[Captain Cook compared to former Visitors--Point Hicks--Botany Bay-First natives seen--Indifference to Overtures--Abundant flora--Entrance to Port Jackson missed--Endeavour on a reef--Careened--Strange animals--Hostile natives--A sailor's devil--Possession Island-Territory of New South Wales--Torres Straits a passage--La Perouse--Probable fate discovered by Captain Dillon--M'Cluer touches Arnheim's Land--Bligh and Portlock--Wreck of the Pandora--Vancouver in the south--The D'Entrecasteaux quest--Recherche Archipelago--Bass and Flinders--Navigation and exploration extraordinary--The Tom Thumb--Bass explores south--Flinders in the Great Bight--Bass's Straits--Flinders in the Investigator--Special instructions--King George's Sound--Lossof boat's crew--Memory Cove--Baudin's courtesy--Port Phillip--Investigator and Lady Nelson on East Coast--The Gulf of Carpentaria and early Dutch navigators--Duyfhen Point--Cape Keer-Weer--Mythical rivers charted--Difficulty in recognising their landmarks--Flinders' great disappointment--A rotten ship--Return by way of West Coast--Cape Vanderlin--Dutch Charts--Malay proas, Pobassoo--Return to Port Jackson--Wreck of the Porpoise--Prisoner by the French--General de Caen--Private papers and journals appropriated--Prepares his charts and logs for press--Death--Sympathy by strangers--Forgotten by Australia--The fate of Bass--Mysterious disappearance--Supposed Death.]
The maritime exploration of our coast may be said to have fairly commenced on the morning of the 19th of April, 1770, when Captain Cook first sighted land. True we had many visitors before, [See Introduction.] but none had given the same attention to the work, with an eye to future colonisation, nor sailed along such an extent of shore.
The present coast of Gippsland was the place that first caught the attention of Lieutenant Hicks on that eventful morning, and Point Hicks received its name in commemoration of the incident.
From this point they sailed eastward, and at the promontory, where the coast turned to the north, the name of Cape Howe was bestowed. Cook, fresh from the shores of New Zealand and its more rugged scenery, was pleasingly impressed with his distant view of Australia, but it must have been the force of contrast only, as the portion of Australia first sighted by him is devoid of interest. No available landing place was seen; the shore was too tame, and for many days they coasted along, looking for a break, or entrance, but none could he found where a safe landing could be effected.
Botany Bay was the spot where the men from the Endeavour sprang on shore for the first time, and although the flora of the surrounding country brought joy to the heart of Mr. Banks, the botanist, it could not have held out very high hopes of the future to the others.
Here they first saw the natives, "Indians," as Cook calls them, and hoped to effect a peaceable landing. He says:--
"The place where the ship had anchored was abreast of a small village, consisting of about six or eight houses; and while we were preparing to hoist out the boat, we saw an old woman followed by three children come out of the wood; she was loaded with firewood, and each of the children had also its little burden. She often looked at the ship, but expressed neither fear nor surprise. In a short time she kindled a fire, and four canoes came in from fishing. The men landed, and having hauled up their boats, began to dress their dinner, to all appearances, wholly unconcerned about us, though we were within half-a-mile of them. We thought it remarkable that of all the people we had yet seen, not one had the least appearance of clothing, the old woman herself being destitute even of a fig leaf.
"After dinner the boats were manned, and we set out from the ship. We intended to land where we saw the people, and began to hope that as they so little regarded the ship's coming into the bay, they would as little regard our coming on shore. In this, however, we were disappointed, for as soon as we approached the rocks, two men came down upon them to dispute our landing, and the rest ran away."
For some time they parleyed with the blacks, and threw them nails, beads, and other trifles, trying to make them understand that only water was wanted, and no harm would be done them; but the natives refused all offers of friendship, and three charges of small shot had to be fired at their legs before they would even allow a peaceable landing.
Many expeditions were made inland for plants, birds, and flowers, also to try if some intercourse could be established with the natives, but after the first contest they would not come near enough to speak to. Nor did they touch any of the presents--beads, ribbons, and cloth, that had been left about and in their huts.
