Engraving of Bass from The Naval Pioneers of Australia by Louis Becke and Walter Jeffery, 1899
|Disappeared||5 February 1803 (aged 32)|
Last seen before leaving Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia
|Occupation||Ship's surgeon and explorer|
George Bass ( // ; 30 January 1771 – after 5 February 1803) was a British naval surgeon and explorer of Australia.
Bass was born on 30 January 1771 at Aswarby, a hamlet near Sleaford, Lincolnshire,the son of a tenant farmer, George Bass, and a local beauty named Sarah (née Newman). His father died in 1777 when Bass was 6. He had attended Boston Grammar School and later trained in medicine at the hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire. At the age of 18, he was accepted in London as a member of the Company of Surgeons, and in 1794 he joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon.
He arrived in Sydney in New South Wales on HMS Reliance on 7 September 1795.
Also on the voyage were Matthew Flinders, John Hunter, Bennelong, and his surgeon's assistant William Martin.
Bass had brought with him on the Reliance a small boat with an 8-foot (2.4 m) keel and 5-foot (1.5 m) beam, which he called the Tom Thumb on account of its size. In October 1795 Bass and Flinders, accompanied by William Martin sailed the Tom Thumb out of Port Jackson to Botany Bay and explored the Georges River further upstream than had been done previously by the colonists. Their reports on their return led to the settlement of Banks' Town.
In March 1796 the same party embarked on a second voyage in a larger small boat, which they called the Tom Thumb II.During this trip they travelled as far down the coast as Lake Illawarra, which they called Tom Thumb Lagoon. They explored Port Hacking.
Later that year Bass discovered good land near Prospect Hill, found lost cattle brought out with the First Fleet, and failed in an attempt to cross the Blue Mountains.
In 1797, without Flinders, in an open whaleboat with a crew of six, Bass sailed to Cape Howe, the farthest point of south-eastern Australia. From here he went westwards along what is now the coast of the Gippsland region of Victoria, to Western Port, almost as far as the entrance to Port Phillip, on the north shore of which is the site of present-day Melbourne. His belief that a strait separated the mainland from Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) was backed up by his astute observation of the rapid tide and the long south-western swell at Wilson's Promontory.
Bass visited the Kiama area and made many notes on its botanical complexity and the amazing natural phenomenon, the Kiama Blowhole, noting the volcanic geology around the Blowhole and contributed much to its understanding.
In 1798, this theory was confirmed when Bass and Flinders, in the sloop Norfolk , circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land. In the course of this voyage Bass visited the estuary of the Derwent River, found and named by Captain John Hayes in 1793,where the city of Hobart would be founded on the strength of his report in 1803. When the two returned to Sydney, Flinders recommended to Governor John Hunter that the passage between Van Diemen's Land and the mainland be called Bass Strait.
"This was no more than a just tribute to my worthy friend and companion," Flinders wrote, "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."
Bass was an enthusiastic naturalist and botanist, and he forwarded some of his botanical discoveries to Sir Joseph Banks in London. "In this voyage of fourteen weeks I collected those few plants upon Van Diemen's Land which had not been familiar to me in New South Wales," he wrote to Banks, "and have done myself the honour of submitting them to your inspection." He was made an honorary member of the Society for Promoting Natural History, which later became the Linnean Society. Some of his observations were published in the second volume of David Collins's An Account of the English colony in New South Wales. He was one of the first to describe the Australian marsupial, the wombat.
On 8 October 1800,George married Elizabeth Waterhouse at St James's Church, Westminster. She was the sister of Henry Waterhouse, Bass's former shipmate, and captain of the Reliance. In January 1801 Bass set sail again for Port Jackson, leaving Elizabeth behind, and though the couple wrote to each other, they did not meet again, as Bass never returned from this journey.
Bass and a syndicate of friends had invested some £10,000 in the copper-sheathed brig Venus, and a cargo of general goods to transport and sell in Port Jackson. Bass was the owner-manager and set sail in early 1801. (Among his influential friends and key business associates in the Antipodes was the principal surgeon of the satellite British colony on Norfolk Island, Thomas Jamison, who was subsequently appointed Surgeon-General of New South Wales.)
On passing through Bass Strait on his 1801 voyage he recorded it simply as Bass Strait, like any other geographical feature. It seems, as Flinders' biographer Ernest Scott observed, that Bass's natural modesty meant he felt no need to say "discovered by me" or "named after me".
