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Seas

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.

Flinders did not complete the examination of Kangaroo island. The approach of the winter season, and an apprehension that shortness of provisions might compel him to make for Port Jackson before concluding the discovery of the south coast, induced him to leave the south and west parts of the island, with the intention of making a second visit at a later time. Therefore, in the afternoon of Tuesday, April 6th, the anchor was weighed and he resumed the exploration of the mainland eastward from Cape Jervis, at the extremity of St. Vincent's Gulf.

[In a long letter of about 30,000 words, written to the French Minister of Marine from Port Jackson in 1802, Captain Baudin described his explorations in Australian waters up to that date. The manuscript is in the Archives Nationales, Paris, BB4, 995, Marine. It has never been published. In this appendix, which relates to Chapter 14 of the book, I translate the portion of the letter concerning the meeting of the Investigator and Le Geographe in Encounter Bay, with a few notes.]

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