Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/341

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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."[1]

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'

  1. 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.