THE ADVENTURES OF GEORGE BASS AND MATTHEW FLINDERS
"See! girt with tempest and wing'd with thunder,
And clad with lightning and shod with sleet,
The strong waves treading the swift waves, sunder
The flying rollers with frothy feet.
One gleam like a blood-shot sword swims on
The skyline, staining the green gulf crimson,
A death stroke fiercely dealt by a dim sun,
That strikes through his stormy winding-sheet.
Oh! brave white horses! you gather and gallop,
The storm sprite loosens the gusty reins;
Now the stoutest ship were the frailest shallop
In your hollow backs, on your high arched manes."
A. LINDSAY GORDON.
 IT was not until the town of Sydney had been founded
for some years that anything was known of the great
island upon which it was built. But at last people
became curious to know more about their new home.
When Captain John Hunter came out from home as
Governor of New South Wales, there came with him two
daring young men. The one was George Bass, the ship's
doctor, and the other Matthew Flinders, a midshipman.
Flinders was only twenty-one, and Bass a few years
These two soon became fast friends. They both
were eager to know more of the land to which they had
 come, and about a month after they arrived in Sydney,
they set out on a voyage of discovery in a little boat of
eight feet long. They called it the Tom Thumb, and
the whole crew was themselves and a boy.
"NATIVES GATHERED ROUND THEM."
In this tiny boat they sailed out into the great Pacific,
and made for Botany Bay. Here they cruised in and
out of all the creeks and bays, making maps of everything, and after an adventurous time they got safely
back to Sydney. But they were not long content to
remain there. Soon they started out again, and again
had many adventures.
Once they got into such a storm that their little boat
was nearly swamped. They themselves were soaked to
the skin, their drinking water was all spoiled, and, worst
of all, their gunpowder was wet and useless.
So they rowed to shore, meaning to land and dry their
things, and look for fresh water. As they landed, several
natives gathered round them. Bass and Flinders hardly
knew what to do. The natives about were said to be
very fierce, if not cannibals. There were about fifty of
them, armed with spears and boomerangs, against two
white men and a boy, who had no weapons, for their guns
were rusty and full of sand, and their gunpowder wet.
A boomerang is a native Australian weapon made of
hard wood. It is made in peculiar shape, and the black
fellows throw it in such a wonderful way that it hits the
object it is aimed at, and returns to the hand of the
Although very uncertain what would happen to them,
Bass and Flinders put a bold face on matters. They
spread out their gunpowder to dry on the rocks while the
natives looked on. They next began to clean their guns,
but at this the black fellows became so angry and afraid
that they were obliged to stop.
 As neither could understand the other's language, talking was rather difficult. But the white men made the
savages understand that they wanted water, and they
were shown a stream not far off where they filled their
cask. They would now have been glad to get away, but
their gunpowder was not dry.
Then Flinders thought of something to keep the
savages interested. A few days before he had cut the hair
and trimmed the beard of a savage, much to his delight.
So now he produced a large pair of scissors and persuaded
some of those round to let him play barber.
Flinders did not make a very good barber, but that
did not matter as the savages were easily pleased. They
were very proud of themselves when the cutting and
snipping was done, but some of them were very much
afraid as the large scissors were nourished so near their
noses. Their eyes stared in wild fear, yet all the time
they tried to smile as if they liked it, and they looked so
funny that Flinders was almost tempted to give a little
snip to their ears just to see what would happen. But the
situation was too dangerous for such tricks.
At last the powder was dry. Everything was gathered
and put into the boat, and the three got safely away, well
pleased to have escaped while the savages were still in
A few nights after this they were nearly wrecked.
They had anchored for the night when a terrible storm
arose. The waves dashed high over their tiny boat, there
were cliffs on one hand, reefs on the other. They hauled
up their anchor as quickly as they could and ran before
the gale. Bass managed the sail, Flinders steered with an
oar, and the boy bailed. "A single wrong movement, a
moment's inattention, would have sent us to the bottom,"
 It was an anxious time, and the darkness of the night
added to their danger. But suddenly, when things were
so bad that they thought they had not ten minutes more
to live, the boat got through the breakers, and in three
minutes the adventurers found themselves in the calm
waters of a little cove. In thankfulness for their escape
they called it Providential Cove. A few days later,
having explored thirty or forty miles of coast, they reached
Sydney in safety.
It was not long before Bass set out exploring again.
This time Flinders could not go, as he had to attend to
his duties on board ship. Alone Bass discovered more of
the coast, but the greatest thing that he did was to make
sure that Tasmania was not joined to Australia, but was
a separate island. And the strait between Tasmania and
Australia is called Bass Strait after him.
