This chart was completed by Matthew Flinders in 1804, while he was a prisoner in Mauritius, following the termination in the previous year of his—and history’s first—circumnavigation of the great south land, known at that time as New Holland and New South Wales, and frequently referred to as Terra Australis. The chart contains the first known use by Flinders or any other navigator of the name ‘Australia’ for the island continent as we know it today.
The chart left Mauritius on 14 November 1804 consigned to Sir Joseph Banks in London. When Flinders returned to England in 1810, Banks and the Admiralty required him to reverse the names ‘Australia’ and ‘Terra Australis’. A revised chart, with this and other amendments, was published in 1814—a few days before Flinders died—as part of Flinders’ report on his voyages. In 1817, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, learning of Flinders’ preference for ‘Australia’, adopted the name Australians have come to cherish.
The chart measures approximately 92cm x 72cm and is held by the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton, Somerset.
The cartouche in the centre of the chart reads as follows:
Chart shewing such parts of Terra Australis and its vicinity, as were discovered or examined by the following vessels –
Schooner Francis of 60 tons burthen, in 1798,
Sloop Norfolk of 25 tons, in the years 1798 and 9,
Schooner Cumberland of 29 tons burthen in 1803,
His Majestys ship Investigator in 1801, 2 and 3,
by M Flinders – Commander.
The original charts are constructed upon a scale of four inches to a degree of longitude, from which this abridgment was made whilst a prisoner at the isle – Mauritius.
The dotted parts of the different tracks were run during the night. The arrows shew the direction and strength of the winds. The coasts represented by the plain single lines are copied from other selected authorities the shaded coasts only being seen by me. 1804
The inset in the chart’s lower left corner depicts a small map with the caption Terra Australis as known before the year 1798, i.e. prior to Flinders’ voyages listed in the cartouche.
The entire chart tells the story of the two circumnavigation voyages made by Flinders between the years 1798 and 1804—a story that defined and named Australia.
After almost two hundred years of the chart’s comparative obscurity, the existence of the chart is only now becoming widely known and fully appreciated.