Maps

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Both the English and the French expeditions of the early 1800s set out to explore the coastline of Terra Australis, particularly the southern 'unknown coast', and to determine whether a strait existed from the south of the continent through to the north.

The Investigator sighted Cape Leeuwin in December 1801. Sailing eastwards, Flinders made a running survey of the southern coastline from Fowler's Bay to Encounter Bay. From January to April 1802, Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent, and the northern coastline of Kangaroo Island were charted and explored. Flinders used a systematic method of measuring and rechecking his readings to produce extremely accurate charts.

The chart of the 'unknown coast' published in the Atlas as South Coast Sheet III was essentially completed in June 1802 and sent to England in 1803 by Governor King. It was not published, however, as Flinders had not named the various capes, bays and other inlets - instead he had numbered them intending to add place names later. Only a few points of land were named immediately by him and these included Cape Catastrophe, Memory Cove, Kangaroo Island and Mt. Lofty.

After wintering at Port Jackson, Flinders sailed north to make a more detailed survey of the eastern coast, adding to Cook's charts. He then surveyed the Gulf of Carpentaria. The coastal survey was abandoned at Wessel Islands, due to the Investigator's poor condition and the crew's ill-health. After ship repairs were completed at Timor, Flinders continued to circumnavigate the continent, sailing down the western coast and across the Great Australian Bight, to arrive back at Port Jackson in June 1803. Flinders was the first to circumnavigate mainland Australia, proving it to be one land mass.

On the homeward voyage to England, Flinders was held as a prisoner of war at Ile de France [Mauritius] for six and a half years. During this time, Flinders continued work on his charts so he would have them ready for publishing when he returned home.

Returning to England in 1810, Flinders worked further on his charts and text, but to his dismay discovered that all of his charts were flawed. An error in the tables of the Nautical Almanac, which was used to calculate longitudes, had been found after the Investigator sailed. All of these lengthy measurements had to be recalculated, and the charts redrawn.

The delay in placing names upon the coast that he charted, his detention at Ile de France, and the need to correct his calculations, meant that Flinders' charts of southern Australia were not published until 12 years after he had surveyed the coast. A voyage to Terra Australis with Atlas, in which the charts were engraved by Arrowsmith, was finally published in July 1814.

After this voyage, Flinders was acknowledged as one of the foremost navigators and hydrographers of any age. His accomplishments are especially outstanding when the poor work conditions of a leaking, rotting sailing ship, and the relatively unsophisticated surveying instruments of the day, are considered.

He charted Australia's coastline with such impressive accuracy that his charts remained in use for some areas until World War II. The survey of Australian waters is an ongoing task carried out by the Royal Australian Navy's Hydrographic Service - continuing the tradition of Flinders and those who came after him.


CHARTING THE UNKNOWN COAST, Maps of South Australia from the Flinders and Baudin Expeditions of 1802

In April 1802 the British navigator Matthew Flinders and his French counterpart Nicolas Baudin met at Encounter Bay.

Both men had been sent out by their respective governments to chart and explore the unknown southern coast of Australia. Between them, Flinders and Baudin explored, mapped and named most of the 3,700 kilometres from Ceduna on the west coast to Robe in the southeast, known in 1802 as 'the unknown coast'.

One map was produced by the English expedition, led by Matthew Flinders, aboard the Investigator. The other map was produced by Louis Freycinet, the cartographer-surveyor aboard Le Naturaliste, travelling as a member of the French expedition, led by Nicolas Baudin.

The State Library of South Australia has published facsimiles of the two maps as a limited edition of two hundred. The maps are hand numbered and boxed as a pair, symbolizing the historic meeting of the two expeditions at Encounter Bay in April 1802.

The Flinders' map with its accuracy and attention to detail and Freycinet's more lyrical version of the coastline make a fascinating duo and a unique present for that hard to buy for person!

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The maps may be viewed by clicking the links above.


Collection items

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A missionary voyage to the southern Pacific Ocean, : performed in the years 1796, 1797, 1798, in the Ship Duff, commanded by Captain James Wilson. - [page 1.] 'Chart of the Duff's track in the Pacific Ocean, 1797.

'Chart of the Duff's track in the Pacific Ocean 1797.'
This map shows Australia as it was known in 1796. Shortly after the voyage of the missionary vessel "Duff" Matthew Flinders and his friend George Bass improved the maps of the New South Wales coast, and circumnavigated Tasmania, proving that it was separated from the mainland of Australia. The "Unknown Coast" is shown as a blank rather than as a dotted line. All of this section of the coast was charted for the first time by Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802.


 

Flinders, Matthew. A voyage to Terra Australis : Atlas. - Plate I. 'General chart of Terra Australis or Australia, showing the parts explored between 1798 and 1803.'

Plate 1. Flinders, Matthew. General chart of Terra Australis or Australia, showing the parts explored between 1798 and 1803 by M. Flinders, Commr. of H.M.S. Investigator (1814). This chart was originally published in 1814 as part of the atlas volume of Matthew Flinders' three volume publication A voyage to Terra Australis. This facsimile edition of the chart was published in 1966 by the Libraries Board of South Australia. This chart was the first map published that used the name "Australia". It was the second time that a map showing the recognisable and relatively complete outline of Australia was published. Louis de Freycinet's map of 1812 was the first published map to depict the entire Australian coastline. The chart includes soundings and notes on currents, coastal vegetation and terrain.



