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Flinders, an Australian adventure
Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders was an English navigator born in Donington, Lincolnshire.

He came from a family of doctors and was inspired by reports of Cook's discoveries, and reading Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Flinders decided to go to sea at the age of just 15.

He spent his early days working with another Lincolnshire explorer, George Bass, charting the coast of New South Wales.

Following that, Flinders and Bass set out in the Norfolk to explore the extent of the strait between the mainland of Terra Australis, as Australia was then known, and Tasmania in 1798.

By circumnavigating the island, then known as Van Diemen's Land, he proved that it was a separate island.

Exploring the entire coast of Australia

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 he 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 had to be 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.

A return to England

Less than two years into the expedition, it was found the Investigator was rotten beyond repair and as a result Flinders decided to return to England to obtain another ship to continue his 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 he was forced to dock 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 six years. During this time, he worked on his papers and charts.

In Autumn 1810 Flinders finally returned home to England. He spent four years writing the three volumes of his voyage to Terra Australis.

He died in 1814 at 40 years of age, the day after his account was published.

Historic travel books up for sale
06 Jan 10 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife


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