Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) was born in Lincolnshire in England. Flinders joined the navy where he trained as a navigator. Flinders wanted to become a sailor and explorer after reading the book Robinson Crusoe. He met George Bass, a ship's doctor, when they were both sailing to Australia on the Reliance. They became very good friends and were to go on many journeys of exploration together. Flinders was to first man to circumnavigate Australia. It was Flinders who suggested the name "Australia" and it was adopted in 1824. Several places have been named after him such as Flinders Island.
In 1796 Bass and Flinders explored the coastline south of Sydney using a tiny open boat about 2.5 metres long. It was called the Tom Thumb. As they were sailing along the southern coast of New South Wales, they were met by a party of fierce-looking aborigines. They decided to calm things down by trying to amuse the aborigines. Flinders pulled out a pair of scissors and started cutting the aborigines hair, while Bass and a servant boy called Martin made the boat ready. Then Flinders leapt aboard the flimsy boat and the three companions sailed away, leaving the aborigines on the shore.
Flinders had been doing some exploring on his own and believed that he could prove that Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) was an island. Bass and Flinders convinced Governor Hunter that another expedition should be set up with a bigger boat and more men. In 1798, Bass and Flinders sailed the Norfolk through Bass Strait and round Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), proving that it was an island. This was to be their last voyage together as Bass disappeared mysteriously in the Pacific Ocean.
Flinders returned to England in 1800. While he was here, he became married. The British government asked him to make an even bigger voyage - right around Australia. Leaving his wife, Anne, behind in England, he sailed back to Australia in the Investigator. In 1802, Flinders sailed north from Sydney, passing through Torres Strait and across the Gulf of Carpentaria. He went right round Australia, becoming the first man to circumnavigate Australia. He called in at Timor on the way, arriving back in Sydney in June, 1803.
Flinders was captured by the French on the island of Mauritius in 1803 until 1810. They claimed that he was a spy. He was later allowed to return to England. When he reached London, he was 39. but looked much older. His health began to fail and he died young, like Bass. Although very ill, he completed a book on his travels called A Voyage to Terra Australis. He died on the day that his book was published. Flinders proved that Australia was not a series of islands, but one island. His charts were so accurate, that they were used for many years after his death.