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Footsteps of Flinders
Matthew Flinders window
Famous Yellowbelly - Matthew Flinders - 1774–1814
By Michael Hortin
English navigator born in Donington, Lincolnshire. He came from a family of doctors and inspired by reports of Cook's discoveries, and reading Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Flinders decided to go to sea at the age of fifteen.
The following year he sailed with Captain Bligh on the Providence to Tahiti. In 1795 he sailed in the Reliance to the new convict settlement at Botany Bay. On board Flinders befriended another Lincolnshire born explorer George Bass with whom he made a number of small boat journeys and refined the charts of the New South Wales coast.
Following that in 1798 Flinders and Bass set out in the Norfolk to explore the extent of the strait between the mainland and Tasmania. By circumnavigating the island, then known as Van Diemen's Land, he proved that it was a separate island.
Flinders eventually returned home to England to put his proposal to explore the entire coast of Terra Australis to Sir Joseph Banks.
By February 1801 Flinders had been given command of the Investigator for his voyage of discovery, which was scheduled to take four years. Flinders reached Australia in December 1801 where he charted the then unknown southern coastline eventually reaching Port Jackson in May 1802. After refitting the ship, he continued his anticlockwise circumnavigation up the eastern coast.
In November, further repairs allowed the Investigator to keep sailing, but by early 1803 the ship was in such poor condition, and the crew in ill-health, the survey was halted.
The Investigator visited Timor for supplies, and then returned to Port Jackson down the west coast and across the Great Australian Bight. In reaching Port Jackson, he had completed the journey around the southern continent.
Less than two years into the expedition, it was found that the Investigator was rotten beyond repair and as a result Flinders decided to return to England to obtain another ship to continue the coastal survey.
He sailed for home in the sloop Porpoise, which ran aground on a reef off the coast of Queensland. After recovering the crew Flinders again set sail for England, this time in the Cumberland. This ship leaked badly and Flinders was forced to put in at Ile de France now known as Mauritius.
War had resumed between England and France, and Flinders was held prisoner on the island for more than 6 years. During this time, Flinders worked on his papers and charts.
In Autumn 1810 Flinders finally returned home to England. Flinders spent four years writing the three volumes of his voyage to Terra Australis. He died in 1814 at forty years of age, the day after his account was published.
last updated: 06/08/2008 at 17:19