Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/230

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175
THE INVESTIGATOR

form she "nearly resembled the description of vessel recommended by Captain Cook as best calculated for voyages of discovery." But, though comfortable, she was old and unsound. Patching and caulking merely plugged up defects which the buffetings of rough seas soon revealed. But she was the best ship the Admiralty was able to spare at the time. Long before she had completed her outward voyage, however, the senility of the Investigator had made itself uncomfortably evident. Writing of the leaks experienced on the run down to the Cape, Flinders said:—

"The leakiness of the ship increased with the continuance of the southwest winds, and at the end of a week amounted to five inches of water an hour. It seemed, however, that the leaks were above the water's edge, for on tacking to the westward they were diminished to two inches. This working of the oakum out of the seams indicated a degree of weakness which, in a ship destined to encounter every hazard, could not be contemplated without uneasiness. The very large ports, formerly cut in the sides to receive thirty-two pound carronades, joined to what I have been able to collect from the dockyard officers, had given me an unfavourable opinion of her strength; and this was now but too much confirmed. Should it be asked why representations were not made and a stronger vessel procured, I answer that the exigencies of the navy were such at that time, that I was given to understand no better ship could be spared from the service; and my anxiety to complete the investigation of the coasts of Terra Australis did not admit of refusing the one offered."

The history of maritime discovery is strewn with rotten ships. Certainly if the great navigators, before venturing to face the unknown, had waited to be pro-