The great quantity of plants collected here by Mr. Banks induced Cook to give it the name of Botany Bay. The King's colours were hoisted each day of the stay, and the ship's name with the date of the year was inscribed upon one of the trees near the watering place.
Having now provided a supply of fresh water, the anchor was weighed on the 6th of May, and they sailed northward. Unaware of what he had missed, Cook passed the entrance of Port Jackson, and followed up the coast for over a thousand miles to the north, without incident or adventure, beyond the routine work of the ship. But, on June 10th, this quiet was rudely broken by the Endeavour running on a coral reef when off the site of the present town of Cooktown. Fortunately a jagged point of coral stuck in the hole made, and acted as a plug, otherwise this voyage of Cook's would have proved his last, and the history of this continent been much delayed and altered.
Passing a sail under the hull, and throwing guns and other stores overboard, Cook got his ship once more afloat, and took her into the mouth of a river (now the Endeavour River) where, on a convenient beach, she was careened, and the carpenters set to work to repair her, whilst a forge was set up, and the smiths occupied making bolts and nails. Many animals strange to them were seen, and among them the first kangaroo. One of the firemen who had been rambling in the woods, told them, on his return, that he verily believed he had seen the devil.
"We naturally enquired in what form he had appeared, and his answer was in so singular a style, that I shall set it down in his own words. 'He was,' says John, 'as large as a one gallon keg, and very like it; he had horns and wings, yet he crept so slowly through the grass that if I had not been afeared, I might have touched him.' This formidable apparition we afterwards discovered to have been a bat. They have indeed no horns, but the fancy of a man who thought he saw the devil might easily supply that defect."
Many excursions Mr. Banks and the men made inland, finding one very useful plant, at the time when scurvy had appeared among them, a plant that in the West Indies is called Indian Kale, and served them for greens.
Some communication was established with the natives, but it ended as usual by their commencing to steal, and having to be chastised for it. In revenge they set fire to the grass, and the navigator very nearly lost his whole stock of gunpowder. He was astonished by the extreme inflammability of the grass and the consequent difficulty in putting it out, and vowed if ever he had to camp in such a situation again, he would first clear the grass around. Leaving the Endeavour River, Cook, after passing through the Barrier Reef and again repassing it, as he says, "After congratulating ourselves upon passing the reef we again congratulate ourselves upon repassing it," landed no more until he had left Cape York, and there on an island called "Possession Island," he formally took possession of the east coast of New Holland, under the name of New South Wales, for his Majesty King George III.
"As I was about to quit the eastern coast of New Holland, which I had coasted from latitude 38 deg. to this place, and which I am confident no European had ever seen before, I once more hoisted English colours, and though I had already taken possession of several particular parts, I now took possession of the whole eastern coast, from latitude 38 deg. to this place, latitude 10 deg. 30 min., in right of his Majesty King George the Third, by the name of New South Wales, with all the bays, harbours, rivers, and islands situated upon it. We then fired three volleys of small arms, which were answered by the same number from the ship."
This ceremony concluded, and rejoicing in the re-discovery of Torres Straits--the waters of which had borne no keel since the gallant Spaniard had passed through--he sailed to New Guinea, Cook having thus completed the survey of that portion of the South Land so long left a blank upon the map, never returned--unless his visit to Van Dieman's Land, in 1777, can be called a visit-to our shores, but the names he bestowed on the many bays, headlands, and islands of the east coast have clung to them ever since. So accurate were his surveys, even under extreme difficulties, that he left little for his successors to do but investigate those portions of the coast he had been forced to overlook.
But Cook's fame and career are such household words amongst all English-speaking races, and the results of his visit to Australia so extensive, that no space that this history could afford would be sufficiently large to appreciate the merits of his work.
When Phillip landed in Botany Bay he was followed, as is well known, by the distinguished French navigator, La Perouse, and although the name of this unfortunate man does not enter largely into the history of our colonisation, it is essential that it should come under notice. After a short stay, La Perouse sailed from Australian shores, and of him and his stately ships no tidings ever reached Europe. Years passed, and Captain Dillon, the master of an English vessel trading amongst the South Sea Islands, found a sword-belt in the possession of the natives; this led to further investigations, and the hapless story was finally elucidated.
