Matthew Flinders & John Franklin
I have just completed reading two recently published biographies: ‘Eyre,the Forgotten Explorer,’ and ‘Flinders, the Man who Mapped Australia’. I found myself absolutely engrossed, not only because of the stamina, strength and determination of Eyre, but the knowledge and skill of the 27 year old Matthew Flinders. And with the familiarity of these local parts as we do, to be able to recognise much of their observations of the coastline (and the hinterland), means added pleasure and interest in reading the accounts of these remarkable explorers.
On 5 August 1839, Eyre set out from Port Lincoln and walked to Streaky Bay, and at one stage crossed over what I think must have been Marble Range, to the western side. With a touch of poetic licence, I think he may have passed close to Nyroca Campsite. In any event, sufficient proof to place a plaque here one day!
With a crew of 87 on board the Investigator, Flinders explored and mapped our coastline as we all know, and suffered that great mishap when eight sailors drowned when their cutter was overturned in a swell. Apart from being one of the world’s epic maritime journeys, there is particular feature in connection with Port Lincoln.
On board the Investigator was Flinders’ nephew, a 17 year old John Franklin, who learned so much from his experience with Flinders, that it spurred him on to becoming an explorer himself. He became Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania, and was eventually knighted for his achievements. At the age of 59 he led an ill-fated two-ship expedition that set out to locate the Northwest Passage through the Canadian arctic. Eventually the two ships became trapped in ice and nothing was ever heard of the ships or men again.
I was so surprised to learn that Canadian Prime Minister Harper announced a couple of weeks’ ago, that one of the two ships lying in waters 11 metres deep, had been found by divers, thus potentially closing one of the great maritime mysteries of all time.