Matters relating to the
isolated colony in the Indian Ocean did not at the moment command much
interest in France.

There were several other pieces of business, apart from the Flinders
affair, to which Decaen wished to direct attention. He sent one of his
aides-de-camp, Colonel Barois, to Paris to see Napoleon in person, if
possible, and in any case to interview the Minister of Marine and the
Colonies, Decres. Decaen especially directed Barois to see that the
Flinders case was brought under Napoleon's notice, and he did his best.*
(* Prentout page 392.) He saw Decres and asked him whether Decaen's
despatches had been well received. "Ah," said the Minister pleasantly, in
a voice loud enough to be heard by the circle of courtiers, "everything
that comes from General Decaen is well received." But there was no spirit
of despatch. Finally Barois did obtain an interview with Napoleon,
through the aid of the Empress Josephine. He referred to "l'affaire
Flinders," of which Napoleon knew little; but "he appeared to approve the
reasons invoked to justify the conduct of Decaen." The Emperor had no
time just then for examining the facts, and his approval simply reflected
his trust in Decaen. As he said to the General's brother Rene, at a later
interview, "I have the utmost confidence in Decaen." But meanwhile no
direction was given as to what was to be done. It will be seen later how
it was that pressure of business delayed the despatch of an intimation to
Ile-de-France of a step that was actually taken.

That at this time Decaen was simply waiting for an order from Paris to
release Flinders is clear from observations which he made, and from news
which came to the ears of the occupant of the Garden Prison. In March,
1804, he told Captain Bergeret of the French navy, who showed Flinders
friendly attentions, to tell him to "have a little patience, as he should
soon come to some determination on the affair." In August of the same
year Flinders wrote to King that Decaen had stated that "I must wait
until orders were received concerning me from the French Government."* (*
Historical Records 6 411.) A year later (November, 1805) he wrote: "I
firmly believe that, if he had not said to the French Government, during
the time of his unjust suspicion of me, that he should detain me here
until he received their orders, he would have gladly suffered me to
depart long since."* (* Historical Records 6 737.) Again, in July, 1806,*
(* Ibid 6 106.) he wrote: "General Decaen, if I am rightly informed, is
himself heartily sorry for having made me a prisoner," but "he remitted
the judgment of my case to the French Government, and cannot permit me to
depart or even send me to France, until he shall receive orders."

The situation was, then, that Decaen, having referred the case to Paris
in order that the Government might deal with it, could not now,
consistently with his duty, send Flinders away from the island until
instructions were received; and the Department concerned had too much
pressing business on hand at the moment to give attention to it. Flinders
had to wait.

His health improved amidst the healthier surroundings of his new abode,
and he made good progress with his work. His way of life is described in
a letter of May 18th, 1804:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "My time is now
employed as follows: Before breakfast my time is devoted to the Latin
language, to bring up what I formerly learnt. After breakfast I am
employed in making out a fair copy of the Investigator's log in lieu of
my own, which was spoiled at the shipwreck. When tired of writing I apply
to music, and when my fingers are tired with the flute, I write again
till dinner. After dinner we amuse ourselves with billiards until tea,
and afterwards walk in the garden till dusk. From thence till supper I
make one at Pleyel's quartettes; afterwards walking half an hour, and
then sleep soundly till daylight, when I get up and bathe."

A letter to his stepmother, dated August 25th, of the same year, comments
on his situation in a mood of courageous resignation:* (* Flinders'
Papers.) "I have gone through some hardships and misfortunes within the
last year, but the greatest is that of having been kept here eight months
from returning to my dear friends and family. My health is, however, good
at this time, nor are my spirits cast down, although the tyranny of the
Governor of this island in treating me as a spy has been grievous. I
believe my situation is known by this time in England, and will probably
make some noise, for indeed it is almost without example. The French
inhabitants even of this island begin to make complaints of the injustice
of their Governor, and they are disposed to be very kind to me. Four or
five different people have offered me any money I may want, or any
service that they can do for me, but as they cannot get me my liberty
their services are of little avail. I have a companion here in one of my
officers, and a good and faithful servant in my steward, and for these
last four months have been allowed to walk in a garden. The Governor
pretends to say that he cannot let me go until he receives orders from
France, and it is likely that these will not arrive these four months. I
am obliged to call up all the patience that I can to bear this injustice;
my great consolation is that I have done nothing to forfeit my passport,
or that can justify them for keeping me a prisoner, so I must be set at
liberty with honour when the time comes, and my country will, I trust,
reward me for my sufferings in having supported her cause with the spirit
becoming an Englishman."

A letter to Mrs. Flinders (August 24th, 1804) voices the yearning of the
captive for the solace of home:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "I yesterday
enjoyed a delicious piece of misery in reading over thy dear letters, my
beloved Ann. Shall I tell thee that I have never before done it since I
have been shut up in this prison? I have many friends, who are kind and
much interested for me, and I certainly love them. But yet before thee
they disappear as stars before the rays of the morning sun. I cannot
connect the idea of happiness with anything without thee. Without thee,
the world would be a blank. I might indeed receive some gratification
from distinction and the applause of society; but where could be the
faithful friend who would enjoy and share this with me, into whose bosom
my full heart could unburthen itself of excess of joy? Where would be
that sweet intercourse of soul, the fine seasoning of happiness, without
which a degree of insipidity attends all our enjoyments?...I am not
without friends even among the French. On the contrary. I have several,
and but one enemy, who unfortunately, alas, is all-powerful here; nor
will he on any persuasion permit me to pass the walls of the prison,
although some others who are thought less dangerous have had that
indulgence occasionally."

"When my family are the subject of my meditation," he said in a letter to
his step-mother, "my bonds enter deep into my soul."

His private opinion of Decaen is expressed in a letter written at this
period:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "The truth I believe is that the violence
of his passion outstrips his judgment and reason, and does not allow them
to operate; for he is instantaneous in his directions, and should he do
an injustice he must persist in it because it would lower his dignity to
retract. His antipathy, moreover, is so great to Englishmen, who are the
only nation that could prevent the ambitious designs of France from being
put into execution, that immediately the name of one is mentioned he is
directly in a rage, and his pretence and wish to be polite scarcely
prevent him from breaking out in the presence even of strangers. With all
this he has the credit of having a good heart at the bottom."

The captain of a French ship, M. Coutance, whom Flinders had known at
Port Jackson, saw Decaen on his behalf, and reported the result of the
interview. "The General accused me of nothing more than of being trop
vive; I had shown too much independence in refusing to dine with a man
who had accused me of being an impostor, and who had unjustly made me a

Meanwhile two playful sallies penned at this time show that his health
and appetite had mended during his residence at the Maison Despeaux:* (*
Flinders' Papers.) "My appetite is so good that I believe it has the
intention of revenging me on the Governor by occasioning a famine in the
land. Falstaff says, 'Confound this grief, it makes a man go thirsty;
give me a cup of sack.' Instead of thirsty read hungry, and for a cup of
sack read mutton chop, and the words would fit me very well." The second
passage is from his private journal, and may have been the consequence of
too much mutton chop: "Dreamt that General Decaen was sitting and lying
upon me, to devour me; was surprised to find devouring so easy to be
borne, and that after death I had the consciousness of existence. Got up
soon after six much agitated, with a more violent headache than usual."

Flinders lost no opportunity of appealing to influential Frenchmen,
relating the circumstances of his detention. He offered to submit himself
to an examination by the officers of Admiral Linois' squadron, and that
commander promised to speak to Decaen on the subject, adding that he
should be "flattered in contributing to your being set at liberty."
Captain Halgan, of Le Berceau, who had been in England during the short
peace, and had heard much of Flinders' discoveries, visited him several
times and offered pecuniary assistance if it were required. Flinders
wrote to the French Minister of the Treasury, Barbe-Marbois, urging him
to intercede, and to the Comte de Fleurieu, one of the most influential
men in French scientific circles, who was particularly well informed
concerning Australian exploration.

The flat roof of the Maison Despeaux commanded a view of Port Louis
harbour; and, as Flinders was in the habit of sitting upon the roof in
the cool evenings, enjoying the sight of the blue waters, and meditating
upon his work and upon what he hoped still to do, Decaen thought he was
getting to know too much. In June, 1804, therefore, the door to the roof
was ordered to be nailed up, and telescopes were taken away from the
imprisoned officers. At this time also occurred an incident which shows
that Flinders' proud spirit was by no means broken by captivity. The
sergeant of the guard demanded the swords of all the prisoners, that of
Flinders among the rest. It was an affront to him as an officer that his
sword should be demanded by a sergeant, and he promptly refused. He
despatched the following letter to the Governor:* (* Decaen Papers Volume

"To His Excellency Captain-General Decaen,
"Governor-in-Chief, etc., etc., etc.


The sergeant of the guard over the prisoners in this house has demanded
of me, by the order of Captain Neuville, my sword, and all other arms in
my possession.

"Upon this subject I beg leave to represent to Your Excellency that it is
highly inconsistent with my situation in His Britannic Majesty's service
to deliver up my arms in this manner. I am ready to deliver up to an
officer bearing your Excellency's order, but I request that that officer
will be of equal rank to myself.

"I have the honour to be,

"Your Excellency's most obedient servant and prisoner,


"Maison Despeaux, June 2, 1804."

In a few days Captain Neuville called to apologise. It was, he said, a
mistake on the part of the sergeant to ask for the sword. Had the
Governor required it, an officer of equal rank would have been sent, "but
he had no intention to make me a prisoner until he should receive orders
to that effect." Not a prisoner! What was he, then? Certainly not, said
Captain Neuville; he was merely "put under surveillance for a short
period." Inasmuch as Flinders was being treated with rather more
strictness than those who were confessedly prisoners of war, the benefit
of the distinction was hard to appreciate.

Flinders considered that he had been treated rather handsomely in the
matter of the sword. But about three months later a junior officer, who
behaved with much politeness, came under the orders of Colonel
D'Arsonville, the town major, to demand it. D'Arsonville had been
instructed by Decaen to take possession of it, but had been unable to
come himself. Flinders considered that under the circumstances he had
better give up the sword to save further trouble, and did so. The
significance of the incident is that, having received no orders from
France, Decaen from this time regarded Flinders as a prisoner of war in
the technical sense. He felt bound to hold him until instructions
arrived, and could only justifiably hold him as a prisoner.

December, 1804, arrived, and still no order of release came. On the
anniversary of his arrest, Flinders wrote the following letter to
Decaen:* (* Decaen Papers.)

"Maison Despeaux, December 16, 1804.


"Permit me to remind you that I am yet a prisoner in this place, and that
it is now one year since my arrestation. This is the anniversary of that
day on which you transferred me from liberty and my peaceful occupations
to the misery of a close confinement.

"Be pleased, sir, to consider that the great occupations of the French
Government may leave neither time nor inclination to attend to the
situation of an Englishman in a distant colony, and that the chance of
war may render abortive for a considerable time at least any attempts to
send out despatches to this island. The lapse of one year shows that one
or other of these circumstances has already taken place, and the
consequence of my detainer until orders are received from France will
most probably be, that a second year will be cut out of my life and
devoted to the same listless inaction as the last, to the destruction of
my health and happiness, and the probable ruin of all my further
prospects. I cannot expect, however, that my private misfortunes should
have any influence upon Your Excellency's public conduct. It is from
being engaged in a service calculated for the benefit of all maritime
nations; from my passport; the inoffensiveness of my conduct; and the
probable delay of orders from France. Upon these considerations it is
that my present hope of receiving liberty must be founded.

"But should a complete liberation be so far incompatible with Your
Excellency's plan of conduct concerning me as that no arguments will
induce you to grant it; I beg of you, General, to reflect whether every
purpose of the most severe justice will not be answered by sending me to
France; since it is to that Government, as I am informed, that my case is
referred for decision.

"If neither of these requests be complied with, I must prepare to endure
still longer this anxious tormenting state of suspense, this exclusion
from my favourite and, I will add, useful employment, and from all that I
have looked forward to attain by it. Perhaps also I ought to prepare my
mind for a continuance of close imprisonment. If so, I will endeavour to
bear it and its consequences with firmness, and may God support my heart
through the trial. My hopes, however, tell me more agreeable things, that
either this petition to be fully released with my people, books and
papers will be accorded, or that we shall be sent to France, where, if
the decision of the Government should be favourable, we can immediately
return to our country, our families and friends, and my report of our
investigations be made public if it shall be deemed worthy of that

"My former application for one of these alternatives was unsuccessful,
but after a year's imprisonment and a considerable alteration in the
circumstances, I hope this will be more fortunate.

"With all due consideration I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's
most obedient humble servant.


To this appeal the General vouchsafed no response.

The return of the hot weather aggravated a constitutional internal
complaint from which Flinders suffered severely. The principal physician
of the medical staff visited him and recommended a removal to the high
lands in the interior of the island. John Aken, the companion of his
captivity, also became very ill, and his life was despaired of. In May,
1805, having somewhat recovered, he applied to be allowed to depart with
several other prisoners of war who were being liberated on parole. Very
much to his surprise the permission was accorded. Aken left on May 20th
in an American ship bound for New York, the captain of which gave him a
free passage; taking with him all the charts which Flinders had finished
up to date, as well as the large general chart of Australia, showing the
extent of the new discoveries, and all papers relating to the
Investigator voyage. There was at this time a general exchange of
prisoners of war, and by the middle of August the only English prisoners
remaining in Ile-de-France were Flinders, his servant, who steadfastly
refused to avail himself of the opportunity to leave, and a lame seaman.


Flinders continued to reside at the Garden prison till August, 1805. In
that month he was informed that the Governor was disposed to permit him
to live in the interior of the island, if he so desired. This change
would give him a large measure of personal freedom, he would no longer be
under close surveillance, and he would be able to enjoy social life. He
had formed a friendship with an urbane and cultivated French gentleman,
Thomas Pitot, whom he consulted, and who found for him a residence in the
house of Madame D'Arifat at Wilhelm's Plains.

Here commenced a period of five years and six months, of detention
certainly, but no longer of imprisonment. In truth, it was the most
restful period of Flinders' whole life; and, if he could have banished
the longing for home and family, and the bitter feeling of wrong that
gnawed at his heart, and could have quietened the desire that was ever
uppermost in his mind to continue the exploratory work still remaining to
be done, his term under Madame D'Arifat's roof would have been
delightfully happy.

Those twenty months in Port Louis had made him a greatly changed man.
Friends who had known him in the days of eager activity, when fatigues
were lightly sustained, would scarcely have recognised the brisk explorer
in the pale, emaciated, weak, limping semi-invalid who took his leave of
the kind-hearted sergeant of the guard on August 19th, and stepped feebly
outside the iron gate in company with his friend Pitot. A portrait of
him, painted by an amateur some time later, crude in execution though it
is, shows the hollow cheeks of a man who had suffered, and conveys an
idea of the dimmed eyes whose brightness and commanding expression had
once been remarked by many who came in contact with him.

But at all events over five years of fairly pleasant existence were now
before him. The reason why the period was so protracted will be explained
in the next chapter. This one can be devoted to the life at Wilhelm's

A parole was given, by which Flinders bound himself not to go more than
two leagues from his habitation, and to conduct himself with that degree
of reserve which was becoming in an officer residing in a colony with
whose parent state his nation was at war.

The interior of Mauritius is perhaps as beautiful a piece of country as
there is in the world. The vegetation is rich and varied, gemmed with
flowers and plentifully watered by cool, pure, never-failing streams. To
one who had been long in prison pent, the journey inland was a procession
of delights. Monsieur Pitot, who was intimate with the country gentlemen,
made the stages easy, and several visits were paid by the way. The
cultivated French people of the island were all very glad to entertain
Flinders, of whom they had heard much, and who won their sympathy by
reason of his wrongs, and their affection by his own personality.
Charming gardens shaded by mango and other fruit trees, cool fish-ponds,
splashing cascades and tumbling waterfalls, coffee and clove plantations,
breathing out a spicy fragrance, stretches of natural forest--a perpetual
variety in beauty--gratified the traveller, as he ascended the thousand
feet above which stretched the plateau whereon the home of Madame
D'Arifat stood.

In the garden of the house were two comfortable pavilions. One of these
was to be occupied by Flinders, the other by his servant, Elder, and the
lame seaman who accompanied him. Madame D'Arifat hospitably proposed that
he should take his meals with her family in the house, and his glad
acceptance of the invitation commenced a pleasant and profitable
friendship with people to whom he ever after referred with deep respect.

A note about the kindness of these gentle friends is contained in a
letter to his wife:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "Madame and her amiable
daughters said much to console me, and seemed to take it upon themselves
to dissipate my chagrin by engaging me in innocent amusement and
agreeable conversation. I cannot enough be grateful to them for such
kindness to a stranger, to a foreigner, to an enemy of their country, for
such they have a right to consider me if they will, though I am an enemy
to no country in fact, but as it opposes the honour, interest, and
happiness of my own. My employment and inclinations lead to the extension
of happiness and of science, and not to the destruction of mankind."

The kindly consideration of the inhabitants was unfailing. Their houses
were ever open to the English captain, and they were always glad to have
him with them, and hear him talk about the wonders of his adventurous
life. He enjoyed his walks, and restored health soon stimulated him to
renewed mental activity.

He studied the French language, and learnt to speak and write it clearly.
He continued to read Latin, and also studied Malay, thinking that a
knowledge of this tongue would be useful to him in case of future work
upon the northern coasts of Australia and the neighbouring archipelagoes.
He never lost hope of pursuing his investigations in the field where he
had already won so much distinction. To his brother Samuel, in a letter
of October, 1807, he wrote:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "You know my intention
of completing the examination of Australia as soon as the Admiralty will
give me a ship. My intentions are still the same, and the great object of
my present studies is to render myself more capable of performing the
task with reputation." He cogitated a scheme for exploring the interior
of Australia "from the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria to the head of the
great gulf on the south coast," i.e., Spencer's Gulf. "In case of being
again sent to Australia I should much wish that this was part of my
instructions." Much as he longed to see his friends in England, work,
always work, scope for more and more work, was his dominating passion.
"Should a peace speedily arrive," he told Banks (March, 1806), "and their
Lordships of the Admiralty wish to have the north-west coast of Australia
examined immediately, I will be ready to embark in any ship provided for
the service that they may choose to send out. My misfortunes have not
abated my ardour in the service of science." If there was work to do, he
would even give up the chance of going home before commencing it. "In the
event of sending out another Investigator immediately after the peace,
probably Lieutenant Fowler or my brother might be chosen as first
lieutenant to bring her out to me." He spoke of directing researches to
the Fiji Islands and the South Pacific. Rarely has there been a man so
keen for the most strenuous service, so unsparing of himself, so eager to

Occasionally in the letters and journals appear lively descriptions of
life at Wilhelm's Plains. The following is a tinted vignette of this
kind: "In the evening I walked out to visit my neighbour, whom I had not
seen for near a week. I met the whole family going out in the following
order: First, Madame, with her youngest daughter, about six years old, in
a palankin with M. Boistel walking by the side of it. Next, Mademoiselle
Aimee, about 16, mounted astride upon an ass, with her younger sister,
about 7, behind her, also astride. Third, Mademoiselle her sister, about
15, mounted upon M. Boistel's horse, also astride; and two or three black
servants carrying an umbrella, lanthorn, etc., bringing up the rear. The
two young ladies had stockings on to-day,* (* On a previous day,
mentioned in the journal, they had worn none.) and for what I know
drawers also; they seemed to have occasion for them. Madame stopped on
seeing me, and I paid my compliments and made the usual enquiries. She
said they were taking a promenade, going to visit a neighbour, and on
they set. I could perceive that the two young ladies were a little
ashamed of meeting me, and were cautious to keep their coats well down to
their ankles, which was no easy thing. I stood looking after and admiring
the procession some time; considering it a fair specimen of the manner in
which the gentry of the island, who are not very well provided with
conveyances, make visits in the country. I wished much to be able to make
a sketch of the procession. It would have been as good, with the title of
'Going to See our Neighbour' under it, as the Vicar of Wakefield's family
'Going to Church.'"

He was much interested in an inspection of the Mesnil estate, where
Laperouse had resided when as an officer of the French navy he had
visited Ile-de-France, and which in conjunction with another French
officer he purchased. It was here, though Flinders does not seem to have
been aware of the romantic fact, that the illustrious navigator fell in
love with Eleanore Broudou, whom, despite family opposition, he
afterwards married.* (* The charming love-story of Laperouse has been
related in the author's Laperouse, Sydney 1912.) "I surveyed the scene,"
wrote Flinders, "with mingled sensations of pleasure and melancholy: the
ruins of his house, the garden he had laid out, the still blooming
hedgerows of China roses, emblems of his reputation, everything was an
object of interest and curiosity. This spot is nearly in the centre of
the island, and upon the road from Port Louis to Port Bourbon. It was
here that the man lamented by the good and well-informed of all nations,
whom science illumined, and humanity, joined to an honest ambition,
conducted to the haunts of remote savages, in this spot he once dwelt,
perhaps little known to the world, but happy; when he became celebrated
he had ceased to exist. Monsieur Airolles promised me to place three
square blocks of stone, one upon the other, in the spot where the house
of this lamented navigator had stood; and upon the uppermost stone facing
the road to engrave 'Laperouse.'"

Investigations made in later years by the Comite des Souvenirs
Historiques of Mauritius, show that Airolles carried out his promise to
Flinders, and erected a cairn in the midst of what had been the garden of
Laperouse. But the stones were afterwards removed by persons who had
little sentiment for the associations of the place. In the year 1897, the
Comite des Souvenirs Historiques obtained from M. Dauban, then the
proprietor of the estate, permission to erect a suitable memorial, such
as Flinders had suggested. This was done. The inscription upon the face
of the huge conical rock chosen for the purpose copies the words used by
Flinders. It reads:



A achete ce terrain en Avril 1775 et l'a habite.


"In this spot he once dwelt, perhaps little known to the world, but

(Comite des Souvenirs Historiques. 1897.)

Flinders' pen was very busy during these years. Access to his charts and
papers, printed volumes and log-books (except the third log-book,
containing details of the Cumberland's voyage), having been given to him,
he wrote up the history of his voyages and adventures. By July, 1806, he
had completed the manuscript as far as the point when he left the Garden
prison. An opportunity of despatching it to the Admiralty occurred when
the French privateer La Piemontaise captured the richly laden China
merchantman Warren Hastings and brought her into Port Louis as a prize.
Captain Larkins was released after a short detention, and offered to take
a packet to the Admiralty. Finished charts were also sent; and Sir John
Barrow, who wrote the powerful Quarterly Review article of 1810, wherein
Flinders' cause was valiantly championed, had resort to this material. A
valuable paper by Flinders, upon the use of the marine barometer for
predicting changes of wind at sea, was also the fruit of his enforced
leisure. It was conveyed to England, read before the Royal Society by Sir
Joseph Banks, and published in the Transactions of that learned body in

The friendship of able and keen-minded men was not lacking during these
years. There existed in Ile-de-France a Societe d'Emulation, formed to
promote the study of literary and philosophical subjects, whose members,
learning what manner of man Flinders was, addressed a memorial to the
Institute of France relating what had happened to him, and eulogising his
courage, his high character, his innocence, and the worth of his
services. They protested that he was a man into whose heart there had
never entered a single desire, a single thought, the execution of which
could be harmful to any individual, of whatever class or to whatever
nation he might belong. "Use then, we beg of you," they urged, "in favour
of Captain Flinders the influence of the first scientific body in Europe,
the National Institute, in order that the error which has led to the
captivity of this learned navigator may become known; you will acquire,
in rendering this noble service, a new title to the esteem and the honour
of all nations, and of all friends of humanity."

The Governor-General of India, Lord Wellesley, took a keen interest in
Flinders' situation, and in 1805 requested Decaen's "particular
attention" to it, earnestly soliciting him to "release Captain Flinders
immediately, and to allow him either to take his passage to India in the
Thetis or to return to England in the first neutral ship." Rear-Admiral
Sir Edward Pellew, commander-in-chief of the British naval forces in the
East Indies, tried to effect an exchange by the liberation of a French
officer of equal rank. But in this direction nothing was concluded.

Under these circumstances, with agreeable society, amidst sympathetic
friends, in a charming situation, well and profitably employed upon his
own work, Flinders spent over five years of his captivity. He never
ceased to chafe under the restraint, and to move every available
influence to secure his liberty, but it cannot be said that the chains
were oppressively heavy. Decaen troubled him very little. Once (in May,
1806) the General's anger flamed up, in consequence of a strong letter of
protest received from Governor King of New South Wales. King's affection
for Flinders was like that of a father for a son, and on receipt of the
news about the Cumberland his indignation poured itself out in this
letter to Decaen, with which he enclosed a copy of Flinders' letter to
him. It happened that, at the time of the arrival of the letter in
Ile-de-France, Flinders was on a visit to Port Louis, where he had been
permitted to come for a few days. The result of King's intervention was
that Decaen ordered him to return to Wilhelm's Plains, and refused the
application he had made to be allowed to visit two friends who were
living on the north-east side of the island.

