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Matthew Flinders: Chart of Terra Australis

Map: AUNZ2776
Cartographer: Matthew Flinders
Title: Chart of Terra Australis
Date: 1814
Published: London
Width: 37 inches / 94 cm
Height: 24 inches / 61 cm
Map ref: AUNZ2776
Rare and important chart of the Bass Straits with details of the southeastern coast of Australia and the north coast of Tasmania. Taken from surveys made during the first circumnavigation of Australia.

This map again integrates the surveys made by Flinders in his previous voyages in 1798 together with the far more meticulous information gathered by H.M.S. Investigator in 1802. He is also careful to credit the discoveries and surveys made by other mariners. A note on the right of the title carefully lists these achievements. There are four insets on the map, including Port Phillip, Twofold Bay, Clarke’s Island in the Furneaux Islands and Port Dalrymple. Of particular note is the survey made by the Investigator in Port Phillip, the future site of the city of Melbourne. This is the first survey of the bay although Flinders was not the first officer to sail into it. That accolade goes to Capt. John Murray of H.M.S. Lady Nelson. He preceded Flinders by approximately ten weeks.

Matthew Flinders (1774-1814)

Matthew Flinders was one of the greatest navigators and explorers of the early 19th century. He sailed to the Pacific three times and, on his second voyage, was the first person to record that Tasmania was an island and not part of the Australian landmass.

His third and final voyage was his longest and greatest, being also the first full circumnavigation of Australia. Lasting from 1801-3, Flinders, now in command of the sloop H.M.S. Investigator, began a detailed survey of the coast of the new continent from Cape Leuwin in the southwest. He surveyed the south coast, and then turned north to record the coasts of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. He reached the northwest coast of the Gulf of Carpenteria, before he was forced to abandon the project due to the increasingly poor condition of his ship. He rounded the west coast and returned to Sydney in 1803.

In Sydney H.M.S. Investigator was condemned as unseaworthy and decommissioned, requiring Flinders to find an alternative route home. He made two attempts to return to Great Britain: the first, on H.M.S. Porpoise, resulted in a shipwreck on the Great Barrier Reef and a heroic 800 mile journey back to Sydney. On his second attempt, on H.M.S. Cumberland, the condition of the ship was so dangerous that they were forced to dock at the French-owned Ile de France (Mauritius) in December of 1803. France and Britain had recently resumed hostilities in the Napoleonic Wars, and Flinders was taken prisoner by the French governor of Mauritius. He was imprisoned for five years and seven months, remaining on the island until 1810 when he was exchanged for a captured French officer by an English fleet blockading the island.

Flinders finally reached Great Britain in October, 1810, and after a period of recovery he began to prepare his papers for publication. His account of the voyage, which was published in 1814, included an atlas of sixteen charts pertaining to his coastal survey. It remains one of the greatest and most important accounts of Pacific exploration. Sadly, Flinders, whose health had been shattered, did not live to see their success, passing away just before the work was issued, at age 40.

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