He Was More Than Just A Seafarer
This is no ordinary mariner. This statue in central Melbourne honours the late Captain Matthew Flinders of the Royal Navy, who died on English soil in 1814, at the age of only 40. He was not the first person to use the word "Australia" but is acknowledged as the first to use the word on a map.
At a time when this country-continent was generally referred to as "New Holland" or "Terra Australis" he wrote to his brother in 1804: "I call the whole island Australia, or Terra Australis". He died the day after his book, A Voyage To Terra Australis, was published.
This statue of him stands outside St Paul’s Cathedral, just off a prominent street that runs past a landmark railway station. The street is called Flinders Street. The station is (you guessed it) Flinders Street Station.
I was once told that there are more monuments in Australia to this redoubtable sea captain than there are to any other Englishman. Honouring his name are the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and that state also has a prominent university named after him.
If you haven’t heard of Flinders bars, allow me to explain. They’re not pubs. If you remember your early geography lessons, you would recall that iron substances aboard wooden sailing vessels of that era caused magnetic deviations in nautical compasses. Only when I sat down to write this post did I realise that Captain Flinders was the man who suggested a way of overcoming this potentially fatal flaw.
We should all drink to his memory. I’ll just duck out and see if I can find a pub called the Flinders Bar.
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