George Bass

(1771 – c.1803)

(Previous … Matthew Flinders)

Discovery of Bass Straits

George Bass was more fortunate than his friend Matthew Flinders (who was stuck at Norfolk Island), for Governor Hunter gave him an open whale-boat, together with provisions for 6 weeks and six seamen to manage the boat. With these he discovered the harbour and river of Shoalhaven, mapping out Jervis Bay, discovering Twofold Bay, rounding Cape Howe and discovering the land now called Victoria. After sailing along the Ninety-mile Beach, he saw high land to the south-west and standing out towards it, he discovered the bold headland which was afterwards named Wilson’s Promontory. Bad weather drove him to seek shelter and this lead to the discovery of Western Port, where he remained for 13 days. But as his provisions were running short, he was forced, with a heavy heart to turn homeward. He was again forced to seek shelter, from strong headwinds and in doing so discovered what he called Corner Inlet. In all, he prolonged his voyage for eleven weeks, before he again reached Sydney. In all that time he had explored 600 miles of coast and had discovered four important bays, as well as what is perhaps the most important cape in Australia. His greatest achievement, however, was the proof that Van Diemen’s Land was not joined to Australia, but was divided from it by a wide strait now known as the Bass Strait. All this was achieved in an open whaleboat on the open ocean.

Fate of Bass

On their return to Sydney, Bass met some friends, who persuaded him to join them in making their fortune by carrying contraband goods into South America, in spite of the Spaniards. They were unfortunate that their vessel was captured and Bass was sent to the silver mines, where he completely disappeared from sight. Those that entered the mines were obliterated for ever from human knowledge. The fate of Bass, no one knew. After all his hardships and adventures, his enthusiasm and self devotion, he passed away from men’s eyes and no one was curious about where he had gone.

(continues … NSW 1800 to 1808)