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Published Resources Details Seminar Paper

Brock, John F.
Cook-Bligh-Flinders-King: the quadrilogy of master mariners
given in The Discovery Room, Australian Museum, Tuesday 6pm
Australian Science History Club, Sydney, 13 September 2005

John Brock is a surveyor with a keen interest in history, especially the history of surveying. He has presented papers and organised seminars on diverse aspects of the history of mapping and surveying and in his spare time gained an MA in Egyptology from Macquarie University.


The mystery of 'The Great South Land' long held the intrigue of the seafarers of history, fuelling a tenacious race to discover the fact behind the speculation. Ptolemy's legendary Map of the World from the early second century after Christ always portrayed the southern hemisphere with a landmass of an estimated size to counterbalance the continents to the north. Reality began to unfold with the Dutch voyages of the 17th century venturing boldly into the south seas with what some modern historians are postulating as existing maps, charts and journals from each of the hitherto unrecorded Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish seafarers who are more favourably credited with sailing around in the south hundreds of years before those for whom charts have actually survived for scrutiny.

The logs of the great south sea expeditions resound with the name of the greatest mariner of his time, the final discovery and ultimate settlement of the Australian continent having become synonymous with it―Captain James Cook! Indeed, it is not well known just how influential James Cook was in the later exploration and charting of Terra Australis through his initial mentorship of William Bligh's navigational and exploratory career, the latter subsequently passing these same skills on to Matthew Flinders, who, in turn, then inspired Phillip Parker King to attain master mariner status, each of the four all under the sublime patriarchal guidance or partnership of Sir Joseph Banks.

The story is both untold and inspirational, international and Australian, but at all times it is filled with amazing courage, great skill and momentous achievement.