Matthew Flinders: Wikis


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Matthew Flinders.
Born 16 March 1774
England Donington, Lincolnshire,
Died 19 July 1814
London, England
Occupation Naval Explorer of Australia
Spouse(s) Ann Chappelle

Captain Matthew Flinders RN (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was one of the most successful navigators and cartographers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated Australia and encouraged the use of that name for the continent. He survived shipwreck and disaster only to be imprisoned for violating the terms of his scientific passport by changing ships and carrying prohibited papers. He identified and corrected the effect upon compass readings of iron components and equipment on board wooden ships and he wrote what may be the first work on early Australian exploration A Voyage to Terra Australis.


Early life

Born in Donington, Lincolnshire, England, where, in his own words, he was "induced to go to sea against the wishes of my friends from reading Robinson Crusoe", and at the age of fifteen he joined the Royal Navy in 1789.

Initially serving on HMS Alert, he transferred to HMS Scipio, and in July 1790 was made midshipman on HMS Bellerophon under Captain Pasley. By Pasley's recommendation, he joined Captain Bligh's expedition on HMS Providence, transporting breadfruit from Tahiti to Jamaica. This was also young Flinders' first look at Australian waters landing at Adventure Bay, Tasmania in 1792. Upon his return to England, he rejoined the Bellerophon, in which he saw action at the Glorious First of June.

First voyage to New South Wales

Flinders first trip to Port Jackson was in 1795 as a midshipman aboard HMS Reliance, carrying the newly appointed Governor of New South Wales Captain John Hunter. On this voyage he quickly established himself as a fine navigator and cartographer, and became friends with the ship's surgeon George Bass.

Not long after their arrival in Port Jackson, Bass and Flinders made two expeditions in a small open boat called Tom Thumb: the first to Botany Bay and Georges River, the second along the south coast to Lake Illawarra.

In 1798, Flinders, who was now a Lieutenant, was given command of the sloop Norfolk and orders "to sail beyond Furneaux Islands, and, should a strait be found, pass through it, and return by the south end of Van Diemen's Land". The passage between the Australian mainland and Tasmania enabled savings of several days on the journey from England, and was named Bass Strait, after his close friend. In honour of this discovery, the largest island in Bass Strait would later be named Flinders Island.

Flinders once more sailed the Norfolk, this time north on the 17 July 1799, he arrived in Moreton Bay between Redcliffe and Brighton. He touched down at Pumicestone Passage, Redcliffe and Coochiemudlo Island and also rowed ashore at Clontarf. During this visit he named Redcliffe after the Red Cliffs.

In March 1800, Flinders rejoined the Reliance which set sail for England.

Command of the Investigator

Flinders' work had come to the attention of many of the scientists of the day, in particular the influential Sir Joseph Banks, to whom Flinders dedicated his Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen's Land, on Bass's Strait, etc.. Banks used his influence with Earl Spencer to convince the Admiralty of the importance of an expedition to chart the coastline of Australia. As a result, in January 1801, Flinders was given command of the Investigator, a 334-ton sloop, and promoted to Commander the following month.

On 17 April 1801, Flinders married longtime friend Ann Chappelle [1] (1772-1825). Flinders hoped to bring her with him to Port Jackson, but could not get permission from the Admiralty. Despite the rules, he attempted to bring her but his attempt was discovered and he was chastised by the Admiralty. As a result, she was obliged to stay in England, and they would not see each other for nine years.

The Investigator set sail for Australia on 18 July 1801. Attached to the expedition was the botanist Robert Brown, and the botanical artists Ferdinand Bauer and William Westall. Due to the scientific nature of the expedition, Flinders was issued with a French passport, despite England and France then being at war.

Exploration of the Australian coastline

Matthew Flinders' voyages aboard the Investigator

Flinders reached Cape Leeuwin on 6 December 1801, and proceeded to make a survey along the southern coast of the Australian mainland.