Wrecked on the coast of one of the islands, and all attempts to save the ships having proved futile, the crews took to the boats, only to suffer death from drowning or at the hands of the savages. The guns and other heavy equipment were afterwards recovered, proving beyond doubt that that was the end of the French vessels and their unhappy commander-the Leichhardt of the sea.
In 1791, Lieutenant McCluer, of the Bombay Marine, touched upon the northern coast of Arnheim's Land, but as he did not land, no result accrued to the continent from his coming.
Before his advent, however, Captain Bligh, making his way home from the spot where the mutineers of the Bounty had set him afloat, passed through Torres Straits, and sighted the mainland of Australia. Situated as he was, he could do little more than take hasty observations.
Two years afterwards, the Pandora, under Captain Edwards, struck on a reef in Torres Straits, and sank in deep water. Thirty-nine of the crew were drowned, and the remainder, destitute of almost everything, made for the coast of Australia in four boats. Edwards landed on Prince of Wales Island, but not on the mainland. He finally reached Timor, with his shipwrecked men, amongst whom were some of the mutineers of the Bounty. Many of these men had been obliged to remain on board perforce, and in no way participated in that famous mutiny. Their treatment by the captain of the Pandora, and afterwards by the English authorities, was both harsh and unjust.
In 1792, the Providence and Assistant, Captains Bligh and Portlock, sailed through the Straits, conveying the bread-fruit plant from Tahiti to the West Indies. Serving in this expedition was Lieutenant Flinders.
In 1791, Captain George Vancouver, on his way to America, came to the southern shore, and found and named King George's Sound. He landed and examined the country, but saw nothing of any consequence, and, after a short stay, sailed away to the eastward, intending to follow the coast line, but was prevented by baffling winds.
In 1793, previously to the Investigator, and in the year following Bligh and Portlock, Messrs. William Bampton and Matthew B. Alt, commanders of the ships Hormuzeer and Chesterfeld, sailed from Norfolk Island, with the intention of passing through Torres Straits by a route which the commanders did not know had been before attempted.
The terrible dangers of the Straits encountered appear to have deterred others from following them up to the time of the Investigator.
Vancouver was quickly followed in the year 1792 by M. D'Entrecasteaux, who, having with him the ships La Recherche and L'Espérance, was in quest of the fate of La Perouse. Off Termination Island-the last land seen by Vancouver--a gale sprang up, and the French ships had to seek shelter. They remained at anchor a week, and the officers made many excursions to the islands now known as the Recherche Archipelago.
He sailed along some portions of the Great Bight, which he described as of "an aspect so uniform that the most fruitful imagination could find nothing to say of it." Water failing him, he steered for Van Dieman's Land.
We now come across one of the grandest names in the history of our colony. Bass, the surgeon of the Reliance, whose work has survived him in the name of the well-known strait.
In a tiny cockle shell, the Tom Thumb, a boat of eight feet long, he and Flinders, at first but an adventurous middy, cruised around the coast and examined every inlet and opening visible, at the very peril of their lives. It is almost equal to an imaginative story of adventures to read the tale of their various trips, suffice it they did good work, and came back safely to carry that work on with better and fuller means.
A voyage to Norfolk Island interrupted their further proceedings until the next year, 1796. Bass and Flinders then again, in the Tom Thumb, left to explore a large river, said to fall in the sea some miles to the south of Botany Bay, and of which there was no indication in Cook's chart.
In 1797, Bass obtained leave to make an expedition to the southward and was furnished with a whale boat and a crew of six men. Although he sailed with only six weeks' provisions, by birds and fish caught, and abstinence, he was enabled to prolong his voyage to eleven weeks, and his labours were crowned with a success not to be expected from such frail means. In the three hundred miles of coast examined from Port Jackson to Ram Head, a number of discoveries were made that had escaped Captain Cook.