John Elder, Flinders' servant, remained with him until June, 1806. He
might have left when there was a general exchange of prisoners in August,
1805, and another opportunity of quitting the island was presented in
April, 1806, when the lame seaman departed on an American ship bound for
Boston. But Elder was deeply attached to his master, and would have
remained till the end had not his mind become somewhat unhinged by
frequent disappointments and by his despair of ever securing liberation.
When his companion, the lame seaman, went away, Elder developed a form of
melancholy, with hallucinations, and appeared to be wasting away from
loss of sleep and appetite. Permission for him to depart was therefore
obtained, and from July, 1806, Flinders was the only remaining member of
the Cumberland's company.

Throughout the period of detention Flinders was placed on half-pay by the
Admiralty. It cannot be said that he was treated with generosity by the
Government of his own country at any time. He was not a prisoner of war
in the strict sense, and the rigid application of the ordinary
regulations of service in his peculiar case seems to have been a rather
stiff measure. Besides, the Admiralty had evidence from time to time, in
the receipt of new charts and manuscripts, that Flinders was
industriously applying himself to the duties of the service on which he
had been despatched. But there was the regulation, and someone in
authority ruled that it had to apply in this most unusual instance. There
is some pathos in a letter written by Mrs. Flinders to a friend in
England (August, 1806) "The Navy Board have thought proper to curtail my
husband's pay, so it behoves me to be as careful as I can; and I mean to
be very economical, being determined to do with as little as possible,
that he may not deem me an extravagant wife."


The several representations concerning the case of Flinders that were
made in France, the attention drawn to it in English newspapers, and the
lively interest of learned men of both nations, produced a moving effect
upon Napoleon's Government. Distinguished Frenchmen did not hesitate to
speak plainly. Fleurieu, whose voice was attentively heard on all matters
touching geography and discovery, declared publicly that "the indignities
imposed upon Captain Flinders were without example in the nautical
history of civilised nations. Malte-Brun, a savant of the first rank,
expressed himself so boldly as to incur the displeasure of the
authorities. Bougainville, himself a famous navigator, made personal
appeals to the Government. Sir Joseph Banks, whose friendly relations
with French men of science were not broken by the war, used all the
influence he could command. He had already, "from the gracious
condescension of the Emperor," obtained the release of five persons who
had been imprisoned in France,* and had no doubt that if he could get
Napoleon's ear he could bring about the liberation of his protege. (*
Banks to Flinders, Historical Records 5 646.)

At last, in March, 1806, the affair came before the Council of State in
Paris, mainly through the instrumentality of Bougainville. Banks wrote to
Mrs. Flinders:* (* Flinders' Papers.) "After many refusals on the part of
Bonaparte to applications made to him from different quarters, he at last
consented to order Captain Flinders' case to be laid before the Council
of State."

On the first of March an order was directed to be sent to Decaen,
approving his previous conduct, but informing him that, moved "by a
sentiment of generosity, the Government accord to Captain Flinders his
liberty and the restoration of his ship." Accompanying the despatch was
an extract from the minutes of the Council of State, dated March 1st,
1806, recording that: "The Council of State, which, after the return of
His Majesty the Emperor and King, has considered the report of its Marine
section on that of the Minister of Marine and the Colonies concerning the
detention of the English schooner Cumberland and of Captain Flinders at
Ile-de-France (see the documents appended to the report), is of opinion
that the Captain-General of Ile-de-France had sufficient reason for
detaining there Captain Flinders and his schooner; but by reason of the
interest that the misfortunes of Captain Flinders has inspired, he seems
to deserve that His Majesty should authorise the Minister of Marine and
the Colonies to restore to him his liberty and his ship." This document
was endorsed: "Approuve au Palais des Tuileries, le onze Mars, 1806.


The terms of the despatch with which the order was transmitted contained
a remarkable statement. Decres informed Decaen that he, as Minister, had
on the 30th July, 1804--nearly one year and nine months before the order
of release--brought Flinders' case under the notice of the Council of
State. But nothing was done: the Emperor had to be consulted, and at that
date Napoleon was not accessible. He was superintending the army encamped
at Boulogne, preparing for that projected descent upon England which even
his magnificent audacity never dared to make. He did not return to St.
Cloud, within hail of Paris, till October 12th.* (* The movements of
Napoleon day by day can be followed in Schuerman's Itineraire General de
Napoleon.) Then the officials surrounding him were kept busy with
preparations for crowning himself and the Empress Josephine, a ceremony
performed by Pope Pius VII, at Notre Dame, on December 2nd. The
consequence was that this piece of business about an unfortunate English
captain in Ile-de-France--like nearly all other business concerned with
the same colony at the time--got covered up beneath a mass of more urgent
affairs, and remained in abeyance until the agitation stimulated by
Banks, Fleurieu, Bougainville, Malte-Brun and others forced the case
under the attention of the Emperor and his ministers.

Even then the despatch did not reach Ile-de-France till July, 1807,
sixteen months after the date upon it; and it was then transmitted, not
by a French ship, but by an English frigate, the Greyhound, under a flag
of truce. The reason for that was unfortunate for Flinders as an
individual, but entirely due to the efficiency of the navy of which he
was an officer. In 1805 the British fleet had demolished the French at
Trafalgar, and from that time forward until the end of the war, Great
Britain was mistress of the ocean in full potency. Her frigates patrolled
the highways of the sea with a vigilance that never relaxed. In January,
1806, she took possession of the Cape of Good Hope for the second time,
and has held it ever since. The consequences to Decaen and his garrison
were very serious. With the British in force at the Cape, how could
supplies, reinforcements and despatches get through to him in
Ile-de-France? He saw the danger clearly, but was powerless to avert it.
Of this particular despatch four copies were sent from France on as many
ships. One copy was borne by a French vessel which was promptly captured
by the British; and on its contents becoming known the Admiralty sent it
out to Admiral Pellew, in order that he might send a ship under a flag of
truce to take it to Decaen. The Secretary to the Admiralty, Marsden,
wrote to Pellew (December, 1806) that the despatch "has already been
transmitted to the Isle of France in triplicate, but as it may be hoped
that the vessels have been all captured you had better take an
opportunity of sending this copy by a flag of truce, provided you have
not heard in the meantime of Flinders being at liberty." As a fact, one
other copy did get through, on a French vessel.

Pellew lost no time in informing Flinders of the news, and the captive
wrote to Decaen in the following terms:* (* Decaen Papers.)

"July 24, 1807.


"By letters from Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, transmitted to me
yesterday by Colonel Monistrol, I am informed that orders relating to me
have at length arrived from His Excellency the Marine Minister of France,
which orders are supposed to authorize my being set at liberty.

"Your Excellency will doubtless be able to figure to yourself the
sensations such a communication must have excited in me, after a
detention of three years and a half, and my anxiety to have such
agreeable intelligence confirmed by some information of the steps it is
in Your Excellency's contemplation to take in consequence. If these
letters have flattered me in vain with the hopes of returning to my
country and my family, I beg of you, General, to inform me; if they are
correct, you will complete my happiness by confirming their contents. The
state of incertitude in which I have so long remained will, I trust, be
admitted as a sufficient excuse for my anxiety to be delivered from it.

"I have the honour to be, Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant,


"His Excellency the Captain-General Decaen."

In reply Decaen transmitted to Flinders a copy of the despatch of the
Minister of Marine, and informed him through Colonel Monistrol "that, so
soon as circumstances will permit, you will fully enjoy the favour which
has been granted you by His Majesty the Emperor and King."

But now, having at length received orders, countersigned by Napoleon
himself, that Flinders should be liberated, Decaen came to a decision
that on the face of it seems extremely perplexing. We have seen that in
August, 1805, Flinders, well informed by persons who had conversed with
Decaen, believed that the General "would be very glad to get handsomely
clear of me," and that in November of the same year he made the assertion
that Decaen "would have gladly suffered me to depart long since" but for
the reference of the case to Paris. We have direct evidence to the same
effect in a letter from Colonel Monistrol regarding Lord Wellesley's
application for Flinders' release.* (* Historical Records 5 651.) The
Colonel desired "with all my heart" that the request could be acceded to,
but the Captain-General could not comply until he had received a response
to his despatch. Yet, when the response was received, and Flinders might
have been liberated with the full approbation of the French Government,
Decaen replied to the Minister's despatch in the following terms (August
20th, 1807):

"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that by the English frigate
Greyhound, which arrived here on July 21st under a flag of truce, in the
hope of gathering information concerning His British Majesty's ships
Blenheim and Java, I have received the fourth copy of Your Excellency's
despatch of March 21st, 1806, Number 8, relative to Captain Flinders.
Having thought that the favourable decision that it contains regarding
that officer had been determined at a time when the possibility of some
renewal of friendliness with England was perceived, I did not consider
that the present moment was favourable for putting into operation that
act of indulgence on the part of His Majesty. I have since received the
second copy of the same despatch; but, the circumstances having become
still more difficult, and that officer appearing to me to be always
dangerous, I await a more propitious time for putting into execution the
intentions of His Majesty. My zeal for his service has induced me to
suspend the operations of his command. I trust, Monsieur, that that
measure of prudence will obtain your Excellency's approbation. I have the
honour to be, etc., etc., etc., DECAEN."* (* This despatch was originally
published by M. Albert Pitot, in his Esquisses Historiques de
l'Ile-de-France. Port Louis, 1899.)

It will be observed that in this despatch Decaen describes the
circumstances of the colony he governed as having become "more
difficult," and Flinders as appearing to him to be "always dangerous." We
must, then, examine the circumstances to ascertain why they had become so
difficult, and why he considered that it would now be dangerous to let
Flinders go.

It is easy enough to attribute the General's refusal to obstinacy or
malignity. But his anger had cooled down by 1807; his prisoner was a
charge on the establishment to the extent of 5400 francs a year, and
Decaen was a thrifty administrator; why, then, should he apparently have
hardened his heart to the extent of disobeying the Emperor's command? The
explanation is not to be found in his temper, but in the military
situation of Ile-de-France, and his belief that Flinders was accurately
informed about it; as was, indeed, the case.

At this time Decaen was holding Ile-de-France by a policy fairly
describable as one of "bluff." The British could have taken it by
throwing upon it a comparatively small force, had they known how weak its
defences were. But they did not know; and Decaen, whose duty it was to
defend the place to the utmost, did not intend that they should if he
could prevent information reaching them. After the crushing of French
naval power at Trafalgar and the British occupation of the Cape, Decaen's
position became untenable, though a capitulation was not forced upon him
till four years later. He constantly demanded reinforcements and money,
which never came to hand. The military and financial resources of France
were being strained to prosecute Napoleon's wars in Europe. There were
neither men nor funds to spare for the colony in the Indian Ocean. Decaen
felt that his position was compromised.* (* "Il sentait sa position
compromise." Prentout page 521; who gives an excellent account of the
situation.) He addressed the Emperor personally "with all the sadness of
a wounded soul," but nothing was done for Ile-de-France. There was not
enough money to repair public buildings and quays, which fell into ruins.
There was no timber, no sail-cloth to re-fit ships. Even nails were
lacking. A little later (1809) he complained in despatches of the
shortness of flour and food. There was little revenue, no credit. Now
that the British had asserted their strength, and held the Cape, prizes
were few. Above all he represented "the urgent need for soldiers." He
felt himself abandoned. But still, with a resolute tenacity that one
cannot but admire, he hung on to his post, and maintained a bold front to
the enemy.

Did Flinders know of this state of things? Unquestionably he did; and
Decaen knew that he knew. He could have informed the British Government,
had he chosen to violate his parole; but he was in all things a
scrupulously honourable man, and, as he said, "an absolute silence was
maintained in my letters." He was constantly hoping that an attack would
be made upon the island, and "if attacked with judgment it appeared to me
that a moderate force would carry it."* (* Voyage to Terra Australis 2
419.) But all this while the British believed that Ile-de-France was
strong, and that a successful assault upon it would require a larger
force than they could spare at the time. Even after Flinders had returned
to England, when he was asked at the Admiralty whether he thought that a
contemplated attack would succeed, his confident assurance that it would
was received with doubt. Decaen's "bluff" was superb.

On one point, if we may believe St. Elme le Duc, Decaen did Flinders a
grave injustice. It was believed, says that writer's manuscript, that
Flinders had several times managed to go out at night, that he had made
soundings along the coast, and had transmitted information to Bengal
which was of use when ultimately the colony was taken by the English. For
that charge there is not a shadow of warrant. There is not the faintest
ground for supposing that he did not observe his parole with the utmost
strictness. Had he supplied information, Ile-de-France would have passed
under British rule long before 1810.* (* The belief that Flinders took
soundings appears to have been common among the French inhabitants of
Port Louis. In the Proceedings of the South Australian Branch of the
Royal Geographical Society, 1912 to 1913 page 71, is printed a brief
account of the detention of Flinders, by a contemporary, D'Epinay, a
lawyer of the town. Here it is stated: "It is found out that at night he
takes soundings off the coast and has forwarded his notes to India."
Those who gave credence to this wild story apparently never reflected
that Flinders had no kind of opportunity for taking soundings.)

A few passages written for inclusion in the Voyage to Terra Australis,
but for some reason omitted, may be quoted to show how rigorously
visiting ships were treated lest information should leak out.* (*
Manuscript, Mitchell Library.)

"It may not be amiss to mention the rules which a ship is obliged to
observe on arriving at Port North-West, since it will of itself give some
idea of the nature of the Government. The ship is boarded by a pilot one
or two miles from the entrance to the port, who informs the commander
that no person must go on shore, or any one be suffered to come on board
until the ship has been visited by the officer of health, who comes soon
after the ship has arrived at anchor in the mouth of the port,
accompanied with an officer from the captain of the port, and, if it is a
foreign ship, by an interpreter. If the health of the crew presents no
objection, and after answering the questions put to him concerning the
object of his coming to the island, the commander goes on shore in the
French boat, and is desired to take with him all papers containing
political information, and all letters, whether public or private, that
are on board the vessel; and although there should be several parcels of
newspapers of the same date, they must all go. On arriving at the
Government House, to which he is accompanied by the officer and
interpreter, and frequently by a guard, he sooner or later sees the
Governor, or one of his aides-de-camp, who questions him upon his voyage,
upon political intelligence, the vessels he has met at sea, his
intentions in touching at the island, etc.; after which he is desired to
leave his letters, packets, and newspapers, no matter to whom they are
addressed. If he refuse this, or to give all the information he knows,
however detrimental it may be to his own affairs, or appears to
equivocate, if he escapes being imprisoned in the town he is sent back to
his ship under a guard, and forbidden all communication with the shore.
If he gives satisfaction, he is conducted from the General to the
Prefect, to answer his questions, and if he satisfies him also, is then
left at liberty to go to his consul and transact his business. The
letters and packets left with the General, if not addressed to persons
obnoxious to the Government, are sent unopened, according to their
direction. I will not venture to say that the others are opened and
afterwards destroyed, but it is much suspected. If the newspapers contain
no intelligence but what is permitted to be known, they are also sent to
their address. The others are retained; and for this reason it is that
all the copies of the same paper are demanded, for the intention is not
merely to gain intelligence, but to prevent what is disagreeable from
being circulated."

Decaen's conduct in refusing to liberate Flinders when the order reached
him need not be excused, but it should be understood. To impute sheer
malignity to him does not help us much, nor does it supply a sufficient
motive. What we know of his state of mind, as well as what we know of the
financial position of the colony, induce the belief that he would have
been quite glad to get rid of Flinders in 1807, had not other and
stronger influences intervened. But he was a soldier, placed in an
exceedingly precarious situation, which he could only maintain by
determining not to lose a single chance. War is an affliction that
scourges a larger number of those who do not fight than of those who do;
and Flinders, with all his innocence, was one of its victims. He was
thought to know too much. That was why he was "dangerous." A learned
French historian* stigmatises Decaen's conduct as "maladroit and brutal,
but not dishonest." (* Prentout page 661.) Dishonest he never was; as to
the other terms we need not dispute so long as we understand the peculiar
twist of circumstances that intensified the maladroitness and brutality
that marked the man, and without which, indeed, he would not perhaps have
been the dogged, tough, hard-fighting, resolute soldier that he was.

Flinders could have escaped from Ile-de-France on several occasions, had
he chosen to avail himself of opportunities. He did not, for two reasons,
both in the highest degree honourable to him. The first was that he had
given his parole, and would not break it; the second that escape would
have meant sacrificing some of his precious papers. In May, 1806, an
American captain rejoicing in the name of Gamaliel Matthew Ward called at
Port Louis, and hearing of Flinders' case, actually made arrangements for
removing him. It was Flinders himself who prevented the daring skipper
from carrying out his plan. "The dread of dishonouring my parole," he
wrote, "made me contemplate this plan with a fearful eye."* (* Flinders'
Papers.) In December of the same year he wrote to John Aken: "Since I
find so much time elapse, and no attention paid to my situation by the
French Government, I have been very heartily sorry for having given my
parole, as I could otherwise have made my escape long ago." Again, he
wrote to his wife: "Great risks must be run and sacrifices made, but my
honour shall remain unstained. No captain in His Majesty's Navy shall
have cause to blush in calling me a brother officer."

As time went on, and release was not granted, he several times thought of
surrendering his parole, which would have involved giving up the pleasant
life at Wilhelm's Plains, and being again confined in Port Louis. But
escape would have meant the loss of many of his papers, the authentic
records of his discoveries; and he could not bring himself to face that.

Consequently the captivity dragged itself wearily out for three years
after the order of release was received. The victim chafed, protested,
left no stone unturned, but Decaen was not to be moved. Happily
depression did not drag illness in its miserable train. "My health
sustains itself tolerably well in the midst of all my disappointments,"
he was able to write to Banks in 1809.


From June, 1809, the British squadron in the Indian Ocean commenced to
blockade Ile-de-France.* (* Flinders to Banks, Historical Records 7 202.)
Decaen's fear of Flinders' knowledge is revealed in the fact that he
ordered him not for the future to go beyond the lands attached to Madame
D'Arifat's habitation. Flinders wrote complying, and henceforth declined
invitations beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the plantation. He
amused himself by teaching mathematics and the principles of navigation
to the two younger sons of the family, and by the study of French

After October the blockade increased in strictness, under Commodore
Rowley. Decaen's situation was growing desperate. Fortunately for him,
the French squadron brought in three prizes in January, 1810, slipping
past Rowley's blockade, much to that enterprising officer's annoyance.
The situation was temporarily relieved, but the assistance thus afforded
was no better than a plaster on a large wound. Here again we find
Flinders accurately and fully informed: Decaen did not underrate his
"dangerous" potentialities. "The ordinary sources of revenue and
emolument were nearly dried up, and to have recourse to the merchants for
a loan was impossible, the former bills upon the French treasury, drawn
it was said for three millions of livres, remaining in great part unpaid;
and to such distress was the Captain-General reduced for ways and means
that he had submitted to ask a voluntary contribution in money, wheat,
maize, or any kind of produce from the half-ruined colonists. It was even
said to have been promised that, if pecuniary succour did not arrive in
six months, the Captain-General would retire and leave the inhabitants to
govern themselves."

Decaen, in fact, saw clearly that the game was up. His threat to retire
in six months did not mean that he would not have given the British a
fight before he lowered the tricolour. He was not the man to surrender
quite tamely; but he knew that he could no longer hold out for more than
a measurable period, the length of which would depend upon the enemy's

There was, therefore, no longer any purpose in prolonging the captivity
of the prisoner who was feared on account of his knowledge of the
situation; and Decaen availed himself of the first opportunity presented
in 1810 to grant Flinders his longed-for release. In March, Mr. Hugh Hope
was sent to Ile-de-France by Lord Minto (who had become Governor-General
of India in 1807) to negotiate for the exchange of prisoners. This
gentleman had done his best to secure Flinders' release on a former
occasion, and had been refused. But now Decaen realised that the end was
drawing near, and there was no sound military purpose to serve in keeping
the prisoner any longer. It is quite probable that he would have been
glad if information had been conveyed to the British which would expedite
the inevitable fight and the consequent fall of French power in

On March 15th Flinders received a letter from Mr. Hope informing him that
the Governor had consented to his liberation. A fortnight later came
official confirmation of the news in a letter from Colonel Monistrol, who
assured him of the pleasure he had in making the announcement. His joy
was great. At once he visited his French friends in the neighbourhood to
give them the news and bid them farewell; next day he took an
affectionate leave of the kind family who had been his hosts for four
years and a half; and as soon as possible he departed for Port Louis,
where he stayed with his friend Pitot until he went aboard the cartel. At
the end of the month a dinner was given in his honour by the president of
the Societe D'Emulation, to which a large number of English men and women
were invited. When Flinders arrived in Ile-de-France, more than six years
before, he could speak no French and could only decipher a letter in that
language with the aid of a dictionary; but now, when he found himself
again in the company of his own countrymen, he experienced a difficulty
in speaking English!

On June 13th, Flinders' sword was restored to him. He was required to
sign a parole, wherein he pledged himself not to act in any service which
might be considered as directly or indirectly hostile to France or her
allies during the present war. On the same day the cartel Harriet sailed
for Bengal. Flinders was free: "after a captivity of six years five
months and twenty-seven days I at length had the inexpressible pleasure
of being out of the reach of General Decaen."

Rowley's blockading squadron was cruising outside the port, and the
Harriet communicated with the commodore. It was ascertained that the
sloop Otter was running down to the Cape with despatches on the following
day, and Flinders had no difficulty in securing a passage in her. After
dining with Rowley he was transferred to the Otter. He was delayed for
six weeks at the Cape, but in August embarked in the Olympia, and arrived
in England on the 23rd of October, after an absence of nine years and
three months.

News of his release had preceded him, and his wife had come up from
Lincolnshire to meet him. He speaks in a letter to a friend of the
meeting with the woman whom he had left a bride so many years before:* (*
Flinders' Papers.) "I had the extreme good fortune to find Mrs. Flinders
in London, which I owe to the intelligence of my liberty having preceded
my arrival. I need not describe to you our meeting after an absence of
nearly ten years. Suffice it to say I have been gaining flesh ever
since." John Franklin, then a midshipman on the Bedford, had come up to
London to welcome his old commander, and, much to his disturbance,
witnessed the meeting of Flinders and his wife, as we find from a letter
written by him: "Some apology would be necessary for the abrupt manner in
which I left you, except in the peculiar circumstances wherein my
departure was taken. I felt so sensibly the affecting scene of your
meeting Mrs. Flinders that I would not have remained any longer in the
room under any consideration."

The capture of Ile-de-France by the British, when ultimately an attack
was made (on 3rd December, 1810), gave peculiar pleasure to naval
officers and Anglo-Indians. "It is incredible," Mr. Hope wrote to
Flinders, "the satisfaction which the capture of that island has diffused
all over India, and everyone is now surprised that an enterprise of such
importance should never have been attempted before." When the change of
rulers took place, some of the French inhabitants objected to take the
oath of allegiance to the British Crown, and a letter on the subject was
sent to Napoleon. His comment was pithy: "I should like to see anybody
refuse me the oath of allegiance in any country I conquered!"* (*
Flinders' Papers.)

It will be convenient to deal at this point with the oft-repeated charge,
to which reference has been made previously, that charts were taken from
Flinders during his imprisonment, and were used in the preparation of the
Atlas to Peron and Freycinets' Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres

The truth is that no charts were at any time taken from the trunks
wherein they were deposited in 1803, except by Flinders himself, nor was
a single one of his charts ever seen by any French officer unless he
himself showed it. He never made any such charge of dishonesty against
his enemy, Decaen, or against the General's countrymen. He had, as will
be seen, a cause of grievance against Freycinet, who was responsible for
the French charts, and gave voice to it; but plagiarism was neither
alleged nor suspected by him.

On each occasion when Flinders applied to Decaen to be supplied with
papers from the trunks, he gave a formal receipt for them. The first
occasion when papers were removed was on December 18th, 1803, when
Flinders took from one of his trunks his Cumberland log-book, in order
that Decaen might ascertain from it his reasons for calling at
Ile-de-France. It was never restored to him. Mr. Hope made application
for it in 1810, when he was set free, but Decaen did not give it up; and
in 1813 Decres was still demanding it unavailingly. This book and the box
of despatches were the only papers of Flinders that Decaen ever saw. When
it was handed over, all other books and papers were replaced in the
trunk, "and sealed as before." The second occasion was on December 27th,
1803, when the trunk containing printed books was restored to Flinders at
his request in order that he might employ himself in confinement at the
Port Louis tavern. The third occasion was on December 29th, when he was
conducted to Government House, and was allowed to take out of the sealed
trunk there his private letters and journals, two log-books, and other
memoranda necessary to enable him to construct a chart of the Gulf of
Carpentaria. All other papers were "locked up in the trunk and sealed as
before." The fourth occasion was in July, 1804, when Flinders was allowed
to take out of the same trunk a quantity of other books, papers and
charts, which he required for the pursuit of his work. For these also a
receipt was duly given. In that instance Flinders was especially
vigilant. He had received a private warning that some of his charts had
been copied, but when the seals were broken and he examined the contents
he was satisfied that this was not true. He asked Colonel Monistrol, an
honourable gentleman who was always of friendly disposition, whether the
papers had been disturbed, and "he answered by an unqualified negative."
The fifth occasion was in August, 1807, when all the remaining papers,
except the log-book and the despatches, were restored to him. He then
gave the following receipt:* (* Decaen Papers.)

