Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/157

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116
LIFE OF MATTHEW FLINDERS

means so few and frail, was not able to follow the coast a very few more miles westward. Another day's sail would have brought him into Port Phillip, and he would have been the discoverer of the bay at the head of which now stands the great city of Melbourne. Perhaps if he had done so, his report would have saved Hunter from writing a sentence which is a standing warning against premature judgments upon territory seen at a disadvantage and insufficiently examined. "He found in general," wrote the Governor to the Secretary of State, "a barren, unpromising country, with very few exceptions, and were it even better the want of harbours would render it less valuable." The truth is that he had seen hardly the fringe of some of the fairest lands on earth, and was within cannon shot of a harbour wherein all the navies of the world could ride.

Shortly after dawn on January 18th the prow of the whaleboat was "very reluctantly" turned ocean-wards for the home journey. The wind was fresh when they started, but as the morning wore on it increased to a gale, and by noon there were high seas and heavy squalls. As the little craft was running along the coast, and the full force of the south-westerly gale beat hard on her beam, her management taxed the nerve and seamanship of the crew. Bass acknowledged that it was "very troublesome," and his "very" means much. This extremely trying weather lasted, with a few brief intervals, for eight days. As soon as possible Bass steered his boat under the lee of Cape Liptrap, not only for safety, but also to salt down for consumption during the remainder of the voyage a stock of birds taken on the islands off Westernport.

On the night of the 23rd the boat lay snugly under the shelter of the rocks, where Bass intended to remain until the weather moderated. But at about one o'clock in the morning the wind shifted to the south, blowing