George Bass (1771-1803?) explored the east coast of Australia. Together with Flinders, he sailed more than 18 000 kilometres exploring the coastline of Australia and proved that Tasmania was an island. Bass was born in England and arrived in Sydney in 1795. In 1803, he disappeared after he sailed into the Pacific Ocean with a cargo that he wanted to sell in South America. Some people believe he was captured by the Spanish and forced to work in mines in Peru.
Soon after they arrived in Australia, Bass and Flinders explored the coastline south of Sydney in a tiny boat called the Tom Thumb. Bass who was 24 was a surgeon and Flinders who was only 21 was a sailor. Both were very adventurous. Very few people would have had the courage to sail into the open sea in such a small boat. During this trip they explored the land south of Sydney and found land suitable for settlement.
In 1797 Bass left Sydney in a whaleboat. He took with him 6 sailors and 6 weeks' supply of food.Before reaching Western Port, he came across a party of 7 escaped convicts and promised to rescue them on his return. He then sailed on to Western Port on the southern coast of Australia. Strong winds forced him to stay here for nearly 2 weeks. Bass suspected that there must be a strait of water separating the mainland from Tasmania (then called Van Diemen's land). He rescued the convicts on his way back and sailed back to Port Jackson, after exploring 300 miles of previously unknown coastline.
In 1798, Bass and Flinders set off in the Norfolk to sail around Van Diemen's Land. The Norfolk was the first boat to be built in the colony and was built by the prisoners on Norfolk Island. Bass and Flinders discovered and explored the Tamar River. They then spent another 3 weeks mapping the north coast of Tasmania before they sailed down the west coast. They sailed down the Derwent River where Hobart now stands and then set sail for Sydney. They had proved that Van Diemen's Land was an island by sailing right round it. Flinders named the strait, Bass Strait, after George Bass. The discovery of this strait meant that ships could save days when sailing to England, by sailing straight along the south coast, rather than right around the bottom of Tasmania. This was their last voyage together. Bass sailed from Sydney in 1803 to travel to South America. He disappeared and was never heard of again.