"Received from Colonel Monistrol, chef d'etat-major general of the Isle
of France, one trunk containing the remainder of the books, papers, etc.,
which were taken from me in Port North-West on December 16th, 1803, and
December 20th of the same year, whether relating to my voyage of
discovery or otherwise; which books and papers, with those received by me
at two different times in 1804, make up the whole that were so taken;
with the following exceptions: First, Various letters and papers, either
wholly or in part destroyed by rats, of which the remains are in the
trunk. Second, The third volume of my rough log-books, containing the
journal of my transactions and observations on board the Investigator,
the Porpoise, the Hope cutter, and the Cumberland schooner, from some
time in June, 1803, to December 16th, 1803, of which I have no duplicate.
Third, Two boxes of despatches; the one from his Excellency Governor King
of New South Wales, addressed to His Majesty's principal Secretary of
State for the Colonies; the other from Colonel Paterson,
Lieutenant-Governor at Port Jackson, the address of which I do not
remember. In truth of which I hereunto sign my name at Port Napoleon,
Isle of France this 24th day of August, 1807.


"Late commander of H.M. Sloop the Investigator, employed on discoveries
to the South Seas, with a French passport."

The papers which the rats had destroyed were not described; but there is
a letter of Flinders to the Admiralty, written after his return to
England (November 8th, 1810), which informs us what they were.* (*
Flinders' Papers.) In this letter he explained that, when the trunk
containing the papers was restored, "I found the rats had gotten into the
trunk and made nests of some of them. I transmitted the whole from the
Isle of France in the state they then were, and now find that some of the
papers necessary to the passing of my accounts as commander and purser of
His Majesty's sloop Investigator are wanting. I have therefore to request
you will lay my case before their Lordships and issue an order to
dispense with the papers which from the above circumstances it is
impossible for me to produce." It is apparent, therefore, that none of
the navigation papers or charts were destroyed. Had any been abstracted
Flinders, who was a punctiliously exact man, would have missed them. His
intense feeling of resentment against Decaen would have caused him to
call attention to the fact if any papers whatever had been disturbed.

The Quarterly Review pointed out the circumstance that the French charts
were "VERY LIKE" those of Flinders, giving sinister emphasis to the words
in italics. They were very like in so far as they were good. It is
evident that if two navigators sail along the same piece of coast, and
each constructs a chart of it, those charts will be "very like" each
other to exactly the degree in which they accurately represent the coast
charted. Freycinet, who did much of the hydrographical work on Baudin's
expedition, was an eminently competent officer. Wherever we find him in
charge of a section, the work is well done. His Atlas contained some
extremely beautiful work. There is no reason whatever for suggesting that
it was not his own work. He certainly saw no chart of Flinders, except
the one shown to him at Port Jackson, until the Atlas to the Voyage to
Terra Australis was published.

Moreover, the reports and material prepared by Baudin's cartographers,
upon which Freycinet worked, are in existence. The reports* to the
commander give detailed descriptions of sections of the Australian coast
traversed and charted, and show conclusively that some parts were
examined with thoroughness. (* I have read the whole of these reports
from copies of the originals in the Depot de la Marine, Service
Hydrographique, Paris, but have not thought it necessary to make further
use of them in this book.) For regions in which Baudin's expeditions
sailed, Freycinet had no need to resort to Flinders' material. He had
enough of his own. The papers of Flinders which Freycinet might have
wished to see were those relating to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Torres
Strait, and the Queensland coast, which Baudin's vessels did not explore.
But the French maps contain no new features in respect to these parts.
They present no evidence that Freycinet was acquainted with the
discoveries made there by Flinders.

The accusation of plagiarism arose partly from the intense animosity felt
against Frenchmen by English writers in a period of fierce national
hatred; partly from natural resentment of the treatment accorded to
Flinders; partly from the circumstance that, while he was held in
captivity, French maps were published which appeared to claim credit for
discoveries made by him; and partly from a misunderstanding of a charge
very boldly launched by an eminent French geographer. Malte-Brun, in his
Annales des Voyages for 1814 (Volume 23 page 268) made an attack upon the
French Atlas. He detested the Napoleonic regime, and published his
observations while Napoleon was in exile at Elba. He pointed out the
wrong done to Flinders in labelling the southern coast of Australia
"Terre Napoleon," and in giving French names to geographical features of
which Flinders, not Baudin, was the discoverer. He continued: "the motive
for that species of national plagiarism* is evident. (* "Le motif de
cette espece de plagiat national.") The Government wished to create for
itself a title for the occupation of that part of New Holland."
Malte-Brun should have known Napoleon better than that. When he wanted
territory, and was strong enough to take it, he did not "create titles."
He took: his title was the sword.

But the point of importance is that Malte-Brun did not allege
"plagiarism" against the authors of the French maps. His charge was made
against the Government. It was not that Freycinet had plagiarised
Flinders' charts, but that the Government had plagiarised his discoveries
by, as Malte-Brun thought, ordering French names to be strewn along the
Terre Napoleon coasts. In a later issue of the Annales des Voyages*
Malte-Brun testified to having seen Freycinet working at the material
upon which his charts were founded. (* Volume 24 273.) But his former use
of the word "plagiat" had created a general impression that Flinders'
charts had been dishonestly taken from him in Mauritius, and used by
those responsible for the French maps; a charge which Malte-Brun never
meant to make, and which, though still very commonly stated and believed,
is wholly untrue.

The really deplorable feature of the affair is that Peron and Freycinet,
in their published book and atlas, gave no credit to Flinders for
discoveries which they knew perfectly that he had made. They knew where
he was while they were working up their material. It does not appear that
either of them ever moved in the slightest degree to try to secure his
liberation. Peron died in December, 1810. Malte-Brun, who saw him
frequently after the return of Baudin's expedition, says that in
conversation on the discoveries of Flinders, Peron "always appeared to me
to be agitated by a secret sorrow, and has given me to understand that he
regretted not being at liberty to say in that regard all that he knew."
Flinders also believed Peron to be a worthy man who acted as he did "from
overruling authority." Those who have read the evidence printed in this
book, exhibiting the detestable conduct of both Peron and Freycinet in
repaying indulgence and hospitality by base espionage, will hardly be
precipitate in crediting either of them with immaculate motives. There is
no evidence that authority was exercised to induce them to name the
southern coasts Terre Napoleon, or to give the name Golfe Bonaparte to
the Spencer's Gulf of Flinders, that of Golfe Josephine to his St.
Vincent's Gulf, that of Ile Decres to his Kangaroo Island, that of
Detroit de Lacepede to his Investigator Strait, and so forth. They knew
that Flinders had made these discoveries before their own ships appeared
in the same waters; they knew that only the fact of his imprisonment
prevented his charts from being published before theirs. The names with
which they adorned their maps were a piece of courtiership and a means of
currying favour with the great and powerful, just as their espionage, and
their supply of illicitly-obtained and flavoured information to Decaen in
Mauritius, were essays to advance their own interests by unworthy

Freycinet's anxiety to get his maps out before Flinders had time to
publish is curiously exhibited in a letter from him to the Minister of
Marine (August 29th, 1811). Flinders was then back in England, hard at
work upon his charts. A volume of text, and one thin book of plates,
containing only two maps, had been published at Paris in 1807. Then delay
occurred, and in 1811 the engravers, not having been paid for their work,
refused to continue. Freycinet appealed to the Minister in these terms:*
(* Manuscripts, Archives Nationales, Marine BB4 996.) "Very powerful
reasons, Monsieur, appear to demand that the atlas should be published
with very little delay, and even before the text which is to accompany
it. Independently of the advantages to me personally as author, of which
I shall not speak, the reputation of the expedition ordered by His
Majesty appears to me to be strongly involved. I have the honour to
remind your Excellency that Captain Flinders was sent on discovery to
Terra Australis a short while after the French Government had despatched
an expedition having the same object. The rival expeditions carried out
their work in the same field, but the French had the good fortune to be
the first to return to Europe. Now that Flinders is again in England, and
is occupied with the publication of the numerous results of his voyage,
the English Government, jealous on account of the rivalry between the two
expeditions, will do all it can for its own. The conjectures I have
formed acquire a new force by the recent announcement made by the
newspapers, that Captain Flinders' voyages in the South Seas are to be
published by command of the Lords of the Admiralty. If the English
publish before the French the records of discoveries made in New Holland,
they will, by the fact of that priority of publication, take from us the
glory which we have a right to claim. The reputation of our expedition
depends wholly upon the success of our geographical work, and the more
nearly our operations and those of the English approach perfection, and
the more nearly our charts resemble each other, the more likelihood there
is of our being accused of plagiarism, or at all events of giving rise to
the thought that the English charts were necessary to aid us in
constructing ours; because there will be no other apparent motive for the
delay of our publication."

Here, it will be seen, Freycinet anticipated the charge of plagiarism,
but thought it would spring from the prior publication of Flinders'
charts. He had no suspicion at this time that the accusation would be
made that he used charts improperly taken from Flinders when he was under
the thumb of Decaen; and when this unjust impeachment was launched a few
years later he repudiated it with strong indignation. In that he was
justified; and our sympathy with him would be keener if his own record in
other respects had been brighter.


One of the first matters which occupied Flinders after his arrival in
England was the use of his influence with the Admiralty to secure the
release of a few French prisoners of war who were relatives of his
friends in Mauritius. In a letter he pointed out that these men were
connected with respectable families from whom he himself and several
other English prisoners had received kindness.* (* Flinders' Papers.) His
plea was successful. There was, surely, a peculiar beauty in this act of
sympathy on the part of one who had so recently felt the pain and
distress of captivity.

Flinders was anxious for news about his old Investigator shipmates. The
faithful Elder, he found, had secured an appointment as servant to
Admiral Hollowell, then on service in the Mediterranean, and was a great
favourite. Franklin was able to enlighten him as to some of the others.
Purdie, who had been assistant-surgeon, was surgeon on the Pompey. Inman,
who had been sent out to act as astronomer during the latter part of the
voyage, was a professor at the Naval College, Portsmouth. Lacy and
Sinclair, midshipmen, were dead. Louth was a midshipman on the Warrior.
Olive was purser on the Heir Apparent, and Matt, the carpenter, filled
that post on the Bellerophon. Of Dr. Bell Franklin knew nothing. "The old
ship," he said, "is lying at Portsmouth, cut down nearly to the water's

In naval and scientific circles Flinders was the object of much honour
and interest. He was received "with flattering attention" at the
Admiralty. We find him visiting Lord Spencer, who, having authorised the
Investigator voyage, was naturally concerned to hear of its eventful
history. Banks took him to the Royal Society and gave a dinner in his
honour. The Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV, himself a sailor,
wished to meet him and inspect his charts, and he was taken to see the
Prince by Bligh. In 1812 he gave evidence before a Committee of the House
of Commons on the penal transportation system.* (* House of Commons
Papers, 1812; the evidence was given on March 25th.) What he had to say
related principally to the nature of the country he had examined in the
course of his explorations. "Were you acquainted with Port Dalrymple?"
the chairman asked him. "I discovered Port Dalrymple." "Were you ever at
the Derwent?" "I was, and from my report, I believe, it was that the
first settlement was made there." He was one of the few early explorers
of Australia whose vision was hopeful; and experience has in every
instance justified his foreseeing optimism.

But save for a few social events, and for some valuable experiments with
the magnetic needle, to be referred to in the final chapter, his time and
energies were absorbed by work upon his charts. He laboured incessantly.
"I am at my voyage," he said in a letter, "but it does by no means
advance according to my wishes. Morning, noon and night I sit close at
writing, and at my charts, and can hardly find time for anything else."
He was a merciless critic when the proofs came from the engravers. One
half-sheet contains 92 corrections and improving marks in his
handwriting. Such directions as "make the dot distinct," "strengthen the
coast-line," "make this track a fair equal line," "points wanting," are
abundant. As we turn over the great folio which represents so much
labour, so much endurance, so much suffering, it is good to remember that
these superb drawings are the result of the ceaselessly patient toil of
perhaps the most masterly cartographer who has ever adorned the British
naval service.

He took similar pains with the text of A Voyage to Terra Australis. It
was never meant to be a book for popular reading, though there is no lack
of entertainment in it. It was a semi-official publication, in which the
Admiralty claimed and retained copyright, and its author was perhaps a
little hampered by that circumstance. Bligh asked that it should be
dedicated to him, but "the honour was declined."* (* Flinders' Papers.)
The book was produced under the direction of a committee appointed by the
Admiralty, consisting of Banks, Barrow, and Flinders himself.

It abounds in exact data concerning the latitude and longitude of coastal
features. The English is everywhere clear and sound; but the book which
Flinders could have written had he lived a few years longer, if it had
been penned with the freedom which made his conversation so delightful to
his friends, might have been one of the most entertaining pieces of
travel literature in the language. At first he was somewhat apprehensive
about authorship, and thought of calling in the aid of a friend; but the
enforced leisure of Ile-de-France induced him to depend upon his own
efforts. Before he left England in 1801, he had suggested that he might
require assistance. In a letter to Willingham Franklin, John's brother, a
fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and afterwards a Judge in Madras, he
wrote (November 27th, 1801):* (* Flinders' Papers.)

"You must understand that this voyage of ours is to be written and
published on our return. I am now engaged in writing a rough account, but
authorship sits awkwardly upon me. I am diffident of appearing before the
public unburnished by an abler hand. What say you? Will you give me your
assistance if on my return a narration of our voyage should be called for
from me? If the voyage be well executed and well told afterwards I shall
have some credit to spare to deserving friends. If the door now open
suits your taste and you will enter, it should be yours for the
undertaking. A little mathematical knowledge will strengthen your style
and give it perspicuity. Arrangement is the material point in
voyage-writing as well as in history. I feel great diffidence here.
Sufficient matter I can easily furnish, and fear not to prevent anything
unseamanlike from entering into the composition; but to round a period
well and arrange sentences so as to place what is meant in the most
perspicuous point of view is too much for me. Seamanship and authorship
make too great an angle with each other; the further a man advances upon
one line the further distant he becomes from any point on the other."

It did not prove so in Flinders' own case, for his later letters and the
latter part of his book are written in an easier, more freely-flowing
style than marks his earlier writings. He solicited no assistance in the
final preparation of his work. He preferred to speak to his public in his
own voice, and was unquestionably well advised in so doing. It is a
plain, honest sailor's story; that of a cultivated man withal.

Intense application to the work in hand brought about a recurrence of the
constitutional internal trouble which had occasioned some pain in
Mauritius. The illness became acute at the end of 1813. He was only 39
years of age, but Mrs. Flinders wrote to a friend that he had aged so
much that he looked 70, and was "worn to a skeleton." He mentioned in his
journal that he was suffering much pain. Yet he was never heard to
complain, and was never irritable or troublesome to those about him. He
was full of kindness and concern for his friends. We find him attending
sittings of the Admiralty Court, where his friend Pitot had a suit
against the British Government, and he interested himself in the
promotion of two of his old Investigator midshipmen. He urged upon the
Admiralty with all his force that his own branch of the naval service was
as honourable and as deserving of official recognition as war service.
The only inducement for young officers to join a voyage of discovery, and
forego the advantages arising from prizes and active service, was the
reasonable certainty of promotion on their return. "This," he observed,
"certainly has been relied upon and fulfilled in expeditions which
returned in time of peace, when promotion is so difficult to be obtained;
whereas I sailed and my officers returned during a war in which promotion
was never before so liberally bestowed. Yet no one of my officers, so far
as I have been able to ascertain, has received promotion for their
services in that voyage, although it has been allowed the service was
well executed."* (* Flinders' Papers.)

The illness increased during 1814, while the "Voyage" and its
accompanying atlas were passing through the press. He never saw the
finished book. The first copy of it came from the publishers, G. and W.
Nicol, of Pall Mall, on July 18th, on the day before he died; but he was
then unconscious. His wife took the volumes and laid them upon his bed,
so that the hand that fashioned them could touch them. But he never
understood. He was fast wrapped in the deep slumber that preceded the
end. On the 19th he died. His devoted wife stood by his pillow, his
infant daughter (born April 1st, 1812) was in an adjoining room, and
there was one other friend present. Just before the brave life flickered
out, he started up, and called in a hoarse voice for "my papers." Then he
fell back and died.

Upon the manuscript of the friend who wrote an account of his death,
there is pencilled a brief memorandum, which chronicles a few words
muttered some time before death touched his lips. The pencil-writing is
rubbed and only partly decipherable, but the letters "Dr." are distinct.
I take the meaning to be that the doctor attending him heard him murmur
the words. They are: "But it grows late, boys, let us dismiss!" One can
easily realise the kind of picture that floated before the mind of the
dying navigator. It was, surely, a happy vision of a night among friends
and companions, who had listened with delight to the vivid talk of him
who had seen and done so much in his wonderful forty years of life. In
such a company his mates would not be the first to wish to break the
spell, so he gave the word: "it grows late, boys, let us dismiss."

Flinders died at 14 London Street, Fitzroy Square, and was buried in the
graveyard of St. James's, Hampstead Road, which was a burial ground for
St. James's, Piccadilly. No man now knows exactly where his bones were
laid.* (* The vicar of St. James's, Piccadilly, who examined the burial
register in response to an enquiry by Mr. George Gordon McCrae, of
Melbourne, in 1912, states that the entry was made, by a clerical error,
in the name of Captain Matthew Flanders, aged 40.) A letter written years
later by his daughter, Mrs. Petrie, says: "Many years afterwards my aunt
Tyler went to look for his grave, but found the churchyard remodelled,
and quantities of tombstones and graves with their contents had been
carted away as rubbish, among them that of my unfortunate father, thus
pursued by disaster after death as in life."

On the 25th of the same month died Charles Dibdin, who wrote the elegy of
the perfect sailor:

"Here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowling.
The darling of our crew,
No more he'll hear the tempest howling
For death has broached him to."

During his last years in London, Flinders lodged in six houses
successively, and it may be as well to enumerate them. They were, 16 King
Street, Soho, from November 5th, 1810; 7 Nassau Street, Soho, from
January 19th, 1811; 7 Mary Street, Brook Street, from 30th September,
1811; 45 Upper John Street, Fitzroy Square, from March 30th, 1813; 7
Upper Fitzroy Street, from May 28th, 1813; and 14 London Street, Fitzroy
Square, from February 28th, 1814.

A letter from the widow to her husband's French friend Pitot, evidently
in answer to a message of sympathy, is poignant: "You who were in a
measure acquainted with the many virtues and inestimable qualities he
possessed, will best appreciate the worth of the treasure I have lost,
and you will easily imagine that, were the whole universe at my command,
it could offer no compensation; and even the tenderest sympathy of the
truest friend avails but little in a case of such severe trial and
affliction. You will not be surprised when I say that sorrow continually
circles round my heart and tears are my daily companion. 'Tis true the
company of my little girl soothes and cheers many an hour that would
otherwise pass most wearily away, but life has lost its chief charm, and
the world appears a dreary wilderness to me.

An unpleasant feature of the subject, which cannot be overlooked, relates
to the Admiralty's ungenerous treatment of Flinders and his widow. When
he returned from Mauritius, the First Lord was Mr. C.P. Yorke after whom
Flinders named Yorke's Peninsula, who was inclined to recognise that the
special circumstances of the case demanded special treatment. He at once
promoted Flinders to the rank of Post-Captain. But in consequence of his
long detention Flinders had lost the opportunity for earlier promotion.
It was admitted that if he had returned to England in 1804 he would at
once have been rewarded for his services by promotion to post-captain's
rank. Indeed, Lord Spencer had definitely promised him a step in rank. It
was therefore urged in his behalf that, as he had not been a prisoner of
war in the ordinary sense, his commission should be ante-dated to 1804.
Yorke appeared to think the claim reasonable. The Admiralty conceded that
he had not been a prisoner of war, and he was not brought before a
court-martial, although the Cumberland, left to rot in Port Louis, had
been lost to the service. The First Lord directed that the commission
should be ante-dated to the time of the release, but it was not
considered that more could be done without an Order in Council. This
could not be obtained at the moment, because King George III was mentally
incapacitated. When the Regency was established (1811) an application did
not meet with a sympathetic response. "The hinge upon which my case
depends," said Flinders in a letter, "is whether my having suffered so
long and unjustly in the Isle of France is a sufficient reason that I
should now suffer in England the loss of six years' rank." The response
of the Admiralty officials was that the case was peculiar; there was "no
precedent" for ante-dating a promotion.

Flinders asked that he might be put on full pay, while he was writing the
Voyage, which would make up the difference in the expense to which he
would be put by living in town instead of in the country; but Barrow
assured him that the Admiralty would object "for want of a precedent." He
showed that he would be 500 or 600 pounds out of pocket, to say nothing
of the loss of chances of promotion by remaining ashore. It was to meet
this position that the Admiralty granted him 200 pounds; but as a matter
of fact he was still 300 pounds out of pocket,* and was put out of health
irrecoverably by intense application to the task. (* Flinders' Papers.)
His friend, Captain Kent, then of the Agincourt, advised him to abandon
the work. "I conjure you," he wrote "to give the subject your serious
attention, and do not suffer yourself to be involved in debt to gratify
persons who seem to have no feeling." But to have abandoned his beloved
work at this stage would have appeared worse to him than loss of life
itself. The consequence was that his expenses during this period, even
with the strictly economical mode of living which he adopted, entrenched
upon the small savings which he was able to leave to his widow. He was
compelled to represent that, unless a concession were made, he would have
to choose between abandoning his task or reducing his family to distress;
and it was for this reason that the Admiralty granted a special allowance
of 200 pounds, in supplement of his half-pay. This, with 500 pounds "in
lieu of compensation" on account of his detention in Ile-de-France was
the entire consideration that he received.

When he died, application was made to the Admiralty to grant a special
pension to Mrs. Flinders. The widow of Captain Cook had been granted a
pension of 200 pounds a year. (Mrs. Cook, by the way, was still living in
England at this time; she did not die till 1835). Stout old Sir Joseph
Banks declared that he would not die happy unless something were done for
the widow and child of Matthew Flinders. But his influence with the
Admiralty was not so great as it had been in Lord Spencer's time, and his
efforts were ineffectual. The case was at a later date brought under the
notice of William IV, who said that he saw no reason why the widow of
Captain Flinders should not receive the same treatment as the widow of
Captain Cook. The King mentioned the subject to Lord Melbourne; he,
however, was unsympathetic, and nothing whatever was done. Mrs. Flinders
was paid only the meagre pension of a post-captain's widow until she died
in 1852. No official reward of any kind was granted by the British
Government for the truly great services and discoveries of Flinders. The
stinginess of a rich nation is a depressing subject to reflect upon in a
case of this kind.

A gratifying contrast is afforded by the voluntary action of two
Australian colonies. It was learnt, to the surprise of many, some time
after 1850, that the widow of the discoverer and her married daughter
were living in England, and were not too well provided for. The Colonies
of New South Wales and Victoria thereupon (1853) voted a pension of 100
pounds a year each to Mrs. Flinders, with reversion to Mrs. Petrie. The
news of this decision did not reach England in time to please the aged
widow, but the spirit of the grant gave unfeigned satisfaction to
Flinders' daughter. "Could my beloved mother have lived to receive this
announcement," she wrote,* (* New South Wales Parliamentary Papers 1854 1
785.) "it would indeed have cheered her last days to know that my
father's long-neglected services were at length appreciated. But my
gratification arising from the grant is extreme, especially as it comes
from a quarter in which I had not solicited consideration; and the
handsome amount of the pension granted will enable me to educate my young
son in a manner worthy of the name he bears, Matthew Flinders."* (* "My
young son" is the present Professor W. Matthew Flinders Petrie.)

The Voyage to Terra Australis, it may be mentioned, was originally sold
for 8 or 12 guineas, according to whether or not the atlas was bought
with the two quarto volumes. A copy to-day, with the folio Atlas, sells
for about 10 guineas.


