Matthew Flinders

Celebrating the cartographer who circumnavigated Australia.

To mark the 250th birthday of Matthew Flinders, the Australian National Maritime Museum is publishing this short exclusive extract from Peter FitzSimons’ forthcoming book on the great navigator.  

Below, FitzSimons’ writes about Flinders and his attitude to Indigenous Australians. 


Hand coloured engraving of Captain Matthew Flinders

Hand coloured engraving of Captain Matthew Flinders RN


Joyce Gold, published 30 September 1814 by the Naval Chronicle Office

Morning Update - Tuesday 6 February

Endeavour is currently 40nm east of Kiama.

The winds overnight were not favourable for sailing, so the ship had to motor as far south as it could in preparation for the strong southerly change coming though their area in the next hour (see image 1 below). Winds are expected to reach 32 knots in their area. This is near gale force and the old Force 7. The East Australian Current (southerly at about 4knots) has helped them get as far south as possible. Image 3 below shows the predicted 30+ knot wind at 1300 today.

Unfortunately, once the southerly hits, the wind will stay southerly for the remainder of the week (see image 2 below). Normally a nor-easter would be the prevalent wind this time of the year, interspersed with the odd southerly change. This allows a square-rigged ship to sail both south and north with the different winds. With a southerly blowing all week, you do not want to end up too far to the north, unless you are prepared to do a long slow motor back into the wind and swell (uncomfortable). Square-rigged ships cannot sail to windward at all. The closest they can sail to the wind is about 100 degrees. Contemporary-rigged sailing vessels can sail 40 degrees to the wind – some closer.

According to the master, they had a very hot and sweaty night onboard. The ship managed to dodge the storm cells and avoided the brunt of the rain. They are now waiting for the change to come through, when they will make course back towards the coast and head offshore again later this afternoon.

Photo of crew members posing aboard Endeavour tall ship

Brian Quinn, Cook's Mate

Photo of crew members working aboard Endeavour tall ship with deck at an angle

Brian Quinn, Cook's Mate

Charts of Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders was born on March 16 1774 in Donington, Lincolnshire, England. 

With George Bass, he confirmed Tasmania, then named Van Diemen’s land, as an island and in 1802-03, he led the first inshore circumnavigation of Australia.

Flinders is also credited as the first to use Australia as the continent’s name.  He died in London on July 19, 1814. He was 40 years old.

Peter FitzSimons’ forthcoming book on Flinders will be published by Hachette.

Find out more about Peter's books 

Footage by Craig Bender

More from the Museum

The Australian National Maritime Museum celebrates our nations's history and connection to the sea. We protect the National Maritime collection, a rich and diverse range of over 160,000 historic artefacts.

Among these objects are fascinating treasures, such as a copy of Flinders' A Voyage to Terra Australis and an array of charts based on these important surveys of Australia's coatline. 


Explore Matthew Flinders in the collection 

Map showing the island of Tasmania, printed in black ink on cream paper.

00004101 - Chart of Van Diemens Land, 1798 - 1799. Matthew Flinders, engraved by L Welsh.   


ANMM Collection

Heroes of Colonial Encounters, Helen S Tiernan, 2017

Explore this collection

ANMM Collection reproduced courtesy of Helen S Tiernan and licenced for use by the Museum. If you would like to use this image please contact the Museum at 


Paining showing Matthew Flinders, a white man with short, dark hair and a fancy blue and gold jacket
A painting showing Bungaree, and indigionus man with dark skin and hair wearing a red, european coat and holding a hat

While Matthew Flinders circumnavigated the Australian continent he was assisted by Bungaree, who acted as a type of diplomat with other First Nations people they encountered on the voyage. As a consequence Bungaree became the first known person born in the country to circumnavigate it. 

Although Bungaree became well versed in the ways of the new inhabitants and took to wearing elements of European dress, he remained very much a Kuringgai man and a respected elder amongst his people. The last years of Bungaree's life were spent in Sydney on the land now known as The Domain. He died on Wednesday 24 November 1830 and was buried at Rose Bay. 

Read more about Flinders and Bungaree

Map showing the Australian coastline, printed in black ink on cream paper.

00001899 - Chart from A voyage to Terra Australia, volume 2. Matthew Flinders, published by G and W Nicol, 1814.  


ANMM Collection