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Matthew Flinders: Chart of Terra Australis

Map: AUNZ2796
 
Cartographer: Matthew Flinders
Title: Chart of Terra Australis
Date: 1814
Published: London
Width: 24 inches / 61 cm
Height: 37 inches / 94 cm
Map ref: AUNZ2796
Description:
Highly detailed chart of the Gulf of Carpentaria from the surveys made during the first circumnavigation of Australia in H.M.S. Investigator. As well as its geographical importance, this chart is significant in another way. As indicated on the map, the slow, painstaking survey of the shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria in North Australia began in early November in 1802 at the western entrance of the Endeavour’s Strait and finished in early March of 1803 at Arnhem Bay, now part of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. The map shows the typical, extraordinary painstaking detail the Flinders took with his survey with insets of the surveys of Welleysley’s Islands and Sir Edward Pellew’s Group; the first named after Richard Wellesley, Marquess of Wellesley, a noted diplomat and brother to Arthur Wellesley, who was to become the Duke of Wellington; the latter named after Sir Edward Pellew, a hero of the Navy in the battles against the French, who was to become Viscount Exmouth.

However, it was also during this leg of his survey that Flinders finally made the painful decision to abandon the survey due to the leaks suffered by the Investigator. These had accumulated to a dangerous level and despite valiant efforts to careen the ship, they proved insurmountable. After finishing the survey of Arnhem Bay, a note states that the Investigator was now on its way to the island of Timor. From there it would sail non-stop around the west and south coasts, reaching Sydney in June 1803 where she was condemned as unseaworthy.

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. SL [AUNZ2796]