Matthew Flinders was a short, neatly-built, very lithe and active man. He
stood five feet six inches in height.* (* These particulars are from the
manuscript sketch by a friend, previously cited; Flinders' Papers.) His
figure was slight and well proportioned. When he was in full health, his
light, buoyant step was remarked upon by acquaintances. Neither of the
two portraits of him conveys a good impression of his alert, commanding
look. His nose was "rather aquiline," and his lips were customarily
compressed. "He had a noble brow, hair almost black, eyes dark, bright,
and with a commanding expression, amounting almost to sternness." So his
friend records.

Mrs. Flinders was not satisfied with the engraved portrait published in
the Naval Chronicle, 1814, nor with the miniature from which it was
reproduced. In a letter to Captain Stuart she wrote: "In the portrait you
will not be able to trace much of your departed friend. The miniature
from which it was taken is but an indifferent likeness, and the engraver
has not done justice to it. He has given the firmness of the countenance
but not the intelligence or animation." It is quite certain that a rapid,
piercing, commanding expression of eye and features was characteristic of
him. During his captivity, the look in his eyes forbad all approach to
familiarity. There is record of an occasion--in all probability connected
with the sword incident--when he was addressed in terms that appeared to
him to be wanting in respect; and the unlucky Frenchman who ventured thus
far was so astonished at the sternness of countenance that immediately
confronted him, that he started back some paces. He had been accustomed
to command from an early age, and had exercised authority on service of a
kind that compelled him to demand ceaseless vigilance and indefatigable
vigour from himself and those under him. In a passage written in
Mauritius* (* Flinders' Papers.) he makes allusion to the stern element
in his character; and surely what he says here is worthy of being well
pondered by all whose duty demands the exercise of power over other men:

"I shall learn patience in this island, which will perhaps counteract the
insolence acquired by having had unlimited command over my fellow men.
You know, my dearest, that I always dreaded the effect that the
possession of great authority would have upon my temper and disposition.
I hope they are neither of them naturally bad; but, when we see such a
vast difference between men dependent and men in power, any man who has
any share of impartiality must fear for himself. My brother will tell you
that I am proud, unindulgent, and hasty to take offence, but I doubt
whether John Franklin will confirm it, although there is more truth in
the charge than I wish there were. In this land, those malignant
qualities are ostentatiously displayed. I am made to feel their sting
most poignantly. My mind has been taught a lesson in philosophy, and my
judgment has gained an accession of experience that will not soon be

That is a fairly rigorous piece of self-analysis; but there are abundant
facts to show that he exercised authority with a kindly and friendly
disposition, and did not surpass the limits of wisdom. Men like a
commander who can command; the weak inspire no confidence. Flinders had
the art of attracting people to him. His servant, the faithful John
Elder, willingly endured imprisonment with him, and would not leave him
until his own health gave way. John Thistle, who had served under him
before 1800, returned to England shortly before the Investigator sailed,
and at once volunteered for service under him again. He ruled his crews
by sheer force of mind and unsparing example, and though the good of the
service in hand was ever his first thought, there is plenty of evidence
to prove that the happiness of the men under him was constantly in his

In hours of relaxation he was genial, a lively companion, a warm friend.
An intimate friend records: "He possessed the social virtues and
affections in an eminent degree, and in conversation he was particularly
agreeable, from the extent of his general information and the lively
acuteness of his observations. His integrity, uprightness of intention,
and liberality of sentiment were not to be surpassed."

A scrap of dialogue written for insertion in the Voyage to Terra
Australis, but cancelled with other matter, enables us to realise that he
could recall an incident with some dramatic force. Bonnefoy, an
interpreter in Ile-de-France, told him a story of an American skipper
under examination by one of General Decaen's officers, and he wrote it
down as follows:--

"I was amused with his account of a blunt American captain who, having
left a part of his people to collect seal-skins upon the island Tristan
d'Acuna, had come in for provisions, and to get his vessel repaired. This
honest man did not wish to tell where he was collecting his cargo, nor
did he understand all the ceremony he was required to go through. The
dialogue that passed between the old seaman and the French officers of
the port was nearly thus:

Off.: From whence do you come, Sir?

From whence do I come? Haugh! why, Monsieur, I come from the Atlantic

Off.: But, pray, Sir, from what port?

Port? You will find that out from my papers, which I suppose you want to

Off.: It appears, Sir, that you have not above half your crew on board.
Be so good as to inform me where are the rest?

O, my crew? Poor fellows, yes, why, Sir, we met with an island of ice on
the road, and I left them there a-basket-making.

Off.: Making baskets on an island of ice? This is a very strange answer,
Sir; and give me leave to tell you such will not do here; but you will
accompany me to the Captain-General, and we shall then see whether you
will answer or not.

Ay, we shall see indeed. Why, look ye, Monsieur: as to what I have been
about, that is nothing to anybody. I am an honest man, and that's enough
for you; but if you want to know why I am come here, it is to buy
provisions and to lie quiet a little bit. I am not come to beg or steal,
but to buy, and I fancy good bills upon M--- of Salem will suit you very
well, eh, Monsieur? Convenient enough?

Off.: Very well, Sir, you will come with us to the General.

To the General? I have nothing to do with Generals! They don't understand
my business. Suppose I don't go?

Off.: You will do as you please, Sir; but if you do not, you will

The sheet on which the continuation of this vigorous bit of dialogue was
written* is unfortunately missing, so that we are deprived of the joy of
reading the conclusion of the comedy. But as the passage stands it
presents a truly dramatic picture. (* Manuscript, Mitchell Library.)

We get a glimpse of the way in which genial spirits regarded him in a
jolly letter from Madras, from Lieutenant Fitzwilliam Owen, who had been
a prisoner with him in Mauritius, and was on the cartel on which he
sailed from that island. "You cannot doubt how much our society misses
you. We toasted you, Sir, like Englishmen. We sent the heartiest good
wishes of your countrymen, ay, and women too, to Heaven for your success,
in three times three loud and manly cheers, dictated by that sincerity
which forms the glorious characteristic of our rough-spun English. Nay,
Waugh got drunk for you, and the ladies did each take an extra glass to
you."* (* Flinders' Papers.)

A pleasant playful touch makes the following letter to his wife's
half-sister worth quoting. He was hungry for home letters in
Ile-de-France, and thus gently chid the girl: "There is indeed a report
among the whales in the Indian Ocean that a scrap of a letter from you
did pass by for Port Jackson, and a flying fish in the Pacific even says
he saw it; but there is no believing these travellers. If you will take
the trouble to give it under your own hand I will then believe that you
have written to me. A certain philosopher being informed that his dear
friend was dead, replied that he would not believe it without having it
certified under his own hand; a very commendable prudence this, and
worthy of imitation in all intricate cases. As I have a fund of justice
at the bottom of my conscience, which will not permit me to exact from
others more than I would perform myself, I do hereby certify that I have
this day addressed a letter to my well-beloved sister Isabella Tyler,
spinster, in which letter I do desire for her all manner of blessings,
spiritual and temporal; that she may speedily obtain a husband six feet
high, if it so pleases her, with the wishing cap of Fortunatus."

The strictness of the man's conduct, in his relations with superiors and
subordinates alike, sprang from his integrity of heart. Everybody trusted
him. A memoir published by a contemporary commented upon the fidelity of
his friendships. "He was faithful to the utmost in the performance of a
promise, whether important or trifling in its consequences."

Some of the best friends he ever made were among the French in
Ile-de-France; and he became so much attached to them that, even when he
secured his longed-for freedom, he could not part from them without a
pang of regret. They saw in him not only a wronged man, but a singularly
high-minded one. Pitot, writing to Bougainville to urge him to do his
utmost to secure Flinders' release, repudiated, in these terms, the idea
that he could be a spy:* "No, Monsieur Flinders is not capable of such
conduct; his pure and noble character would never permit him to descend
to the odious employment of a spy." (* Manuscripts, Mitchell Library;
letter dated 19 Vendemiaire, an 13. October 11, 1804.) One wonders
whether by any chance Bougainville had occasion to show that letter to
Messieurs Peron and Freycinet!

A touching and beautiful example of his gentleness occurred in connection
with a wounded French officer whom he visited at Port Louis. Lieutenant
Charles Baudin des Ardennes had sailed as a junior officer on Le
Geographe under Baudin (to whom he was not related) and Flinders had
known him at Port Jackson. In 1807 he was serving as a lieutenant on La
Semillante, in the Indian Ocean. He was badly wounded in a sharp
engagement with the British ship Terpsichore in March, 1807, and was
brought into Port Louis, where his shattered right arm was amputated.
Flinders, full of compassion for the young man, visited him, and, as
oranges were required for the sufferer, bought up the whole stock of a
fruiterer, 53 of them. Upon his return to Wilhelm's Plains, he wrote
Baudin a letter of sympathy and encouragement, bidding him reflect that
there were other branches of useful service open to a sailor than that of
warfare. He had commenced his naval career with discovery; he now knew
what the horrors of war were. Which was the worthier branch of the two?
Flinders continued: "No, my friend, I cannot contemplate this waste of
human life to serve the cause of restless ambition without horror. Never
shall my hands be voluntarily steeped in blood, but in the defence of my
country. In such a cause every other sentiment vanishes. Also, my friend,
if ever you have thought my actions worthy of being imitated, imitate me
in this. You have, like me, had just sufficient experience to learn what
the commander of a voyage of discovery ought to be, and what he ought to
know. Adieu, my dear friend. May the goodness of God speedily restore you
to perfect health, and turn your thoughts from war to peace." Young
Baudin, it may be added, was not compelled by the loss of his arm to
leave the service. He became an Admiral in 1839, and lived till 1854.

Flinders endeavoured to exert a stimulating influence upon young
officers. Writing to his brother (December 6th, 1806) he said:* "Remember
that youth is the time in which a store of knowledge, reputation and
fortune must be laid in to make age respectable. Imitate, my dear Samuel,
all that you have found commendable in my proceedings, manners, and
principles, and avoid the rest. Study is necessary, as it gives theory. I
need not speak to you now upon this, but active exertion is still more
necessary to a good sea officer. From both united it is that perfection
is attained. Neither would I have you neglect politeness, and the best
society to which circumstances may permit your admission; though not the
basis that constitutes a good officer or valuable member of society, the
manners thereby acquired are yet of infinite service to those who possess
them." (* Mr. Charles Bertie, of the Municipal Library, Sydney, has
kindly supplied me with this letter, which was obtained from Professor
Flinders Petrie.)

There could hardly be a sounder piece of advice to a young officer from
an elder than is contained in a letter written by Flinders to John
Franklin's father. It was intended for the youth's eye, beyond a doubt.
It is dated May 10th, 1805:* (* Manuscripts, Mitchell Library.) "I hope
John will have got into some active ship to get his time completed before
I go out another voyage, and learn the discipline of the service. I have
no doubt of being able to get him a lieutenant's commission if it should
be agreeable to him to sail with me again. He may rest confident of my
friendship, although I believe he had some fears on that head when we
parted, on account of a difference between him and my brother. He has
ability enough, but he must be diligent, studious, active in his duty,
not over-ready to take offence at his superior officers, nor yet humbling
too much to them; but in all things should make allowances for difference
of disposition and ways of thinking and should judge principally from the
intention. Above all things he should be strict in his honour and
integrity, for a man who forfeits either cannot be independent or brave
at all times; and he should not be afraid to be singular, for, if he is,
the ridicule of the vicious would beat him out of his rectitude as well
as out of his attention to his duty. I do not speak this from my fear of
him, but from my anxiety to see him the shining character which I am sure
he is capable of being."

In a similar strain is a letter to John Franklin (January 14th, 1812)
regarding a lad named Wiles, the son of a Jamaica friend, who had lately
been put on the Bedford as a midshipman: "I will thank you to let me know
from time to time how he goes on. Pray don't let him be idle. Employ him
in learning to knot and splice under a quartermaster; in working under
observation, in writing his journal, and in such studies as may be useful
to him. Make it a point of honour with him to be quick in relieving the
deck, and strict in keeping his watch; and when there are any courts
martial endeavour either to take him with you or that he may attend when
it can be done. In fine, my dear John, endeavour to make a good officer
and a good man of him, and be sure I shall always entertain a grateful
sense of your attention to him."

Active-minded himself, he encouraged study among those who came in
contact with him. It gave him pleasure to teach mathematics to Madame
D'Arifat's sons at Wilhelm's Plains. He mastered French so as to speak it
with grace and write with ease. He worked at Malay because he thought it
would be useful on future voyages. From the early days, when he taught
himself navigation amidst the swamps of his native Lincolnshire, until
his last illness laid him low, he was ever an eager student. Intelligent
curiosity and a desire to know the best that the best minds could teach
were a basic part of his character. We find him counselling Ann Chappell,
at about the time when he became engaged to her:* (* Flinders' Papers.)
"Learn music, learn the French language, enlarge the subjects of thy
pencil, study geography and astronomy and even metaphysics, sooner than
leave thy mind unoccupied. Soar, my Annette, aspire to the heights of
science. Write a great deal, work with thy needle a great deal, and read
every book that comes in thy way, save trifling novels."

Flinders read widely, and always carried a good library with him on his
voyages. His acquaintance with the literature of navigation was very
extensive. Some of his books were lost in the Porpoise wreck; the
remainder he took with him in the Cumberland, and, when he was
imprisoned, his anxiety to secure his printed volumes manifested the true
book-lover's hunger to have near him those companions of his intellectual
life. He derived great pleasure from the French literature which he
studied in Mauritius. A letter to his wife dated March, 1803, when he was
upon the north coast of Australia in the Investigator, reveals him
relieving his mind, amid anxieties about the condition of the ship, by
reading Milton's Paradise Lost. "The elevation and, also, the fall of our
first parents," he comments, "told with such majesty by him whose eyes
lacked all of what he threw so masterly o'er the great subject, dark
before and intricate--these with delight I perused, not knowing which to
admire most, the poet's daring, the subject, or the success with which
his bold attempt was crowned." He somewhat quaintly compares his wife
with Eve: "But in thee I have more faith than Adam had when he, complying
with Eve's request of separation in their labours, said 'Go, thou best,
last gift of God, go in thy native innocence.' But how much dearer art
thou here than our first mother! Our separation was not sought by thee,
but thou borest it as a vine whose twining arms when turned from round
the limb lie prostrate, broken, life scarcely left enough to keep the
withered leaf from falling off." We should especially have welcomed notes
from such a pen on a few passages in Milton which must have stirred his
deepest interest, as for example the majestic comparison of Satan's

"As when far off at sea a fleet descried
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Close sailing from Bengala, or the isles
Of Ternate or Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicy drugs; they on the trading flood,
Through the wide Ethiopian to the Cape,
Ply stemming nightly towards the pole: so seemed
Far off the flying Fiend."

To these characteristics may be added a passage illustrating the view of
our navigator concerning the marriage state. It must be confessed that
when he wrote it (June 30th, 1807) his experience was not extensive. He
left England when he had been a husband only a few weeks; but the passage
is interesting as conveying to his wife what his conception of the ideal
relation was: "There is a medium between petticoat government and tyranny
on the part of the husband, that with thee I think to be very attainable;
and which I consider to be the summit of happiness in the marriage state.
Thou wilt be to me not only a beloved wife, but my most dear and most
intimate friend, as I hope to be to thee. If we find failings, we will
look upon them with kindness and compassion, and in each other's merits
we will take pride, and delight to dwell upon them; thus we will realise,
as far as may be, the happiness of heaven upon the earth. I love not
greatness nor desire great riches, being confident they do not contribute
to happiness, but I desire to have enough for ourselves and something to
assist our friends in need. I think, my love, this is also thy way of

In the few concluding months of her husband's life, Mrs. Flinders had him
beside her under circumstances that were certainly far from easy. Their
somewhat straitened means, consequent upon the Admiralty's niggard
construction of regulations, the prolonged severity of his employment,
and the last agonised weeks of illness, must have gone far to detract
from perfect felicity in domestic conditions. The six changes of
residence in four and a half years point to the same conclusion.
Nevertheless we find Mrs. Flinders writing to a friend in these terms,
wherein her own happiness is clearly mirrored: "I am well persuaded that
very few men know how to value the regard and tender attentions of a wife
who loves them. Men in general cannot appreciate properly the delicate
affection of a woman, and therefore they do not know how to return it. To
make the married life as happy as this world will allow it to be, there
are a thousand little amenities to be rendered on both sides, and as many
little shades of comfort to be attended to. Many things must be
overlooked, for we are all such imperfect beings; and to bear and forbear
is essential to domestic peace. You will say that I find it easy to talk
on this subject, and that precept is harder than practice. I allow it, my
dear friend, in the practical part I have only to return kind affection
and attention for uniform tenderness and regard. I have nothing
unpleasant to call forth my forbearance. Day after day, month after month
passes, and I neither experience an angry look nor a dissatisfied word.
Our domestic life is an unvaried line of peace and comfort; and O, may
Heaven continue it such, so long as it shall permit us to dwell together
on this earth."


Not only is Flinders to be regarded as a discoverer whose researches
completed the world's knowledge of the last extensive region of the
habitable globe remaining in his time to be revealed; not only as one
whose work was marked by an unrivalled exactitude and fineness of
observation; but also as one who did very much to advance the science of
navigation in directions calculated to make seafaring safer, more
certain, with better means and methods at disposal. Malte-Brun declared,
when he died, that "the geographical and nautical sciences have lost in
the person of Flinders one of their most brilliant ornaments,"* and that
criticism, coming from a foreign critic than whom there was no better
informed savant in Europe, was no mere piece of obituary rhetoric. (*
Annales des Voyages 23 268.)

In 1805 he wrote a paper on the Marine Barometer, based upon observations
made during his Australian voyages. The instrument employed was one which
had been used by Cook; Flinders always kept it in his cabin. He was the
first to discover, and this essay was the first attempt to show, the
connection between the rise and fall of the barometer and the direction
of the wind. Careful observation showed him that where his facts were
collected the mercury of the barometer rose some time before a change
from landbreeze to seabreeze, and fell before the change from seabreeze
to landbreeze. Consequently a change of wind might generally be predicted
from the barometer. The importance of these observations was at once
recognised by men connected with navigation. As the Edinburgh Review
wrote, dealing with Flinders' paper when presented before the Royal
Society on March 27th, 1806:* "It is very easy for us, speculating in our
closet upon the theory of winds and their connection with the
temperature, to talk of drawing a general inference on this subject with
confidence. But when the philosopher chances to be a seaman on a very
dangerous coast, it will be admitted that the strength of this confidence
is put to a test somewhat more severe; and we find nevertheless that
Captain Flinders staked the safety of his ship and the existence of
himself and his crew on the truth of the above proposition." (* Edinburgh
Review, January, 1807; Flinders' Paper, "Observations on the Marine
Barometer," was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society, Part 2 1806.) Nowadays, indeed, the principal use of a barometer
to a navigator aboard ship is to enable him to anticipate changes of

Not less important were his experiments and writings upon variations of
the compass aboard ship. The fact that the needle of a compass showed
deviations on being moved from one part of a ship to another had been
observed by navigators in the eighteenth century, but Flinders was the
first to experiment systematically to ascertain the cause and to invent a
remedy.* (* For the history of the matter see Alexander Smith's
Introduction to W. Scoresby's Journal of a Voyage to Australia for
Magnetic Research, 1859.)

He observed not only that the direction of the needle varied according to
the part of the ship where it was placed, but also that a change in the
direction of the ship's head made a difference. Further, he found that in
northern latitudes (in the English Channel, for instance) the north end
of the needle was attracted towards the bow of the ship; whilst in
southern latitudes, in Bass Strait, there was an attraction towards the
stern; and at the equator there was no deviation. He came to the
conclusion that these results were due to the presence of iron in the
ship. When he returned to England in 1810, he wrote a memorandum on the
subject to the Admiralty, and requested that experiments might be made
upon ships of the Navy, with the object of verifying a law which he had
deduced from a long series of observations. His conclusion was that "the
magnetism of the earth and the attraction forward in the ship must act
upon the needle in the nature of a compound force, and that errors
produced by the attraction should be proportionate to the sines of the
angles between the ship's head and the magnetic meridian." Experiments
were made at Sheerness, Portsmouth, and Plymouth on five vessels. He took
a keen personal interest in them; and the result was his invention of the
Flinders' bar, which is now used in every properly equipped ship in the
world. The purpose of the bar, which is a vertical rod of soft iron,
placed so that its upper end is level with or slightly above the compass
needle, is to compensate for the effect of the vertical soft iron in the
ship.* (* See the excellent chapter on "Compasses" in Volume 2 of the
British Admiralty's Manual of Seamanship.) Flinders' work upon this
technical subject was important even in the days of wooden ships. In this
era of iron and steel ships it is regarded by every sailor as of the
utmost value.

In Flinders' day the delicacy of the compass, its liability to error, the
nature of the magnetic force to which it responds, and the necessity for
care in its handling, were very little appreciated. "Among the nautical
instruments taken to sea there are not any so ill-constructed, nor of
which so little care is taken afterwards, as the compass," he did not
hesitate to write.* (* Manuscript, "Chapter in the History of Magnetism;"
Flinders' Papers; another copy was sent to the Admiralty.) Compasses were
supplied to the Admiralty by contract, and were not inspected. They were
stowed in storehouses without any regard to the attraction to which the
needles might be exposed. They might be kept in store for a few years;
and they were then sent on board ships without any re-touching, "for no
magnets were kept in the dockyards, and probably no person there ever saw
them used." When a compass was sent aboard a ship of the Navy, it was
delivered into the charge of the boatswain and put into his store or
sail-room. Perhaps it was put on a shelf with his knives and forks and a
few marline-spikes. Flinders urged that spare compasses should be
preserved carefully in officers' cabins. Magnets for re-touching were not
kept in one ship in a hundred. Under these circumstances, he asked, "can
it be a subject of surprise that the most experienced navigators are
those who put the least confidence in the compass, or that ships running
three or four days without an observation should be found in situations
very different from what was expected, and some of them lost? The
currents are easily blamed, and sometimes with reason. Ships coming home
from the Baltic and finding themselves upon the shores of the Dutch
coast, when they were thought to be on the English side, lay it to the
currents; but the same currents, as I am informed, do not prevail when
steering in the opposite direction." The last is a neat stroke of irony.
Flinders strongly recommended that the Admiralty should appoint an
inspector of compasses, that there should be at every dockyard an officer
for re-touching compasses, and that a magnet for re-touching should be
carried on each flagship. The recommendations may seem like a counsel of
elementary precautions to-day, but they involved an important reform of
method in 1810.

Flinders also wrote on the theory of the tides; a set of notes on the
magnetism of the earth exists in manuscript; a manuscript of 106 pages,
consisting of a treatise on spheric trigonometry, is illustrated by
beautifully drawn diagrams, and includes an account of eight practical
methods of calculating latitude and five of calculating longitude. In
Mauritius he read all he could obtain about the history of the island,
and wrote a set of notes on Grant's History.

He was eager to praise the work of previous navigators. Laperouse was
especially a hero of his, and he wrote in French for the Societe
d'Emulation of Ile-de-France an account of the probable fate of that
celebrated sailor. In an eloquent passage in this essay, speaking of the
wreck, he cried: "O, Laperouse, my heart speaks to me of the agony that
rent yours. Ah, your eyes beheld the hapless companions of your dangers
and your glory fall one after another exhausted into the sea. Ah, your
eyes saw the fruit of vast and useful labours lost to the world. I think
of your sorrowing family. The picture is too painful for me to dwell upon
it; but at least when all human hope abandoned you, then--the last
blessing that God gives to the good--a ray of consolation shone upon your
eyes, and showed you that beyond those furious waves which broke upon
your vessels and swept away from you your companions another refuge was
opened to your virtues by the angel of pity."

Knowing the extreme difficulties attaching to navigation, even when in
the public interest he had to make a correction in the work of others, he
was anxious to cause no irritation. He sent to the editor of the Naval
Chronicle a correction in Horsburgh's Directions for Sailing to and from
the East Indies, but requested the editor to submit it first to the
author of that work, and to suppress publication if Horsburg so desired.
He never expressed a tinge of regret that he had chosen a field of
professional employment wherein promotion and reward were not liberally
bestowed. Entering the Navy under influential auspices, in a period when
active service provided plentiful scope for advancement, he deliberately
preferred the explorer's hard lot. The only prize money he ever won was
10 pounds after Lord Howe's victory in 1794. "I chose a branch," he said
in a letter to Banks, "which though less rewarded by rank and fortune is
yet little less in celebrity. If adverse fortune does not oppose me, I
will succeed." He succeeded beyond all he could have hoped.

The excellence of his charts was such that to this day the Admiralty
charts for those portions of the Australian coast where he did original
work bear upon them the honoured name of Matthew Flinders; and amongst
the seamen who habitually traverse these coasts, no name, not even that
of Cook, is so deeply esteemed as his. Flinders is not a tradition; the
navigators of our own time count him a companion of the watch.