From Ram Head--the southernmost part of the coast that had been examined by Cook-Bass began to reap a rich harvest of important discoveries, and another three hundred miles followed, the appearance of which confirmed his belief in the existence of a strait between the continent and Van Dieman's Land.
It was with great reluctance he returned before verifying this belief beyond doubt of others.
In September, 1798, we find him on board the Norfolk, associated with Flinders, seeking to prove his theory. After many and strong head winds, and much delay, the two had the supreme pleasure of greeting the westward ocean, and returning to Port Jackson with the tidings.
"To the strait which had been the great object of research, and whose discovery was now completed, Governor Hunter gave, at my recommendation, the name of 'Bass's Straits.' This was no more than a just tribute to my worthy friend and companion for the extreme dangers and fatigues he had undergone in first entering it in the whale boat, and to the correct judgment he had formed, from various indications, of the existence of a wide opening between Van Dieman's Land and New South Wales."
In 1799, Flinders, in the Norfolk, followed up Cook's discoveries in the neighbourhood of Glass House Bay, and in 1801 we must accompany him on his great voyage round Terra Australis.
The north coast of Australia, both from its more interesting formation and the lack of settlement, has received a good deal of attention from our navigators of the present century, and by far the most fascinating part of Captain Flinders' log refers to the north coast.
In 1802, we find him following the track of M. D'Entrecasteaux round the Great Bight. Flinders seems to have been as much puzzled as he was regarding the great extent of level cliffs passed. He conjectures that within this bank, as he terms it, there could be nothing but sandy plains or water, and that, in all probability, it formed a barrier between an exterior and interior sea. He little thought how, some years afterwards, a lonely white man would tramp round those barren cliffs, eagerly scanning Flinders' chart for any sign of a break in their iron uniformity.
On February 16th, 1801, Matthew Flinders was promoted to the rank of commandant, and left England with the Investigator, to prosecute his voyage to Terra Australis. His instructions were:--
"To make the best of your way to New Holland, running down the coast from 130 degrees east longitude to Bass's Straits, putting, if you should find it necessary, into King George the Third's Harbour for refreshments and water, previous to your commencing the survey, and on your arrival on the coast, use your best endeavour to discover such harbours as may be in those parts, and in case you shall discover any creek or opening likely to lead to an inland sea or strait, you are at liberty either to examine it or not, as you 'shall judge it most expedient, until a more favourable opportunity shall enable you so to do.
"When it shall appear to you necessary, you shall repair to Sydney Cove, for the purpose of refreshing your people, refitting the sloop under your command, and consulting the Governor of New South Wales upon the best means of carrying on the survey of the coast; and having received from him such information as he may be able to communicate, and taken under your command the Lady Nelson tender, which you may expect to find in Sydney Cove, you are to recommence your survey by first diligently examining the coast from Bass's Straits to King George the Third's Harbour."
Flinders was then instructed to repair from time to time to Sydney Cove, to be very diligent in the examination, and to take particular care to insert in his journal every circumstance that might be useful to a full and complete knowledge of the coast--the wind, weather, the productions, comparative fertility of the soil, the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and to examine the country as far inland as it was prudent to venture with so small a party as could be spared from the vessel whenever a chance of discovering anything useful to the commerce or manufacturies of the United Kingdom.
From thence they were to explore the north-west coast of New Holland, where, from the extreme height of tides observed by Dampier, it was thought probable valuable harbours might be found; also the Gulf of Carpentaria and the parts to the westward. When that was completed, a careful investigation and accurate survey of Torres Straits; then an examination of the whole of the remainder of the north, the west, and the north-west coasts of New Holland.
"So soon as you shall have completed the whole of these surveys and examinations as above directed, you are to proceed to, and examine very carefully the east coast of New Holland, seen by Captain Cook, from Cape Flattery to the Bay of Inlets; and in order to refresh your people, and give the advantages of variety to the painters, you are at liberty to touch at the Fijis, or some other islands in the South Seas."
As soon as the whole of the examinations and surveys were completed, he was to lose no time in returning with the sloop under his command to England.
