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The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders by Ernest Scott

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another navigator. He made no remark, such as surely might have been
forgiven to him, about the determining accidents of time and weather;
though it is but right for us to observe that, had the Investigator been
permitted to sail from England when she was ready (in April, 1801)
instead of being delayed by the Admiralty officials till July, Port
Phillip, as well as the stretch of coast discovered by Baudin, would have
been found by Flinders. That delay was caused by nothing more than a
temporary illness of the Secretary of the Admiralty, Evan Nepean, whose
name is commemorated in Point Nepean, one of the headlands flanking the
entrance to the Port.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My dearest Mother,

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your very sincere and affectionate friend,


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Providential Bank, August 26th, 1803,

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

"Dear Father,

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen was born at Caen, the ancient and
picturesque capital of Normandy, on April 13th, 1769. Left an orphan at
the age of twelve, his education was superintended by a friend of his
father, who had been a public official. At the end of his schooldays he
studied law under an advocate of local celebrity, M. Lasseret. Though his
juristic training was not prolonged, the discipline of the office gave a
certain bent to his mind, a certain lawyer-like strictness and method to
his mode of handling affairs, that remained characteristic during his
military career, and was exceedingly useful to him while he governed
Ile-de-France. Very often in perusing his Memoires* the reader perceives
traces of the lawyer in the language of the soldier. (* The Memoires et
Journaux du General Decaen were prepared for publication by himself, and
the portion up to the commencement of his governorship has been printed,
with notes and maps, by Colonel Ernest Picard, Chief of the Historical

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