Public Recreation Area

Bass and Flinders Memorial

The Story

Location of Object:

Snug Cove, Eden, situated roughly midway between the main fishermen’s wharf and the breakwater wharf.

Co-ordinates: Lat: -37.072244

Long: 149.909702

Accessibility of Object:

Located in a public space, the monument is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

History and Provenance of Object:

The monument located in Snug Cove, Eden, commemorates the bicentenary of the landing of George Bass and Matthew Flinders during their voyage of exploration in 1798; as well as the re-enactment of the same undertaken by a crew led by Tasmanian Bern Cuthbertson in 1998.

The brass plaque mounted on the monument is inscribed:

“TO COMMEMORATE THE LANDING OF EXPLORERS

LT. MATTHEW FLINDERS IN COMMAND OF HIS FIRST SHIP

THE 25-TON COLONIAL-BUILT VESSEL “NORFOLK”

AND HIS GOOD FRIEND GEORGE BASS, NEAR THIS SPOT ON

10TH OCTOBER 1798

TO COMMENCE A FOUR DAY SURVEY OF TWOFOLD BAY

WHILE AWAITING FAVOURABLE WEATHER ON THEIR VOYAGE

TO CIRCUMNAVIGATE VAN DIEMEN’S LAND.

ERECTED BY EDEN KILLER WHALE MUSEUM 10TH OCTOBER 1998”

The granite plaque reads:

“THE ABOVE PLAQUE WAS UNVEILED BY

BERN CUTHBERTSON

10TH OCTOBER 1998

DURING THE BICENTENNIAL VOYAGE IN THE REPLICA

NORFOLK.”

Context:

After the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, Australia’s coastline remained largely undocumented by European standards for almost a decade. Thus, when George Bass and Matthew Flinders arrived together on the HMS Reliance in 1795, Colonial Governor Hunter was quick to put their respective skills and interests to use.

Just seven weeks after they landed, the pair were sent in the 2.4 metre wooden vessel Tom Thumb to explore Botany Bay and the George’s River. In March 1796 they travelled down the coast to what they named Tom Thumb Lagoon (now Lake Illawarra), also exploring Port Hacking; and in June, Bass made an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Blue Mountains.

Then, acting on information received from survivors of the ill-fated East India Company’s Sydney Cove, Governor Hunter dispatched George Bass to investigate accounts of a coal seam in the area now known as Coalcliff. After returning with specimens, the Governor gave him permission to make a voyage “For the purpose of examining the coast to the southward of this port as far as he could with safety and convenience go.” With a crew of six naval oarsmen and six weeks’ provisions, Bass set off in an 8.6 metre colonial-built timber whale boat on 3 December 1797.

Over the next eleven weeks, he explored more than 1,900 kilometres of coastline, naming places such as Shoalhaven River, Batemans Bay, Straight Beach (now known as Ninety Mile Beach), Wilson’s Promontory and Western Port. He made valuable observations regarding the geography, topography, flora and fauna during the voyage and also concluded from the tides that a strait separated Van Diemen’s Land from what was then known as New Holland.

On 18 December, 1797, while seeking shelter from a southerly gale, he entered and named Barmouth Creek. After the group rowed up the river the following day, Bass noted in his journal “At 10 am, seeing the mouth of the inlet did not break, we went in and examined it. Were it not for the extreme shallowness of the bar, this little inlet would be a complete harbour for small craft, but a small boat even must watch her times for going in. At high water, there is not more than 8 or 9 feet. The upper part of this place is a kind of a lagoon or at least a flat, but the lower part downwards as far as the bar is one of the prettiest little harbours as to form that was perhaps ever seen. One would take it to have been intended as the model of some large deep harbour. Every small bight has its little white sandy beach, and every turning its firm rocky point, the depth of the water holding a corresponding proportion to the size of the model. The ground round it as far as I examined is rocky and barren in front, and low and salt at the head of it…I have named this place Barmouth Creek.”

The following day he came to what he named Twofold Bay on account of the two bays that made up the harbour. He sailed around it, making a sketch and then put out to sea again. On his return voyage back up the coast to Sydney, he recorded on 15 February 1798 that “…at noon reached Twofold Bay and having ascertained that Snug Cove, on its north-east side, afforded shelter for shipping, steered northward.”

The party finally reached Sydney in February 1798, having made good use of petrels, fish, seal flesh, geese and black swans to enable them to prolong their journey beyond the supplies they had on board.

Prior to this voyage, European knowledge of the east coast scarcely extended beyond the Ram Head. Matthew Flinders later wrote of Bass’s achievement that the “…voyage expressly undertaken for discovery in an open boat and in which six hundred miles of coast, mostly in a boisterous climate, was explored, has not, perhaps, its equal in the annals of maritime discovery.”

