Matthew Flinders was a naval navigator, chart maker and explorer who was
the first person to circumnavigate the Australian Continent (New Holland) in the ship 'Investigator', in 1802.
It was also Matthew Flinders who suggested that the continent take on the name "Australia" which was later
adopted in 1824.
Matthew Flinders was born at Donington in Lincolnshire, England. Flinders, wanting to become an explorer after
being enthralled by the novel Robinson Crusoe, joined the navy and trained as a navigator. He first ventured to
Australia on the ship, 'Reliance' in 1795. On the voyage he became friends with George Bass, the ship's
Van Dieman's Land
In 1796, Flinders, along with Bass, explored the coastline south of Sydney in the sloop 'Norfolk'. In 1798, Bass
and Flinders convinced Governor Hunter to fund an expedition to Norfolk, through the Bass Straits, which was
previously-unknown (later to be named in honour of George Bass), and around Van Dieman's land (Tasmania). The
successful expedition was to prove once and for all that Van Dieman's land was in fact an island.
In 1800 Flinders returned to England and married. In 1801 the British Government invited Flinders to head an
expedition to circumnavigate Australia and chart the coastline. He sailed back to Australia as commander of the HMS
Investigator and set sail from Sydney in July, 1802. By June 1803 he returned to Sydney, having charted the east
coast, Western Australia’s coastline (to include Cape Leeuwin and King George Sound) and the Gulf of Carpentaria
and successfully circumnavigated Australia. Flinders charts were very precise and accurate and were used for many
years following his expedition.
On Flinders return to England in 1803 he was interned by the French in Mauritius charged as a spy. He was not
released until 1810. During this time England was at war with France (Napoleonic Wars). Shortly before Flinders
death in 1814 he completed a book, 'Voyage to Terra Australis'. Terra Australis meaning southern land which was
derived from the word "auster" which was a Latin name for southern wind. Flinders died at the age of forty on the
day his book was published.
Things You May Not Know ABout Matthew Flinders
The Flinders Ranges in South Australia, the Flinders River in Queensland and Flinders Island were named after
Matthew Flinders grandson, Sir Matthew Flinders Petrie, was an archaeologist who was credited for working out the
units of measurement used by the builders of Stonehenge and for devising the method of dating archaeology sites by