TRANSCRIPTION


Adelaide Chronicle 12 April 1902 p. 31
The Flinders Centenary—Ceremony at the Bluff.

Victor Harbor, April 8

A century ago in the broad, beautiful bay overlooked by Rosetta Head, better known as The Bluff, lay two famous ships, commanded by two famous men - rival explorers - each "jealous in honor," but fortunately not "sudden and quick in quarrel." The rival flags of Great Britain and France fluttered in the breeze, and slowly the vessels changed their courses so as to be ready for a sea fight, which would have been unique in the history of the world. But the encounter had, after all, a peaceful termination.

It was a happy idea to celebrate the centenary of the meeting of two men to whom Australia owes so much - Flinders and Baudin - in such a manner. It was well that the Geographical Society should take the matter in hand and engineer it, and it was a peculiar coincidence that Lord Tennyson, a relation of Flinders, should be Governor of the State at such a juncture. His Excellency and Lady Tennyson, accompanied by Lord Richard Nevill, journeyed to Victor Harbor on Monday night, and a fair number of other visitors also travelled by the same train. The morning broke grey and gloomy, and a mist over the sea did not look promising, but fortunately no rain fell during the ceremony. Hundreds of people drove to the Bluff, hundreds more walked along the beach, and climbed over the steep granite boulders which cover its sides.

Amongst the crowd on the little flat at the top of the knoll were the acting-president of the Royal Geographical Society (Mr Simpson Newland), Mr T.S. Reed (assistant secretary), and Messrs. T. Gill, W.P. Auld, and A.M. Simpson (members of the council), the Rev. W. Penry Jones, Messrs. C.E. Owyn Smyth, D. Lindsay, W.S. Reed, T. Piper, E.C. Grundy, K.C., E.H. Cudmore, H.B. Hughes, A. Battye, G. Bundey, E.R. Bolger, J. Acraman, G. Goodwin, M. Rumbelow, and A. Jackman.

The members of the viceregal party were driven from the hotel [Grosvenor] to the highest practicable point on the rise, escorted by two mounted troopers, and then they climbed the remaining distance, and were received at the summit by the officials in charge of the proceedings.

Perhaps the most interesting sight to be seen during the day, not excepting even the unveiling ceremony, was the reunion of old settlers who, having that wonderful vitality so noticeable in old colonists, overcame the difficulties of the ascent, and met each other in the crowd at the top. Quite a knot were soon gathered together, and prominent amongst them were Mr H. Lush, whose reminiscences at the time of the wreck of the Loch Sloy were read with such interest, and Mr R. Jagger. Mr Lush is perhaps the oldest settler of the district, having arrived in 1838. "It is 58 years since I first stood on this Bluff," said the veteran, whose hair is not all grey yet, "and I think when I die they had better bury me up here." Mr R. Jagger came out in the same party with Mr Simpson Newland, in 1839, and like Mr Lush, he is full of interesting reminscences.

One old identity was missing from the hill-top - "old Jim Long." Everyone in Victor Harbor knows him. He was an old man when the middle-aged men of the town were boys, and he does not know his own age. An old sailor, he ran the Government cutter from the Treasury at Queenscliffe to Holdfast Bay in the very early days, and for two or three years before South Australia was settled he fished for whales along the coast in the vicinity of Streaky and Coffin Bays. His limbs were not equal to the task of climbing the Bluff, but many of the pioneers sought him out afterwards, and told him of all that had happened.

The plate which commemorates the meeting, is an antique bronze, made by Mr J. G. Nash of Twin-street, and it is firmly bolted into the face of a granite boulder overlooking the bay. It bears the inscription: -

"In commemoration of the meeting near this Bluff between H.M.S. Investigator, Matthew Flinders, who explored the coast of South Australia, and M.F. la Geographe, Nicolas Baudin, April 8, 1802. On board the Investigator was John Franklin, the Arctic discoverer. These English and French explorers held friendly conference, and Flinders named the place of meeting Encounter Bay. Unveiled by his Excellency Lord tennyson, April 8, 1802."