The vessel was fitted with a plant cabin for the purpose of making botanical collections for the Royal Gardens at Kew, and on each return to Sydney Cove, all plants, trees, shrubs, etc., were to be transferred to the Governor's garden until the Investigator sailed for Europe.
King George's Sound being chosen as the place to prepare themselves for the examination of the south coast of Terra Australis, they anchored off Point Possession, on the south side of the entrance to Princess Royal Harbour, previous to wind and water being favourable for entering the harbour to refit and procure wood and fresh water.
Many excursions were made by the naturalist, botanist, and artist, and a new survey of King George's Sound made.
"On the east side of the entrance to Princess Royal Harbour we landed, and found a spot of ground six or eight feet square dug up and trimmed like a garden, and upon it was lying a piece of sheet copper bearing this inscription:--
"'AUGUST 27TH 1800. CHR. DIXON.
This answered the finding of the felled trees on Point Possession, also of the disappearance of the bottle left by Captain Vancouver in 1791, containing parchment that Flinders had looked for on landing.
In Flinders' description of the country in the neighbourhood of King George's Sound he says:--
"The basis stone is granite, which frequently shows itself at the surface in the form of smooth, bare rock; but upon the sea-coast hills and the shores on the south side of the sound and Princess Royal Harbour the granite is generally covered with a crust of calcareous stone, as it is also upon Michaelmas Island. Captain Vancouver mentions having found upon the top of Bald Head branches of coral protruding through the sand, exactly like those seen in the coral beds beneath the surface of the sea--a circumstance which would seem to bespeak this country to have emerged from the ocean at no very distant period of time.
"This curious fact I was desirous to verify, and his description proved to be correct. I found, also, two broken columns of stone, three or four feet high, formed like stumps of trees, and of a thickness superior to the body of a man, but whether this was coral or wood now petrified, or whether they might not have been calcareous rocks worn into that particular form by the weather I cannot determine. Their elevation above the present level of the sea could not have been less than four hundred feet."
On January 4th, 1802, a bottle containing parchment, to inform future visitors of their arrival and departure, was left on the top of Seal Island, and on the morrow they sailed out of King George's Sound to continue the survey eastwards. They anchored on the 28th in Fowler's Bay--the extremity of the then known south coast of Terra Australis.
Off Cape Catastrophe, a cutter, with eight men, was sent on shore in search of an anchorage where water could be procured. Nothing of the boat and crew was again seen but the wreck of the boat showing that it had been stove in by the rocks. After a careful but hopeless search for the men, their pressing need for water caused them to abandon further delay, and they left to examine the opening to the northward.
"I caused an inscription to be engraven upon a sheet of copper, and set it up on a stout post at the head of the cove, which I named Memory Cove, and further to commemorate our loss, I gave each of the six islands nearest to Cape Catastrophe the name of one of the seamen."
Flinders sailed up the gulf, which he called Spencer's Gulf, and had a long look towards the interior from the summit of Mount Brown.
The Gulf of St. Vincent then fell to his share to discover, and shortly afterwards he met with the French ship Le Géographe Captain Baudin; says Flinders:--
"We veered round as Le Géographe was passing, so as to keep our broadside to her, lest the flag of truce should be a deception, and having come to the wind on the other tack, a boat was hoisted out, and I went on board the French ship, which had also hove to."
The two Captains exchanged passports and information, but Flinders was afterwards much annoyed to find on the publication of M. Péron's book, that all his late discoveries had been rechristened with French names, and, in fact, his work ignored completely. Parting from the French ship in Encounter Bay, as he named it, the English navigator sailed for Port Jackson.
Suddenly coming to the Harbour of Port Phillip, Flinders thinks he has entered Port Western, but finds his mistake next morning; then congratulates himself upon having made a new and most useful discovery, he says:--
"There I was again in error, this place, as I afterwards learned in Port Jackson had been discovered ten weeks before by Lieutenant John Murray, in command of the Lady Nelson. He had given to it the name of Port Phillip, and to the rocky point on the east side of the entrance Point Nepean."