The name Australia was given to the great southern continent by Flinders.
When and why he gave it that name will now be shown.

In the first place a common error must be set right. It is sometimes said
that the Spanish navigator, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, named one of the
islands of the New Hebrides group, in 1606, Australia del Espiritu Santo.
This is not the case. The narrative of his voyage described "all this
region of the south as far as the Pole which from this time shall be
called Austrialia del Espiritu Santo," from "His Majesty's title of
Austria." The word Austrialia is a punning name. Quiros' sovereign,
Philip III, was a Habsburg; and Quiros, in compliment to him, devised the
name Austrialia as combining the meaning "Austrian land," as well as
"southern land."* (* See Markham, Voyages of Quiros, Hakluyt Society
Volume 1 page 30.)

In 1756 the word "Australasia" was coined. Charles de Brosses, in his
Histoire des Navigations aux Terres Australes, wanted a word to signify a
new division of the globe. The maps marked off Europe, Asia, Africa and
America, but the vast region to the south of Asia required a name
likewise. De Brosses simply added "Austral" to "Asia," and printed
"Australasia" upon his map.

The earliest use of the word Australia that I have been able to find,
occurs in the index to the Dutch Generale Beschrijvinge van Indien
(General Description of the Indies) published at Batavia in 1638. The
work consists mainly of accounts of voyages by Dutch vessels to the East
Indies. Among them is a history of the "Australische Navigatien" of Jacob
le Maire and Willem Cornelisz Schouten, made in 1615 to 1617. They sailed
through the Straits of Magellan, crossed the Pacific, touched at the
Solomon Islands, and thence made their way round by the north of New
Guinea to Java. The word Australia does not occur anywhere in the
black-letter text of the narrative, and the word Australische in the
phrase "Australische Navigatien," simply means southern. There are
references in the book to "Terra Australis," but Le Maire and Schouten
knew not Australia. Nor does the narrative make any allusion to the
continent which we know by that name. The Terra Australis of these Dutch
navigators was land of the southern hemisphere in general. But,
curiously, the indexer of the Generale Beschrijvinge made four entries,
in which he employed the word Australia. Thus, his entry "Australia
Incognita Ondeckt" (Australia Incognita Discovered) referred to passages
in Le Maire and Schouten's voyage relating to the southern lands they had
seen. But it did not refer to the Australia of modern geography. It is
very strange that the Dutch indexer in Batavia should have hit upon the
word and employed it when he did not find it in the text of the book

The use of Australia in an English book of 1693 is also extremely
curious. In 1676 Gabriel de Foigny, under the assumed name of Jacques
Sadeur, published at Vannes a quaint little duodecimo volume, purporting
to give a description of an unknown southern land. He called his book La
Terre Australe connue; c'est a dire, la description de ce pays inconnu
jusqu'ici. It was a "voyage imaginaire," a pure piece of fancy. In 1693
it was translated into English, and published in London, by John Dunton,
under the title A New Discovery of Terra Incognita, or the Southern
World, by James Sadeur, a Frenchman, who being cast there by a shipwreck,
lived 35 years in that country and gives a particular description of the
manners, customs, religion, laws, studies and wars of those southern
people, and of some animals peculiar to that place; with several other
rarities. In the original French the word Australia does not occur. But
in the English translation Foigny's phrase "continent de la Terre
Australe," is rendered "Australia." Foigny's ingenious piece of fiction
drew its "local colour" from the South American region, not from any
supposed land in the neighbourhood of the Australian continent. The
instance is all the more interesting from the possibility that the book
may have given a hint to Swift in the writing of Gulliver's Travels.* (*
See the Cambridge History of English Literature 9 106; where, however,
the English translation is erroneously cited as Journey of Jacques Sadour
to Australia.)

In 1770 and 1771 Alexander Dalrymple published An Historical Collection
of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean. In the preface to
that work he used the word Australia as "comprehending the discoveries at
a distance from America to the eastward."* (* Page 15 of the 1780 edition
of Dalrymple.) He did not intend it to include the present Australia at
all. De Brosses had used the three names Magellanica, Polynesia and
Australasia, which Dalrymple accepted; but he thought there was room for
a fourth for the area east of South America. The part of the Australian
continent known when Dalrymple published his book--only the west and
northern coasts--was included within the division which De Brosses called

Here we have three instances of the use of the word Australia in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but without reference to the
continent which now bears that name.

In 1793, G. Shaw and J.E. Smith published in London a Zoology and Botany
of New Holland. Here the word Australia was used in its modern sense, as
applied to the southern continent. The authors wrote of "the vast island,
or rather continent, of Australia, Australasia, or New Holland, which has
so lately attracted the particular attention of European navigators and

The word was not therefore of Flinders' devising. But it may be taken to
be certain that he was unacquainted with the previous employment of it by
the Dutch indexer, by Foigny's English translator, or by Shaw and Smith.
It is doubtful whether he had observed the previous use of it by
Dalrymple. Undoubtedly he had read that author's book. He may have had
the volumes in his cabin library. But he was so exact and scrupulous a
man that we can say with confidence that, had he remembered the
occurrence of the word in Dalrymple, he would have mentioned the fact.
The point is not material, however, because, as already observed,
Dalrymple did not apply "Australia" to this continent, but to a different
region. The essential point is that "Australia was reinvented by
Flinders."* (* Morris, Dictionary of Austral English page 10.)

Flinders felt the need of a single word that would be a good name for the
island which had been demonstrated by his own researches to be one great
continent. It will be remembered that he had investigated the whole
extent of the southern coasts, had penetrated to the extremities of the
two great gulfs found there, had proved that they did not open into a
passage cutting Terra Australis in two, and had thoroughly examined the
Gulf of Carpentaria, finding no inlet southward there. The country was
clearly one immense whole. But what was it to be called? Terra Australis,
Southern Land, was too long, was cumbrous, was Latin. That would not be a
convenient name for a country that was to play any part in the world. The
Dutch had named the part which they found New Holland. But they knew
nothing of the east. Cook called the part which he had discovered New
South Wales. But Cook knew nothing of the west. Neither the Dutch nor
Cook knew anything of the south, a large part of which Flinders himself
had discovered.

We find him for the first time using the word "Australia" in a letter
written to his brother Samuel on August 25th, 1804.* (* Flinders'
Papers.) He was then living at Wilhelm's Plains: "I call the whole island
Australia, or Terra Australis. New Holland is properly that portion of it
from 135 degrees of longitude westward; and eastward is New South Wales,
according to the Governor's patent."

Flinders' first public use of the word was not in English, but in French.
In the essay on the probable fate of Laperouse, written for the Societe
d'Emulation in Ile-de-France (1807), he again stated the need for a word
in terms which I translate as follows: "The examination of the eastern
part was commenced in 1770 by Captain Cook, and has since been completed
by English navigators.* (* By himself; but in this paper he modestly said
nothing of his own researches.) The first (i.e., the west) is New Holland
properly so called, and the second bears the name of New South Wales. I
have considered it convenient to unite the two parts under a common
designation which will do justice to the discovery rights of Holland and
England, and I have with that object in view had recourse to the name
Austral-land or Australia. But it remains to be seen whether the name
will be adopted by European geographers."* (* "Il reste a savoir si ce
nom sera adopte par des geographes europeens." The paper was printed in
the Annales des Voyages by Malte-Brun (Paris, 1810). Flinders kept a
copy, and his manuscript is now in the Melbourne Public Library. It is an
exquisite piece of calligraphy, perhaps the most beautifully written of
all his manuscripts.)

After 1804 Flinders repeatedly used the word Australia in his
correspondence. Before that date he had invariably written of "New
Holland." But in a letter to Banks (December 31st, 1804) he referred to
"my general chart of Australia;"* (* Historical Records 5 531.) in March,
1806, he wrote of "the north-west coast of Australia;"* (* Ibid 6 50.) in
July, 1806, writing to the King he underlined the word in the phrase "my
discoveries in Australia;"* (* Ibid 6 107.) in July, 1807, he spoke of
"the north coast of Australia;"* (* Ibid 6 274.) in February, 1809, of
"the south coast of Australia;"* (* Ibid 7 52.) and the same phrase was
employed in January, 1810.* (* Ibid 7 275.) It is therefore apparent that
before his return to England he had determined to use the name
systematically and to make its employment general as far as he could. We
do not find it occurring in any other correspondence of the period.

When he reached England in 1810 and commenced to work upon his book, he
wished to use the name Australia, and brought the subject forward at a
meeting at Sir Joseph Banks' house. But Banks was not favourable, and
Arrowsmith, the chart-publisher, "did not like the change" because his
firm had always used the name New Holland in their charts. A Major
Rennell was present at one of the meetings, when Flinders thought he had
converted Sir Joseph. But afterwards he found Banks disinclined to
sanction the name, and wrote to Major Rennell asking whether he
remembered the conversation. The Major replied (August 15th, 1812):* (*
Flinders' Papers.) "I certainly think that it was as you say, that
Australia was the proper name for the continent in question; and for the
reason you mention. I suppose I must have been of that opinion at the
time, for I certainly think so now. It wants a collective name."

Two days after the receipt of Major Rennell's letter Flinders wrote to
Banks, reminding him that he was the first person consulted about the
name Australia, and that he had understood that it was generally
approved. Bligh had not objected to it. When part of the manuscript of
the Voyage was submitted to Mr. Robert Peel, Under-Secretary for the
Colonies (afterwards Sir Robert Peel and Prime Minister of England), and
to Lord Liverpool, the principal Secretary of State, there had been some
discussion respecting the inclusion of the Gulf of Carpentaria as part of
New South Wales, and it was accordingly erased. But no objection was
raised to the name Australia. Flinders fought hard for his word, but did
not succeed completely. Captain Burney suggested that Terra Australis was
a name "more familiar to the public." Banks on August 19th withdrew his
objection to "the propriety of calling New Holland and New South Wales by
the collective name of Terra Australis," and accordingly as A Voyage to
Terra Australis his book ultimately went forth. The work being published
under the aegis of the Admiralty, he had to conform to the opinion of
those who were less sensible of the need for an innovation than he was,
and it was only in a modest footnote that he used the name he preferred.
The passage in the book wherein he discussed the question may be quoted,
together with his footnote:

"The vast regions to which this voyage was principally directed
comprehend, in the western part, the early discoveries of the Dutch,
under the name of New Holland; and in the east the coasts explored by
British navigators, and named New South Wales. It has not, however, been
unusual to apply the first appellation to both regions; but to continue
this would be almost as great an injustice to the British nation, whose
seamen have had so large a share in the discovery as it would be to the
Dutch were New South Wales to be so extended. This appears to have been
felt by a neighbouring, and even rival, nation; whose writers commonly
speak of these countries under the general term of Terres Australes. In
fact, the original name, used by the Dutch themselves until some time
after Tasman's second voyage in 1644, was Terra Australis, or 'Great
South Land;' and, when it was displaced by 'New Holland,' the new term
was applied only to the parts lying westward of a meridian line passing
through Arnhem's Land on the north, and near the isles of St. Francis and
St. Peter on the south; all to the eastward, including the shores of the
Gulf of Carpentaria, still remained as Terra Australis. This appears from
a chart published by Thevenot in 1663; which, he says 'was originally
taken from that done in inlaid work upon the pavement of the new
Stadt-House at Amsterdam.' The same thing is to be inferred from the
notes of Burgomaster Witsen in 1705 of which there will be occasion to
speak in the sequel.

"It is necessary, however, to geographical precision, that so soon as New
Holland and New South Wales were known to form one land, there should be
a general name applicable to the whole; and this essential point having
been ascertained in the present voyage, with a degree of certainty
sufficient to authorise the measure, I have, with the concurrence of
opinions entitled to deference, ventured upon the adoption of the
original Terra Australis; and of this term I shall hereafter make use
when speaking of New Holland and New South Wales in a collective sense;
and when using it in the most extensive signification, the adjacent
isles, including that of Van Diemen, must be understood to be

"There is no probability that any other detached body of land, of nearly
equal extent, will ever be found in a more southern latitude; the name
Terra Australis will, therefore, remain descriptive of the geographical
importance of this country, and its situation on the globe, it has
antiquity to recommend it; and, having no reference to either of the two
claiming nations, appears to be less objectionable than any other which
could have been selected."

Then comes the footnote in which the name Australia is suggested:

"Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would
have been to convert it into Australia; as being more agreeable to the
ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the

The name came into general use after the publication of Flinders' book,
though it was not always adopted in official documents. Governor
Macquarie, of New South Wales, in a despatch in April, 1817, expressed
the hope that the name would be authoritatively sanctioned.* (* See M.
Phillips, A Colonial Autocracy, London 1909 page 2 note.) As already
noted, the officials of 1849 drew a distinction between New Holland, the
mainland, and Australia, which included the island of Tasmania; and so
Sir Charles Fitzroy, Governor of New South Wales, was styled
"Governor-General of Australia," in a commission dated 1851. The proudest
of all places wherein this name is used is in the forefront of the
majestic instrument cited as 63 and 64 Vict., cap. 12--"An Act to
constitute the Commonwealth of Australia."




[In a long letter of about 30,000 words, written to the French Minister
of Marine from Port Jackson in 1802, Captain Baudin described his
explorations in Australian waters up to that date. The manuscript is in
the Archives Nationales, Paris, BB4, 995, Marine. It has never been
published. In this appendix, which relates to Chapter 14 of the book, I
translate the portion of the letter concerning the meeting of the
Investigator and Le Geographe in Encounter Bay, with a few notes.]

"On the 18th,* (* Note 1: That is, the 18th Germinal in the French
revolutionary calendar; April 8th by the Gregorian calendar.) continuing
to follow the coast and the various coves upon it, we sighted towards the
north-east a long chain of high mountains, which appeared to terminate at
the border of the sea. The weariness we had for a long time experienced
at seeing coasts which for the most part were arid, and offered not the
slightest resource, was dissipated by the expectation of coming upon a
more promising country. A little later, a still more agreeable object of
distraction presented itself to our view. A square-sailed ship was
perceived ahead. Nobody on board had any doubt that it was Le
Naturaliste. As she was tacking south and we were tacking north, we
approached each other. But what was our astonishment when the other
vessel hoisted a white flag on the mainmast. It was beyond doubt a signal
of recognition, to which we responded. A little later, that signal was
hauled down, and an English ensign and pennant were substituted.* (* Note
2: Flinders says: "Our colours being hoisted, she showed a French ensign,
and afterwards an English jack forward, as we did a white flag.") We
replied by hoisting our colours; and we continued to advance towards each
other. The manoeuvre of the English ship indicating that she desired to
speak to us, we stood towards her.* (* Note 3: Flinders' own explanation
of his manoeuvring is: "We veered round as Le Geographe was passing so as
to keep our broadside to her lest the flag of truce should be a
deception.") When we got within hail, a voice enquired what ship we were.
I replied simply that we were French. "Is that Captain Baudin?" "Yes, it
is he." The English captain then saluted me graciously, saying "I am very
glad to meet you." I replied to the same effect, without knowing to whom
I was speaking; but, seeing that arrangements were being made for someone
to come on board, I brought the ship to.

"Mr. Flinders, who commanded the English vessel, presented himself. As
soon as I learnt his name, I no longer doubted that he, like ourselves,
was occupied with the exploration of the south coast of New Holland; and,
in spite of the reserve that he showed upon that first visit, I could
easily perceive that he had already completed a part of it. Having
invited him to come into my cabin, and finding ourselves alone there, the
conversation became freer.* (* Note 4: "Nous trouvant seul, la
conversation devint plus libre." Flinders says that Brown accompanied
him, and went into the cabin with him. "No person was present at our
conversations except Mr. Brown.")

"He informed me that he had left Europe about eight months after us, and
that he was bound for Port Jackson, having previously refreshed at the
Cape of Good Hope.

"I had no hesitation about giving him information concerning what we had
been doing upon the coast until that moment. I pointed out to him defects
which I had observed in the chart which he had published* of the strait
separating New Holland from Van Diemen's Land, etc., etc. (* Note 5: "la
carte qu'il nous a donne des detroits." From this it appears that Baudin
knew Flinders as the author of the chart, even while pointing out its
defects. Flinders had the impression that Baudin did not know him till he
was about to leave Le Geographe at the end of the second interview.)

"Mr. Flinders observed to me that he was not unaware that the chart
required to be checked, inasmuch as the sketch from which it was prepared
had been drawn from uncertain information, and that the means employed
when the discovery was made did not conduce to securing exact results.*
(* Note 6: Flinders: "On my pointing out a note upon the chart,
explaining that the north side of the strait was seen only in an open
boat by Mr. Bass, who had no good means of fixing either latitude or
longitude, he appeared surprised, not having before paid attention to
it.") Finally, becoming less circumspect than he had hitherto been, he
told me that he had commenced his work at Cape Leeuwin, and had followed
the coast to the place where we were met. He suggested that our ships
should pass the night near together, and that early on the following
morning he should come on board again, and give me some particulars which
would be useful to me. I accepted his proposition with pleasure, and we
tacked about at a short distance from each other during the night. It was
seven o'clock in the evening when he returned to his ship.* (* Note 7:
Flinders: "I told him that some other and more particular charts of the
strait and its neighbourhood had since been published; and that if he
would keep company until next morning I would bring him a copy with a
small memoir belonging to them. This was agreed to.")

"On the 19th* (* Note 8: April 9th.) Mr. Flinders came on board at six
o'clock in the morning. We breakfasted together,* (* Note 9: Flinders
does not mention this incident.) and talked about our respective work. He
appeared to me to have been happier than we had been with respect to the
discoveries he had made. He told me about a large island, about a dozen
or fifteen leagues away, which had been visited by him. According to his
account, he stayed there six weeks to prepare a chart of it;* (* Note 10:
A mistake; Flinders was at Kangaroo Island only six days.) and with the
aid of a corvette* (* Note 11: Peron also had the erroneous impression
that the Investigator had been accompanied by a corvette, which foundered
in Spencer's Gulf, and so wrote in his Voyage de Decouvertes. Baudin must
have confused what Flinders told him about the drowning of Thistle and
the boat's crew, with an idea of his own that this boat was a consort of
the Investigator as Le Naturaliste was of Le Geographe.) had explored two
deep gulfs, the direction of which he sketched for me, as well as of his
Kangaroo Island, which he had so named in consequence of the great
quantity of those quadrupeds found there. The island, though not far from
the continent, did not appear to him to be inhabited.

"An accident like that which had unfortunately happened to us on the
coast of Van Diemen's Land had overtaken Mr. Flinders.* (* Note 12:
Baudin was referring to a boat party of his own, consisting of
Boullanger, one of his hydrographers, a lieutenant and eight sailors.
They had gone out in a boat to chart a portion of the coast which Le
Geographe could not reach. They did not return, and Baudin supposed them
to have been lost. But they were in fact picked up by the sealing brig
Snow-Harrington from Sydney, which afterwards sighted Le Naturaliste, and
handed the men over to her.) He had lost a boat and eight men. His ship
was also short of stores, and he was not without uneasiness as to what
would happen.

"Before we separated the Captain asked me if I had any knowledge of an
island which was said to exist to the north of the Bass Strait islands. I
replied that I had not, inasmuch as, having followed the coast fairly
closely after leaving the Promontory as far as Westernport, I had not met
with any land placed in the position which he indicated.* (* Note 13:
What Flinders asked Baudin was whether he had any "knowledge concerning a
large island said to lie in the western entrance of Bass Strait. But he
had not seen it and seemed to doubt much of its existence." The reference
was to King Island. Baudin marked on his chart, in consequence of this
enquiry, an island "believed to exist," guessing at its situation and
placing it wrongly; though he subsequently stayed at King Island
himself.) He appeared to be well pleased with my response, doubtless in
the hope of being the first to discover it. Perhaps Le Naturaliste, in
searching for us in the Strait, will have discovered it.* (* Note 14:
This sentence is interesting, as showing that Baudin wrote this part of
his letter to the Minister at the time, not at Port Jackson weeks later.
If the sentence had been written later, he would not have said that Le
Naturaliste would perhaps sight the island. He by then knew that she did
not.) At the moment of his departure, Mr. Flinders presented me with
several new charts, published by Arrowsmith, and a printed memoir by
himself, dealing with discoveries in the strait, the north coast of Van
Diemen's Land, the east coast, etc., etc. He also invited me to sail,
like himself, for Port Jackson, the resources of which he perhaps exalted
too highly, if I had to remain long in these seas. At eight o'clock we*
separated. (* Note 15: Flinders: "I returned with Mr. Brown on board the
Investigator at half-past-eight in the morning, and we then separated
from Le Geographe; Captain Baudin's course being directed to the
north-west and ours to the southward.") He sailed south and we went to
the west."


[The following is a fairly literal translation of Peron's report on Port
Jackson, furnished to General Decaen at Ile-de-France.]

Port N.-O., 20th Frimaire, Year 12.* (* Note 16: i.e., Port North-West
(Port Louis), December 11, 1802.)

Citizen Captain-General,

Fifteen years ago England transported, at great expense, a numerous
population to the eastern coast of New Holland. At that time this vast
continent was still almost entirely unknown. These southern lands and the
numerous archipelagoes of the Pacific were invaded by the English, who
had solemnly proclaimed themselves sovereign over the whole dominion
extending from Cape York to the southern extremity of New Holland, that
is to say, from 10 degrees 37 minutes south, to 43 degrees 39 minutes
south latitude. In longitude their possessions had been fixed as reaching
from 105 degrees west of Greenwich to the middle of the Pacific Ocean,
including all the archipelagos with which it is strewn.* (* Note 17: This
is a literal translation of Peron's statement, which is obviously
confused and wrong. 105 degrees west longitude is east of Easter Island,
as well as being an "exact boundary" in the Pacific, which, Peron goes on
to say, did not exist. The probability is that he gives here a muddled
reproduction of the boundaries actually fixed by Phillip's
commission--"westward as far as the 135th degree of east
longitude...including all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean."
[Mr. Jose's note.])

Note especially in this respect that in the formal deed of annexation no
exact boundary was fixed on the Pacific Ocean side. This omission seems
to have been the result of astute policy; the English Government thus
prepared itself an excuse for claiming, at the right time and place, all
the islands which in the future may be, or actually are, occupied by the
Spaniards--who thus find themselves England's next-door neighbours.

So general a project of encroachment alarmed, as it must, all the nations
of Europe. The sacrifices made by England to maintain this colony
redoubled their suspicions. The Spanish expedition of Admiral Malaspina*
had not fulfilled the expectations of its Government. (* Note 18: Two
Spanish ships, commanded by Don Alexandro Malaspina, visited Sydney in
April, 1793. They had left Cadiz on an exploring and scientific
expedition in July, 1789.) Europe was still ignorant of the nature of the
English settlement; its object was unknown; its rapid growth was not even

Always vigilant in regard to whatever may humiliate the eternal rival of
our nation, the First Consul, soon after the revolution of the 18th
Brumaire,* (* Note 19: It was on the 18th Brumaire (November 9th, 1799)
that Bonaparte overthrew the Directory by a coup-d'etat, and became First
Consul of the French Republic.) decided upon our expedition.* (* Note 20:
Peron's statement is quite wrong. The matter of despatching an expedition
to Australia had been considered and proposed to the Government by the
professors of the Museum two years before the coup-d'etat of Brumaire:
before therefore Bonaparte had anything to do with the Government. Their
letter to the Minister, making this proposal, is dated 12th Thermidor,
year 6--that is, July 31st, 1797. Bonaparte was then a young general
commanding the army of Italy. The project was taken up by the Institute
of France, and Bonaparte, as First Consul, sanctioned the expedition in
May, 1800. There is no evidence that he ever gave a thought to the matter
until it was brought before him by the Institute.) His real object was
such that it was indispensable to conceal it from the Governments of
Europe, and especially from the Cabinet of St. James's. We must have
their unanimous consent; and that we might obtain this, it was necessary
that, strangers in appearance to all political designs, we should occupy
ourselves only with natural history collections. Such a large expenditure
had been incurred to augment the collections of the Museum of the
Republic that the object of our voyage could not but appear to all the
world as a natural consequence of the previous action of our Government.
It was far from being the case, however, that our true purpose had to be
confined to that class of work; and if sufficient time permitted it would
be very easy for me, citizen Captain-General, to demonstrate to you that
all our natural history researches, extolled with so much ostentation by
the Government, were merely a pretext for its enterprise, and were
intended to assure for it the most general and complete success. So that
our expedition, so much criticised by fault-finders, so much neglected by
the former administrators of this colony, was in its principle, in its
purpose, in its organization, one of those brilliant and important
conceptions which ought to make our present Government for ever
illustrious. Why was it that, after having done so much for the success
of these designs, the execution of them was confided to a man utterly
unfitted in all possible respects to conduct them to their proper issue?