Lord Tennyson, before unveiling the tablet said:- Ladies and Gentlemen - It is always a great pleasure to Lady Tennyson and myself to visit this delightful locality, with its romantic bays, its rocky headlands, its peaceful hills, its beautiful gullies and ravines, and I have several times before stood upon this bluff, made well known to the world by the picturesque story of Mr Simpson Newland's "Paving the Way." But we are not come here to celebrate the beauties of The Bluff, Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor, Port Elliot, Middleton Bay, but to perpetuate the meeting of that heroic sailor and great navigator, Matthew Flinders - the discoverer of South Australia, captain of the Investigator - with Nicholas Baudin, captain of the French ship Le Geographe, on April 8, 1802, in Encounter Bay. Flinders was son of a surgeon, and was born at Donington, in Lincolnshire, on March 10, 1774, and in 1790 entered the Royal navy. Robinson Crusoe, he said, sent him to sea. He served first in the West Indies, and he was present on board the Bellerophon at Lord Howe's victory over the French in 1794, off Ushant, on "the glorious first of June." He came out to Australia in 1795, and determined to survey the coast south of Port Jackson, and you will remember his famous voyage on the Tom Thumb, an 8 ft. boat, with the daring young surgeon Bass.

After making many other discoveries on the north-eastern coast of Australia, he returned to England in the good ship Reliance. His friend and admirer, Sir Joseph Banks, then persuaded the Admiralty to fit out H.M.S. Investigator, in order to survey the coast of Australia - suggesting that Flinders should be in command. For some weeks it was uncertain whether Grant, whose discovery of Mount Gambier has recently been celebrated, or Flinders should receive the appointment. Flinders had lately married a daughter of Captain Chappells, and desired to take his wife on his fresh voyage of discovery. The Admiralty was angry at this proposed breach of discipline, and Sir Joseph Banks threatened him with the loss of the command. But Flinders felt that he was born to be a discoverer, and that his duty to his country compelled him to give his services without reservation, so he agreed to leave his wife behind, and he was forthwith appointed. Owing to his shipwreck off the coast of Queensland, where his heroism in saving the shipwrecked sailors became world-famous, and owing to his subsequent capture by the French, and his detainment at Mauritius for six years, which utterly broke his heart and his spirit, he did not see that poor little wife again for nine whole years. Mr Pilgrim, a near relative of Flinders, who resides in South Australia, has handed me the following interesting extract from a letter of Mrs Flinders:- "Respecting my union," she writes, "with my beloved Captain Flinders, I think I may say during the period we were permitted to live together, not a cloud cast a shadow over the sunshine of our affection for each other, and each day seemed but to rivet our attachment the more firmly." As some of you know, on his outward voyage he made Cape Leuwin on September 7, 1801, and eventually, on March 21, 1802, arrived at Kangaroo Island, looked up at a height looming in the distance on March 22, and named it Mount Lofty.