On the 9th May, the Investigator anchors in Sydney Cove, and again left in company with the Lady Nelson, on the morning Of July 22nd, for the examination of the east coast, making many discoveries before reaching Torres Straits that had escaped Captain Cook, among others Port Curtis and Port Bowen.
The Lady Nelson in consequence of being disabled left the Investigator on the east coast, and returned to Port Jackson.
We will again take up Flinders' narrative during his examination of the Gulf of Carpentaria, which had not been visited since the days of the Dutch ships. The first point Flinders mentions finding corroborative of the fidelity of their charts is the entrance to the Batavia River and there is no doubt that this spot is indicated by the words "fresh water," in the map accredited to Tasman, as there is a capital boat entrance of two fathoms to this stream, and at a comparatively short distance from the mouth of the water at low tide is quite fresh. This river heads from a plateau of springs, a tableland covered with scrubby heath, and intersected by scores of running gullies, boggy and impassable; in fact, the same country as caused such trouble to the Jardine brothers when they explored this shore of the Gulf.
From this place, however, Flinders seems very doubtful as to the identity of some of the rivers laid down. One point, the most remarkable on the coast, and which Yet was not in the Dutch chart, Flinders named "Duyfhen Point," and another, he called "Pera Head," after the second yacht that entered the Gulf.
At Cape Keer-Weer he fairly gives in that he could see nothing approaching a cape, but a slight projection being visible from the mast-head, out of respect to antiquity, he puts it down on his map. The "Vereenidge River" he concludes, has no existence, and the "Nassau River" turned out to be a lagoon at the back of a beach. Still the existence of anything approaching the reality of what was indicated on the charts, proves that at any rate the ships had been there, even if they had not kept close enough to the land to be quite certain of what they saw. So shallow is the approach to this shore, that when so far from land even at the mast-head the tops of the trees could only be partially distinguished, Flinders only found from four to six fathoms of water.
Of the Staaten River he says that--"Where that river can be found I know not," and at last he begins to fancy that the formation of the mouths of the rivers must have altered since Tasman's time.
Reaching the head of the Gulf, Flinders sighted a hill, which gave him hope of a change in the flat monotony of the coast he had now followed for one hundred and seventy-five leagues. This Will, which turned out to 'be an island, Flinders judged to be a headland marked on the western side of "Maatsuyker's River." The river he failed to discover, to the island he gave the name of Sweer's Island. Here Flinders remained some time, having found fresh water. and an anchorage adapted to cleaning and caulking his ship. But a great disappointment awaited him. The report of the master and carpenter who overhauled the Investigator, was to the effect that the ship was perfectly rotten. It ends in these words:--
"From the state to which the ship seems now advanced, it is our joint opinion that in twelve months there will scarcely be a sound timber in her; but that if she remains in fine weather and happen no accident, she may run six months longer without much risk."
This was a death blow to Flinders' hope of so completing the survey of the coast, that no after work should be necessary. Under the circumstances, he determined to finish the exploration of the Gulf, and then to proceed to Port Jackson by way of the west coast, should the ship prove capable, if not to make for the nearest port in the West Indies.
Leaving Sweer's Island, Flinders next investigated Cape Van Dieman, and found it to be an island, which he called Mornington Island. Cape Vanderlin of the Dutch was the next point sighted, and it too was an island, one of the Sir Edward Pellew Group. On taking leave of this group, Flinders remarks on these discrepancies as follows:--
"In the old Dutch charts, Cape Vanderlin is represented to be a great projection from the mainland, and the outer ends of North and West Islands to be smaller points of it. There are two indents or bights marked between the points which may correspond to the opening between the islands, but I find a difficulty in pointing out which are tile four small isles laid down on the west of Cape Vanderlin; neither does the line of the coast, which is nearly W.S.W. in the old chart, correspond with that of the outer ends of the islands, and yet there is enough of similitude in the whole to show the identity. Whether any changes have taken place in these shores, and made islands of what were parts of the mainland a century and a half before--or whether the Dutch discoverer made a distant and cursory examination, and brought conjecture to aid him in the construction of a chart, as was too much the practice of that time-it is not now possible to ascertain, but I conceive that the great alteration produced in the geography of these parts by our survey, gives authority to apply a name which, without prejudice to the original one, should mark the nation by which the survey was made. I have called the cluster of islands Sir Edward Pellew Group."
