A Sunday drive down the Mornington Peninsula to pick up a bag of mussels from Harry the Mussel Man who, I might add does a roaring trade tied up at the Flinders pier, prompted me to drag a couple of books off the shelf…
Melbourne is situated at the head of two bays. The western bay was named Port Phillip Bay after the Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip. The eastern bay was named Western Port when it was navigated in January 1798 by George Bass. At that time, it was the westernmost bay to have been charted on the east coast of Australia and the colony of New South Wales. Between the city and those two expansive bays is the Mornington Peninsula.
In January 1798 George Bass explored and charted Western Port in an open whaleboat with 6 volunteer sailors. In December 1798 together with Matthew Flinders (they had met on the voyage out to Sydney on the Reliance in 1795) they returned to the region to circumnavigate Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and thus prove Bass’s theory that Van Diemen’s Land was not part of the mainland. The adjoining strait was named by Flinders as Bass Strait.
In 1802, the French Captain Nicholas Baudin on his extensive exploration of the south coast of Australia visited Western Port. His expedition discovered that land in the northern part of the bay was an island and named it Ile des Francais. Charts show that they also named Phillip Island, Ile des Anglais. The anglicized version remained for the northern island now being known as French Island.
Bass and his crew set sail from Sydney on the ‘Venus’ bound for South America in 1803. They were never seen again.
The town of Flinders at the western mouth of Western Port was named in honour of Matthew Flinders.
Refer: Mr. Bass’s Western Port The Whaleboat Voyage by Harry & Valda Cole also Western Port Chronology 1798 – 1839 by Valda Cole.
3 thoughts on “Flinders on Western Port”
That little map shows it all very clearly, I didn’t realize Mornington Penin was like that!
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Interesting history. Matthew Flinders is better known in Australia than he is over here.
There’s some conjecture that the Portuguese knew of the existence of Bass Strait. But interestingly is the fact that a few years later Flinders and Baudin were both charting the southern coast at the same time. They made the effort to dine together and compare notes which must have saved both parties a few lives.
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