Ernest Scott

From June, 1809, the British squadron in the Indian Ocean commenced to blockade Ile-de-France.* (* Flinders to Banks, Historical Records 7 202.) Decaen's fear of Flinders' knowledge is revealed in the fact that he ordered him not for the future to go beyond the lands attached to Madame D'Arifat's habitation. Flinders wrote complying, and henceforth declined invitations beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the plantation. He amused himself by teaching mathematics and the principles of navigation to the two younger sons of the family, and by the study of French literature.

It has been already mentioned that Bass Strait was named by Governor Hunter on the recommendation of Flinders. There is no reason to suppose that George Bass himself made any claim that his name should be applied to his discovery. One derives the impression, from a study of his character as revealed in his words and acts, that he would have been perfectly content had some other name been chosen. He was one of those rare men who find their principal joy in the free exercise of an intrepid and masculine energy, especially in directions affording a stimulus to intellectual curiosity.

Two more incidents in the career of Flinders will concern us before we deal with his important later voyages. The first of these is only worth mentioning for the light it throws upon the character of the man. In March, 1799, he sat as a member of a court of criminal judicature in Sydney, for the trial of Isaac Nichols, who was charged with receiving a basket of tobacco knowing it to have been stolen. The case aroused passionate interest at the time.

One of the first matters which occupied Flinders after his arrival in England was the use of his influence with the Admiralty to secure the release of a few French prisoners of war who were relatives of his friends in Mauritius. In a letter he pointed out that these men were connected with respectable families from whom he himself and several other English prisoners had received kindness.* (* Flinders' Papers.) His plea was successful. There was, surely, a peculiar beauty in this act of sympathy on the part of one who had so recently felt the pain and distress of captivity.

Flinders sailed from Port Jackson for England in the Reliance on March 3rd, 1800. The old ship was in such a bad condition that Governor Hunter "judged it proper to order her home while she may be capable of performing the voyage." She carried despatches, which Captain Waterhouse was directed to throw overboard in the event of meeting with an enemy's ship of superior force and being unable to effect his escape.

Matthew Flinders was a short, neatly-built, very lithe and active man. He stood five feet six inches in height.* (* These particulars are from the manuscript sketch by a friend, previously cited; Flinders' Papers.) His figure was slight and well proportioned. When he was in full health, his light, buoyant step was remarked upon by acquaintances. Neither of the two portraits of him conveys a good impression of his alert, commanding look. His nose was "rather aquiline," and his lips were customarily compressed.

It will be necessary to devote some attention to the French expedition of discovery, commanded by Nicolas Baudin, which sailed from Havre on October 19th, 1800, nearly two months before the British Admiralty authorised the despatch of the Investigator, and nine months all but two days before Flinders was permitted to leave England.

Not only is Flinders to be regarded as a discoverer whose researches completed the world's knowledge of the last extensive region of the habitable globe remaining in his time to be revealed; not only as one whose work was marked by an unrivalled exactitude and fineness of observation; but also as one who did very much to advance the science of navigation in directions calculated to make seafaring safer, more certain, with better means and methods at disposal.

We now resume the story of Flinders' voyage along the southern coast of Australia, from the time when he made Cape Leeuwin on December 6th, 1801.

The name Australia was given to the great southern continent by Flinders. When and why he gave it that name will now be shown.

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