Matthew Flinders
1774 - 1814

An English naval explorer and chart maker who became the first man to circumnavigate Australia. He was born in Lincolnshire and joined the British Navy. As a midship-man, he sailed under William Bligh on his second voyage to Tahiti. In 1794, he sailed aboard a battleship in a major sea attack against the French.

He arrived in Sydney in 1795 with George Bass, the ship's surgeon, and together they explored the coast of New South Wales under comission of Sir Joseph Banks. In 1798, again with Bass, he sailed around Tasmania and proved that Tasmania was an island. In the following year he visited the Queensland coast before returing to England in 1800 where he published "Observations on the Coast of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass's Strait and its Islands, and on part of the Coast of New South Wales".

In 1801, he was given the rank of commader and the ship HMS Investigator, in which he sailed for Australia with instructions to explore those parts of the coast as yet uncharted. On his outbound voyage he sighted land at Cape Leeuwin and then followed the south coast of the continent to Sydney. During this voyage he met Nicolas Baudin, of the Frenchexpedition to chart Australia, at Encounter Bay, South Australia.

He spent two months at Sydney having his ship overhauled between May-July 1802 and then sailed north along the Queensland coast, passing through Torres Strait and charting the south and west shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. However, his ship leaked and he fore-shortened his voyage around the rest of the continent, to return to Sydney in June 1803. He then obtained another boat, the Porpoise, and again sailed north. This was recked on a reef. The crew landed on an island and Flinders navigated a small boat more than 1100 km back to Sydney where he arranged for the shipwrecked crew to be rescued.

He then obtained the Cumberland, a schooner, which he planned to sail to England. This vessel also leaked and he took it to Mauritius. There Flinders was held from December 1803 untill June 1810. When he returned to England he was promoted to Captain and prepared his book A Voyage to Terra Australis. This was published on the day before he died July 18, 1814.


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