Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/107

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state of knowledge the country presented an aspect in regard to fluvial features wholly different from any other portion of the world. No river of considerable importance had been found. Students of geography could hardly conceive that there should be so large an area of land lacking outlets to the sea; and as none had been found in the parts investigated so far, it was believed that the exploration of the south coast would reveal large streams flowing from the interior. Some had speculated that within the country there was a great inland sea, and if so there would probably be rivers flowing from it to the ocean.

A third main subject for elucidation when Flinders entered upon this work, was whether the country known as Van Diemen's Land was part of the continent, or was divided from it by a strait not yet discovered. Captain Cook entertained the opinion that a strait existed. On his voyage in the Endeavour in 1770, he was "doubtful whether they are one land or no." But when near the north-eastern corner of Van Diemen's Land, he had been twenty months at sea, and his supplies had become depleted. He did not deem it advisable to sail west and settle the question forthwith, but, running up the eastern coast of New Holland, achieved discoveries certainly great enough for one voyage. He retained the point in his mind, however, and would have determined it on his second voyage in 1772 to 1774 had he not paid heed to information given by Tobias Furneaux. The Adventure, commanded by Furneaux, had been separated from the Resolution on the voyage to New Zealand, and had cruised for some days in the neighbourhood of the eastern entrance to Bass Strait. But Furneaux convinced himself that no strait existed, and reported to that effect when he rejoined Cook in Queen Charlotte's Sound. Cook was not quite convinced by the statement of his officer; but