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DISCOVERIES OF FLINDERS AND BASS.
months. Men used to carry trees on their shoulders. How they used to die! The men were weak—dreadfully weak—for want of food. A man named Gibraltar was hung for stealing a loaf out of the governor's kitchen. He got down the chimney, stole the loaf, had a trial, and was hung the next day at sunrise. At this time a full ration was allowed to the governor's dog. This was Governor I have seen seventy men flogged at night--twenty-five lashes each. Sunday evening they used to read the laws: if any man was found out of camp he got twenty-five. The women used to be punished with iron collars. In Governor King's time they used to douse them overboard. They killed one.* Dr. was a great tyrant.
Mine is a life grant from Governor Bourke-fourteen acres. grow tobacco, wheat, and corn; just enough to make a living."
THE DISCOVERIES OF FLINDERS AND BASS.
FROM "ROM these doleful chronicles of irresponsible tyranny, of crime
and famine, it is a relief to turn and contemplate the heroism of the two men to whose ill-rewarded enterprise the most brilliant discoveries on the Australian coasts are due.
In 1795 Captain Hunter, who had commanded the “First Fleet," was sent out again to supersede Governor Phillip. Among the gentlemen under his command were Matthew Flinders, midshipman; and George Bass, surgeon. Flinders was born at Donnington, in Lincolnshire. Like Cook, and many other illustrious seamen, he commenced his career in the merchant service. Of the birthplace of Bass we are as ignorant as of the place of his death. In their silent paths they were both heroes who ventured and endured shipwreck, thirst, famine, the attacks of black barbarians, and displayed not less humanity than courage and sagacity while pursuing discoveries of the highest possible importance to their country, with faint and distant hopes of any other reward than that inherent feeling which supports unknown and unrewarded genius and heroism—the consciousness of power rightly exercised, of the “talent” put out to interest tenfolda hundredfold.
* This confirms Mrs. Smith's statement.
When they arrived in the colony, seven years after the axes of the “First Fleet” rang in the forests of Sydney Cove, little had been done to work out in detail the investigations made previous to the landing in Botany Bay. “ Jervis Bay, indicated, but not named, by him, had been entered by Lieutenant Bowen, and Port Stephen had been examined; but the intermediate portions of the coast, both north and south, were little further known than from Captain Cook's general chart; and none of the more distant openings, marked but not explored by that celebrated navigator, had been seen.”
The feelings of the colonists seem to have been expressed in a touch of nature which escapes Collins in a note to his heavy grandiloquent history of New South Wales :
“In many of these arms of Port Jackson, when sitting with my companions at my ease in a boat, I have been struck with horror at the bare idea of being lost in them, as, from the great similarity of one cove to another, the recollection would be bewildered in attempting to determine any relative situation. Insanity would accelerate the miserable end that must ensue.”
Within a month after their arrival in Port Jackson, in 1795, Bass and Flinders set out in a little boat, eight feet long, appropriately called the Tom Thumb, with a crew of one boy, proceeded round to Botany Bay, and, ascending George's River, explored its course twenty miles further than the survey had been carried by Captain Hunter.
On their return, a voyage to Norfolk Island interrupted further proceedings until March, 1796, when they set out again in the Tom Thumb to explore a large river, said to fall into the sea some miles south of Botany Bay. They were absent eight days, explored Port Hacking in the course of their expedition, experienced great danger from the sea, and on land from the savage tribes: as when, dark night, steering along an unknown shore, guided by the sound of the sea breaking against overhanging cliffs, without knowing where they should find shelter, Mr. Bass kept the sheet of the sail in his hand, drawing a few inches occasionally, when he saw a particularly heavy sea following, I (Flinders) was steering with an oar, and it required the utmost exertion and care to prevent broaching to; a single wrong movement would have sent us to the bottom. The boy baled out the water which, in spite of every care, the sea threw upon us.” On another occasion, when their little boat was tossed upside down on the shore, saved from utter destruction by its lightness their muskets rusted and their powder wet-Flinders amused the semiDISCOVERY OF PORT PHILLIP.
hostile savages who surrounded them by clipping their beards, while Bass dried the powder, and obtained some much-needed fresh water.
In December, 1797, during the absence of Flinders, who had been despatched to Norfolk Island, Bass obtained leave to make an expedition to the southward, for which he was provided by the governor with a whale-boat, six seamen from the ships, and six weeks' provisions. With the assistance of occasional supplies of petrels, fish, seals' flesh, a few geese and black swans, and by abstinence, he managed to prolong his absence eleven weeks; and in a boisterous climate, with an open boat, in spite of foul winds, he explored six hundred miles of coast, discovered Western Port and the fine district now known as Port Phillip, and satisfied himself that Van Diemen's Land was separated from New South Wales by the straits that now bear his name.
Bass, having returned on the 24th March, in September following he sailed with Flinders, whom Governor Hunter had placed in command of the Norfolk, a colonial-built sloop of twenty-five tons, for the purpose of penetrating beyond Furneaux Islands, and, should a strait be found, passing through it and returning by the south of Van Diemen's Land. With a crew of eight men they went through the straits, and returned to Port Jackson in three months and two days, during which part of the coast of Van Diemen's Land, including Port Dalrymple and the River Tamar, was explored, and such information gained as led to founding a settlement there in 1803–1804.
From this time we hear no more of Bass. We cannot learn that, beyond inscribing his name on the straits between Port Phillip and Van Diemen's Land, he received either reward or honour : he left Sydney for England in 1802 as mate of a trading vessel, and there we lose all trace of him. Flinders, writing his account of the explorations made by his gallant and well-loved comrade, speaks of him as no more.
