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George Bass was born in Lincolnshire around At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to a surgeon in Boston, Lincolnshire. After two years he moved to London to undertake training as a surgeon and in he graduated with a diploma as a member of the Corporation of Surgeons, and then two months later as a naval surgeon.
Between and Bass served as surgeon on a number of ships, initially in the English Channel and around the coast of England but subsequently on voyages across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies and Newfoundland.
In Bass requested, and received, a transfer to the Reliance before its voyage to New South Wales to carry Governor Hunter to the colony. Matthew Flinders was also part of this expedition and it was then that he met Bass and formed a friendship.
The expedition arrived in the colony in September The expedition in the second Tom Thumb , a slightly larger boat but with the same three crew, began on 24 March and travelled as far south as Lake Illawarra before returning to Port Jackson. Amongst other discoveries this voyage demonstrated to the colonists that Indigenous Australians from different parts of the country spoke very different languages.
On 3 December , this time without Flinders, Bass set out in a whaleboat with a crew of 6 on the voyage that would take him along the coast of what is now Victoria as far as Westernport Bay. They returned to Port Jackson on 25 February The journey was highly regarded at the time as one of the great feats of seafaring. The whaleboat was left on the shores of Sydney Harbour and was regarded as something of an icon by the locals. French naturalist Francois Peron recorded that 'Some snuff-boxes made from the wood of its keel form relics of which the possessors are as proud as they are careful.
The whaleboat voyage, along with Flinders' separate voyage to the Furneaux Islands on the Francis convinced the pair that Tasmania was an island, and they set out to prove this. In Flinders was promoted to lieutenant and given command of the Norfolk to determine whether a strait separated Tasmania from the mainland. Between 7 October and 11 January Flinders and Bass sailed through Bass Strait, around Cape Grim and down the west coast of Tasmania, around the southern tip and then back up the east coast and back to Sydney after exploring the mouth of the Derwent River for some days.
Demonstration of a route through Bass Strait could potentially cut a week off a voyage to Sydney and avoid some of the worst weather along the route. After the Norfolk voyage Bass decided to return to England, and left the service of the Reliance in Back in England he left the navy entirely, determined to pursue a commercial venture. Image of the shilling stamp used in the Cook Islands and Niue in Island tours by the N.
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