Matthew Flinders, commanding HMS Investigator, meets French captain Nicholas Baudin in Encounter Bay at the bottom of Fleurieu Peninsula in 1802.

surveying South Australia's pre-colonial coast


MATTHEW FLINDERS MADE A SPECIAL FRENCH LINK IN 1802 in what he named Encounter Bay at the bottom of Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide.

Flinders was leading the first circumnavigation of Australia (1801-2) aboard HMS Investigator, a Royal Navy survey ship. French captain Nicolas Baudin was also on a survey mission, charting the southern coast of the continent (then New Holland) with French naval ships the Géographe and the Naturaliste.

The two expeditions sighted each other and, despite France and Britain being at war, they met peacefully at Encounter Bay. (Baudin referred to the land as Terre Napoléon. Flinders would later successfully put the case that the continent, previously New Holland, be called Australia.)

On the same voyage, Baudin named the Fleurieu Peninsula after Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, a French explorer and statesman. Flinders named Mount Lofty, highest point in the Adelaide Hills, and Kangaroo Island. The first recorded European sighting of the South Australian coast was in 1627 by the Dutch ship ‘t Gulden Zeepaerdt (The Golden Seahorse), skippered by François Thijssen. He named it Pieter Nuyts Land, after the highest-ranking individual on board.

A bower anchor, jettisoned by Flinders on his voyage around the continent, is displayed at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

Flinders’ return to Britain was interrupted when he was imprisoned for years by a the Isle de France (Mauritius) governor, a Napoleonic zealot. He was in failing health when he got back to England in 1810. He was buried at St James, Hampstead, in a cemetery now covered by Euston Station, between platforms 4 and 5. His statue is now on the main concourse at that London station.

Baudin died of tuberculosis at Mauritius in 1803.

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