On 8 April 1802 while sailing east Flinders sighted the Géographe, a French corvette commanded by the explorer Nicolas Baudin, who was on a similar expedition for his government. Both men of science, Flinders and Baudin met and exchanged details of their discoveries, at what would later be named Encounter Bay.

Proceeding along the coast, Flinders explored Port Phillip, which unbeknownst to him had been discovered only 10 weeks earlier by John Murray aboard the Lady Nelson. With stores running low, Flinders proceeded to Sydney, arriving 9 May 1802.

Having hastily prepared the ship, Flinders set sail again on 22 July, heading north and surveying the coast of Queensland. From there he passed through the Torres Strait, and explored the Gulf of Carpentaria. During this time, the ship was discovered to be badly leaking, and despite careening, they were unable to effect the necessary repairs. Reluctantly, Flinders returned to Sydney, though via the western coast, completing the circumnavigation of the continent. Arriving in Sydney 9 June 1803, the Investigator was subsequently judged to be unseaworthy and condemned.

Attempted return to England and imprisonment

Unable to find another vessel suitable to continue his exploration, Flinders set sail for England as a passenger aboard HMS Porpoise. However the ship was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, approximately 700 miles (1127 km) north of Sydney. Flinders navigated the ship's cutter across open sea back to Sydney, and arranged for the rescue of the remaining marooned crew.

Flinders then took command of the 29-ton schooner Cumberland in order to return to England, but the poor condition of the vessel forced him to put in at French-controlled Mauritius for repairs on 17 December 1803.

War with France had broken out again the previous May, but Flinders hoped his French passport (though for a different vessel) and the scientific nature of his mission would allow him to continue on his way. Despite this, and the knowledge of Baudin's earlier encounter with Flinders, the French governor, Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, was suspicious and detained Flinders. The relationship between the men soured: Flinders was affronted at his treatment, and Decaen insulted by Flinders' refusal of an invitation to dine with him and his wife. Decaen's search of Flinders' vessel uncovered a trunk full of papers from the governor of Australia that were not permitted under his scientific passport.

Decaen referred the matter to the French government, which was delayed not only by the long voyage, but also by the general confusion of war. Eventually on 11 March 1806, Napoleon gave his approval, but Decaen still refused to allow Flinders' release. It has been suggested that by this stage Decaen believed Flinders' knowledge of the island's defences would have encouraged Britain to attempt to capture it. Nevertheless, in June 1809 the Royal Navy began a blockade of the island, and in June 1810 Flinders was paroled. Travelling via the Cape of Good Hope, he received a promotion to Post-Captain, before continuing to England.

Flinders had been confined for the first few months of his captivity, however he was later afforded greater freedoms to move around the island and access his papers. In November 1804 Flinders sent the first map of the landmass he had charted (Y46/1) back to England. This was the only map made by Flinders, where he used the name "AUSTRALIA" for the title, and the first known time Flinders used the word "AUSTRALIA".

Flinders finally returned to England in October 1810 in poor health and immediately resumed work preparing A Voyage to Terra Australis for publication. On 18 July 1814, the day after the book was published, Matthew Flinders died, aged 40.

On 12 April 1812 he and his wife had had a daughter who became Mrs. William Petrie; in 1853 the governments of New South Wales and Victoria bequeathed a belated pension to her (deceased) mother of £100 per year, to go to surviving issue of the union. This she, Mrs. Anne (née Flinders) Petrie (1812-1892), accepted on behalf of her young son, named William Matthew Flinders Petrie, who would go on to become an accomplished archaeologist and Egyptologist.

Naming Australia

View of Port Jackson taken from South from A Voyage to Terra Australis.

Flinders was not the first to use the word "Australia" (see the Australia article on that). He owned a copy of Alexander Dalrymple's 1771 book An Historical Collection of Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean, and it seems likely he borrowed it from there, but he applied it specifically to the continent, not the whole South Pacific region. In 1804 he wrote to his brother: "I call the whole island Australia, or Terra Australis" and later that year he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks and mentioned "my general chart of Australia." That 92cm x 72cm chart, made in 1804, was the first time Australia was used to name the landmass we know today, as AUSTRALIA. A map Flinders constructed from all the information he had accumulated while he was in Australian waters and finished while he was imprisoned by the French in Mauritius.

