Flinders Visits

Matthew Flinders 1802
Flinders passed the head of the Great Australian Bight on 27 January 1802, and reached the present South Australian/Victorian border on 19 April 1802.
(Sources. M Flinders, Voyage to Terra Australis, 1814; H. M. Cooper, The Unknown Coast, 1953).

Fowlers Bay 28 & 29 January 1802
The bay in which we anchored on the evening of January 28 at the extremity of the before known South Coast of Terra Australis, was named Fowler’s Bay, after my First Lieutenant (VTA).

29 January: Boats employed landing the botanists to examine the country, and by the Commander in surveying (FL). Many traces of natives were found.

St. Francis Island, Petrel Bay 3 & 4 February 1802
Sent the Master (Mr. Thistle) to sound about the Bay, and the other boats were employed landing the naturalists to examine the island, and the Commander to survey and observe the situations of the neighbouring islands (FL). Enough birds (stormy petrels) were caught to give 4 to each man on the ship. Further landings 4/2/02 - no fresh water found.

Streaky Bay 5/2/1802
Visits only - no landing.

Smoky Bay 6/2/02
Visits only - no landing.

St. Peter Islands 7 February 1802
Sent a boat away early to collect birds and kill seals ... Other boats landing the naturalist and the Commander, to survey and examine the country (FL). Shore temperature estimated 120F.

St. Francis Islands, Petrel Bay 8 & 9 February 1802
Return visit to fish and catch birds (sooty petrels) to supplement crew’s salt meat diet. 865 birds killed and brought aboard.

Waldegrave Islands 11 February 1802
The naturalist and his party landed to examine the island, and soon after I landed also for the purpose of taking observations ...‘ A single rat was the sole quadruped seen, but a few hair seals were killed upon the shore (FL).

Investigator Group of Islands 12 & 13 February 1802
Sent a boat away to sound, kill seals, etc. The other cutter employed landing the scientific gentlemen to examine the island, and the Commander to survey and take astronomical observations. No fresh water found. The boats crews killed several (hair)seals ... found upon the beaches. Families of these animals were usually lying asleep every two or tree hundred yards, each consisting of a male - four or five females - and as many young ones ... I approached several of them very closely, unobserved and without disturbing their domestic tranquillity (FL).

Coffin Bay 16 February 1802
Visit only - no landing.
... saw natives on the west side of the bay, and others upon the east side. Lime juice and sugar served daily as usual, and sour kraut and vinegar three times a week (FL).

Thistle Island 21 February 1802
Boats employed landing the scientific gentlemen to examine this uncertain land and the Commander to survey and inspect the neighbouring parts from the hills (FL). Sent the Master Mr. Thistle, over to the main land to search for water. At 7 pm the boat was seen returning but suddenly missed, upon which Lieut. Fowler was sent in another boat, to look for her. At 9 1/2 hours fired a gun, and soon after the last boat returned without any intelligence of the other boat, but had near been swamped herself amongst the strong ripplings of tide (FL).

Cape Catastrophe, Memory Cove 22-25 February 1802
22 February: Sent the cutter away in search of the lost boat and people, and two parties went to walk along the shores upon the same pursuit. The cutter soon returned towing the wreck of the other boat bottom upwards; she was stove all to pieces, having to appearance been dashed against the rocks ... Nothing was seen of the bodies of the unfortunate people (FL).

23 February: The Commander took the cutter to search for the unfortunate people lost in the boat or for pieces of the wreck ... About 4 pm he returned, having found nothing more than a small keg which belonged to Mr. Thistle, and two broken remnants of the boat (FL).

24 February: I though it would avail nothing to remain longer at the Cove, for there was only a small chance of obtaining their bodies when they might rise to the surface, from the number of sharks that we have constantly seen about. I caused a stout post to be erected in the Cove, and to it was nailed a sheet of copper upon which was engraven an inscription to their memory (FL).

Port Lincoln 26 February - 6 March 1802
26 February: Boats employed landing the naturalists to examine the country, and the Commander to inspect into the bay from Stamford Hill and to take bearings (FL).

27 February: Sent a party of people on shore with spades to dig a large hole at which to water the ship; also sent the time-keepers, astronomical instruments and two tents on shore under the charge of Lieut. Samuel Flinders. Moored ship a cable each way, hoisted out the launch, and sent a raft of empty casks on shore (FL).

28 February: A cutter employed by the Commander in surveying the bay. Received 17 puncheons of water from the tents. Employed putting provisions into the after hold and stowing water in the main hold, all the empty casks being now out of the ship (FL).

1 March: Received another raft of water from the tents and stowed it away in the holds. At such times as the pits require to be left to replenish themselves, a part of the people on shore are employed cutting fire wood. Mr. Brown and a party visited the large lake (Sleaford Mere) today... which runs to within a hundred yards of the sea. They saw a boat’s sail and yard floating near the shore in that bight, belonging no doubt to our wrecked cutter; no other fragments were seen (FL).

2 March: A cutter employed by the Commander in surveying the bay. Employed as before in watering the ship.

3 March: Sent Lieut. Fowler in the cutter out of the Bay and round to Memory Cove and the neighbouring islands in search of the bodies of our unfortunate shipmates, the boat being armed and provisioned for two days. (FL).