Three months after that journey, Bass and Flinders were directed by Governor Hunter to sail “…beyond Furneaux Islands, and should a strait be found, to pass through it, and return by the south end of Van Diemen’s Land.” Flinders noted “I had the happiness to associate my friend Bass in this new expedition…” noting that he was “…a man whose ardour for discovery was not to be repressed by any obstacle, nor deterred by any dangers…” Quoting from the Norfolk’s log book, it was recorded that “Accompanied by the Nautilus…we sailed out of Port Jackson on the 7th October.” Two days later the party reached Twofold Bay where “…in order to make some profit of this foul wind Mr. Bass landed early next morning…” to make an excursion inland, recording such things as the Eucalypt, redbill, oyster catcher and plover.

While Flinders busied himself making a survey of the harbour, he met with a local Aboriginal man, noting ““He was of middle age, unarmed, except with a whaddie or wooden scimitar, and he came up to us seemingly with careless confidence. We made much of him, and gave him some biscuit; and he in return presented us with a piece of gristly fat, probably of whale. This I tasted; but, watching an opportunity to spit it out when he should not be looking, I perceived him doing precisely the same thing with our biscuit, whose taste was probably no more agreeable to him, than his whale was to me.” After watching Flinders’ activities “…with indifference, if not contempt…” he left the party “…apparently satisfied that from people who thus occupy themselves seriously there was nothing to be apprehended.” The party remained at Twofold Bay until the morning of 14 October.

Bass devoted considerably more time during this voyage to natural history pursuits, making many inland excursions, taking a boat up rivers, cutting through rough country, examining soils and making notes about birds and animals. He examined and dissected a wombat and studied the nesting habits of the albatross and the black swan, exercising “…his enquiring mind in all directions…”

One of the major outcomes of the Norfolk voyage was confirmation that the “…long conjectured…” strait between Van Diemen’s Land and the Australian mainland did exist. This had the effect of shortening the voyage between Sydney and Europe by around a week. After returning to Sydney, Flinders recommended to Governor Hunter that it be named Bass Strait, noting that “This was no more than a just tribute to my worthy friend and companion for the extreme dangers and fatigues he had undergone, in first entering it in a whaleboat, and to the correct judgement he had formed, from various indications, of the existence of a wide opening between Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales.”

Two centuries later, Bass and Flinders’ epic voyage of discovery would be retraced by a crew led by Tasmanian Bern Cuthbertson.

Bern had first been introduced to the world of traditional seafaring in 1937 when, at the age of 11, he became his father’s deckhand on the trading ketch Weerutta. After more than fifty years employed on the water, Bern retired in 1988 and, after returning to his home state of Tasmania, renewed his interest in maritime history. The re-enactment of significant colonial ocean voyages would play an important part. This included rowing the replica whaleboat Elizabeth around Tasmania in 1986 in the wake of Captain James Kelly’s 1815-16 voyage. And it was during that trip that perhaps the most ambitious of Bern’s voyages was born – retracing the 1798 Norfolk voyage of Bass and Flinders.

Construction of a replica 35-foot sloop commenced in 1994 with a group of volunteers working under a ship builder using traditional techniques. Built entirely from Tasmanian timbers, it featured Huon pine planking, celery top pine framework and keel, and oars of silver wattle.

On 10 October, 1998, a crew consisting of Michael Bird, Craig Dixon, Brian Hodgson, Geoff Zwar, David Evans, Tony Hodgson and John Peate and led by the then 74-year-old Bern Cuthbertson departed Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Twelve arduous days later on 2 November, they arrived at the mouth of Tasmania’s Tamar River having retraced the voyage undertaken by Bass and Flinders’ two hundred years earlier. Like the vessel’s namesake, Cuthbertson’s Norfolk was powered only by sail and oars, with a sextant and compass used to navigate rather than the modern electronic equipment. The only concession to modernity was a marine radio which had actually malfunctioned during the earlier trip up the coast from Tasmania to Sydney.

In 2000, Bern Cuthbertson was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia for services to the community and fishing industry, the training of sea cadets and for services to Australia’s maritime history. He passed away in December 2013.

Fabric, design, manufacture and condition:

Piece of stone mounted on a concrete slab with two plaques, one in brass commemorating the voyage of George Bass and Matthew Flinders in 1798; and the other on granite marking the Bern Cuthbertson-led bicentenary re-enactment in 1998.

Maker:

Eden Killer Whale Museum.

Used by:

Condition:

The Bass and Flinders plaque is showing signs of extensive Verdigris.

Marks:

Production date:

Dedicated 10 October, 1998.

