The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, R.N./Chapter 18

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The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, R.N. by Ernest Scott
Chapter 18. Australia circumnavigated
Chapter XVIII.

AUSTRALIA CIRCUMNAVIGATED.

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.[1] 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 levée, 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, 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 them.

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), Lapérouse 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 Lapérouse 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."[2]

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° 45' south, longitude 148° 10' 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.[3] 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

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FLINDERS' CHART OF TORRES STRAIT, ALSO SHOWING COOK'S AND BLIGH'S TRACKS.

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
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FLINDERS' CHART OF THE GULF OF CARPENTARIA.

Page 353 map (The Life of Matthew Flinders).jpgPage 354 map (The Life of Matthew Flinders).jpg

FLINDERS' MAP OF AUSTRALIA SHOWING HIS PRINCIPAL VOYAGES.

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[4] after the same nobleman. 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 bêche-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:[1] "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.[1] 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,[5] in such manner as you will think best. This, my dear Madam, I wish to continue until such time as I can see
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VIEW ON THE HAWKESBURY RIVER.
From the copy (in the Mitchell Library) of Westall's original drawing in the Royal Colonial Intitute, London

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[6]

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,

"Matthew Flinders."

In another vein is a playful letter to his wife written in the same month, June, 1803.[1]

"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).[1] 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[7] is misanthropic and pleases nobody. Elder[8] 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[9] is an easy, good-natured man." In another letter to his wife[1] 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."[1] But he left a letter for his friend with Governor King.[1] 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[10] and his prospects. 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,

"Matthew Flinders."

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——[11] should be upon terms of disagreement with ——. There is now Mrs. K——,[12] Mrs. P——[13] and Mrs. M——,[14] 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.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Flinders' Papers.
  2. 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 Lapérouse'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 Lapérouse," Victorian Geographical Journal xxvi., 14.
  3. 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.
  4. Richard, Earl of Mornington, afterwards the Marquess Wellesley, was Governor-General of India from 1798 to 1805.
  5. His step-sisters.
  6. The elder of his two step-sisters.
  7. The surgeon.
  8. Flinders' servant.
  9. John Aken.
  10. Captain Henry Waterhouse.
  11. The quarrel between King and Paterson was bitter, and affected the affairs of the colony in many directions.
  12. King.
  13. Paterson.
  14. Marsden.