Flinders obtained the rank of lieutenant, and sailed again in 1799, in the same small vessel, on a short voyage to explore the coast to the north of Port Jackson, which he examined minutely as far as 250. He says, “Of the assistance of my able friend Bass I was deprived, he having quitted the station to return to England.”
On Lieutenant Flinders's return to England, in the latter end of 1800, the charts of the new discoveries were published, and a plan proposed to Sir Joseph Banks for completing the investigation of the coasts of Terra Australis was approved by him and Earl Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty.
In February, 1801, Flinders was promoted to the rank of commander, and appointed to the Investigator sloop. A proof of the popularity of his character and the adventurous spirit of the British sailor was given, when eleven men being required to complete his crew, out of three hundred seamen on board the Vice-Admiral's ship Zealand, two hundred and fifty volunteered.
On July 18th he sailed from Spithead, furnished with the following passport from the French Government, which was granted after precedents of similar protection afforded to Admiral La Pérouse, and to Captain Cook, by the respective authorities in England and France :
“Le Premier Consul de la République Française, sur la compte qui lui à été rendu de la demande faite par le Lord Hawkesbury, au citoyen Otto, commissaire du gouvernement Français à Londres, d'un passeport pour la corvette Investigator dont le signalment est ci-après, expediée par le gouvernement Anglais, sous le commandement du Capitaine Matthew Flinders, pour un voyage de découvertes dans la mer Pacifique, ayant decidé que ce le passeport seroit accordé, et que cette expedition, dont l'objet est d’etendre les connoissances humaines, et d'assurer d'avantage les progrès de la science nautique et de la geographie, trouveroit de la part du gouvernement Français la sûreté et la protection nécessaires.
“Le Ministre de la Marine et des Colonies ordonne en consequence à tout les commandants des bâtiments de guerre de la République, a ses agens dans toutes les colonies Françaises aux commandants des batements porteur de lettres de marque, et a tous autres qu'il appartiendra de laisser passer librement, et sans empêchment, ladite corvette Investigator, ses officiers, equipage, et effets pendant la durée de leur voyage; de leur permettre d'aborder dans les différents ports de la République, tant en Europe que dans les autres parties du monde, soit qu'ils soient forcés par le mauvais temps d'y chercher un refuge, soit qu'ils viennent y reclamer les secours et les moyens de reparation necessaires pour continuer leur voyage. Il est bien entendu, cependant, qu'ils ne trouverant ainsi protection et assistance, que dans le cas ou ils ne se seront pas volontairment dêtourné de la route qu'ils doivent suivre, qu'ils n'auront commis, ou qu'ils n'annoncerent l'intention de commettre aucune hostilité contre République Française et ses alliés, qu'ils n'auront procuré, on cherché a procuré aucun secours a ses enemis, qu'ils ne s'occuperont d'aucune espèce de commerce, ni de contrebande.”
In consequence of this passport, Flinders received directions from the Admiralty “to act in all respects towards French vessels as if the two countries were not at war.” Subsequent events render this passport and these directions noteworthy.
So miserably slow was the progress of the first Australian colony
DISCOVERY OF SPENCER'S GULF.
that at this period, thirteen years after its foundation, it was found advisable to take a supply of salt meat for eighteen months, and to have a general supply of provisions for twelve months more, to be sent after the departure of the Investigator, and lodged in storehouses at Port Jackson for the sole use of the Investigator.
Among the gentlemen who accompanied the expedition was William Westall, landscape-painter.
A passport was also applied for, and, granted by the English Government, to Captain Baudin, who was said to be going round the world on a voyage of discovery.
In November, 1801, Captain Flinders sighted the coast of Australia, and proceeded to examine the coast line hitherto unexplored. In the course of his investigations he discovered and surveyed King George's Sound, on which the settlement of Swan River, or Western Australia, was planted in 1829, Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island, Spencer's Gulf, and the coast line of the country which, principally from his report, was selected for the operations of the South Australian colonists, and sailed into and surveyed Port Phillip, which had been discovered ten weeks previously by a government schooner, the Lady Nelson, from Port Jackson. But Western Port, a bay in the district of Port Phillip, had previously been discovered by Bass in his whale-boat.
In April, 1802, immediately after discovering and surveying Spencer's Gulf, Port Lincoln, and Kangaroo Island, Captain Flinders fell in with Captain Baudin and his ship La Géographe,* which apparently, instead of sailing round the world, had sailed direct for Australia ; but, instead of pursuing further discoveries from the point where the English navigators had ended, they repaired to Van Diemen's Land, following the track of their countryman, Admiral D'Entrécasteaux, and there remained many months, thus losing the opportunity of discovering and taking possession (which was the
• “The situation of the Investigator when I hove to for the purpose of speaking Captain Bandin was 35° 40' south and 138° 58' east. At the above situation, the discoveries by Captain Baudin upon the south coast have their termination to the west, as mine in the Investi. gator have to the eastward; yet Monsieur Peron, naturalist to the French expedition, has laid a claim for his nation to the discovery of all parts between Western Port, in Bass's Straits, and Nuyts' Archipelago; and this part of New South Wales is called Terre Napoléon ; my Kangaroo Island, which they openly adopted in the expedition, has been converted into L'Isle Decrés Spencer's Gulf is named Golfe Bonaparte; the Gulf of St. Vincent, Golfe Josephine; and so on along the whole coast to Cape Nuyts, not even the smallest island being without some similar stamp of French discovery." Monsieur Freycinet, first lieutenant of the Géographe, said at the house of Governor King, Port Jackson, to Flinders, "Captain, if we had not been kept so ong picking up shells and catching butterflies at Van Diemen's Land, you would not have discovered the south coast before us." * I believe M. Peron wrote from overruling authority, and that smote him to the heart." — Flinders' Voyage to Terra Australis.