George Bass (1771 - 1803)

George Bass

George Bass


George Bass was born in England and became an apprentice surgeon while he was a teenager. At 18 he joined the British Royal Navy and in 1795 he sailed to New South Wales as the ship's doctor on board HMS Reliance.

Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders (1774 -1814)

Matthew Flinders was born in England and joined the British Royal Navy when he was 15.
He was the Midshipman, or the master's mate, on the HMS Reliance where he met George Bass. Bass and Flinders shared an interest in exploring and after arriving in Sydney in 1795, they set out to explore the coast south of the settlement, sailing in a 2.5 metres long rowing boat called Tom Thumb. They explored Botany Bay and the Georges River. When they returned nine days later their report to Governor Hunter led later to a settlement being made on the Georges River at Bankstown.

On a second voyage Bass and Flinders discovered and named Port Hacking and Lake Illawarra.

Bass Strait (marked blue) is named for George Bass

Bass Strait (marked blue) is named for George Bass

Because of voyages they had made separately, both Bass and Flinders were sure that a body of water separated Van Diemen's Land (now called Tasmania) and the Australian mainland. In 1798 they sailed along the northern coast of Van Dieman's Land. They rowed up the Tamar River to near where Launceston is today and later climbed to the top of Mount Wellington which overlooks Hobart. They proved that there was water between Australia and Van Dieman's Land and it was later named Bass Strait by Governor Hunter.

George Bass Disappears

In 1799 Bass resigned from the Royal Navy and sailed trading ships between the islands of the South Pacific. In 1803 he left Sydney headed for Chile in South America but the ship disappeared and George Bass was never seen again. The water separating Tasmanian from mainland Australia is named Bass Strait after George Bass.

Matthew Flinders after 1801

This statue is in Melbourne, Australia, near Flinders Street and is named for Matthew Flinders

This statue is in Melbourne, Australia, near Flinders Street and is named for Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders returned to England in 1800 and published a book about his and Bass' explorations. Then in 1801 Flinders was put in charge of an expedition to sail around and map the still unknown parts of the Australian coastline. He eventually circumnavigated (sailed all the way around) the Australian coast taking almost three years to do it because of the poor condition of the ship which needed regular repairs to stop it leaking. After returning to Sydney in 1803, Flinders sailed for England as a passenger on a ship called the Porpoise but the ship was wrecked on a coral reef off the Queensland coast. Flinders took control of the ship's lifeboat and sailed to Sydney to get help for the shipwrecked passengers.

Matthew Flinders arrested by the French

As its captain, Flinders sailed a small schooner, the Cumberland, towards England. When the ship started leaking, Flinders sailed to the island of Mauritius, a French colony. The French, who were at war with England, arrested Flinders as a spy and kept him in gaol on the island for six years. In 1810 Flinders arrived back in England. He was not in good health and only lived for another four years. He died in 1814, aged 40.