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Captain Matthew Flinders RN (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was one of the most successful navigators and cartographers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated Australia and encouraged the use of that name for the continent. He survived shipwreck and disaster only to be imprisoned for violating the terms of his scientific passport by changing ships and carrying prohibited papers. He identified and corrected the effect upon compass readings of iron components and equipment on board wooden ships and he wrote what may be the first work on early Australian exploration A Voyage to Terra Australis.

Early life

Born in Donington, Lincolnshiremarker, Englandmarker, where, in his own words, he was "induced to go to sea against the wishes of my friends from reading Robinson Crusoe", and at the age of fifteen he joined the Royal Navy in 1789.

Initially serving on HMS Alert, he transferred to HMS Scipio, and in July 1790 was made midshipman on HMS Bellerophon under Captain Pasley. By Pasley's recommendation, he joined Captain Bligh's expedition on , transporting breadfruit from Tahitimarker to Jamaicamarker. This was also young Flinders' first look at Australian waters landing at Adventure Baymarker, Tasmaniamarker in 1792. Upon his return to England, he rejoined the Bellerophon, in which he saw action at the Glorious First of June.

First voyage to New South Wales

Flinders first trip to Port Jacksonmarker was in 1795 as a midshipman aboard HMS Reliance, carrying the newly appointed Governor of New South Wales Captain John Hunter. On this voyage he quickly established himself as a fine navigator and cartographer, and became friends with the ship's surgeon George Bass.

Not long after their arrival in Port Jacksonmarker, Bass and Flinders made two expeditions in a small open boat called Tom Thumb: the first to Botany Baymarker and Georges Rivermarker, the second along the south coast to Lake Illawarramarker.

In 1798, Flinders, who was now a Lieutenant, was given command of the sloop Norfolk and orders "to sail beyond Furneaux Islandsmarker, and, should a strait be found, pass through it, and return by the south end of Van Diemen's Landmarker". The passage between the Australian mainland and Tasmania enabled savings of several days on the journey from England, and was named Bass Straitmarker, after his close friend. In honour of this discovery, the largest island in Bass Strait would later be named Flinders Islandmarker.

Flinders once more sailed the Norfolk, this time north on the 17 July 1799, he arrived in Moreton Baymarker between Redcliffemarker and Brightonmarker. He touched down at Pumicestone Passage, Redcliffe and Coochiemudlo Islandmarker and also rowed ashore at Clontarfmarker. During this visit he named Redcliffe after the Red Cliffs.

In March 1800, Flinders rejoined the Reliance which set sail for England.

Command of the Investigator

Flinders' work had come to the attention of many of the scientists of the day, in particular the influential Sir Joseph Banks, to whom Flinders dedicated his Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass's Strait, etc.. Banks used his influence with Earl Spencer to convince the Admiralty of the importance of an expedition to chart the coastline of Australia. As a result, in January 1801, Flinders was given command of the Investigator, a 334-ton sloop, and promoted to Commander the following month.

On 17 April 1801, Flinders married longtime friend Ann Chappelle (1772-1825). Flinders hoped to bring her with him to Port Jackson, but could not get permission from the Admiralty. Despite the rules, he attempted to bring her but his attempt was discovered and he was chastised by the Admiralty. As a result, she was obliged to stay in England, and they would not see each other for nine years.

The Investigator set sail for Australia on 18 July 1801. Attached to the expedition was the botanist Robert Brown, and the botanical artists Ferdinand Bauer and William Westall. Due to the scientific nature of the expedition, Flinders was issued with a French passport, despite England and France then being at war.

Exploration of the Australian coastline

Flinders reached Cape Leeuwinmarker on 6 December 1801, and proceeded to make a survey along the southern coast of the Australian mainland.

On 8 April 1802 while sailing east Flinders sighted the Géographe, a French corvette commanded by the explorer Nicolas Baudin, who was on a similar expedition for his government. Both men of science, Flinders and Baudin met and exchanged details of their discoveries, at what would later be named Encounter Baymarker.

Proceeding along the coast, Flinders explored Port Phillipmarker, which unbeknownst to him had been discovered only 10 weeks earlier by John Murray aboard the Lady Nelson. With stores running low, Flinders proceeded to Sydney, arriving 9 May 1802.

Having hastily prepared the ship, Flinders set sail again on 22 July, heading north and surveying the coast of Queensland. From there he passed through the Torres Straitmarker, and explored the Gulf of Carpentariamarker. During this time, the ship was discovered to be badly leaking, and despite careening, they were unable to effect the necessary repairs. Reluctantly, Flinders returned to Sydney, though via the western coast, completing the circumnavigation of the continent. Arriving in Sydney 9 June 1803, the Investigator was subsequently judged to be unseaworthy and condemned.

Attempted return to England and imprisonment

Unable to find another vessel suitable to continue his exploration, Flinders set sail for England as a passenger aboard HMS Porpoise. However the ship was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reefmarker, approximately 700 miles (1127 km) north of Sydney. Flinders navigated the ship's cutter across open sea back to Sydney, and arranged for the rescue of the remaining marooned crew.

Flinders then took command of the 29-ton schooner Cumberland in order to return to England, but the poor condition of the vessel forced him to put in at French-controlled Mauritiusmarker for repairs on 17 December 1803.

War with France had broken out again the previous May, but Flinders hoped his French passport (though for a different vessel) and the scientific nature of his mission would allow him to continue on his way. Despite this, and the knowledge of Baudin's earlier encounter with Flinders, the French governor, Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, was suspicious and detained Flinders. The relationship between the men soured: Flinders was affronted at his treatment, and Decaen insulted by Flinders' refusal of an invitation to dine with him and his wife. Decaen's search of Flinders' vessel uncovered a trunk full of papers from the governor of Australia that were not permitted under his scientific passport.