You have asked me, General, to communicate to you such information as I
have been able to procure upon the colony of Port Jackson. A work of that
kind would be as long as it would be important; and, prepared as I
conceive it ought to be, and as I hope it will be when presented to the
French Government, it would fix our attention to some useful purpose upon
that growing snare of a redoubtable power. Unfortunately, duty has made
demands upon me until to-day, and now that I find myself a little freer
our departure is about to take place. Moreover, all the information we
have collected upon the regions in question is deposited in the chest
which has to be forwarded, sealed, to the Government, and without access
to this the notes that I should desire to furnish to you cannot be
completed. Nevertheless, in order to contribute as far as possible to
your enlightenment on the subject, I take the liberty of furnishing you
with some particulars of the new establishment. In asking you to excuse,
on account of the circumstances, faults both of style and of
presentation, I venture to assure you, General, that you can rely upon my
jealous exactitude in fulfilling as far as was in my power the intention
of the Government of my country. I have neglected no means of procuring
all the information that as far as I could foresee would be of interest.
I was received in the house of the Governor with much consideration. He
and his secretary spoke our language well. The commandant of the troops
of New South Wales, Mr. Paterson, a member of the Royal Society of
London, a very distinguished savant, always treated me with particular
regard. I was received in his house, as one might say, as a son. I have
through him known all the officials of the colony. The surgeon, a
distinguished man, Mr. Thompson, honoured me with his friendship. Mr.
Grimes, the surveyor of the colony, Mr. Palmer the commissary-general of
the Government, Mr. Marsden, a clergyman of Parramatta, and a cultivator
as wealthy as he is discerning, were all capable of furnishing me with
valuable information. My functions on board permitted me to hazard the
asking of a large number of questions which would have been indiscreet on
the part of another, particularly on the part of soldiers. I have, in a
word, known at Port Jackson all the principal people of the colony, in
all vocations, and each of them has furnished, unsuspectingly,
information as valuable as it is new. Finally, I made with Mr. Paterson
very long excursions into the interior of the country. I saw most of the
best farms, and I assure you that I have gathered everywhere interesting
ideas upon things, which I have taken care to make exact as possible.


Whilst in Europe they are spoken of as the colony of Botany Bay, as a
matter of fact there is no establishment there. Botany Bay is a humid,
marshy, rather sterile place, not healthy, and the anchorage for vessels
is neither good nor sure.

Port Jackson, thirteen leagues from Botany Bay, is unquestionably one of
the finest ports in the world. It was in these terms that Governor
Phillip spoke of it, and certainly he did not exaggerate when he added
that a thousand ships of the line could easily manoeuvre within it. The
town of Sydney has been founded in the heart of this superb harbour. It
is already considerable in extent, and, like its population, is growing
rapidly. Here reside the Governor and all the principal Government
officers. The environs of Sydney are sandy and not very fertile; in
almost all of them there is a scarcity of water during the hot summer

Parramatta is the largest town founded by the English. It is in the
interior of the country, about six leagues from Sydney, from which it can
be reached by a small river called the Parramatta River. Small vessels
can proceed close to the town; larger ones have to discharge some
distance away. A very fine road leads overland from Sydney to Parramatta.
Some very good houses have been built here and there along the road.
Already people who have made considerable fortunes are to be found there.
The land around Parramatta is of much better quality than that at Sydney.
The country has been cleared to a considerable extent; and grazing in
particular presents important advantages.

Toongabbie, further inland, three or four leagues from Parramatta, is
still more fertile. Its pastures are excellent. It is there that the
flocks belonging to the Government have been established.

Hawkesbury, more than 60 miles from Sydney, is in the vicinity of the
Blue Mountains. It is the richest and most fruitful of the English
establishments. It may be regarded as the granary of the colony, being
capable by itself of supplying nearly all the wants of the settlement.
The depth of soil in some parts is as much as 80 feet; and it is truly
prodigious in point of fertility. These incalculable advantages are due
to the alluvial deposits of the Hawkesbury River, which descends in
cascades from the summits of the Blue Mountains, and precipitates itself
upon the plain loaded with a thick mud of a quality eminently suitable
for promoting vegetable growth. Unfortunately with benefits such as are
conferred by the Nile it unites its inconveniences. It is subject to
frightful floods, which overwhelm everything. Houses, crops, and
flocks--everything is destroyed unless men and animals save themselves by
very rapid flight. These unexpected floods are sometimes so prodigious
that the water has been known to rise 60 and even 80 feet above the
normal level. But what gives a great importance to the town of Hawkesbury
is the facility with which large ships can reach it by the river of which
I have just spoken. This part of New Holland will be a source of rapid
and very large fortunes.

Castle Hill is a new establishment in the interior of New Holland,
distant 21 miles from Parramatta, from which it is reached by a superb
road, which traverses thick forests. Allotments of land are crowded round
this place, and the clearances are so considerable that for more than a
league all round the town we could see the forest grants being burnt off.

Richmond Hill, towards the Hawkesbury, is a more considerable place than
the last mentioned, and is in a fertile situation.

So, General, it will be seen that this colony, which people in Europe
still believe to be relegated to the muddy marshes of Botany Bay, is
daily absorbing more and more of the interior of the continent. Cities
are being erected, which, at present in their infancy, present evidences
of future grandeur. Spacious and well-constructed roads facilitate
communication with all parts, whilst important rivers render access by
water still more convenient and less expensive.

But the English Government is no longer confining its operations to the
eastern coast of New Holland. Westernport, on the extreme south, beyond
Wilson's Promontory, is already engaging its attention. At the time of
our departure a new establishment there was in contemplation. The
Government is balancing the expediency of founding a new colony there or
at Port Phillip, to the north.* (* Note 21: "Le Port Phillip dans le nord
de ce dernier." Peron's information was correct. King had in May, 1802,
made a recommendation to the British Government that a settlement should
be founded at Port Phillip. The reasons, also, are stated accurately by
him.) In any case, it is indubitable, from what I have heard the Governor
say--it is indubitable, I say, that such a step will soon be taken.
Indeed, whatever advantage Port Jackson may possess, it suffers from a
grave disadvantage in the narrowness of its entry. Two frigates could by
themselves blockade the most numerous fleet within. Westernport would in
certain eventualities offer an advantageous position. Moreover, the
navigation of Bass Strait is very dangerous. The winds there are
terrible. Before negotiating the strait, ships from Europe, fatigued by a
long voyage, require succour and shelter. The new establishment will be
able to accommodate them. A third reason, and no doubt the most
important, is that the English in spite of all their efforts, in spite of
the devotion of several of their citizens, in spite of the sacrifices
made by the Government, have not yet been able to traverse the
redoubtable barrier of the Blue Mountains and to penetrate into the west
of New Holland. An establishment on the part of the coast that I have
just mentioned would guarantee them success in their efforts in that
direction. At all events it is indubitable that the establishment to
which I have referred will be immediately founded, if indeed such is not
already the case, as appears very probable from the letter which the
Governor wrote to our commandant in that regard a few days after our
departure from Port Jackson.

So then, the English, already masters of the eastern coast of New
Holland, now wish to occupy the immense extent of the west and south-west
coasts which contain very fine harbours, namely, that which they call
Westernport, Port Phillip, Port Flinders* (* Note 22: Peron probably
meant the present Port Augusta in Spencer's Gulf; but the name Port
Flinders was his own.) at the head of one of the great gulfs of the
south-west, Port Esperance, discovered by Dentrecasteaux, King George's
Sound, etc.

But still more, General, their ambition, always aspiring, is not confined
to New Holland itself, vast as it may be. Van Diemen's Land, and
especially the magnificent Dentrecasteaux Channel, have excited their
cupidity. Another establishment has probably been founded there since our
departure from Port Jackson. Take a glance at the detailed chart of that
part of Van Diemen's Land. Look at the cluster of bays and harbours to be
found there, and judge for yourself whether it is likely that that
ambitious nation will permit any other power to occupy them. Therefore,
numerous preparations had been made for the occupation of that important
point. The authorities were only awaiting a frigate, the Porpoise,* (*
Note 23: Peron spells the name as it sounded to him, La Poraperse.) to
transport colonists and provisions. That establishment is probably in
existence to-day.* (* Note 24: Again, Peron's information was correct. A
settlement on the Derwent, close to Dentrecasteaux Channel, was ordered
to be founded in March, 1803, and the Porpoise, with the Lady Nelson as
tender, was employed to carry colonists and supplies thither.) Several
reasons will have determined it; First: The indispensable necessity, for
the English, of keeping away from their establishments in that part of
the world rivals and neighbours as redoubtable as the French; Second: The
desire of removing from occupation by any other nation those impregnable
ports whence their important trade with New Zealand might be destroyed
and their principal establishment itself be eventually shaken; Third: The
fertility of the soil in that part of Van Diemen's Land, and above all
the hope of discovering in the vast granite plateaux, which seems here to
enclose the world, mines of precious metals or some new substance unknown
to the stupid aboriginals of the country.

I will not refer in detail to the Furneaux and Hunter's Islands, to King
Island and Maria Island. Everywhere the British flag is flown with pride.
Everywhere profitable fisheries are established. Seals of various
species, to be found upon these islands, open up a new source of wealth
and power to the English nation.

But New Zealand is especially advantageous to them in that regard. There
is the principal seat of the wealth of their new colony. Thence a large
number of ships sail annually for Europe laden with whale oil. Never, as
the English themselves acknowledge, was a fishery so lucrative and so
easy. The number of vessels engaged in it is increasing rapidly. Four
years ago there were but four or five. Last year there were seventeen.*
(* Note 25: It will be remembered that Bass intended to engage in the New
Zealand fishery. Cf. chapter 9.) I shall have occasion to return to this

Let us sum up what has been said concerning the English establishments in
this part of the world. Masters of the east coast of New Holland, we see
them rapidly penetrating the interior of the country, clearing pressed
forward on all sides, towns multiplying. Everywhere there is hope of
abundance of great agricultural wealth. The south coast is menaced by
coming encroachments, which, perhaps, are by now effected. All the ports
of the south-west will be occupied successively, and much sooner than is
commonly thought. Van Diemen's Land and all the neighbouring islands
either are to be occupied or already are so. New Zealand offers to them,
together with excellent harbours, an extraordinarily abundant and
lucrative fishery. In a word, everything in these vast regions presents a
picture of unequalled activity, unlimited foresight, swollen ambition,
and a policy as deep as it is vigilant.

Well then--come forward now to the middle of these vast seas, so long
unknown; we shall see everywhere the same picture reproduced, with the
same effects. Cast a glance over that great southern ocean. Traverse all
those archipelagos which, like so many stepping-stones, are scattered
between New Holland and the west coast of America. It is by their means
that England hopes to be able to stretch her dominion as far as Peru.
Norfolk Island has for a long time been occupied. The cedar that it
produces, coupled with the great fertility of the soil, render it an
important possession. It contains already between 1500 and 1800
colonists. No settlement has as yet been founded in any of the other
islands, but researches are being pursued in all parts. The English land
upon all the islands and establish an active commerce, by means of
barter, with the natives. The Sandwich Islands, Friendly Islands, Loyalty
Islands,* (* Note 26: New Caledonian Group.) Navigator Islands,* (* Note
27: Samoan Group.) Marquesas and Mendore Islands all furnish excellent
salt provisions. Ships, employed in trade, frequently arrive at Port
Jackson; and it increases every day, proof positive of the advantage that
is derived from it.

The Government is particularly occupied with endeavouring to discover
upon some one of these archipelagos a strong military post, a species of
arsenal, nearer to the coasts of Peru and Chili.* (* Note 28: This
statement was entirely false.) It is towards these two points that the
English Government appears to be especially turning its eyes. They are
quite aware of the feebleness of the Spaniards in South America. They are
above all aware that the unconquered Chilians are constantly making
unexpected attacks, that like so many Bedouins they appear unawares with
a numerous cavalry upon places where the Spaniards are most feeble,
committing robberies and outrages in all directions before sufficient
forces have been collected to repulse them. Then they retire with a
promptitude which does not permit of their being followed to their savage
fastnesses, which are unknown to the Spaniards themselves--retreats
whence they very soon reappear, to commit fresh massacres. (See the
Voyage of Laperouse). The English, to whom nothing that occurs in those
important regions is unknown, are equally aware that it is simply a
deficiency in arms and ammunition which prevents the redoubtable Chilians
from pushing much farther their attacks against the Spaniards. It is to
the furnishing of these means that the English Government are at the
present moment confining their enterprise. A very active contraband trade
is calculated to enable them to carry out their perfidious ends, whilst
at the same time providing a profitable market for the produce of their
manufacturers. Another manner in which they torment the Spaniards of Peru
is by despatching a swarm of pirates to these seas. During the last war
very rich prizes were captured by simple whaling vessels, and you can
judge what attacks of this kind will be like when they are directed and
sustained by the English Government itself.

Their hopes in regard to the Spanish possessions are heightened, and
their projects are encouraged, by the general direction of the winds in
these seas. A happy experience has at length taught the English that the
prevailing wind, that which blows strongest and most constantly, is the
west wind. Determined by these considerations (would you believe it,
General?) the English nowadays, instead of returning to Europe from Port
Jackson by traversing Bass Strait and doubling the Cape of Good Hope,
turn their prows eastwards, abandon themselves to their favourite wind,
traverse rapidly the great expanse of the South Seas, double Cape Horn,
and so do not reach England until they have made the circuit of the
globe! Consequently those voyages round the world, which were formerly
considered so hazardous, and with which are associated so many
illustrious names, have become quite familiar to English sailors. Even
their fishing vessels accomplish the navigation of the globe just as
safely as they would make a voyage from Europe to the Antilles. That
circumstance is not so unimportant as may at first appear. The very idea
of having circumnavigated the globe exalts the enthusiasm of English
sailors. What navigation would not seem to them ordinary after voyages
which carry with them great and terrible associations? Anyhow--and this
is a most unfortunate circumstance for the Spaniards--it is indubitable
that the fact of the constancy of the west wind must facilitate
extraordinarily projects of attack and invasion on the part of the
English, and everything sustains the belief that they will count for much
in the general plan of the establishment in New Holland. Therefore the
English Government appears day by day to take more interest in the
colony. It redoubles sacrifices of all kinds. It endeavours in every way
to increase the population as much as possible. Hardly a month passes but
there arrives some ship freighted by it, laden with provisions, goods,
and above all with men and women, some transported people, who have to
serve practically as slaves, others free immigrants, cultivators, to whom
concessions will be granted. Perhaps at first you will be astonished to
learn that honest men voluntarily transport themselves with their
families to the extremity of the world, to live in a country which is
still savage, and which was originally, and is still actually, occupied
by brigands who have been thrust from the breast of society. But your
astonishment will cease when you learn under what conditions such
individuals consent to exile themselves to these shores, and what
advantages they are not slow in deriving from a sacrifice which must
always be painful.

In the first place, before their departure from Europe, a sufficient sum
is allowed to each individual to provide for the necessities of a long
voyage. On board the vessel which transports them to Sydney a price is
fixed for the sustenance of the immigrant and his family, if he has any.
Upon his landing at Port Jackson concessions are granted to him in
proportion to the number of individuals comprised in his family. A number
of convicts (that is the name they give the transported persons), in
proportion to the extent of the concessions granted, are placed at his
disposal. A house is constructed for him; he is provided with all
necessary furniture and household utensils, and all the clothes he needs;
they grant him all the seed he needs to sow his land, all the tools he
needs to till it, and one or more pairs of all domestic animals and
several kinds of poultry. Besides, they feed him, his family, and his
assigned servants during eighteen months. He is completely sustained
during that period; and for the next twelve months half rations are
allowed to him. At the end of that time the produce of his land is, with
reason, expected to be sufficient for his requirements, and the
Government leave him to his own resources.

During five years he remains free of all contribution, accumulating the
produce of land all the more prolific because it is virgin. At the end of
that time a slight repayment is required by the Government. This
gradually and slightly increases as time goes on. But mark here, General,
the profound wisdom of the English Government, that enlightened policy
which guides all their enterprises and assures them success. If the new
immigrant during these five years has shown himself to be a diligent and
intelligent cultivator; if his clearings have been well extended and his
stock is managed with prudence; if the produce of his land has increased
rapidly--then, so far from finding himself a debtor to the Government,
his holding is declared to be his own, and, as a recompense, fresh
concessions are made to him, additional servants are assigned to him, his
immunity from contributions is prolonged, and additional assistance of
all sorts is extended to him. It is to these extensive and
well-considered sacrifices that it is necessary to attribute the fine
farms that daily increase in number in the midst of what was recently
wild and uncultivated forest. Activity, intelligence and application
conduce here more rapidly than elsewhere to fortune; and already several
of the earlier immigrants have become very wealthy proprietors. Emulation
of the noblest kind is stimulated everywhere. Experiments of all kinds
are made and multiplied. The Government encourages them, and generously
recompenses those who have succeeded.

What still further proves the particular interest which the English
Government takes in the colony is the enormous expense incurred in
procuring commodities for the new colonists. Nearly everything is
furnished by the Government. Vast depots are filled with clothes and
fabrics of all kinds and qualities, from the commonest to the finest. The
simplest furniture and household goods are to be found alongside the most
elegant. Thus the inhabitants are able to buy, at prices below those
ruling in England,* everything necessary to not only the bare wants of
life, but also its comforts and pleasures. (* Note 29: This statement is
surprising, but probably true of part of the period when Peron was in
Sydney. There was then a glut of goods, as Bass found to his cost. He had
to sell commodities brought out in the Venus at 50 per cent below their
proper values.)

Anxious to maintain the settlement on a firm and unshakeable basis, it is
to agriculture, the source of the true wealth of nations, that the
English Government endeavours to direct the tastes of the inhabitants of
the new colony. Different kinds of cattle have been imported, and all
thrive remarkably well. The better kinds, so far from losing quality,
gain in size and weight. But the improvement in sheep is especially
astonishing. Never was there a country so favourable to these animals as
the part of New Holland now occupied by the British. Whether it be the
effect of the climate or, as I think, the peculiar quality of the herbage
(almost wholly aromatic), certain it is that the flocks of sheep have
multiplied enormously. It is true that the finest breeds have been
imported by the Government. At first, the choicest kinds of English and
Irish sheep were naturalised. Then breeds from Bengal and the Cape of
Good Hope were introduced. Finally, the good fortune which seems to have
conspired with the enterprise of our rivals furnished them with several
pairs of merinos from Spain, which the Spanish Government at great
expense were sending to the Viceroy of Peru, upon a ship which was
captured upon the coast of that country by an English vessel out of Port
Jackson, and which were brought thither, much to the satisfaction of the
Governor, who neglected nothing to derive the fullest possible advantage
from a present valuable to the colony. His endeavours have not been in
vain. This species, like the others, has improved much, and there is
reason to believe that in a few years Port Jackson will be able to supply
valuable and abundant material for the manufacturers of England. What is
most astonishing is that the Indian sheep, which naturally produce short,
coarse hair instead of wool, in the course of three or four generations
in this country produce a wool that can hardly be distinguished from that
furnished by English breeds, or even Spanish. I have seen at the
Governor's house an assortment of these different kinds of wool, which
were to be sent to Lord Sydney, and I assure you that it would be
difficult to find finer samples. In my excursions with Mr. Paterson, Mr.
Marsden and Mr. Cox, I have seen their flocks, and really one could not
but admire in that regard the incalculable influence of the industry of
man, so long as it is encouraged and stimulated by enlightened and just

Another source of production which appears to offer great advantages to
the English is that of hemp. In this country it is as fine in quality as
it is abundant, and several persons whose testimony is beyond suspicion
have assured me that New Holland, before many years have passed, will
herself be able to furnish to the British Navy all the hemp that it
requires, thus freeing England from the considerable tribute that she
pays at present in that regard to the north of Europe.

The climate also appears to be favourable to the cultivation of the vine.
Its latitude, little different from that of the Cape of Good Hope,
combined with its temperature, lead the Government to hope for great
advantages from the introduction of this plant to the continent of New
Holland. Furthermore, French vignerons have been introduced at great
expense to promote this object. It is true that their first attempts have
not been very happy, but the lack of success is due entirely to the
obstinacy of the English Governor, who, in spite of the representations
of these men, compelled them to make their first plantations upon the
side of a small, pleasant terrace forming a kind of semi-circle round
Government House at Parramatta. This was, unfortunately, exposed to the
north-west winds, burning winds like the mistral of Italy and Provence,
the khamsin of Egypt, etc. The French vignerons whom I had occasion to
see at Parramatta, in company with the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. Paterson,
assured me that they had found a piece of country very favourable to
their new plantations, and that they hoped for the greatest success from
their fresh efforts. Choice plants had been imported from Madeira and the

In all the English establishments on these coasts traces of grand designs
for the future are evident. The mass of the people, being originally
composed of the unfortunate and of wrong-doers, might have propagated
immorality and corruption, if the Government had not taken in good time
means to prevent such a sad result. A house was founded in the early days
of the settlement for the reception of young girls whose parents were too
poor and too constrained in their circumstances at the commencement of
their sojourn there to be able to devote much care to them; while if
parents, when emancipated, so conduct themselves that their example or
their course of life is likely to have an evil effect on their offspring,
the children are taken from them and placed in the home to which I have
referred. There they pursue regular studies; they are taught useful arts
appropriate to their sex; they are instructed in reading, writing,
arithmetic, sewing, etc. Their teachers are chosen with much care, and
the wife of the Governor himself is charged with the supervision of that
honourable establishment, a supervision in which she is assisted by the
wife of the commandant of the troops. Each or both of them visit every
day their young family, as they themselves call it. They neglect nothing
to ensure the maintenance of good conduct, the soundness of the education
and the quality of the provisions. I have several times accompanied these
admirable ladies to the establishment, and have on every occasion been
moved by their anxious solicitude and their touching care.

When these young girls arrive at marriageable age they are not abandoned
by the Government. The following is the sagacious and commendable manner
in which their establishment in life is provided for. Among the free
persons who come to Port Jackson are many men who are not yet married.
The same is the case with some of those who by good conduct have earned
their freedom. When one of those young men wishes to take a worthy wife,
he presents himself to the Governor's wife, who, after having obtained
information concerning his character, permits him to visit her young
flock. If he fixes his choice upon someone, he informs the Governor's
wife, who, after consulting the tastes and inclinations of the young
person, accords or refuses her consent. When a marriage is arranged, the
Government endows the young girl by means of concessions, assigned
servants, etc.; and these unions have already become the nursery of a
considerable number of good and happy homes. It is undoubtedly an
admirable policy, and one which has amply rewarded the English Government
for the sacrifices made to support it.

