Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships
Wild Dog, 2020
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Imagine being so inspired by a book that you change your entire life’s plans and instead of becoming a doctor like your father and grandfather, you opt for a life of adventure on the high seas. The young Matthew Flinders was so taken with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe that he decided that a maritime life was the one for him so at the age of 16 he joined the British Royal Navy.
Although England was at war with the French in those days, and Flinders had a taste of conflict early on, Flinders was more interested in exploration and following the lead of his hero, Captain James Cook. The rest, as they say, is history. From his meeting with surgeon George Bass on HMS Reliance on their way to New South Wales; their adventures in Tom Thumb; their discovery of Bass Strait; the eventual circumnavigation of the land he named Australia in Investigator and his ultimate imprisonment by the French on Mauritius accused of being a spy his achievements are all told in this easily read biography for young readers that offers an introduction to the courage and determination of another era as well as to the man who played such a significant role in the development of this country.
But beyond just offering a history lesson, it also opens up the opportunity for discussing what a comparable journey might look like today. What are the great unknowns that wait to be explored in 2021 and who, at an age not much more than they are now, would have the courage to say goodbye to family, friends and comfort to pursue their dreams? If Flinders was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, which stories are those that inspire today’s youngsters so much so that lives are consciously changed because of them? Whose story would they like to be a part of?
The adventures and exploits of Matthew Flinders have been the subject of many books over the years and while our students should know of them, by putting them in Flinders’ shoes and connecting what he did to their lives is a most effective way to develop that sense of awe and appreciation that is often lacking around historical studies.
As well as the detailed maps and timeline included, teachers’ notes are available.