On Wednesday, April 7, the Investigator beat her way through Backstairs Passage, and on April 8 - this day a hundred years ago - Flinders writes:- "At 4 a white rock was reported from aloft to be seen ahead. On approaching nearer it proved to be a ship standing towards us; and we cleared for action in case of being attacked. The stranger was a heavy-looking ship, without any top-gallant masts up, and our colors [sic] being hoisted she showed the French ensigna nd afterwards an English Jack forward, as we did a white flag. At half-past 5, the land being then five miles distant to the north-eastward, I hove to; and learned as the stranger passed to leeward with a free wind, that it was the French national ship Le Geographe, under the command of Nicholas Baudin. We veered round as Le Geographe was passing, so as to keep our broadside to her, lest the flag of truce should be a deception; and, having come to the wind on the other tack, a boat was hoisted out, and I went on board the French ship, which had also hove to." The Captains then held conference. Flinders proceeds:- "At the above situation of 35 deg. 40 min. S., and 138 deg. 58 min. E., the discoveries made by Captain Baudin upon the south coast have their termination to the west, as mine in the Investigator have to the eastward." But Monsieur Peron, naturalist to the French expedition, laid a claim for his nation to all Flinders' discoveries. Flinders remarks on this:- "Yet M. Peron was present afterwards at Port Jackson when I showed one of my charts to Captain Baudin, and pointed out the limit of his discovery; and so far from any prior title being set up at that time to Kangaroo Island and the parts westward, the offices of the Geographe always spoke of them as belonging to the Investigator. The first lieutenant (Mons. Freycinet) even made use of the following odd expression, addressing himself to me in the house of Governor King, and in the presence of one of his companions (I think Mons. Beaufoy):- 'Captain, if we had not been kept so long picking up shells and catching butterflies at Van Diemen's Land, you would not have discovered the south coast before us '" The head of this bay (Encounter Bay), Flinders says, "was probably seen by Captain Baudin in the afternoon, and in consequence of our meeting here, I distinguished it by the name Encounter Bay." That meeting is the cause of our meeting here today. As I said at Mount Lofty, Flinders named many of the localities on the coast of South Australia, but his most imporant service to us was his discovery and survey of Spencer Gulf and St Vincent's Gulf. As you are aware, he was the first man that circumnavigated Australia, and he was the first to apply the name of Australia to this continent.

Judging from Flinders' journals and from what I have heard of the man, he was a fine type of the British sailor, independent, strong-willed, humorous, observant, with self-knowledge, energetic, known among his mates as "the indefatigable," and above all, with a noble view of his mission in life as a scientific discoverer.

Flinders died on the very day that his great "Voyage to Terra Australis" was published. With the help of Mr Simpson Newland, Mr Kyffin Thomas, and of that thorough scholar and true gentleman, Professor Morris, of Melbourne, whose recent death I deeply deplore, I had the honor of writing this rock inscription. All thanks are due to Mr Owen Smyth for his share in the work.

Mr Newland said:- The South Australian branch of the Royal Geographical Society long since determined that some recognition of Matthew Flinders's great services, some fitting tribute to his memory, should be erected on his centenary in this district. It was felt that the memorable meeting in this bay of the rival British and French exploring expeditions, deserved commemoration. After some mature consideration it was decided to cut an inscription on one of the rocks on the summit of the Bluff, perhaps the most remarkable feature of this coast. I was deputed, with Mr Reed, to choose a rock. We selected the one before us on which the plate is fixed. It is by no means the largest to be found, but possesses the advantages of being upon the very summit of the Bluff, and directly overlooks the place where Flinders and Baudin met. Later Mr R. Kyffin Thomas and Mr Owen Smyth, who had been appointed to cut the inscription, accompanied me to make the final inspection, when the original choice was confirmed. Mr Smyth however, to my great regret, declared that all the rocks on the spot were of too coarse a nature to admit of safe cutting of letters on them. Hence we were reluctantly compelled to abandon the idea, and adopt what was considered next best, a gun-metal plate. The Government have liberally consented to defray half the cost, and affix the plate, the Geographical Society being responsible for the remainder of the expenditure.

His Excellency then, amidst loud cheers, drew aside the Union Jack which covered the tablet.

Mr C. Tucker [M.P.] thanked His Excellency and Lady Tennyson for the interest they had displayed in the ceremony by their attendance. Lord Tennyson had won the hearts of the people by the interest he had evinced in all public matters, and that day he had journeyed to the Bluff, although in poor health, in order to show his appreciation of the services rendered to Australia by Flinders. (Cheers.)

Three hearty cheers were then given for the Governor, three more for Lady Tennyson, and cheers were also given for the Royal Geographical Society and for Mr Newland.

The ceremony was over in about an hour, and the visitors returned to Victor Harbor. The Government House party returned to Adelaide by the afternoon's train.