On arrival Bass found the colony awash with goods and he was unable to sell his cargo. Governor King was operating on a strict programme of economy and would not take the goods into the government store, even at a 50% discount. What King did though was contract with Bass to ship salt pork from Tahiti. Food was scarce in Sydney at that timeand prices were being driven up, yet pigs were plentiful in the Society Islands and King could contract with Bass at 6 pence a pound where he'd been paying a shilling (12 pence) previously. The arrangement suited King's thrift, and was profitable for Bass. With his partner Charles Bishop, Bass sailed from Sydney in the Venus for Dusky Sound in New Zealand where they spent 14 days stripping iron from the wreck of Captain Brampton's old ship the Endeavour. This was made into axes which were used to trade for the pork in Tahiti before returning with the latter to Sydney by November 1802.
In January 1803 Bass applied to King for a fishing monopoly extending from a line bisecting the lower South Island of New Zealand from Dusky Sound to Otago Harbour – now the site of the city of Dunedin – and including all the lands and seas to the south, notably the Antipodes Islands, probably on the basis of information from his brother-in-law Waterhouse, the discoverer of the Antipodes archipelago.He expected much from it, but before he heard it had been declined he sailed south from Sydney never to return. Bass and Flinders were both operating out of Sydney during these times, but their stays there did not coincide.
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What became of Bass is unknown. He set sail on his last voyage in the Venus on 5 February 1803 and he and his crew were never seen again. His plan was to go to Tahiti and perhaps on to the Spanish colonies on the coast of Chile to buy provisions and bring them back to Sydney.
It has been suspected Bass may also have planned to engage in contraband trade in Chile. Spain reserved the import of goods into her colonies for Spanish ships and Spanish merchants. But the colonists needed more than they could supply and shortages and heavy taxation caused high prices, encouraging an extensive illegal trade with foreign vessels. Port Jackson was described by some 19th-century historians as a base for such smuggling [ citation needed ]Britain's strained relationship with Spain at that time meant British authorities were unconcerned.
Bass still had much of the general cargo he had brought to Sydney in 1801 and he may well have been tempted to take some to Chile. Two of his last letters have hints at a venture which he could not name. But in any case he set off in 1803, with a diplomatic letter from Governor King attesting his bona-fides and that his sole purpose if he were on the West coast of South America would be in procuring provisions.
As many months passed with no word of his arrival Governor King and Bass's friends in Sydney were forced to accept that he had met some misfortune. In England in January 1806 Bass was listed by the Admiralty as lost at sea and later that year Elizabeth was granted an annuity from the widows' fund, back dated to when Bass's half-pay had ended in June 1803. Bass had made the usual contributions to the fund from his salary.
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A good deal of speculation has taken place about Bass's fate. One story, attributed to William Campbell of the brig Harrington, has it that Bass was captured by the Spanish in Chile and sent to the silver mines. The Harrington was engaged in smuggling and returned to Sydney some three months after Bass's departure. However, this story dates from 1811 in a report by William Fitzmaurice. There are good records of Campbell in 1803, and then in 1805 when he captured a Spanish ship, but Bass is not mentioned at those times. Three months is also too short a time for Bass to reach Chile and then the Harrington to get back to Sydney.
Another factor against the South American story is that all British prisoners held by the Spanish in Chile and Peru were freed in 1808 and returned to Europe. If the crew of the Venus had indeed been captured then none of the 25 survived.
Adventurer Jørgen Jørgensen wrote about Bass in his 1835 autobiography, claiming Bass had attempted forced trade at gunpoint in Chile, and was captured when he let his guard down. Jørgensen probably met Bass, but this account is almost certainly an invention. Jørgensen's writing, though entertaining, was often far from factual.
A search of Spanish archives in 1903 by scholar Pascual de Gayangos and a search of Peruvian archives in 2003 by historian Jorge Ortiz-Sotelo found no mention of Bass. His ultimate fate remains a mystery.
In 1963 he was honoured on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post, and again in 1998 with Matthew Flinders.
A re-enactment of the whaleboat voyage was conducted on the 200th anniversary of Bass's voyage, and arrived at Western Port on 5 January 1998, using a 9 metres (30 ft) "Elizabeth" skippered by Bern Cuthbertson. A plaque memorialising this was added to the Bass and Flinders memorial at Flinders.
The following places were named after Bass:
Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria. Formed 8,000 years ago by rising sea levels, the Bass Strait was named after explorer and physician George Bass.
James Grant was a Scottish born British Royal Navy officer and navigator in the early nineteenth century. He served in Australia in 1800-1801 and was the first to map parts of the south coast of Australia.