4 March: Cloudy weather with spitting rain at times until a little before noon, when it cleared up and enabled me to observe an eclipse of the sun at the tents with an achromatic telescope of 46 inches focus and a power of about 200. Immediately after the eclipse, brought on board the tents, astronomical instruments etc. from the shore, and prepared every thing ready for going down to the entrance of the bay in the morning. This morning some natives were heard calling, as we supposed to a boat which had just then landed at the tents, and two of them were seen at about half a mile from us (FL).

5 March: We ran down the harbour and anchored under Cape Donington. In the evening Lieutenant Fowler returned from his search. He had rowed and walked along the shore as far as Memory Cove, revisited Thistle’s Island, and examined the shores of the isles in Thorny Passage, but could find neither any traces of our lost people nor fragments of the wreck (VTA).

6 March: I landed at Cape Donington to take some further bearings. The boat was afterwards hoisted up; and our operations in Port Lincoln being completed, we prepared to follow the unknown coast to the northward, as it might be found to trend (VTA).

Sir Joseph Banks Group of Islands 6 & 7 March 1802
6 March: Hoisted out the cutter; sounded about the ship and landed to inspect the neighbouring islands.

7 March: The naturalist and other gentlemen landed to examine the production of the island, and the Commander to take bearings, which, from the number of small islands was rather perplexing. Sold the effects of Mr. Thistle and prepared to get under weigh (FL).

Hummock Hill & Point Lowly 9 March 1802
No landing.
At noon, the furthest hummock seen from the anchorage was distant four or five miles; it stands on a projection of low sandy land, and beyond it was another similar projection to which I gave the name of Point Lowly (VTA).

Head of Spencer Gulf 10-13 March 1802
10 March: The opening in the head of the gulph we entered seems to be from six to ten miles wide, and it contracts upwards, rapidly. The scientific gentlemen landed on the east side in order to ascend the mountains which lie a little distance back, and run parallel to the shore; and the Commander took the cutter upon a surveying expedition upwards (FL).

11 March: Party of scientific gentlemen who visited the eastern hills returned this afternoon; and at 10 pm the Commander returned from his expedition up the inlet. No fresh water was found (FL).
Additional remarks: the excursion of the scientists to the highest top of the ridge of hills proved to be a most laborious one, proving to be about 15 miles distant. They set off in the morning, and did not reach its top until 5 in the evening, and were then obliged to pass the night without water, nor did they find any until the following day on their way down (FL).

13 March: At 6 am weighed and made sail down the inlet, at 7.45 am the ship took upon a shoal of soft mud covered with grass. The ship still sticking, hoisted out the cutter and dropped a kedge astern, with which we hove her off into deep water (FL).

Point Riley 15 March 1802
Visit only - no landing.

Point Pearce 18 March 1802
Visit only - no landing.

Corny Point 19 March 1802
Anchorage only - no landing.
The situation where we anchored late in the evening is well sheltered from the southerly winds. The fire seen on the land and the howling of the dogs confirm us in the opinion of its being the main (FL).

Kangaroo Island 21-24 March 1802
21 March: Fresh gales with a heavy sea from the SW saw the looming of the southern land, high and very near us. Continued our course to the eastward along the high cliffy shore. No smoke or other mark has yet appeared by which we can ascertain whether or no this land is a part of the main (FL). The ship anchored off the eastern tip of Nepean Bay at 6 pm.

22 March: The Commander and scientific gentlemen landed to survey and examine the country, which they find great reason to believe to be an island notwithstanding its magnitude (FL). It would be difficult to guess how many kanguroos were seen; but I killed ten, and the rest of the party made up the number to thirty-one, taken on board in the course of the day. The whole ship’s company was employed this afternoon in skinning and cleaning the kanguroos; and a delightful regale they afforded, after four months privation from almost any fresh provisions. In gratitude for so seasonable a supply, I named this southern land Kanguroo Island (VIA).

23 March: The scientific gentlemen landed again to examine the natural productions of the island, and in the evening eleven more kanguroos were brought on board (VTA).

24 March: In the morning we got under way from Kanguroo Island, in order to take up the examination of the main coast at Cape Spencer, where it had been quitted in the evening of the 20th (VTA).

Investigator Strait 25-27 March 1802
Many tacks were made; from the northern land across to Kanguroo Island, and gave opportunities of sounding the intermediate strait. It was named Investigator Strait, after the ship (WA).

Gulf of St. Vincent 27 March - 1 April 1802
27 March: Steered towards the unexplored part of the main. 6 pm fresh breezes with threatening weather. 8 pm saw a fire upon the land ahead. 12 midnight saw land ahead and several fires upon it (FL).

28 March: From noon to six o’clock we ran thirty miles to the northward, skirting a sandy shore at the distance of five, and thence to eight miles (VIA). (The ship would have passed the present site of Adelaide about 3.30 pm).

29 March: The low eastern shore along which we have run this day is generally sandy, but is mostly covered with small trees. We noticed much smoke on the low land, and at noon also great smokes were rising from the hills further up (FL).