It would take too long to tell of all that Bass and
Flinders did, and of all the adventures they had. After
a little. Bass sailed away to South America on a trading
expedition, and was never heard of more. It is thought
that he was captured by the Spaniards, and made to work
as a slave in the silver mines. If that is so, it was a
terrible end for this brave sailor who loved the free life
upon the ocean waves. It is pitiful to think that he, who
had felt the sting of the salt spray upon his cheek, and
the taste of it upon his lips, had henceforth to toil in a
dark, close mine, a broken-hearted captive.
Even after his friend had gone, Flinders did a great
deal of exploring. He sailed all round the coasts of
Australia in a rotten, little boat called the Investigator.
"A more deplorable, crazy vessel than the Investigator
is perhaps not to be seen," said the captain who later, with
great difficulty, brought her home to England. When
Flinders reached Sydney he found that some of the
 planking was so soft that a stick could be poked through
it. It was in such ships that those brave sailors dared the
stormy seas! But Flinders was anxious to reach home,
for he had made many maps of the coast, and had filled
many note-books, and he wanted to have them published.
So he left the Investigator, and sailed home as a passenger
in another ship.
They had not gone far, however, when one dark and
stormy night they were wrecked upon a coral reef. All
night the storm raged, the winds blew, and the waves
dashed over the wretched, weary men. But when morning came they saw a sandbank near, and upon this they
managed to land, only three men being lost in the storm.
Luckily they were able to save most of the food and
water out of the wrecked vessel, and were soon settled on
their sandbank. They made tents of sails and spars,
planted a flagstaff, and ran up a blue ensign with the
Union Jack upside down as a signal of distress. And so
they prepared to wait until some passing ship should find
them and take them off. But it was by no means a likely
place for ships to pass, and after a few days Flinders
decided to take one of the ship's boats which had been
saved from the wreck, and sail back to Sydney to bring
They named the little boat the Hope, and one fine
morning Flinders, with thirteen other men, set sail. As
they launched out they were followed by the cheers and
good wishes of their shipwrecked comrades, and one of
them, having asked leave of the captain, ran to the flagstaff, tore down the flag, and ran it up again with the
Union Jack uppermost. This he did to show how sure
they were that the voyage would be a success, and that
Flinders would bring help.
So it was with cheerful hearts that Flinders and his
 brave followers began their long journey of two hundred
and fifty leagues in an open boat. And like heroes they
bore every hardship which came upon them. The weather
became rainy and cold, and they were often drenched to
the skin and had no means of drying or warming themselves. Tossed about on the huge, hollow waves like a
cockle shell, in danger from sharks and whales, they yet
escaped every peril, and after ten days of hardship and
toil they arrived safely at Sydney.
Flinders at once went to Government House. Captain
King was by this time governor, and he was a good
friend to Flinders, who now found him sitting at dinner.
The governor stared in astonishment at the wild, unshorn,
ragged man with lean, brown face and bright eyes, who
walked into the room. It was some minutes before he
knew him to be his friend Matthew Flinders, who he
thought was many hundreds of miles on his way to
England. But when he realised who it was, and listened
to the tale of disaster, his eyes filled with tears.
At once the governor agreed to send help to the ship-wrecked men, but it was some days before ships could be
got ready, and every day seemed to Flinders a week. He
was so afraid that if he did not get back quickly the men
on the sandbank would grow tired of waiting, give up hope,
and try to save themselves in an open boat, and so perhaps
all be drowned before help came.
But at length everything was ready. Three ships set
sail and safely reached the narrow, sea-swept sandbank,
and all the shipwrecked men were rescued.
Flinders then went on his way to England with his
precious maps and plans, a few only of which had been
lost in the wreck. But the ship in which he went was so
small and so leaky that it could not carry enough food
and water for so long a voyage. Flinders was therefore
 obliged to stop at every port he came to for fresh supplies. The French and British were again at war, and at
Mauritius, which then belonged to France, he was taken
prisoner, in spite of the fact that he had a passport from
Flinders was treated as a spy, and all his journals and
maps were taken from him. And now his fate was little
better than that of his friend Bass. For seven long years
he was kept a prisoner, eating his heart out with desire
for freedom. At last he was set free, and after some
more adventures he reached home.
But his troubles were not at an end. He now
discovered that a French sailor had stolen his maps and
journal, and that he had published them in France as his
own, having changed all the names which Flinders had
given the places into French names. The name Australis,
which Flinders had been among the first to use, he had
changed to Terre de Napoleon—that is, land of Napoleon.
And for many a long day Australia was marked in French
atlases as Terre de Napoleon.
It was a bitter blow. But broken in health and worn
with long hardships and imprisonments though he was,
Flinders was not yet beaten. He gave up the rest of his
life to writing an account of his travels, which he called
A Voyage to Terra Australis. But, sad to say, upon
the very day that it was published, he died. To the end
he was a sailor and adventurer. Almost his last words
were, "I know that in future days of exploration my
spirit will rise from the dead and follow the exploring
It was by such men of daring, by such deeds of
valour and of long endurance, that the outlines of Australia
were traced upon our maps.