Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/349

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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