Flinders continued to promote the use of the word until his arrival in London in 1810. Here he found that Banks did not approve of the name and had not unpacked the chart he had sent him, and that "New Holland" and "Terra Australis" were still in general use. As a result, a book by Flinders was published under the title A Voyage to Terra Australis despite his objections. The final proofs were brought to him on his deathbed, but he was unconscious. The book was published on 18 July 1814, and Flinders died the next day without regaining consciousness, and never knowing that his name for the continent would be later accepted [2].

In this book, however, Flinders wrote: "The name Terra Australis will remain descriptive of the geographical importance of this country... [but] had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would have been to convert it into Australia; as being more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth."

Flinders' book was widely read and gave the term "Australia" general currency. Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales, became aware of Flinders' preference for the name Australia and used it in his dispatches to England. On 12 December 1817[3] he recommended to the Colonial Office that it be officially adopted. In 1824 the British Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.


Statue of Flinders outside St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne.

Flinders' name is now associated with over 100 geographical features and places in Australia in addition to Flinders Island, in Bass Strait. Flinders is seen as being particularly important in South Australia, where he is often considered the main explorer of the state. Landmarks named after him in South Australia include the Flinders mountain range and Flinders Ranges National Park, Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island, Flinders University, Flinders Medical Centre, the suburb Flinders Park and Flinders Street in Adelaide. In Victoria, eponymous places include Flinders Street in Melbourne, the suburb of Flinders, the federal electorate of Flinders, and the Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College in Geelong.

Flinders Bay in Western Australia and Flinders Way in Canberra also commemorate him. There is even a school named after him: Flinders Park Primary School. Another school named in his honour is Matthew Flinders Anglican College, on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. A former electoral district of the Queensland Parliament was named Flinders. There are also Flinders Highways in both Queensland and South Australia.

Bass and Flinders Point in Cronulla, New South Wales.

Bass & Flinders Point in the southernmost part of Cronulla in New South Wales features a monument to George Bass and Matthew Flinders, who explored the Port Hacking estuary.

Australia holds a large collection of statues erected in Flinders' honour, second only in number to statues of Queen Victoria. In his native England the first statue of Flinders was erected on 16 March 2006 (his birthday) in his hometown of Donington. The statue also depicts his beloved cat Trim, who accompanied him on his voyages.

Flinder's proposal for the use of iron bars to be used to compensate for the magnetic deviations caused by iron on board a ship resulted in them being known as Flinders bars.

Flinders, who was John Franklin's uncle by marriage, instilled in him a love for navigating, and took him with him on his voyage aboard the Investigator.

In 1964 he was honoured on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post[1], again in 1980[2], and in 1998 with George Bass.[3]



  1. ^ see Ann ans Matthew's Marriage Certificate
  2. ^ The Weekend Australian, 30-31 December 2000, p. 16
  3. ^ The Weekend Australian, 30-31 December 2000, p. 16


