Who was Matthew Flinders, the man who put Australia on the map?

January 25, 2019

Just ahead of tomorrow's Australia Day celebrations, after a marathon excavation effort, the body of Matthew Flinders has been discovered beneath Euston station in London.

The Conservative Party always celebrates the lives of those who have made a great contribution to Australia, so let's take a look at the life and achievements of the man who circumnavigated Australia:

Flinders was born in England on March 16, 1774.

He joined the navy at 15 and served under William Bligh on a trip to Tahiti in 1791. He fought against the French in the naval battle of the Glorious First of June 1794, according to the Australian Museum.

Flinders sailed to Australia in 1795 to begin his survey work.

Shortly after his most famous voyage, Flinders was captured by the French on his return to England and held prisoner for more than six years.

Just four years later he died of kidney failure at the age of 40 — the day after the book detailing his circumnavigation of Australia was published.

The Australian Museum says Flinders was "an outstanding sailor, surveyor, navigator and scientist".

After it became known French explorer Nicholas Baudin was planning to circumnavigate Australia, Flinders was sent out with his good friend George Bass to do it quicker than his French counterpart.

Historian Dave Hunt described the circumnavigation as a race.

"[Joseph] Banks says to Flinders, 'I need somebody to go out and sail around the continent quicker than him', so Flinders and [his cat] Trim are actually racing Baudin and his pet monkey around Australia [between] 1801 and 1803," Mr Hunt explained to the ABC in the Rum Rebels and Ratbags podcast.

In 1801 Flinders began his circumnavigation of the continent, and was later accompanied by an Aboriginal translator, Bungaree, who he had worked alongside in 1789.

By 1803, Flinders had won, becoming the first person to circumnavigate Australia and identify it as a continent.

Mr Hunt says Flinders was also the first to seriously propose and popularise the name "Australia" for the continent he sailed around.

Before his most famous voyage, Flinders also circumnavigated Tasmania, proving it was separate from mainland Australia.

Flinders's cat Trim was born in 1799 on board the HMS Reliance while Flinders sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay.

The legend goes that Flinders became enamoured with his feline friend when Trim fell overboard as a kitten and managed to swim back to the boat and climb a rope to safety.

Flinders choose the name Trim after the butler in Laurence Sterne's book Tristram Shandy.

Here's how Flinders described Trim:

"One of the finest animals I ever saw … [his] robe was a clear jet black, with the exception of his four feet, which seemed to have been dipped in snow, and his under lip, which rivalled them in whiteness. He had also a white star on his breast."

Trim was so central to Flinders's life that he appears alongside him in many of the statues of Flinders around Australia.

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