(1.21MB)

Flinders, Matthew. A voyage to Terra Australis : Atlas. - Plate IV. 'Chart of Terra Australis. South coast. Sheet III, 1802.'

Plate IV. Flinders, Matthew. Chart of Terra Australis. South coast. Sheet III, 1802 by M. Flinders, Commr. of H.M. Sloop Investigator (1814). This chart was originally published in 1814 as part of the atlas volume of Matthew Flinders' three volume publication A voyage to Terra Australis. This facsimile edition of the chart was published in 1966 by the Libraries Board of South Australia.

The chart depicts the South Australian coastline from the head of the Great Australian Bight to Encounter Bay. This is the stretch of coast of which Flinders was the first European surveyor. The chart covers the area explored by Flinders between 27 January to 8 April 1802, including the site of the 1802 encounter between Flinders and Baudin. Inset charts of Nuyts Archipelago, Port Lincoln and the head of Spencer Gulf are included. The chart includes soundings and notes on currents, coastal vegetation and terrain.

 


(1.68MB)

Flinders, Matthew. A voyage to Terra Australis : Atlas. - Plate V. 'Chart of Terra Australis. South coast. Sheet IV, 1802'.

Plate V. Flinders, Matthew. Chart of Terra Australis. South coast. Sheet IV, 1802 by M. Flinders, Commr. of H.M. Sloop Investigator (1814). This chart was originally published in 1814 as part of the atlas volume of Matthew Flinders' three volume publication A voyage to Terra Australis. This facsimile edition of the chart was published in 1966 by the Libraries Board of South Australia. The chart depicts the Australian coastline from just east of Encounter Bay, South Australian to Cape Otway in Victoria. It covers the area explored by Flinders between 11 April to 25 April, 1802. Flinders clearly notes on the chart that this section of the coastline was discovered by Baudin in 1802 and James Grant in 1800. The chart includes soundings and notes on currents, coastal vegetation and terrain.

 


(502KB)

Flinders, Matthew. A voyage to Terra Australis : Atlas. - Plate XV. Westall, William. 'Views on the south coast of Terra Australis.'

Plate XV. Westall, William. Views on the south coast of Terra Australis. This plate was originally published in 1814 as part of the atlas volume of Matthew Flinders' three volume publication A voyage to Terra Australis. This facsimile edition of the plate was published in 1966 by the Libraries Board of South Australia.

Plate XV includes coastal profiles of Cape Catastrophe, Thistle Island, the mountains at the head of Spencer Gulf, part of Kangaroo Island, and Cape Jervis. Coastal profiles were of value to later navigators who could use them to verify their locations.

 


(747KB)

Arrowsmith, John. The maritime portion of South Australia.

This map of the southern portion of South Australia was originally published by John Arrowsmith in 1839 as part of his London atlas. This facsimile edition of the map was published in 1976 by the Libraries Board of South Australia. This map was drawn from the surveys of Captain Matthew Flinders and of Colonel William Light, Surveyor General for the colony of South Australia. No additional surveying of the South Australian coast was carried out between Flinders' and Light's surveys. Inset maps include: 'Sketch of Encounter Bay', 'Sketch of Nepean Bay and Kingscote Harbour', 'The City of Adelaide, with the acre allotments' and '[The Gulf St Vincent]'.

 


(1.10MB)

British Admirality. C. Catastrophe to the Great Australian Bight. Chart No. 1061, 1875-1913.

Chart no 1061 (1875-1913) is a superseded British Admirality chart, including navigation details with compass rose and detailed soundings for various ports, that has been closely hand annotated with the separate tracks of Matthew Flinders in the Investigator in 1802, Nicolas Baudin in Le Geographe in 1802, and Louis de Freycinet in the Casuarina in 1803. Note the number of French place names along this stretch of coast which acknowledge the French survey work in this areas subsequent to Flinders initial charting.

 


(821KB)


Internet sites

Matthew Flinders Collection: maps and charts

Atlas of South Australia 1986 edition: Charting the gulfs

Australian Hydrographic Service


Further sources

Badger, Geoffrey. Explorers of Australia. East Roseville, N.S.W.: Kangaroo Press, 2001 [details surveying equipment]

Brown, Anthony J. Ill-starred captains: Flinders and Baudin. Hindmarsh, S. Aust.: Crawford House Publishing, 2000.

Cooper, H. M. The unknown coast: being the explorations of Captain Matthew Flinders, along the shores of South Australia, 1802. Adelaide: The author, 1953

The globe: journal of the Australian map circle, no. 23, 1985, pp.1-10. Perry, T.M. 'Matthew Flinders and the charting of the Australian coast.'

Ingleton, Geoffrey C. Matthew Flinders, navigator and chartmaker. Guildford, Surrey: Genesis Publications in association with Hedley Australia, 1986.