George Bass – A Pioneer of Oceanography and a Fearless Explorer
Oceanography, as we know it today, is a science that comprises multiple disciplines, ranging from biological oceanography and the study of plate tectonics to the chemical study of the water in the oceans, with pioneers such as the British George Bass paving the way for this multi-faceted discipline. His explorations of the Australian Continent and of the waters surrounding the continent are considered to be among the most important discoveries made by explorers. Here are a few of his voyages and discoveries.
Voyages on the Tom Thumb
George Bass joined the Royal Navy in 1794. He was working as a surgeon when his ship, the Reliance, set sails for Australia for the first time. He brought with him a smaller boat on the Reliance – the 8-foot keel and the 5-foot beam was small
enough to allow for easy transportation and to give Bass and other members of the crew enough mobility to be able to explore. They organized two voyages on the Tom Thumb, one in 1795 and one the following year.Numerous discoveries are linked to the name of George Bass and his first journeys on the Tom Thumb. He was accompanied on his journeys by Matthew Flinders, one of the most important cartographers and navigators of all times. Together they were the first explorers to ever circumnavigate Australia and identify it as a separate continent. They covered more than 18,000 miles and charted the Australian coastline with accuracy, finding land suitable for settlement.
Journey on a Whaleboat
George Bass went on another journey in 1797 – this time without Flinders. His explorations of the South Coast brought about numerous important discoveries again: he charted as much as 300 miles of previously unknown coastline.
The Third Journey
Bass had long suspected that the Australian mainland was separated by Tasmania by a strait. In 1798 he set off on a third journey, with Flinders again, to prove this theory. The crew led by Bass and Flinders undertook incredible hardships and dangers during the journey, but their efforts were rewarded: they proved the existence of the opening between New South Wales and Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land).Besides being a fearless seaman, George Bass was an enthusiastic botanist as well, and he was the scientist to first describe the wombat, too, so his wide ranging scientific interests certainly contributed immensely to what natural sciences are today.