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The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders by Ernest Scott

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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

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