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Flinders, Matthew, Captain, 1774-1814


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Collection Archive
Gallery locationNot on display

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Biographical details Flinders joined the Navy in 1790 and went on the second bread-fruit voyage in the providence from 1791 to 1793. On his return, Flinders went to the Bellerophon and was present at the battle of the First of June 1794. He then served in the Reliance, taking the new Governor to New South Wales and used the opportunity to explore the coastline firstly in the Tom Thumb and then in the Francis with the surgeon, George Bass (d. cc. 1812). They charted the coast of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) between 1798 and 1799 in the Norfolk and proved that it was an island. On his return home in 1800 Flinders convinced Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) of the need to chart the whole of Australia; he was promoted to commander and sent out in the Investigator, 1801, with a team of scientific assistants. While surveying the southern coast of Australia as far as Port Phillip (the site of Melbourne), Flinders encountered the French ships La Geographe and La Naturaliste which were also engaged in charting the continent. He later travelled northwards, amplifying and correcting the work of Cook, but had to abandon his work in 1803 as the Investigator appeared to be rotten. On his return voyage to England he was detained at Ile de France (Mauritius) by the French governor there and held prisoner for over six years. He was released in 1810 and survived only long enough to complete and publish, in 1814, his Voyage to Terra Australis. Flinders also made an important contribution to the knowledge of the variation of the mariner's compass. Among the many biographies written about Flinders, the latest is by James Decker Mack, Matthew Flinders (London, 1966).
Description The papers are the residue of those presented to the Public Library of Victoria, Melbourne, by Sir William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). They consist of three main groups: the first, the papers of Flinders himself, are charts and original journals, 1791, 1793 to 1794 and 1796, and copies, 1798, 1801 to 1803; narratives of his voyages; service papers, 1797 to 1810, and technical notes on subjects in which he was particularly interested, such as terrestrial magnetism; there is a wide range of original correspondence including letters from Sir Joseph Banks and Sir John Franklin (q.v.). Mrs Flinders' papers make up the second group: these consist mainly of letters, 1799 to t812, including those from Flinders written during the Investigator's voyage, 1801 to 1803, and correspondence with French residents in Mauritius about her husband's captivity. The final group is Professor Flinders Petrie's collection of biographical material, notes, memoirs, newscuttings, etc, on his grandfather's career and correspondence with J.F. Shillinglaw about a biography of Flinders, which work Shillinglaw failed to complete.

For online transcripts of 150 documents taken from the Flinders Collection, please see the following link:

The Flinders papers: letters and documents about the explorer Matthew Flinders (1774-1814)

The transcripts are mostly letters but do also include other official documents. The coverage is not comprehensive but does provide a good support to the main body of letters written by Flinders.
Date made 1774-01-01 - 1814-12-31

Finding Reference FLI
Catalogue section Personal collections
Creator Flinders, Matthew
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Extent Overall: 92 cm
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