Searching for Flinders' Ships

A shipwrecked navigator.


On a return journey to England aboard Porpoise (a captured Spanish sloop of 308 tonnes), in want of another survey vessel, Matthew Flinders, celebrated navigator of the Australian coasts and seas, was wrecked on an uncharted reef. Porpoise was in company with two other vessels, Cato, English armed merchant of 430 tonnes and Bridgewater, a 32 gun East India company vessel of 750 tonnes. When Porpoise struck the rocks the two other vessels tacked to avoid the same fate but unfortunately they tacked towards each other. Cato changed course to avoid collision and consequently also hit the reef. Bridgewater escaped the rocks and seemed to make an attempt to return and provide assistance but subsequently departed and left them to their fate.

In December 2009 a collaborative expedition took the Silentworld Foundation and Australian National Maritime Museum teams to the aptly named Wreck Reefs in search of the vessels and survivor camp.

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