In 1802 a ship called ‘The Investigator’ captained by a young man named Mathew Flinders left England on its way to Australia.
Flinders was assigned with a special mission: to find out what Australia was.
No one knew. All was speculation.
No one had ever circumnavigated Australia.
A hundred years before, the Dutch had mapped the long western coast of Australia. James Cook had mapped much of the eastern coast. But there were still many bits of the puzzle to be filled in, the major one being the enormously long southern coast stretching from the tip of present day Western Australia to Melbourne; 7000 kilometres of it.
There was intense speculation of there being a vast inland lake or lakes in the centre of the Australian continent with a huge river – a Ganges, an Amazon, a Nile – connecting it to the coast. For Europeans the idea of a huge continent with no major rivers or lakes was inconceivable. Their experience was that large continents and mighty tracts of water went together.
Flinders was charged with sailing along the southern coast of Australia and finding the mighty river – and then sailing into the centre of the continent and mapping the inland sea.
He was in for a surprise and not the pleasant kind….