World’s first national Flinders' exhibition in Adelaide

The State Library of New South Wales is behind the world's first national touring exhibition on the intrepid British explorer, Matthew Flinders, to mark the bicentenary of his epic circumnavigation of Australia (1801-03). It is now on at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

Matthew Flinders: The Ultimate Voyage presents over 100 rare and stunning 18th century treasures – many never seen by the Australian public – and will explore the drama, tragedy, romance and achievements of this historical hero.

State Librarian & Chief Executive Dagmar Schmidmaier said: “This landmark exhibition will showcase the State Library's world-class Flinders archive, as well as significant items kindly lent from major cultural and private collections in Britain, France and Mauritius.”

In just 23 years, from 1791 to 1814, Flinders transported breadfruit with Bligh; explored coastal NSW; charted Bass Strait and Tasmania; circumnavigated and named Australia; was shipwrecked; imprisoned at Mauritius; experimented on the effect of magnetism in ships; and wrote a legendary book on Australian exploration.

What’s most extraordinary is that he did all of this before his early death at age 40.

Visitors will experience the remarkable life of Flinders ‘the man’ and the explorer through the many items on show, including:

  • his log books and diary from the leaky and rotting HMS Investigator (1801-03);
  • original pen-and-ink charts, including his great map of Australia;
  • love letters to Ann – in 13 years of marriage, they spent less than four together;
  • world’s only two original Flinders’ portraits – shown together for the first time;
  • original botanical and zoological watercolours by artist Ferdinand Bauer;
  • Flinders’ charming handwritten account of his faithful cat, Trim; and
  • Flinders’ personal items: sword, cocked hat, sextant, chess set and flute.
International items have been selected from the UK Hydrographic Office; Natural History Museums, London and Le Havre (France); National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; and the Naval Museum, Mauritius.

The boat pictured above is a replica of the second Tom Thumb sailed in by Matthew Flinders and George Bass in 1796 to explore the southern coastline from Sydney to Port Hacking. The second Tom Thumb was made by Ken Gervans in 1987 and kindly lent to the State Library by the Sydney Heritiage Fleet.

Matthew Flinders: The Ultimate Voyage is FREE at the South Australian Maritime Museum from 28 March - 23 June 2002 and will then tour other parts of Australia until 2003. For details go to Travelling Exhibition Itinerary

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