His Majesty's Armed Survey Vessel Lady Nelson was commissioned in 1799 to survey the coast of Australia. At the time large parts of the Australian coast were unmapped and Britain had claimed only part of the continent. The British Government were concerned that, in the event of settlers of another European power becoming established in Australia, any future conflict in Europe would lead to a widening of the conflict into the southern hemisphere to the detriment of the trade that Britain sought to develop. It was against this background that Lady Nelson was chosen to survey and establish sovereignty over strategic parts of the continent.
Cape Woolamai is a town and headland at the south eastern tip of Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia. It is home to Cape Woolamai State Faunal Reserve and the Phillip Island Airport. Cape Woolamai contains a subdivision also called Cape Woolamai.
Twofold Bay is an open oceanic embayment that is located in the South Coast region of New South Wales, Australia.
Martin Islet is a small island lying just off Red Point, Port Kembla in New South Wales, Australia.
The following lists events that happened during 1801 in Australia.
The following lists events that happened during 1803 in Australia.
Henry Hacking (1750–1831) was a seaman and early explorer in New South Wales, Australia. He was a convicted murderer, and also responsible for shooting and killing the Aboriginal resistance fighter Pemulwuy in 1802.
Captain Matthew Flinders was an English navigator and cartographer who led the first inshore circumnavigation of the landmass that is now known as Australia. He is also credited as being the first person to utilise the name Australia to describe the entirety of that continent including Van Diemen's Land, a title he regarded as being "more agreeable to the ear" than previous names such as Terra Australis.
The Baudin expedition of 1800 to 1803 was a French expedition to map the coast of New Holland. Nicolas Baudin was selected as leader in October 1800. The expedition started with two ships, Géographe, captained by Baudin, and Naturaliste captained by Jacques Hamelin, and was accompanied by nine zoologists and botanists, including Jean-Baptiste Leschenault de la Tour, François Péron and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur as well as the geographer Pierre Faure.
Wingan Inlet is an inlet within the Croajingolong National Park, in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia.
HMCS Integrity was a cutter built by the Colonial Government of New South Wales in 1804. She was the first vessel ever launched from a New South Wales dockyard and carried goods between the colony's coastal settlements of Norfolk Island, Newcastle, New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land and Port Jackson. In 1804 she took part in a series of voyages to Van Diemen's Land with the aim of founding a colony at Port Dalrymple, the site of the modern settlement of George Town, Tasmania.
Henry Waterhouse was a British officer of the Royal Navy who is strongly associated with the early European settlement of Australia.
Peter Good was the gardener assistant to botanist Robert Brown on the voyage of HMS Investigator under Matthew Flinders, during which the coast of Australia was charted, and various plants collected.
HMS Investigator was the mercantile Fram, launched in 1795, which the Royal Navy purchased in 1798 and renamed HMS Xenophon, and then in 1801 converted to a survey ship under the name HMS Investigator. In 1802, under the command of Matthew Flinders, she was the first ship to circumnavigate Australia. The Navy sold her in 1810 and she returned to mercantile service under the name Xenophon. She was probably broken up c.1872.
A Voyage to Terra Australis: Undertaken for the Purpose of Completing the Discovery of that Vast Country, and Prosecuted in the Years 1801, 1802, and 1803, in His Majesty's Ship the Investigator was a sea voyage journal written by English mariner and explorer Matthew Flinders. It describes his circumnavigation of the Australian continent in the early years of the 19th century, and his imprisonment by the French on the island of Mauritius from 1804–1810.
Captain John Black, was an English-born ship's officer who had many adventures in his short career. His best remembered adventure concerned the mutiny on Lady Shore in August 1797, a ship that had been sailing with a cargo of soldiers and female convicts to Sydney, Australia. In 1798 his father, the Reverend John Black (1753–1813), a prolific writer of prose and poetry, published his son's letters which gave an account of the mutiny on board the ship, when his son had been put into a small boat and left to find his way to safety with several other members of the crew. The book was dedicated as a "small testimony of gratitude to the Portuguese nation" for the "unequalled hospitality" extended to his son and his fellows in the Portuguese colonies that are now part of Brazil.
HMS Porpoise was a 12-gun sloop-of-war originally built in Bilbao, Spain, as the packet ship Infanta Amelia. On 6 August 1799 HMS Argo captured her off the coast of Portugal. Porpoise wrecked in 1803 on the North coast of what was then part of the Colony of New South Wales, now called Wreck Reefs, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
John Allen was a lead miner, notable as a junior member of the party of naturalists that accompanied the 1801–1803 voyage of HMS Investigator under Matthew Flinders.