Comparative examples:


The particular significance of this Object:

[Currently under development]

Themes:

Main theme:

NATIONAL THEMES

3: DEVELOPING LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL ECONOMIES

STATE THEMES

Exploration

LOCAL THEMES

Learning the landscapes of Bega Valley Shire

Other themes:

NATIONAL THEMES

2: PEOPLING AUSTRALIA

3: DEVELOPING LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL ECONOMIES

9: MARKING THE PHASES OF LIFE


STATE THEMES

Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures

Events

Technology

Transport

Persons


LOCAL THEMES

Aboriginal people’s cultural heritage and connections to Bega Valley Shire

Living in Bega Valley Shire

Technological innovation within Bega Valley Shire

Challenging terrains: Getting about in Bega Valley Shire

Remembering and honouring the people of Bega Valley Shire

Thematic storylines:

First Nations heritage

European exploration

Transport – Maritime

Notable people and families

Geographically associated places / sites:

Associated / linked places / sites / items / people:

The Elizabeth and Norfolk replicas are housed in the Bass and Flinders Centre at Georgetown on the Tamar River, Tasmania.

Various state and national collections in Australia and overseas hold material relating to George Bass and Matthew Flinders.

Heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory):

Further information:

Contributors to this ‘library’:

Angela George and Pat Raymond.

Acknowledgements, Rights and Permissions:

Acknowledgement of Angela George and Pat Raymond.

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

References and bibliography:

Bass, George, The Discovery of Bass Strait. Mr. Bass’s Journal in the Whaleboat between the 3rd of December, 1797 and the 25th of February, 1798. Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. III – Hunter, 1796 – 1799, edited by F. M. Bladen, Sydney, Charles Potter, Government Printer, 1895.

Bass, George Journal Describing Two-Fold Bay in New South Wales, Furneaux’s Islands in Bass’s Strait and the Coasts and Harbours of Van Diemen’s Land, From Notes Made on Board the Colonial Sloop Norfolk in 1798 and 1799, Mitchell and Dixson Libraries, State Library of New South Wales.

Bass, George, Journal in the Whaleboat, 3 December 1797 – 25 February 1798, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Bassett, Jan (ed.), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Australian History, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2md edition, 1994

Bern Cuthbertson, https://bassandflinders.org.au/bern-cuthbertson/

Bowden, Keith Macrae, Bass, George (1771 – 1803), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 1966, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bass-george-1748

Bowden, K. M., George Bass, 1771 – 1803. His Discoveries, Life and Tragic Disappearance, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1952.

Cooper, H. M., Flinders, Matthew (1774 – 1814), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 1966, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/flinders-matthew-2050/text2541

Cuthbertson, Bern, Around Tasmania in a Whaleboat, 1986: In the Wake of Captain James Kelly 1816 – 1816, B. Cuthbertson, Hobart, 1989.

Cuthbertson, Bern, In the Wake of Bass and Flinders: 200 Years On: The Story of the Re-enactment Voyages 200 Years On in the Whaleboat Elizabeth and the Replica Sloop Norfolk to Celebrate the Bicentenary of the Voyages of George Bass and Matthew Flinders, Bern and Jan Cuthbertson, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, 2001

Eden Magnet

Flinders, Matthew, Narrative of an Expedition in the Colonial Sloop Norfolk, From Port Jackson, through the Strait Which Separates Van Diemen’s Land From New Holland: and From Thence Round the South Cape Back to Port Jackson, Completing the Circumnavigation of the Former Island, With Some Remarks on the Coasts and Harbours, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 3 (1796 – 1799), 1895.

Flinders. Matthew, Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen’s Land, on Bass’s Strait and its Islands and on Part of the Coasts of New South Wales, Australian Historical Monographs, Vol. 39, G. Mackaness, Sydney, 1910.

Margaret, Steven, First Impressions. The British Discovery of Australia, British Museum (Natural History), London, 1988.

McDonald, W. G. The First Footers – Bass and Flinders in Illawarra, Illawarra Historical Society, 1975.

McCarthy, G. J., Bass, George (1771 – 1803), Encyclopaedia of Australian Science, 20 October 1993, http://www.eoas.info/biogs/P000206b.htm

Mundle, Rob, Flinders: The Man Who Mapped Australia, Hachette Australia, Sydney, 2012.

Scott, Prof. Ernest (ed.), Australian Discovery, Dent, London, 1929.

Scott, Prof. Ernest, The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders R. N., Angus and Robertson Ltd, Sydney, 1914


© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of and © Angela George. All rights reserved.


This Bega Shire Hidden Heritage project has been made possible by the NSW Government through its Heritage Near Me program.


Any further information about this object or any associated histories will be GREATLY welcomed and will be added to the above library of information. Please email your contribution to southcoasthistory@yahoo.com

Location

Snug Cove, Eden NSW 251