Anna Dewis – Capt Matthew Flinders

Anna Dewis
Matthew Flinders: Remember the name

I saw the name Flinders when I was in Oz
It was a street in Melbourne
I thought nothing of it

I didn’t know
That in 1801 there began a voyage of such enormity
That the name would one day share breath with Cook and Bligh
All because he dared to sail further
Into the great Unknown of Terra Australis
To complete the first proper map of an entire continent
And discover what’s really Down Under

Leaving behind a new wife
This audacious young naval captain, aged just 27
Set sail with 83 loyal men
Physical hardship a nagging, dragging weight
Never enough fresh water
Scurvy and dysentery rife
Perilous unseen reefs poised to wreck and kill
And natives, ever watchful
Some curious
Some cannibal

Passion and cold calculation
Trounce adversity
And birth the epic circumnavigation
Proving this is one gigantic landmass
This is Australia
Named for the first time by him

As his wife waits patiently
Thousands of miles of uncharted coast
Cape Catastrophe, Spencer Gulf, Pellew Islands, The Great Barrier Reefs
Marked and recorded
With indefatigability
Without delegation

Driven to do more
The next quest: to chart the whole of the Australian coastline
‘So thoroughly that it would never need doing again’

It is not to be
Seven years of exile on an enemy island
And the privations of ship life
Deliver an early, painful death
No public recognition
The name fades

I look at a map of Australia
Hundreds of places named after him and his life
A legend
Today, I think a lot of Matthew Flinders

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