The defence of the country has not up to the present been very
formidable, and has not needed to be, on account of the ignorance which
prevails in Europe respecting the nature of this colony. The English
Government is at the present moment directing men's minds towards
agriculture. It has not, however, neglected to provide what the physical
condition of the land and the nature of its establishment demand. Two
classes of men are much to be feared at present: first, the criminals,
condemned for the most part to a long servitude, harshly treated,
compelled to the roughest and most fatiguing labour. That infamous class,
the vile refuse of civilised society, always ready to commit new crimes,
needs to be ceaselessly restrained by force and violence. The English
Government therefore maintains a strong police. It is so efficient that
in the midst of that infamous canaille the most perfect security reigns
everywhere, and--what may appear paradoxical to those who do not know the
details of the administration of the colony--fewer robberies are
committed than in a European town of equal population. As to murder, I
have never heard tell of a crime of the kind being committed there, nor,
indeed, did I hear of one occurring since the foundation of the colony.
Nevertheless, the first consideration entails the maintenance of a very
considerable force; and with equal foresight and steadiness the
Government has taken precautions against the efforts of these bandits. A
second class of society, more formidable still (also much more
respectable, but having most to complain about, and the most interesting
class for us), is composed of legions of the unfortunate Irish, whom the
desire of freeing their country from the British yoke caused to arm in
concert with us against the English Government. Overwhelmed by force,
they were treated with pitiless rigour. Nearly all those who took up arms
in our favour were mercilessly transported, and mixed with thieves and
assassins. The first families of Ireland count their friends and
relations upon these coasts of New Holland. Persecuted by that most
implacable of all kinds of hatred, the hatred born of national animosity
and differing convictions, they are cruelly treated, and all the more so
because they are feared. Abandoned to themselves, it is felt, they can do
nothing, and the Government gains several interesting advantages from
their residence in this country. First, a population as numerous as it is
valiant is fixed upon these shores. Secondly, nearly all being condemned
to a servitude more or less long, they provide many strong arms for the
laborious work of clearing. Thirdly, the mixing of so many brave men with
criminals seems to obliterate the character of the settlement and to
provide, by the retention of a crowd of honest men, some sort of a
defence against the opprobrium cast upon it. Fourthly, the Government has
relieved itself in Europe of a number of enraged and daring enemies. At
the same time, one must admit, this policy has its defects. The Irish,
ruled by a sceptre of iron, are quiet to-day. But if ever the Government
of our country, alarmed by the rapidly increasing strength of this
colony, should formulate the project of taking or destroying it, at the
mere mention of the French name every Irish arm would be raised. We had a
very striking example when we first arrived at Port Jackson. Upon the
appearance of the French flag in the harbour the alarm in the country was
general. We were again at war with England. They regarded our second
ship,* (* Note 30: Le Naturaliste.) which had been separated from us and
compelled to seek shelter at Port Jackson, as a French ship of war. At
the name the Irish commenced to flock together. Everywhere they raised
their bowed foreheads, bent under an iron rule; and, if their mistake had
not been so rapidly dispelled, a general rising would have taken place
amongst them. One or two were put to death on that occasion, and several
were deported to Norfolk Island. In any case, that formidable portion of
the population will always compel the English to maintain many troops
upon this continent, until, at all events, time and inter-marriage shall
have cicatrized the recent wounds of the poor Irish and softened their

The Government, however, appears to feel that considerably larger forces
are required than are now available. At the time of our departure the
regiment forming the garrison at Port Jackson did not number more than
800. But some were being continually removed to India, and to replace
them 5000 men were expected. The news of the war must have led to the
changing of these dispositions, because the troops, which were to have
been transported on warships, were drawn from Europe, and probably the
English Government will have been careful not to despatch so considerable
a force to New Holland in the critical situation in which it now finds
itself. Moreover, General, do not believe that so many troops are
indispensable to the security of the coasts of New Holland, but rather
consider the advantages that the English nation is likely to draw from
its establishments in that part of the world. The climate of India,
inimical to newcomers from Europe, is still more so to these British
regiments, drawn from the frosty counties of the north of England and
from the icy realms of Scotland. A considerable loss of men results from
their almost immediate transportation to the burning plains of India.
Forced to look after a population which has little affinity with its
immense possessions in both hemispheres, England has always set an
example of great sacrifices for all that can tend to the conservation of
the health of its people. The new colony of Port Jackson will serve in
the future as a depot for troops destined for India. Actually the whole
of the territory occupied up to the present is extremely salubrious. Not
a single malady endemic to the country has yet been experienced. The
whole population enjoys the best of health. The children especially are
handsome and vigorous, though the temperature at certain times is very
high. We ourselves experienced towards the close of our visit very hot
weather, though we were there in the months of Fructidor, Vendemiaire and
Brumaire* (* Note 31: From Fructidor to Brumaire would be from September
22nd to December 20th.) nearly corresponding to our European spring. The
temperature of New Holland, rather more than a mean between those of
England and India, ought to be valuable in preparing for the latter
country that large body of soldiers which the Government despatches every
year to Bengal, the Coromandel coast, Malabar, etc., etc. Consequently
the loss of men will be much less, and you will easily realise the
advantage that will accrue to a power like England, when it contemplates
the invasion, with a mediocre population, of archipelagos, islands, and
even continents.

NOTE: This portion of New Holland appears to owe its salubriousness:--

(1) To a situation resembling that of the Cape of Good Hope (Port Jackson
is in about latitude 34 degrees).

(2) To the nature of the soil, which is very dry, especially round

(3) To the nature of the vegetation, which is not vigorous enough to
maintain a noxious stagnation in the lower strata of the atmosphere;

(4) To the great, or rather enormous, quantity of aromatic plants which
constitute the principal part of the vegetation, including even the
largest species;

(5) To the vicinity of the Blue Mountains, the elevation of which
contributes largely to maintain a certain salutary freshness in the

(6) To the remarkable constancy of the light fresh breezes which blow
from the south-east towards the middle of the day.

I have not yet finished the account of the important advantages that
England draws from this colony. If time were not so pressing and if I had
at my disposal the abundant material consigned to our Government, I could
write more. I venture to sum up those considerations to which I have
referred, in a form which will be useful for determining your opinion
upon this important and rising colony.

(1) By means of it England founds an empire which will extend over the
continent of New Holland, Van Diemen's Land, all the islands of Bass
Strait, New Zealand, and the numerous archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean.

(2) She thereby becomes the mistress of a large number of superb ports,
several of which can be compared with advantage to the most fortunately
situated harbours in other parts of the world.

(3) She thereby excludes her rivals, and, so to speak, blocks all the
nations of Europe from entry to the Pacific.

(4) Having become the neighbour of Peru and Chili, she casts towards
those countries hopes increasingly assured and greedy.

(5) Her privateers and her fleets in time of war will be able to
devastate the coasts of South America; and, if in the last war she
attempted no such enterprise, the reason appears to be that her astute
policy made her fear to do too much to open the eyes of Spain, and even
of all Europe.

(6) In time of peace, by means of an active contraband trade, she
prepares redoubtable enemies for the Spaniards; she furnishes arms and
ammunition of all kinds to that horde of untamed people who have not yet
been subjugated to the European yoke.

(7) By the same means she enables the products of her manufacturers to
inundate South America, which is shabbily and above all expensively
supplied by Spain.

(8) If amongst the numerous archipelagos that are visited constantly some
formidable military position is found, England will occupy it and,
becoming a nearer neighbour to the rich Spanish possessions, will menace
them more closely, more certainly, and above all more impatiently. Mr.
Flinders, in an expedition of discovery which is calculated to last five
years, and who doubtless at the present moment is traversing the region
under discussion, appears to have that object particularly in view.* (*
Note 32: "M. Flinders, dans une expedition de decouverte qui doit durer
cinq ans, et qui sans doute parcourt en ce moment le theatre qui nous
occupe, paroit avoir plus particulierement cette objet en vue." The
passage is peculiarly interesting. At the time when Peron was writing,
early in December, 1803, Flinders was, as a matter of fact, sailing
towards Ile-de-France in the Cumberland.)

(9) The extraordinarily lucrative whale fishery of New Zealand is
EXCLUSIVELY* (* Note 33: Underlined in original.) assured to them. No
European nation can henceforth, according to the general opinion, compete
with them for that object.

(10) The fishery, no less lucrative, of the enormous seals which cover
the shores of several of the islands of Bass Strait, and from which is
drawn an oil infinitely superior to whale oil, guarantees them yet
another source of greatness and of wealth. Note: the seals in question,
distinguished by the English under the name of sea elephants, are
sometimes 25 or 30 feet long. They attain the bulk of a large cask: and
the enormous mass of the animal seems, so to say, to be composed of
solid, or rather coagulated, oil. The quantity extracted from one seal is
prodigious. I have collected many particulars on this subject.

(11) A third fishery, even more lucrative and important, is that of the
skins of various varieties of seal which inhabit most of the islands of
Bass Strait, all the Furneaux Islands, all the islands off the eastern
coast of Van Diemen's Land, and all those on the south-west coast of New
Holland, and which probably will be found upon the archipelagos of the
eastern portion of this vast continent. The skins of these various
species of seal are much desired in China. The sale of a shipload of
these goods in that country is as rapid as it is lucrative. The ships
engaged in the business are laden on their return to Europe with that
precious merchandise of China which gold alone can extract from the
clutch of its rapacious possessors. Accordingly, one of the most
important objects of the mission of Lord Macartney* to China, (* Note 34:
Lord Macartney's embassy to China, 1792 to 1794, was, says the Cambridge
Modern History (2 718), "productive only of a somewhat better
acquaintance between the two Powers and an increased knowledge on the
part of British sailors of the navigation of Chinese waters.") that of
developing in that country a demand for some of the economic and
manufacturing products of England, so as to relieve that country of the
necessity of sending out such a mass of specie--that interesting object
which all the ostentatious display of the commercial wealth of Europe had
not been able to attain, and all the astute diplomacy of Lord Macartney
had failed to achieve--the English have recently accomplished. Masters of
the trade in these kinds of skin, they are about to become masters of the
China trade. The coin accumulated in the coffers of the Government or of
private people will no longer be sunk in the provinces of China. That
advantage is incontestably one of the greatest that they have derived
from their establishment at Port Jackson.

(12) This augmentation of distant possessions is likely to occasion a
fresh development in the British Navy. The practice of voyaging round the
world should exalt the enthusiasm of their sailors, whilst it increases
their number and efficiency. I may add here that to attain the
last-mentioned end the English Government compels each ship which sails
for these regions, and above all for New Zealand, to carry a certain
number of young men below 19 years of age, who return from these voyages
only after having obtained a very valuable endowment of experience.

(13) The temperature and salubriousness of the country will enable it to
look after a very large number of soldiers who used to be incapacitated
every year by the burning heat of Asia.

(14) The abundance of the flocks, and the superiority of their wool, will
furnish an immense quantity of excellent material to the national
manufactures, already superior to those of the rest of Europe.

(15) The cultivation of hemp and vines gives cause to the English to hope
that before very long they will be freed from the large tribute which
they now pay for the first-named to all the Powers of the north of
Europe, and for the second to Portugal, France and Spain.

(16) I will not discuss with you some substances indigenous to the
country which are already in use, whether in medicine, or in the arts--of
eucalyptus gum, for example, which is at once astringent and tonic to a
very high degree, and is likely soon to become one of our most energetic
drugs. Nor will I say much about the resin furnished by the tree which
the English mis-name gourmier,* (* Note 35: Peron's word.) a resin which
by reason of its hardness may become of very great value in the arts. It
will be sufficient to say, General, that I possess a native axe obtained
from the aboriginals of King George's Sound. It is nothing better than a
chip of very hard granite fastened to the end of a piece of wood, which
serves as a handle, by means of the resin to which I have referred. I
have shown it to several persons. It will rapidly split a wooden plank
and one can strike with all one's force, without in the least degree
injuring the resin. Though the edge of the stone has several times been
chipped, the resin always remained intact. I will say little of the fine
and abundant timber furnished by what is called the casuarina tree, and
by what the English improperly call the pear. This pear is what the
botanists term Xylomelum, and by reason of its extremely beautiful and
deep grain, and the fine polish which it is susceptible of receiving, it
appears to be superior to some of the best known woods. I will not refer
at length to the famous flax of New Zealand, which may become the subject
of a large trade when its preparation is made easier; nor to cotton,
which is being naturalised; nor to coffee, of which I myself have seen
the first plantations, etc., etc. All these commodities are secondary in
importance in comparison with others to which I have referred; yet,
considered together, they will add greatly to the importance of this new
colony. Similarly, I will pass over the diverse products which are sure
to be furnished by the prolific archipelagos, and of which several are
likely to become of great value and to fetch high prices for use in the
arts and in medicine. For example, the cargo of the last vessel that
arrived in Port Jackson from the Navigator Islands, during our stay,
consisted partly of cordage of different degrees of thickness, made from
a plant peculiar to those islands, the nature of which is such that, we
were assured, it is almost indestructible by water and the humidity of
the atmosphere; whilst its toughness makes it superior to ordinary

(17) The English hope for much from mineral discoveries. Those parts of
the country lying nearest to the sea, which are of a sandstone or slaty
formation, appear to contain only deposits of excellent coal; but the
entire range of the Blue Mountains has not yet been explored for
minerals. The colony had not up to the time of our visit a mineralogist
in its service, but the Governor hoped soon to obtain the services of
one, to commence making investigations; and the nature of the country,
combined with its extent, affords ground for strong hope in that regard.

(18) There are, finally, other advantages, apparently less interesting,
but which do not fail to exert an influence upon the character and
prestige of a nation. I refer to the conspicuous glory which geographical
discoveries necessarily following upon such an establishment as this
bring upon a nation's name; to all that which accrues to a people from
the discovery and collection of so many new and valuable things; to the
distinguished services which new countries call forth and which confer so
much distinction upon those who watch over their birth.

Time does not permit me to pursue the enquiry. I wish only to add here
one fresh proof of the importance which England attaches to this new
colony. When we left Port Jackson, the authorities were awaiting the
arrival of five or six large vessels laden with the goods of English
persons formerly domiciled at the Cape of Good Hope, whom the surrender
of that possession to the Dutch had compelled to leave.* (* Note 36: The
Cape was surrendered to Holland in 1803, but British rule was restored
there in 1806.) That very great accession of population ought
sufficiently to indicate to you how great are the projects of the British
Ministry in that region.

Before concluding I should have liked to point out the impossibility, for
France, of retarding the rapid progress of the establishment at Port
Jackson, or of entering into competition with its settlers in the trade
in sealskins, the whale fishery, etc. But it would take rather too long
to discuss that matter. I think I ought to confine myself to telling you
that my opinion, and that of all those among us who have more
particularly occupied themselves with enquiring into the organization of
that colony, is that it should be destroyed as soon as possible.* (* Note
37: Mon sentiment et celui de tous ceux d'entre nous qui se sont plus
particulierement occupes de l'organisation de cette colonie seroit de la
detruire le plus tot possible.") To-day we could destroy it easily; we
shall not be able to do so in 25 years' time.

I have the honour to be, with respectful devotion,

Your very humble servant,


P.S. M. Freycinet, the young officer, has especially concerned himself
with examining all the points upon the coast of the environs of Port
Jackson which are favourable to the landing of troops. He has collected
particular information concerning the entrance to the port; and, if ever
the Government should think of putting into execution the project of
destroying this freshly-set trap of a great Power,* that distinguished
officer would be of valuable assistance in such an operation. (* Note 38:
"Le projet de detruire ce piege naissant d'une grande puissance." )


Among the Flinders Papers is a list of names given by Flinders to points
on the Australian coast, with his reasons for doing so. The list is
incomplete, but has served as the basis of the following catalogue, for
help in the enlargement of which I am greatly indebted to Mr. Walter


Hat Hill, named by Flinders from Cook's suggestion that it "looked like
the crown of a hat."
Red Point.
Martin's Isles, after the boy who accompanied them.
Providential Cove (native name, Wattamowlee).


Green Cape.
Cape Barren Island.
Clarke Island, Hamilton's Rocks, after members of the crew of the Sydney
Kent's Group, after the Captain of the Supply.
Armstrong's Channel, after the Master of the Supply.
Preservation Island.


Chappell Islands, after Miss Ann Chappell.
Settlement Island, Babel Islands (from the noises made by the sea-birds),
and other names in the Furneaux Group.
Double Sandy Point.
Low Head.
Table Cape.
Circular Head.
Hunter Islands, after Governor Hunter.
Three-Hummock Island.
Barren Island.
Cape Grim.
Trefoil Island.
Albatross Island.
Mount Heemskirk and Mount Zeehan, after Tasman's ships.
Point Hibbs, after the Master of the Norfolk.
Rocky Point.
Mount de Witt.
Point St. Vincent, after the First Lord of the Admiralty.
Norfolk Bay and Mount.
Cape Pillar.
After the voyage was over, Hunter, apparently at Flinders' suggestion,
named Cape Portland, Bass Strait, Port Dalrymple and Waterhouse Island.


Shoal Bay.
Sugarloaf Point.
Pumice-stone River.
Point Skirmish.
Moreton Island.
Curlew Inlet.


Cape Leeuwin, "the most projecting part of Leeuwin's Land."
Mount Manypeak.
Haul-off Rock.
Cape Knob.
Mount Barren.
Lucky Bay, discovered when the ship was in an awkward position.
Goose Island.
Twin Peaks Islands.
Cape Pasley, after Admiral Pasley.
Point Malcolm, after Captain Pulteney Malcolm.
Point Culver.
Point Dover.


Nuyts' Reefs and Cape.
Fowler's Bay and Point, after the First Lieutenant of the Investigator.
Point Sinclair, after a midshipman on the Investigator.
Point Bell, after the surgeon of the Investigator.
Purdie's Islands, after the Assistant-surgeon of the Investigator.
St. Francis Islands, adapted from the name given by Nuyts.
Lound's Island, Lacy's Island, Evans' Island, Franklin's Island (in
Nuyts' Archipelago), after midshipmen on the Investigator.
Petrel Bay.
Denial Bay, "as well in allusion to St. Peter as to the deceptive hope we
had found of penetrating by it some distance into the interior country."
Smoky Bay, from the number of smoke columns rising from the shore.
Point Brown, after the Botanist of the Investigator.
Streaky Bay, "much seaweed floating about."
Cape Bauer, after the Botanical Draftsman of the Investigator.
Point Westall, after the painter.
Olive Island, after the ship's clerk.
Cape Radstock, after Admiral Lord Radstock.
Waldegrave Isles.
Topgallant Isles.
Anxious Bay, "from the night we passed in it."
Investigator Group.
Pearson's Island, after Flinders' brother-in-law.
Ward's Island, after his mother's maiden name.
Flinders' Island, after Lieutenant S.W. Flinders.
Cape (now Point) Drummond, after Captain Adam Drummond, R.N.
Point Sir Isaac, Coffin's Bay, after Vice-Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin.
Mount Greenly, Greenly Isles, after the lady to whom Sir Isaac Coffin was
Point Whidbey, Whidbey's Islands, after "My worthy friend the
Master-attendant at Sheerness."
Avoid Bay and Point, "from its being exposed to the dangerous southern
Liguanea Island, after an estate in Jamaica.
Cape Wiles, after the Botanist on the Providence.
Williams' Isle.
Sleaford Bay, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire.
Thistle Island, after the Master of the Investigator.
Neptune Isles, "for they seemed inaccessible to men."
Thorny Passage, from the dangerous rocks.
Cape Catastrophe, where the accident occurred.
Taylor's Island, after a midshipman drowned in the accident.
Wedge Island, "from its shape."
Gambier Isles, after Admiral Lord Gambier.
Memory Cove, in memory of the accident.
Cape Donington, after Flinders' birthplace.
Port Lincoln, after the chief town in Flinders' native county.
Boston Island, Bay and Point, Bicker Island, Surfleet Point, Stamford
Hill, Spalding Cove, Grantham Island, Kirton Point, Point Bolingbroke,
Louth Bay and Isle, Sleaford Mere, Lusby Isle, Langton Isle, Kirkby Isle,
Winceby Isle, Sibsey Isle, Tumby Isle, Stickney Isle, Hareby Isle. All
Lincolnshire names, after places familiar to Flinders.
Dalby Isle, after the Rev. M. Tyler's parish.
Marum Isle, after the residence of Mr. Stephenson, Sir Joseph Banks'
Spilsby Island, after the town where the Franklins lived.
Partney Isles, after the place where Miss Chappell lived, and where
Flinders was married.
Revesby Isle, after Revesby Abbey, Banks' Lincolnshire seat.
Northside Hill.
Elbow Hill, from its shape.
Barn Hill, from the form of its top.
Mount Young, after Admiral Young.
Point Lowly.
Mount Brown, after the botanist.
Mount Arden, Flinders' great-grandmother's name.
Point Riley, after an Admiralty official.
Point Pearce, after an Admiralty official.
Corny Point, "a remarkable point."
Hardwicke Bay, after Lord Hardwicke.
Spencer's Gulf and Cape, after Earl Spencer.
Althorp Isles, after Lord Spencer's eldest son.
Kangaroo Island and Head.
Point Marsden, after the Second Secretary to the Admiralty.
Nepean Bay, after Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary to the Admiralty.
Mount Lofty, from its height.
St. Vincent's Gulf, after Admiral Lord St. Vincent.
Cape Jervis, Lord St. Vincent's family name.
Troubridge Hill, after Admiral Troubridge.
Investigator Strait.
Yorke's Peninsula, after the Honourable C.P. Yorke.
Prospect Hill.
Pelican Lagoon.
Backstairs Passage.
Antechamber Bay.
Cape Willoughby.
Pages Islets.
Encounter Bay.


Point Franklin.
Indented Head (Port Phillip).
Station Peak (Port Phillip).


Tacking Point.
Mount Larcom, after Captain Larcom, R.N.
Gatcombe Head.
Port Curtis, after Admiral Sir Roger Curtis.
Facing Island, the eastern boundary of Port Curtis, facing the sea.
Port Bowen, after Captain James Bowen, R.N., Naval Commandant at Madeira
when the Investigator put in there.
Cape Clinton, after Colonel Clinton of the 85th Regiment, Commandant at
Entrance Island.
Westwater Head.
Eastwater Hill.
Mount Westall, after William Westall the artist.
Townshend Island--Cook had so named the Cape which is its prominent
Leicester Island.
Aken's Island, after the Master of the Investigator.
Strongtide Passage.
Double Mount.
Mount Funnel, from its form.
Upper Head.
Percy Isles, after the Northumberland family.
Eastern Fields, coral banks near Torres Strait.
Pandora's Entrance, after the Pandora.
Half-way Island, convenient anchorage for ships going through Tortes
Good Island, after Peter Good, the botanist.

VOYAGE OF THE INVESTIGATOR (in the Gulf of Carpentaria):

Duyfken Point, after the first vessel which entered the Gulf of
Pera Head, after the second vessel that sailed along this coast in 1623.
Sweers Island, after a member of the Batavia Council in Tasman's time.
Inspection Hill.
Lord William Bentinck's Island (now Bentinck Island), after the Governor
of Madras.
Allen's Island, after the "Miner"--i.e., Geologist--of the Investigator.
Horseshoe Island.
Investigator Road.
Pisonia Isle, from the soft white wood of the Pisonia tree found upon it.
Bountiful Island.
Wellesley Island, Mornington Isle--After the Marquess Wellesley,
Governor-General of India, whose earlier title was Lord Mornington.


Vanderlin Island, the Dutch "Cape Vanderlin."
Sir Edward Pellew Group, Cape Pellew, after Admiral Pellew.
Craggy Isles.
West Island.
North Island.
Centre Island.
Observation Island.
Cabbage-Tree Cove.
Maria Island, the Dutch "Cape Maria."
Bickerton Island, after Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton.
Cape Barrow, after Sir John Barrow.
Connexion Island.
North Point Island.
Chasm Island, "the upper parts are intersected by many deep chasms."
North-West Bay.
Winchelsea Island, after the Earl of Winchelsea.
Finch's Island, after the Winchelsea family name.
Pandanus Hill, from the clump of trees upon it.
Burney Island, after Captain James Burney, R.N.
Nicol Island, after "His Majesty's bookseller."
Woodah Island, "it having some resemblance to the whaddie, or woodah, a
wooden sword used by the natives of Port Jackson."
Bustard Isles--They "harboured several bustards."
Mount Grindall, Point Grindall, after Vice-Admiral Grindall.
Morgan's Isle, after a seaman who died there.
Bluemud Bay, "in most parts of the bay is a blue mud of so fine a quality
that I judge it might be useful in the manufacture of earthenware."
Point Blane, after Sir Gilbert Blane of the Naval Medical Board.
Cape Shield, after Commissioner Shield.
Cape Grey, after General Grey, Commandant at Capetown.
Point Middle.
Mount Alexander.
Point Alexander.
Round Hill Island.
Caledon Bay, after the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.
Cape Arnhem, extremity of Arnhem's Land.
Mount Saunders.
Mount Dundas, Melville Isles--After Dundas, Viscount Melville, a
colleague of the younger Pitt.
Mount Bonner.
Drimmie Head.
Cape Wilberforce, after W. Wilberforce, M.P., the slave-emancipator, who
was a friend of Flinders.
Melville Bay, after Viscount Melville.
Harbour Rock.
Point Dundas.
Bromby Islands, after the Reverend F. Bromby, of Hull, a cousin of Mrs.
Malay Road.
Pombasso's Island, after the chief of the Malay praus.
Cotton's Island, after Captain Cotton of the East India Company's
English Company Islands, after the East India Company.
Wigram Island.
Truant Island, "from its lying away from the rest."
Inglis Island.
Bosanquet Island.
Astell Island.
Mallison Island.
Point Arrowsmith, after the map-publisher.
Cape Newbald, Newbald Island--After Henrietta Newbald, nee Flinders, who
introduced him to Pasley.
Arnhem Bay.
Wessell Islands, name found on a Dutch chart.
Point Dale.
Wreck Reef.



1. The Flinders Papers, in the Melbourne Public Library, consisting of a
letter-book of Flinders (August 31, 1807, to May 31, 1814); manuscript
narrative of the voyage of the Francis; miscellaneous notes and memoranda
by friends and relatives, a short manuscript memoir, and a large quantity
of transcripts of journals, family letters, etc. This material is not at
present numbered, and allusions to it in the text of the book are
therefore made by the general reference, "Flinders Papers."

2. Decaen Papers, in the Municipal Library of Caen, Normandy. General
Decaen's manuscripts fill 149 volumes. The documents relating to
Flinders, including a translation of portions of the Cumberland's log,
are principally in volumes 10, 84, 92, and 105. Peron's important report
upon the British colony at Port Jackson is also in this collection, which
includes many original letters of Flinders.

3. Archives Nationales, Paris, Marine BB4, 996 to 999, contains a
quantity of manuscripts relative to Baudin's expeditions, including
reports and letters by him, and many miscellaneous papers.

4. The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, nouveaux acquisitions, France,
contains many documents relative to Baudin's expedition, including the
diary of the commander.