30 March: The cutter taken by the Commander, accompanied by the Naturalist, to examine the head of St. Vincent Gulf (FL). (Flinders and Brown set out to climb Hummock Mount, but finding it could not be reached in time to admit of returning on board the same evening, they turned back after ascending a nearer hill).

31 March: Made sail down the inlet, with light winds (FL).

1 April: The land has a pleasant appearance, being grassy hills of a gentle ascent with clumps of trees interspersed. Lower down near the entrance on the west side the shore is very low, being a sandy beach from which extends a sandy spit to some miles distant (Troubridge Shoals). 6 pm steering to the southwest for Kanguroo Island, the former anchorage being in sight, and bearing south (FL).

Kangaroo Island 2-6 April 1802
2 April: The objects I had in mind in coming to Kanguroo Island a second time were - first to get a known place of shelter for the night - 2nd to get a few more fresh meals for the ships company, and 3rd to ascertain generally whether our time keepers were still keeping the rates found for them in No. 10 Bay (Port Lincoln). The kanguroos were not now found in anything like the numbers that they were at the first anchorage; and besides, we now find them much shyer than before (FL).

3 April: Hoisted out the launch and sent an officer in her to the eastern part of the island to kill seals and kanguroos. The launch returned in the evening with several seal skins for the service of the rigging; she left a party of gentlemen to examine that part of the island (FL).

4 April: The Commander went away in the cutter accompanied by the Naturalist, to examine the head of the large bight in which the ship lies. Carpenters with some hands on shore cuffing fire wood (FL).
The object of my excursion in the cutter was both to examine the head of the great bay or bight, and also to ascend a hill towards the centre of the island. (FL).
(On this excursion Flinders and Brown climbed Prospect Hill, discovered the island was ‘separated into two parts of very unequal size, connected by an isthmus whose breadth is about two miles’, and explored Pelican Lagoon).

5 April: Sent the launch to the eastward to fish, and to bring on board a party that went to shoot kanguroo. At 11 am the Commander and Naturalist returned on board. At dusk the launch returned with the shooting and fishing parties, who had but little success; one of the boat’s crew returned very lame, having been bitten by a seal. Hoisted in the launch and prepared to go to sea in the morning (FL).

6 April: At 2 pm the rising of a breeze made it advisable to get under way from Kanguroo Head and we proceeded for the eastern outlet of the Investigator’s Strait, in order to prosecute the discovery beyond Cape Jervis.

Encounter Bay 8 & 9 April 1802
No landing.
8 April: Interview with Le Géographe. The French expedition on discovery to New Holland, under Captain Baudin, had frequently furnished us with a topic of conversation, but when we first ascertained that it was a ship seen ahead, it was much doubted whether it was one of the French ships, or whether it was an English merchant ship examining along this coast for seals or whales. On going on board I requested to see their passport which was shown to me and I offered mine for inspection, but Captain Baudin put it back without looking at it. He informed me that after exploring the south and east parts of Van Diemen Land, he had come through Bass Strait, and had explored the whole of the coast from thence to the place of our meeting. He had parted with the Naturaliste, his consort, in a gale of wind in the strait and had not since seen her. Captain Baudin was sufficiently communicative of his discoveries about Van Diemen Land and of his remarks upon my chart of Bass Strait, many parts of which he condemned, but I was gratified to hear him say that the north side of Van Diemen Land was well laid down (FL).

9 April: Captain Baudin was much more inquisitive this morning concerning the Investigator and her destination than before, having learned from the boat’s crew that our business was discovery; and finding that we had examined the south coast of New Holland thus far, I thought he appeared to be somewhat mortified. I offered to convey any information he might wish to the Naturaliste, in case of meeting with him; but he only requested me to say, that he should go to Port Jackson so soon as the bad weather set in (FL).
(The two ships parted company at 8 am, Flinders sailing south-east for Western Port and Bass Strait, and Baudin heading west for Kangaroo Island and the two Gulfs).

Baudin's Rocks (near Robe) 13 April 1802
No landing.
Saw a broad patch of rocks above water to which we drew near at 11 o’clock.
Additional Remarks: The rocks from whence we tacked at 11.30 am, I judge to be those of which M. Baudin gave me information (FL). (In his Log Book Flinders gave these rocks the name Le Géographe’s Rocks, but changed it to Baudin’ Rocks in his published Voyage).

Quotations are from extracts of Investigator’s Fair Log (FL) published in H M Cooper’s 'The Unknown Coast', being the explorations of Captain Matthew Flinders RN along the shores of South Australia 1802 (Adelaide, 1953), and M. Flinders 'Voyage to Terra Australis' (VIA) Vol. I (London, 1814; facsimile edn. published by The Libraries Board of South Australia, 1966).

In his Logs Flinders used both Log (naval) Time, which ran from noon to noon, and Civil Time (from midnight to midnight) when anchored for any considerable period. Where necessary dates given in Log time have been adjusted to Civil Time to ensure uniformity.
('Historical Records of New South Wales', Vol. 5,1803-5, p. 826)

Text © by:
Mr Anthony J Brown