  • Austin, K.A. (1964). The Voyage of the Investigator, 1801-1803, Commander Matthew Flinders, R.N.. London and Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 
  • Baker, Sidney J. (1962). My Own Destroyer : a biography of Matthew Flinders, explorer and navigator. Sydney: Currawong Publishing Company. 
  • Cooper, H.M. (1966). "Flinders, Matthew (1774 - 1814)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  • Estensen, Miriam (2002). Matthew Flinders: The life of Matthew Flinders. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1865085154. 
  • Flinders, Matthew; Flannery, Timothy (introduction) (2000). Terra Australis: Matthew Flinders' Great Adventures in the Circumnavigation of Australia. Text Publishing Company. ISBN 1876485507. 
  • Fornasiero, Jean; Monteath, Peter; West-Sooby, John. (2004). Encountering Terra Australis: the Australian voyages of Nicholas Baudin and Matthew Flinders. Kent Town, SA: Wakefield Press. ISBN 1862546258. 
  • Hill, Ernestine (1941). My Love Must Wait. The Story of Matthew Flinders. Sydney and London. Angus and Robertson.
  • Ingleton, Geoffrey C.; Monteath, Peter; West-Sooby, John. (1986). Matthew Flinders : navigator and chartmaker. Genesis Publications in association with Hedley Australia. ISBN 0904351343. 
  • Mack, James D. (1966). Matthew Flinders 1774–1814. Melbourne: Nelson. 
  • Rawson, Geoffrey (1946). Matthew Flinders' Narrative of his Voyage in the Schooner Francis 1798, preceded and followed by notes on Flinders, Bass, the wreck of the Sidney Cove, &c.. London: Golden Cockerel Press. 
  • Scott, Ernest (1914). The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, RN. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Flinders, Matthew". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MATTHEW FLINDERS (1774-1814), English navigator, explorer, and man of science, was born at Donington, near Boston, in Lincolnshire, on the 16th of March 1774. Matthew was at first designed to follow his father's profession of surgeon, but his enthusiasm in favour of a life of adventure impelled him to enter the royal navy, which he did on the 23rd of October 1789. After a voyage to the Friendly Islands and West Indies, and after serving in the "Bellerophon" during Lord Howe's "glorious first of June" (1794) off Ushant, Flinders went out in 1795 as midshipman in the "Reliance" to New South Wales. For the next few years he devoted himself to the task of accurately laying down the outline and bearings of the Australian coast, and he did his work so thoroughly that he left comparatively little for his successors to do. With his friend George Bass, the surgeon of the "Reliance," in the year of his arrival he explored George's river; and, after a voyage to Norfolk Island, again in March 1796 the two friends in the same boat, the "Tom Thumb," only 8 ft. long, and with only a boy to help them, explored a stretch of coast to the south of Port Jackson. After a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, when he was promoted to a lieutenancy, Flinders was engaged during February 1798 in a survey of the Furneaux Islands, lying to the north of Tasmania. His delight was great when, in September of the same year, he was commissioned along with Bass, who had already explored the sea between Tasmania and the south coast to some extent and inferred that it was a strait, to proceed in the sloop "Norfolk" (25 tons) to prove conclusively that Van Diemen's Land was an island by circumnavigating it. In the same sloop, in the summer of next year, Flinders made an exploration to the north of Port Jackson, the object being mainly to survey Glasshouse Bay (Moreton Bay) and Hervey's Bay. Returning to England he was appointed to the command of _an expedition for the thorough exploration of the coasts of Terra Australis, as the southern continent was still called, though Flinders is said to have been the first to suggest for it the name Australia. On the 18th of July 1801 the sloop "Investigator" (334 tons), in which the expedition sailed, left Spithead, Flinders being furnished with instructions and with a passport from the French government to all their officials in the Eastern seas. Among the scientific staff was Robert Brown, one of the most eminent English botanists; and among the midshipmen was Flinders's relative, John Franklin, of Arctic fame. Cape Leeuwin, on the southwest coast of Australia, was reached on November 6, and King George's sound on the 9th of December. Flinders sailed round the Great Bight, examining the islands and indentations on the east side, noting the nature of the country, the people, products, &c., and paying special attention to the subject of the variation of the compass. Spenser and St Vincent Gulfs were discovered and explored. On the 8th of April 1802, shortly after leaving Kangaroo Islands, at the mouth of St Vincent Gulf, Flinders fell in with the French exploring ship, "Le Geographe," under Captain Nicolas Baudin, in the bay now known as Encounter Bay. In the narrative of the French expedition published in 1807 (when Flinders was a prisoner in the Mauritius) by M. Peron, the naturalist to the expedition, much of the land west of the point of meeting was claimed as having been discovered by Baudin, and French names were extensively substituted for the English ones given by Flinders.. It was only in 1814, when Flinders published his own narrative, that the real state of the case was fully exposed. Flinders continued his examination of the coast along Bass's Strait, carefully surveying Port Phillip. Port Jackson was reached on the 9th of May 1802.