5. The Archives du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris contain reports
and documents concerning the scientific work of Baudin's expedition.

6. The Depot de la Marine, service hydrographique, Paris, cartons 6, 22,
and 23, contains many reports upon the Australian coast made to Captain
Baudin by his officers.

7. The Library of the Royal Colonial Institute, London, contains
Westall's original drawings executed on the Investigator voyage.
Photographed copies are in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.

8. The Mitchell Library, Sydney, contains Smith's manuscript journal of
the Investigator voyage, and many Flinders and Franklin papers, as cited
in the text.


Most of the Flinders material contained in the Record Office, London, and
the British Museum, is printed in Volumes 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the
Historical Records of New South Wales, edited by F.M. Bladen (Sydney,
1893 to 1901). Copies of other letters and documents, mainly from the
same source, are in course of publication by the Commonwealth Government,
under the direction of the Commonwealth Library Committee, edited by Dr.
F. Watson.


FLINDERS, MATTHEW, A Voyage to Terra Australis, 2 volumes, London, 1814.
The principal authority for the voyages of the navigator.

FLINDERS, M., Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, etc.,
London, 1801.

FLINDERS, M., Papers on the Marine Barometer and on Variations of the
Mariner's Compass, printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society, London, 1806 and 1807.

FLINDERS, MATTHEW, Reise nach dem Austral-Lande, in der Absicht die
Entdeckung desselben zu vollenden unter nommen in den Jaksen, 1801, 1802
and 1803. Aus dem Englischen, von F. Gotze. Weimar, 1816. A German
translation of the Voyage to Terra Australis. An accompanying map is of
great interest, as it essays for the first time to indicate by colours
the portions of the Australian coast discovered by the English, the Dutch
and the French. The map errs with regard to Kangaroo Island, in
attributing the discovery of the north to the French and the south to the
English. The reverse was the case.

MATTHEW FLINDERS, Ontdekkings-reis naar het Groote Zuidland anders Nieuw
Holland; besigtiging van het zelve in 1801, 1802 en 1803; noodlottige
schipbreak, en gevangenschap van 6 1/2 jaar by de Franschen op Mauritius.
Uit het Engelsch. 4 volumes, Haarlem, 1815 and 1816. A Dutch translation
of the Voyage to Terra Australis.


BARROW, SIR JOHN, articles in Quarterly Review, 1810 and 1817, strongly
condemning the work of Peron and Freycinet (see below), and championing
the cause of Flinders. Barrow had access to material in possession of the
Admiralty, sent to England from Mauritius by Flinders.

BECKE, L., and JEFFERY, W., Naval Pioneers of Australia, London, 1899.
Very useful.

DALRYMPLE, ALEXANDER, Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South
Pacific Ocean, 2 volumes, London, 1770.

EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1807, reviews with commendation Flinders' "Observations
upon the Marine Barometer."

GRANT, Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery, London, 1803.

LABILLIERE, F.P., Early History of the Colony of Victoria, 2 volumes,
London, 1878 to 1879. Prints extracts from Flinders' manuscript journals
relating to Port Phillip.

LAUGHTON, SIR J.K., article on Flinders in Dictionary of National

MAIDEN, J.H., Sir Joseph Banks, the Father of Australia, Sydney, 1909.

FOWLER, T.W., "The Work of Captain Matthew Flinders in Port Phillip,"
Victorian Geographical Journal, 1912. Good topographical account.

MALTE-BRUN, Annales des Voyages, 1810 and 1814. Interesting references to
Flinders; biographical sketch in Volume 23, 268.

Naval Chronicle, Volume 32 (1814), contains a biography of Flinders, with

PATERSON, G., History of New South Wales, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1811.
Contains account of the early discoveries of Bass and Flinders.

PERON and FREYCINET, Voyage de decouvertes aux Terres Australes, Paris,
1807 to 1817. Second edition, with additions by Freycinet, 1824. Very
important, but the historical statements have to be checked by reference
to Baudin's manuscript diary and letters (see reference to manuscripts

SCORESBY, W., Journal of a Voyage to Australia for Magnetic Research, 2
volumes, London, 1859. The introduction by A. Smith deals with Flinders'
discoveries regarding variations of the compass.

SCOTT, ERNEST, Terre Napoleon, London, 1910. Deals generally with French
explorations in Australia and particularly with the work of Baudin and
Flinders. See also the bibliography to that book.

SCOTT, ERNEST, English and French Navigators on the Victorian Coast, with
maps, etc., in the Victorian Historical Magazine, 1912.

SCOTT, ERNEST, "Baudin's Voyage of Exploration to Australia," in English
Historical Review, April, 1913.

SMITH, E., Life of Sir Joseph Banks, London, 1911.

South Australian Geographical Society's Proceedings, 1912. Prints from
Baudin's letter to Minister of Marine his account of the meeting with
Flinders in Encounter Bay, and Decaen's statement of his reasons for
detaining Flinders.

PICARD, ERNEST (editor), Memoires et Journaux du General Decaen, 2
volumes, Paris, 1911.

PITOT, ALBERT, Esquisses historiques de l'Ile de France, 1715 to 1810,
Port Louis, Mauritius, 1899.

PRENTOUT, HENRI, L'Ile de France sous Decaen, Paris. 1901. Very

Victorian Geographical Journal, Volume 28 (1910 and 1911) prints a
biographical sketch of Flinders from a manuscript found in a copy of A
Voyage to Terra Australis in Donington vicarage in 1903. It is printed
with an Introduction (by G. Gordon McCrae) wherein it is stated to be
"hitherto unpublished." But it is simply the Naval Chronicle sketch, with
a few paragraphs added, and it is from the same pen as the manuscript
sketch mentioned above.

WALCKENAER, C.A., biography of Flinders in the Biographie Universelle,
Volume 14; excellent.

WALKER, J. BACKHOUSE, Early Tasmania, Hobart, 1902. Gives an admirable
account of Flinders' explorations in Tasmania.


Aboriginals, references to.

Admiralty's treatment of Flinders.

Aken, John.
Sails in Cumberland.
At Ile-de-France.
Departure of.

Albatross Island.

Allen, John, miner, joins Investigator.

Althorp Isles.

Amiens, treaty of.

Arnhem Bay.

Arthur's Seat, Port Phillip.

Australasia, name of.

Australia, discovery of.
Name of.
Geography of, before Flinders.
Theories concerning.
French expedition to.
South Coast discovery.
Influence of Flinders on discovery.
Circumnavigation of.

"Australians," Flinders' use of word.

Babel Isles.

Backstairs Passage.

Banks, Cape.

Banks' Group.

Banks, Sir Joseph, promotes breadfruit expedition.
His friendship for Flinders.
His interest in Australian development.
Dedication of Flinders' Observations to.
His letters concerning Mrs. Flinders' proposed voyage on Investigator.
Disapproves of Flinders' conduct towards Decaen.
His dislike to word Australia.

Barmouth Creek.

Barois, Colonel.

Barometer, marine, Flinders' paper on use of.

Barrow, Sir John, his article on Flinders' case.

Bass, Elizabeth, her marriage to George Bass.
Letters from her husband.

Bass, George, family of.
Medical training of.
Sails in Reliance.
Character of.
Friendship with Flinders.
Discovery of Bass Strait.
Exploration of Blue Mountains.
Discovery of coal.
Plans discovery voyage.
Whaleboat crew.
Discovery of Twofold Bay.
Discovery of Wilson's Promontory.
Adventure with escaped convicts.
Discovery of Western Port.
French admiration for.
Report on Derwent.
Fate of.
Indifference to fame.
Marriage of.
Purchase of Venus.
Voyage to Tahiti.
New Zealand fishing project.
South American projects.
Reports concerning his end.
Letters to his mother.
Flinders' last letter to.
See also Flinders.

Bass Strait, discovery of.
Governor Hunter on.
Naming of.
Importance of discovery.
Flinders' chart of.

Baudin des Ardennes, Lieutenant Charles, wounded, and visited by

Baudin, Captain Nicolas, his expedition to Australia.
Instructions to.
His career.
Reaches Ile-de-France.
Sails for Southern Tasmania.
At Waterhouse Island.
In Encounter Bay.
At Kangaroo Island.
At Port Jackson.
Rumours of intended French settlement.
Letter to Governor King.
Report on Port Jackson.
His account of the Encounter Bay meeting.

Bauer, Cape.

Bauer, Ferdinand, botanical draftsman, joins Investigator.

Baye du Cap.


Bell, Point.

Bellerophon, H.M.S.
Flinders appointed to.
Battle off Brest.

Bennelong Point.

Bergeret, Captain.

Blaxland, Gregory, his exploration of Blue Mountains.

Bligh, Captain William, voyage under Captain Cook.
Command of the Bounty.
Mutiny of the Bounty.
Character of.
Second breadfruit expedition.
Expedition reaches Tahiti, Voyage from Pacific to West Indies.
Introduces Flinders to Duke of Clarence.
Asks for dedication of Flinders' book.

Blue Mountains, exploration of.

Blue Mud Bay.

Bolger, Commandant.

Bongaree, aboriginal, accompanies Flinders on Queensland voyage.
On Investigator.

Boston, Point.

Botany Bay.


Boullanger, hydrographer on Le Geographe.

Bounty, H.M.S., voyage to Tahiti.
Mutiny of.

Bowling Green, Cape.


Behaviour at Wreck Reef.
Wreck of.

Bridgewater, Cape.

Brisbane River.

Brouwer, Henrick, his new route to Java.

Brown, Point.

Brown, Robert, botanist.
Joins Investigator.
His Prodromus.

Burney, Captain, and name Australia.

Cape of Good Hope, Flinders at.
Importance of to Australia.
Voyage of Reliance to from Sydney.

Carpentaria, Gulf of.

Catastrophe, Cape.

Wreck of.

Cattle Point.

Chappell, Ann, see Flinders, Mrs. Ann.

Chappell Isles.

Chappell, Mount.

Clarence River.

Clarke's Island.

Coal, discovery of in New South Wales.


Coffin's Bay.

Compass, variations of, Flinders' experiments.

Isaac Nichols.
Irish, Peron on.
On Investigator.

Cook, Captain James, his voyage.
His belief in a strait between New Holland and Van Diemen's land.
Pension to his widow.

Coral reefs, Flinders on.

Crossley, J.

Cumberland, schooner, voyage to Ile-de-France.
At Kupang.
Arrival at Ile-de-France.
Enters Port Louis.
End of.

Dalrymple, Alexander, naval hydrographer.
His use of word Australia.

Dalrymple, Port.

Dampier, William.

Dance, Commodore Nathaniel.

D'Arifat, Madame.

Darwin, on coral reefs.

Decaen, General Charles.
Career of.
Napoleon's opinion of.
Sent to India.
Arrival at Pondicherry.
Sails for Ile-de-France.
Arrival at Port Louis.
Character of.
Examination of Flinders.
Interrogates Flinders.
Invites Flinders to dinner.
Flinders' refusal.
Accuses Flinders of impertinence.
His intentions.
Report to French Government.
Motives for detaining Flinders.
Anger against Flinders.
Despatch arrives in France.
Flinders' opinion of.
Receives order for Flinders' release.
Refuses to liberate Flinders.
His reasons.
Release of Flinders.

Decres, French Minister of Marine.


Derwent, estuary of the.

Dirk Hartog Island.

Donington, birthplace of Flinders.
Flinders' monument at.
Free school.
The Flinders' house.

Donington, Cape.

Dunienville, Major.

Dutch navigators, discoveries in Australia.

East India Company, its interest in Australia.
Interest in Investigator voyage.

Elder, John, Flinders' servant.
Sails in Cumberland.
At Ile-de-France.

Encounter Bay.
Flinders and Baudin in.

Everard, Cape.

Fitzroy, Sir Charles.

Fleurieu, Comte de, prepares instructions for French discovery voyages.

Flinders, John, naval career.

Flinders, Matthew, surgeon, father of the navigator.
Marriage into Franklin family.
Death of.

Flinders, Matthew, genealogy.
School days.
Study of Robinson Crusoe.
Anecdotes of childhood.
Desire to go to sea.
Advice of Uncle.
Study of navigation.
Introduction to Admiral Pasley.
Anecdote of visit to Pasley.
On the Scipio.
On the Bellerophon.
On the Dictator.
Midshipman on Providence.
Description of Teneriffe.
Description of Dutch at the Cape.
In Torres Strait.
Return to Europe.
Aide-de-camp on Bellerophon.
First experience of war.
Anecdote of battle.
His journal of the engagement.
Estimate of French seamen.
Appointed to Reliance.
Careful record of observations.
Arrival at Port Jackson.
Friendship with Bass.
Exploration of George's River.
Voyages in Tom Thumb.
Adventure with aboriginals.
Voyage on Francis.
Discovery of Kent Group.
Biological notes.
On the sooty petrel.
Description of wombat.
Voyage to Norfolk Island.
Exploration projects.
Voyage of Norfolk.
Character as an author.
Discovery of Bass Strait.
Circumnavigation of Tasmania.
Description of Tasmanian mountains.
Banks' friendship for.
On Queensland coast.
Adventures with Queensland aboriginals.
Return to England.
Marriage of.
His Observations.
Naming of Mount Chappell.
Letters to his wife.
Suggests new discovery voyage.
Instructions for voyage.
Passport from French Government.
Correspondence concerning Mrs. Flinders' proposed voyage in Investigator.
Reports sandbank at the Roar.
Management of crew.
On Australian coast.
Method of research.
Coastal names given by.
On the character of John Thistle.
Exploration of Spencer's Gulf.
Discovery of Kangaroo Island.
Discovery of St. Vincent's Gulf.
In Encounter Bay.
In Port Phillip.
At King Island.
Description of Port Phillip entrance.
Influence on Australian discovery.
Departure from Port Phillip.
Arrival at Port Jackson.
On Francois Peron.
Circumnavigation of Australia.
On coral reefs.
Forced to return to Port Jackson.
Death of father.
Last letter to Bass.
Sails in Porpoise.
Observations on Sydney.
Wrecked on Porpoise.
Sails for Port Jackson in Hope.
Arrives at Port Jackson.
Arrival at Wreck Reef.
Arrival at Kupang.
Decides to sail for Ile-de-France.
Sights Ile-de-France.
Appears before Decaen.
Seizure of his papers.
Interrogated by Decaen.
Invited to dinner by Decaen.
His refusal.
Accused of impertinence.
Carries despatches for Governor King.
Letters to Decaen.
Obtains books and papers.
Prolongation of captivity.
Occupations in Garden Prison.
Opinion of Decaen.
Solicits examination by French officers.
Refuses to surrender his sword.
Removal to Wilhelm's Plains.
Life at Wilhelm's Plains.
Works on his Voyage.
Paper on marine barometer.
Treatment by Admiralty.
Release ordered.
Decaen refuses release.
Knowledge of weakness of Ile-de-France.
Allegations as to taking soundings.
Possibilities of escape.
Arrival in England.
Receipt for books, papers, etc.
Interest in French prisoners of war.
Honoured in London.
Evidence before House of Commons Committee.
Works at his Voyage and charts.
Illness of.
Death of.
Place of burial.
Visit to wounded French officer.
Advice to young officers.
As a navigator.
Naming of Australia.

Flinders, Mrs. Ann, marriage to Matthew Flinders.
Flinders' letters to.
Proposed voyage in Investigator.
On Admiralty's treatment of Flinders.
Meets Flinders on his return.
Pension voted by Australian colonies.

Flinders, S.W., joins Investigator.
On Wreck Reef.

Flinders' bar, invention of.

Flinders' Entrance.

Flinders family.
Connection with Tennysons.

Flinders' Island.

Foigny, Gabriel de, his La Terre Australe connue.

Forfait, French Marine Minister, instructions to Baudin.

Fowler, Robert, joins Investigator.
On Rolla.

Fowler's Bay.

Francis, schooner, voyage of.
Sails with Cumberland.

Franklin, Sir John, connection with Flinders' family.
On the Polyphemus.
Influenced by Flinders.
Joins Investigator.
At wreck of Porpoise.
On Rolla.
On Flinders' return to England.

Franklin's Isles.

French Island.

French Revolution.

Freycinet, Lieutenant Louis de, at Sydney.
On military situation at Port Jackson.
His hydrographical work.
Charge of plagiarism against.
Publication of his charts.

Furneaux, commander of Adventure.

Furneaux Land.

Gambier Isles.

Gambier, Mount.

Garden Prison, see Maison Despeaux.

Geographe, Le.

George's River, exploration of.

Glasshouse Bay.

Glasshouse Mountains.

Good, Peter, gardener, joins Investigator.

Grant, Captain, in command of Lady Nelson.
Governor King on.
Sails for Australia.

Harrington, brig, and the American contraband trade.

Hartog, Dirk, his metal plate.

Hawkesbury River, the.

Heemskirk, Mount.

Hervey Bay.

Hicks, Point.

Hindmarsh, Sir John, his naval career.

Hohenlinden, battle of.

Hope, cutter.

Howe, Lord, battle off Brest.

Hunter, Captain John, appointed Governor of New South Wales.
Interest in Australian colonisation.
Discourteous treatment of by Portuguese Viceroy.
Encourages Bass and Flinders.
On Bass Strait.

Flinders at.
Interior of.
Military situation of.
Regulations concerning visiting ships.
Blockade of.
Captured by British.

Reasons for expedition.
Formerly the Xenophon.
Refitting of.
Selection of crew.
Sailing delayed.
Sailing of.
On South Coast.
In Encounter Bay.
In Port Phillip.
Arrival at Port Jackson.
Circumnavigation of Australia.
Decrepit condition of.
Taken to England.
End of.

Investigator Strait.

Jervis Bay.

Julia Percy Island.

Jussieu, French botanist, recommends Baudin to command discovery voyage.

Kangaroo Island, discovery of.
Wild life on.
Baudin at.

Kent, Lieutenant William.

Kent's Group.

Keppel Bay.

King, Governor, P.G. and Bass's South American project.
His hospitality to French expedition.
Receives news of Porpoise wreck.
Entrusts despatches to Flinders.
Protest against Flinders' imprisonment.

King George's Sound.

King Island.
Discovery of.
French at.



Lacy, midshipman.

Lady Nelson.



Lawson, Lieutenant.
his share in crossing Blue Mountains.

Leeuwin, Cape.

Linois, Rear-Admiral.

Little Bay.

Liverpool, Lord.

Lofty, Mount.

Louis XVI, his interest in discovery voyages.

Louth Bay.

Louth Isle.

Lucky Bay.

Macquarie, Fort.

Macquarie, Governor, his use of word Australia.

Maison Despeaux (Garden Prison).

Malaspina, Admiral.

Championship of Flinders.

Maria Island.

Marsden, Reverend Samuel.

Martin's Isles.

Mauritius, see Ile-de-France.

Melville Bay.

Memory Cove.

Monistrol, Colonel.

Moreau, General.

Moreton Bay.


Mornington Island.

Murray, Lieutenant John, discovers Port Phillip.
Accompanies Flinders.

Mutton birds.

Napoleon, authorises French discovery voyage.
His opinion of General Decaen.
Sends Decaen to India.
Hears of the Flinders case.
Orders release of Flinders.
His comment on oaths of allegiance.

Naturaliste, Le.

Navy, the British, promotion in.
Entrance to.


Nelson, Cape.

Nepean, Evan, Secretary of the Admiralty.

Nepean Peninsula.

Nichols, Isaac, case of.

Norfolk, sloop.
Flinders' description of.
Importance of voyage.
Voyage to Queensland coast.

Northumberland, Cape.

Nuyts, Pieter.

Observations on the Coast of Van Diemen's Land, publication of.

Otto, L.G.

Otway, Cape.

Palmer, Captain of Bridgewater.

Pandora's Entrance.

Papuans, fight with in Torres Strait.

Park, Mungo, and the Investigator.


Partney Isle.

Pasley, Admiral Sir Thomas, Flinders' introduction to.
His interest in Flinders' career.
Command of Bellerophon.
Wounded in battle off Brest.
Character of.

Pasley, Cape, naming of.

Paterson, Lieutenant-Colonel.

Peel, Sir Robert.

Pellew, Rear-Admiral, his interest in Flinders' case.

Pellew Group.

Pelsart, Francis, on the Australian Coast.

Percy Isles.

Peron, Francois, at Sydney.
His report on British settlement.
Plays the spy on British designs.
Flinders on.
Scientific work of.
Effect of his report on Decaen.
Malte-Brun on.
Death of.

Petrie, Professor W.M. Flinders, grandson of Matthew Flinders.

Phillip Island.

Pinkerton, Modern Geography.

Pitot, Thomas.

Pitt, Mount.

Plagiarism, allegation against the French.
Freycinet on.


Porpoise, Flinders sails in.
Wreck of.

Port Bowen.

Port Curtis.

Port Hacking.

Port Jackson, see Sydney.

Port Lincoln.
Discovery and survey of.

Port Louis.

Port Phillip.
Flinders in.
Discovery of.
Attempted settlement of.

Portland Bay.

Portlock, Lieutenant N., Commander of Assistant.


Preservation Island.

Providence, H.M.S.

Providential Cove, see Wattamolla.

Quarterly Review, article on Flinders' case.

Queensland coasts.
Flinders' voyages on.

Quiros, voyage of.

Red Point.

Reliance, H.M.S.

Revesby Isle.

Robbins, Acting-Lieutenant.

Robinson Crusoe, influence of on Flinders.

Rowley, Commodore.

St. Alouarn.

St. Vincent's Gulf.
Discovery of.

Schanck, Cape.

Schanck, Captain John, designs Lady Nelson.


Shaw and Smith, their use of the word Australia.

Shinglar, Reverend John, schoolmaster of Flinders.

Ships not elsewhere indexed:
Advice, brig.
Belier, brig.
Belle Poule, La.
Berceau, Le.
Blonde, La.
Cape Chatham.
Captivity. See also Bellerophon.
Circe, frigate.
Duyfhen [Duyfken], yacht.
Eliza, sloop.
Greyhound, frigate.
Harbinger, brig.
Harriet, cartel.
Heir Apparent.
Lowestoft, frigate.
Marengo, French frigate.
Matilda, whaler.
Minerva, frigate.
Orient, L'.
Piemontaise, La, privateer.
Queen Charlotte.
Royal Sovereign.
Semillante, La.
Serpente, Le. See Le Geographe.
Supply, tender.
Vesuve, Le. See Le Naturaliste.
Warren Hastings.
Xenophon. See Investigator.


Sibsey Isle.

Sleaford Bay.

Smith, Samuel, journal of.

Spanish-American colonies.
Contraband trade with.
Alleged British designs on.

Spencer, Earl, First Lord of the Admiralty, supports Flinders'
exploration project.
Grants passport to French discovery voyage.
Visited by Flinders.

Spencer's Gulf.
Exploration of.

Spilsby Isle.

Stamford Hill.

Station Peak.

Stickney Isle.

Streaky Bay.

Surfleet Point.

Swan Harbour.

Swans, black.

Sydney, growth of.
Arrival of Investigator at, Baudin's expedition at.
Peron's report on.
Military forces at.
Flinders' observations on.

Sydney Cove, wreck of.

Bass's voyages to.

Tamar, discovery of.

Tasman, voyage of.

Tasmania, circumnavigation of.

Taylor's Isle.

Teneriffe, Flinders' description of.

Tennysons, connection with Flinders' family.

Termination Island.

Terra Australis.

Thistle, John, drowning of.

Thistle Island.

Tides, theory of, Flinders' writings on.

Tom Thumb, measurements of.
Second boat of same name.

Torres, voyage of.

Torres Strait.

Trafalgar, battle of.

Transportation system, Peron on.

Twofold Bay, discovery of.
Adventure with aboriginal in.

Vancouver, voyage of.
His discoveries on Australian coast.

Van Diemen, Cape.

Venus, brig, Bass's purchase of.
Voyages to Tahiti.
Voyages to South America.
Seizure of.

Venus Bay.

Vlaming, his metal plate.

Waterhouse, Captain Henry.

Waterhouse, Elizabeth, see Bass, Elizabeth.

Waterhouse Island.

Wattamolla (Watta-Mowlee).

Wellesley, the Marquess, Governor-General of India.
His interest in Flinders' case.

Wellesley Isles.

Wentworth, W.C., his share in crossing Blue Mountains.

Westall, Point.

Westall, William, artist, joins Investigator.

Westernport, discovery of.
Le Naturaliste in.

Whaleboat, Bass', measurements of.

Wilhelm's Plains, Flinders' residence at.

William IV inspects Flinders' charts.
On proposed pension to Mrs. Flinders.

Williams, mate of Bridgewater.

Williamson, acting commissary.

Wilson's Promontory.

Winceby Isle.

Wombat, Flinders' description of.


Wreck Reef.

Yorke's Peninsula.

You-yang Range.

Zeehan, Mount.

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