As no marked change has taken place since Flinders' survey, we may conclude that his last conclusion is the right one, and that a great deal in conjecture was brought to bear on the construction of the chart.
Still following the bend of the gulf, Flinders next ascertained that Cape Maria was only an island (Maria Island) and so with many points up to the northern termination of the Gulf. Along part of the southern and most western shore of Carpentaria many indications of the Malay visits were found--scraps of bamboo, rude stone fireplaces, and stumps of mangrove trees, cut down with iron axes. When amongst the English Company's Islands, a fleet of proas was met with, fishing for trepang. A friendly interview was obtained with them, and from the chief, Pobassoo, Flinders learnt that this was the sixth or seventh voyage that he had made to the Australian coast. He had a great horror of the pigs on board the Investigator, but a decided liking for the port wine with which he was regaled.
The state of his vessel now decided Flinders to relinquish the survey, thinking himself fortunate in having escaped any heavy weather.
"We had continued the survey of the coast for more than one-half of the six months the master and carpenter had judged the ship might run without much risk, provided she remained in fine weather, and no accidents happened; and the remainder of the time being not much more than necessary for us to reach Port Jackson, I judged it imprudent to continue the investigation longer. In addition, the state of my own health, and that of the ship's company, were urgent to terminate the examination here . . . . It was, however, not without much regret that I quitted the coast . . . . The accomplishment of the survey was, in fact, an object so near my heart, that could I have foreseen the train of ills that were to follow the decay of the Investigator, and prevent the survey being resumed-and had my existence depended upon the expression of a wish--I do not know that it would have received utterance."
Thinking himself fortunate in escaping any heavy weather, he sailed for Coepang, and from there to Port Jackson.
In July, 1803, in the Porpoise, Captain Flinders, with the officers and men of the Investigator, left Port Jackson for England, to procure another vessel to continue the survey left incomplete on the north coast, but were wrecked on Wreck Reef, and afterwards taken prisoners by the French.
His subsequent career and early death were both unhappy, and no effort has been made by either England or Australia to do tardy justice to his name. After his shameful detention in the Isle of France, and his reluctant release, he returned to England to find his rightful promotion in the navy had been passed over during his long years of captivity, and that the licensed bravo of Napoleon, General de Caen, had retained (stolen would be the right word) his private journals; and it was only after much trouble and correspondence between the two Governments that they were restored. Flinders completed the work of his life by preparing for the press his charts and logs, and died on the 14th June, 1814, of-there is every reason to believe--a broken heart.
Captain King, when he visited the Isle of France after his Australian surveys, speaks with pride of the kindly memory entertained by the residents for the unfortunate Flinders, and the contempt bestowed upon his cowardly gaoler.
Australia at the time of the explorer's detention was not certainly in a position to demand his liberation. But what has been done since? Sir John Franklin, an official visitor to our shores, erected a memorial to him in the little township of Port Lincoln--a tribute to a brother sailor. Ask the average native-born Australian of the southern colonies about Flinders. He will tell you that it is the name of a street in Melbourne. In Queensland, the boy will say that it is the name of a river somewhere in the colony. That is the amount of honour Australia has bestowed on her greatest navigator.
What was the fate of his companion, Bass?
After the return from the investigation of Bass's Straits, the young surgeon shipped on board an armed merchant vessel on a voyage to South America. At Valparaiso the governor of the town refused to allow the vessel to trade. Bass, who was then in command, threatened to bombard the town if the refusal was not withdrawn. It was rescinded, but, watching their opportunity, the authorities seized Bass when he was off his guard, and it is supposed that he was sent to the mines in the interior, where he died. He was never heard of again, nor was any attempt made to ascertain his fate.
Not only can we admire both of these men for their dauntless courage, so often tried, but all their work on the coast of Australia was done with no hope of ulterior gain for themselves; their one thought was the extension of geographical knowledge and the benefit of their fellow men.