After staying at Port Jackson for about a couple of months, Flinders set out again on the 22nd of July to complete his circumnavigation of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef was examined with the greatest care in several places. The northeast entrance of the Gulf of Carpentaria was reached early in November; and the next three months were spent in an examination of the shores of the gulf, and of the islands that skirt them. An inspection of the "Investigator" showed that she was in so leaky a condition that only with the greatest precaution could the voyage be completed in her. Flinders completed the survey of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and after touching at the island of Timor, the "Investigator" sailed round the west and south of Australia, and Port Jackson was reached on the 9th of June 1803. Much suffering was endured by nearly all the members of the expedition: a considerable proportion of the men succumbed to disease, and their leader was so reduced by scurvy that his health was greatly impaired.

Flinders determined to proceed home in H.M.S. "Porpoise" as a passenger, submit the results of his work to the Admiralty, and obtain, if possible, another vessel to complete his exploration of the Australian coast. The "Porpoise" left Port Jackson on the 10th of August, accompanied by the H.E.I.C.'s ship "Bridgewater" (750 tons) and the "Cato" (450 tons) of London. On the night of the 17th the "Porpoise" and "Cato" suddenly struck on a coral reef and were rapidly reduced to wrecks. The officers and men encamped on a small sandbank near, 3 or 4 ft. above high-water, a considerable quantity of provisions, with many of the papers and charts, having been saved from the wrecks. The reef was in about 22° 11' S. and 155° E., and about Boo m. from Port Jackson. Flinders returned to Port Jackson in a six-oared cutter in order to obtain a vessel to rescue the party. The reef was again reached on the 8th of October, and all the officers and men having been satisfactorily disposed of, Flinders on the nth left for Jones Strait in an unsound schooner of 29 tons, the "Cumberland," with ten companions, and a valuable collection of papers, charts, geological specimens, &c. On the 1 5th of December he put in at Mauritius, when he discovered that France and England were at war. The passport he possessed from the French government was for the "Investigator"; still, though he was now on board another ship, his mission was essentially the same, and the work he was on was simply a continuation of that commenced in the unfortunate vessel. Nevertheless, on her arrival at Port Louis the "Cumberland" was seized by order of the governor-general de Caen. Flinders's papers were taken possession of, and he found himself virtually a prisoner. We need not dwell on the sad details of this unjustifiable captivity, which lasted to June 1810. But there can be no doubt that the hardships and inactivity Flinders was compelled to endure for upwards of six years told seriously on his health, and brought his life to a premature end. He reached England in October 1810, after an absence of upwards of nine years. The official red-tapeism of the day barred all promotion to the unfortunate explorer, who set himself to prepare an account of his explorations, though unfortunately an important part of his record had been retained by de Caen. The results of his labours were published in two large quarto volumes, entitled A Voyage to Terra Australis, with a folio volume of maps. The very day (July 19, 1814) on which his work was published Flinders died, at the early age of forty. The great work is a model of its kind, containing as it does not only a narrative of his own and of previous voyages, but masterly statements of the scientific results, especially with regard to magnetism, meteorology, hydrography and navigation. Flinders paid great attention to the errors of the compass, especially to those caused by the presence of iron in ships. He is understood to have been the first to discover the source of such errors (which had scarcely been noticed before), and after investigating the laws of the variations, he suggested counter-attractions, an invention for which Professor Barlow got much credit many years afterwards. Numerous experiments on ships' magnetism were conducted at Portsmouth by Flinders, by order of the admiralty, in 1812. Besides the Voyage, Flinders wrote Observations on the Coast of Van Diemen's Land, Bass's Strait, &c., and two papers in the Phil. Trans. - one on the "Magnetic Needle" (1805), and the other, "Observations on the Marine Barometer" (1806). (J. S. K.)

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