CHAPTER 12. THE INVESTIGATOR.
Flinders was, it has been said, the nautical grandson of Cook. How thoroughly he followed the example of the great sailor is apparent from the lines upon which he managed his ship and governed his crew. This is what he was able to write of the voyage down to the Cape of Good Hope, reached on October 16th: "At this time we had not a single person in the sick list, both officers and men being fully in as good health as when we sailed from Spithead. I had begun very early to put in execution the beneficial plan first practised and made known by the great Captain Cook. It was in the standing orders of the ship, that on every fine day the deck below and the cockpit should be cleaned, washed, aired with stoves, and sprinkled with vinegar. On wet and dull days they were cleaned and aired, without washing. Care was taken to prevent the people from sleeping upon deck or lying down in their wet clothes; and once in every fortnight or three weeks, as circumstances permitted, their beds, and the contents of their chests and bags were opened out and exposed to the sun and air. On the Sunday and Thursday mornings, the ship's company was mustered, and every man appeared clean-shaved and dressed; and when the evenings were fine the drum and fife announced the forecastle to be the scene of dancing; nor did I discourage other playful amusements which might occasionally be more to the taste of the sailors, and were not unseasonable.
"Within the tropics lime juice and sugar were made to suffice as antiscorbutics; on reaching a higher latitude, sour-krout and vinegar were substituted; the essence of malt was served for the passage to New Holland, and for future occasions, on consulting with the surgeon, I had thought it expedient to make some slight changes in the issuing of the provisions. Oatmeal was boiled for breakfast four days in the week, as usual; and at other times, two ounces of portable broth, in cakes, to each man, with such additions of onions, pepper, etc., as the different messes possessed, made a comfortable addition to their salt meat. And neither in this passage, nor, I may add, in any subsequent part of the voyage, were the officers or people restricted to any allowance of fresh water. They drank freely at the scuttled cask, and took away, under the inspection of the officer of the watch, all that was requisite for culinary purposes; and very frequently two casks of water in the week were given for washing their clothes. With these regulations, joined to a due enforcement of discipline, I had the satisfaction to see my people orderly and full of zeal for the service in which we were engaged; and in such a state of health that no delay at the Cape was required beyond the necessary refitment of the ship."
How wise, considerate, and farseeing this policy was! It reads like the sageness of a gray-headed veteran. Yet Flinders had only attained his 27th birthday precisely seven months before he reached the Cape on this voyage. He had learned how men, as well as ships, should be managed. "It was part of my plan for preserving the health of the people to promote active amusements amongst them," he said of the jollity on crossing the line; and we can almost see the smile of recollection which played upon his lips when he wrote that "the seamen were furnished with the means and the permission to conclude the day with merriment." Seaman Smith, who shared in the fun, tells us what occurred with his own peculiar disregard of correct spelling and grammatical construction: "we crossd the equinocial line and had the usuil serimony of Neptune and his attendance hailing the ship and coming on board. The greatest part of officers and men was shaved, not having crossd the line before. At night grog was servd out to each watch, which causd the evening to be spent in merriment."
At the Cape the seams were re-caulked, and the ship gave less trouble on the voyage across the Indian Ocean than she had done on the run south. She left False Bay on November 4th. The run across the Indian Ocean was uneventful, except that the ship ran foul of a whale apparently sleeping on the water, and "caused such an alarm that he sank as expeditiously as possible"; and that an albatross was captured which, "being caught with hook and line it had its proper faculties and appeared of a varocious nature."* (* Smith's Journal, Mitchell Library manuscripts.) On December 6th the coast of Australia was sighted near Cape Leeuwin.