Decaen referred the matter to the French government, which was delayed not only by the long voyage, but also by the general confusion of war. Eventually on 11 March 1806, Napoleon gave his approval, but Decaen still refused to allow Flinders' release. It has been suggested that by this stage Decaen believed Flinders' knowledge of the island's defences would have encouraged Britain to attempt to capture it. Nevertheless, in June 1809 the Royal Navy began a blockade of the island, and in June 1810 Flinders was paroled. Travelling via the Cape of Good Hopemarker, he received a promotion to Post-Captain, before continuing to England.

Flinders had been confined for the first few months of his captivity, however he was later afforded greater freedoms to move around the island and access his papers. In November 1804 Flinders sent the first map of the landmass he had charted (Y46/1) back to England. This was the only map made by Flinders, where he used the name "AUSTRALIA" for the title, and the first known time Flinders used the word "AUSTRALIA".

Flinders finally returned to England in October 1810 in poor health and immediately resumed work preparing A Voyage to Terra Australis for publication. On 18 July 1814, the day after the book was published, Matthew Flinders died, aged 40.

On 12 April 1812 he and his wife had had a daughter who became Mrs. William Petrie; in 1853 the governments of New South Walesmarker and Victoriamarker bequeathed a belated pension to her (deceased) mother of £100 per year, to go to surviving issue of the union. This she, Mrs. Anne (née Flinders) Petrie (1812-1892), accepted on behalf of her young son, named William Matthew Flinders Petrie, who would go on to become an accomplished archaeologist and Egyptologist.

Naming Australia

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Flinders was not the first to use the word "Australia" (see the Australia article on that). He owned a copy of Alexander Dalrymple's 1771 book An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean, and it seems likely he borrowed it from there, but he applied it specifically to the continent, not the whole South Pacific region. In 1804 he wrote to his brother: "I call the whole island Australia, or Terra Australis" and later that year he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks and mentioned "my general chart of Australia." That 92cm x 72cm chart, made in 1804, was the first time Australia was used to name the landmass we know today, as AUSTRALIA. A map Flinders constructed from all the information he had accumulated while he was in Australian waters and finished while he was imprisoned by the French in Mauritiusmarker.

Flinders continued to promote the use of the word until his arrival in London in 1810. Here he found that Banks did not approve of the name and had not unpacked the chart he had sent him, and that "New Holland" and "Terra Australis" were still in general use. As a result, a book by Flinders was published under the title A Voyage to Terra Australis despite his objections. The final proofs were brought to him on his deathbed, but he was unconscious. The book was published on 18 July 1814, and Flinders died the next day without regaining consciousness, and never knowing that his name for the continent would be later accepted .

In this book, however, Flinders wrote: "The name Terra Australis will remain descriptive of the geographical importance of this country... [but] had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would have been to convert it into Australia; as being more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth."

Flinders' book was widely read and gave the term "Australia" general currency. Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Walesmarker, became aware of Flinders' preference for the name Australia and used it in his dispatches to England. On 12 December 1817 he recommended to the Colonial Office that it be officially adopted. In 1824 the British Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.

Legacy



Flinders' name is now associated with over 100 geographical features and places in Australia in addition to Flinders Island, in Bass Strait. Flinders is seen as being particularly important in South Australia, where he is often considered the main explorer of the state. Landmarks named after him in South Australia include the Flinders mountain range and Flinders Ranges National Parkmarker, Flinders Chase National Parkmarker on Kangaroo Islandmarker, Flinders University, Flinders Medical Centremarker, the suburb Flinders Parkmarker and Flinders Street in Adelaidemarker. In Victoria, eponymous places include Flinders Street in Melbournemarker, the suburb of Flindersmarker, the federal electorate of Flinders, and the Matthew Flinders Girls' Secondary College in Geelongmarker.

Flinders Baymarker in Western Australia and Flinders Way in Canberramarker also commemorate him. There is even a school named after him: Flinders Park Primary School. Another school named in his honour is Matthew Flinders Anglican College, on the Sunshine Coastmarker in Queenslandmarker. A former electoral district of the Queensland Parliament was named Flinders. There are also Flinders Highways in both Queensland and South Australia.


Bass & Flinders Point in the southernmost part of Cronullamarker in New South Wales features a monument to George Bass and Matthew Flinders, who explored the Port Hackingmarker estuary.

Australia holds a large collection of statues erected in Flinders' honour, second only in number to statues of Queen Victoria. In his native England the first statue of Flinders was erected on 16 March 2006 (his birthday) in his hometown of Donington. The statue also depicts his beloved cat Trim, who accompanied him on his voyages.

Flinder's proposal for the use of iron bars to be used to compensate for the magnetic deviations caused by iron on board a ship resulted in them being known as Flinders bars.

Flinders, who was John Franklin's uncle by marriage, instilled in him a love for navigating, and took him with him on his voyage aboard the Investigator.

In 1964 he was honoured on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post[375079], again in 1980[375080], and in 1998 with George Bass.[375081]

Works

  • A Voyage to Terra Australis, with an accompanying Atlas. 2 vol. – London : G & W Nicol, 18. July 1814 (the day before Flinders' death)
  • Trim: Being the True Story of a Brave Seafaring Cat.
  • Private Journal 1803-1814. Edited with an introduction by Anthony J. Brown and Gillian Dooley. Friends of the State Library of South Australia, 2005.


Notes

  1. see Ann ans Matthew's Marriage Certificate
  2. The Weekend Australian, 30-31 December 2000, p. 16
  3. The Weekend Australian, 30-31 December 2000, p. 16


References

  • Hill, Ernestine (1941). My Love Must Wait. The Story of Matthew Flinders. Sydney and London. Angus and Robertson.


See also



External links




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