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The Flinders papersletters and documents about the explorer Matthew Flinders (1774-1814)
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Papers relating to Flinders' Career: Memoir of official services (1 of 2) (FLI05)

[Author unknown]

      Memoir of the official services of
          Captain Matthew Flinders

      Mr. Flinders entered the navy at the age of sixteen, and, at
the instance of the late Sir Thomas Pasley, embarked on board the Providence in
1791, with Capt. Bligh, on the well-known miƒsion of transporting the Bread-
trees from the Pacific islands to the West Indies. On this voyage, young
Flinders proved eminently useful in rating & taking care of the chronometers; &
there took his early leƒsons in the construction of charts.
      On his return home, in the latter part of 1793, he joined the
Bellerophon, 74, bearing the broad pendant of Sir Thomas Pasley, – to
whom he acted as aid-de-camp in Lord Howe's glorious victory of the
1st June, 1794. Shortly after which, he joined the Reliance, then
commanded by one of the Bellerophon's, in order to convey Governor Hunter
to his New South Wales. Soon after their arrival in Port Jackson, Mr
Flinders & the surgeon of the Reliance, Mr George Baƒs, with no other
companion than a boy, embarked in a boat only 8-feet long, and
explored George's River 20 miles beyond the point where Governor Hunter's
survey had stopped; and they made several important discoveries. They
were then equipped with a larger boat, & ascertained the unexpected fact,
that Van Dieman's [sic] land was an island, by paƒsing through the grand straits
now bearing poor Baƒs's name.
      The complete examination of Australia, was now the
anxious desire of Flinders's mind, - & being well seconded by Sir Joseph
Banks when in England, he was regularly fitted for a voyage of discovery. In

July 1801, he sailed from England in the Investigator, a bark of 334 tons,
with a French paƒs to secure the rights of science, in case of war. In this
ship he nearly circumnavigated the whole coast of Australia, under circum=
=stances which often required a very unusual exertion of vigilance and
skill, – while his care & attention to the diet & health of his crew,
were a theme of general praise.
      In June 1803, the Investigator was condemned at Port Jackson, as
not sea-worthy, & Captain Flinders embarked with his officers & crew in
two veƒsels bound for India, which were both unfortunately wrecked upon a
coral reef, 700 miles from land. Here the Captain displayed an admirable
exhibition of method, & self-poƒseƒsion; & having made every ar=
=rangement for the maintenance of order during his absence, left the reef
in a small open boat to procure aƒsistance at Port Jackson. By his means &
energy, the whole of the crews were preserved.
      In order to convey home his specimens & papers, he left Port
Jackson in an ill-conditioned schooner of only 29 tons, called the Cumberland.
Having croƒsed the Indian Ocean, ignorant of the renewal of hostilities between
England & France, & relying on his French paƒs, he boldly entered Port Louis,
in Mauritius. But General De Caen instantly seized the veƒsel & papers, and
declared Flinders & his people to be prisoners of war. This disgraceful act, with
the brutal severity of treatment which followed, created that uneasineƒs of
mind which undermined the Captain's health, & had the effect of rapidly
shortening his valuable life.
      After lingering six years in captivity, he was liberated, & reached
England at the end of the year 1810, – when he found that his discoveries were
published in France as Baudin's, every point & port re-named, & the

whole of the South Coast – which included all the discoveries of Nuyts,
Vancouver, Grant, Flinders, & Baƒs – was laid down as new land, & called
Terre Napoleon. On the restoration of his Charts & Plans, one log-book
being kept or destroyed, Captain Flinders was ordered to write the narrative
of his voyage; & the close application which this demanded, completed what
misfortune & imprisonment had begun. While the work was in hand,
he maintained his energy, but drooped after revising his last sheet; & at
length, July 19th 1814, he expired, on the very day his work was
published, – leaving a widow & one daughter, who have never received
any recompence [sic] whatever for the discoveries, sufferings, & hardships of
a martyr to his zeal for his country's service.
      In the course of these voyages, and when among rocks, shoals,
islets, & coral reefs, it was neceƒsary to exert the most unwearied diligence; and
in attending to the marine barometer which aided his judgement of the
weather, he detected the remarkable co-incidence that took place between
the rising & falling of the mercury, & the setting in of winds that blow from
the sea & from off the land. But the most important service which
Captain Flinders rendered to Physical Science, resulted from his persevering
investigation of magnetic phenomena. The anomaly of the ship's compaƒs
indicating differently when the ship's head is towards different directions, had
been noticed by Cook, but without a suggestion as to the cause; and so
little was it generally known, that the loƒs of many ships must be di=
=rectly imputed to it. The sagacity of Flinders found it to result from
the local attraction of ships: and the experiments which he conducted at
Sheerneƒs, Portsmouth, Plymouth, & in the Channel, on his return, under
Admiralty orders, decisively proved this new & unexpected branch of
Newton's law of Attraction.-

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Related people
Flinders, Matthew
Pasley, Thomas
Bligh, William
Howe, Richard (Lord Howe)
Flinders, Matthew
Bass, George
Banks, Sir Joseph
De Caen, Charles Mathieu Isadore
Baudin, Nicolas
Vancouver, George
Chappelle (Flinders), Ann
Petrie, Ann

Port Jackson
Bass Strait
Wreck Reef
Ile de France (Mauritius)


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