The paradise island with its rich history, Mauritius, does not fail to shower you with historical places to visit and take you back in time. One such significant marvel of the island is the Matthew Flinders Monument. It stands on the shore of Baie du Cap, 500 metres towards the west.
The Matthew Flinders Monument was unveiled on 6th November 2003 at Baie du Cap by Philippe de la Hausse de la Louviere, President of the Societe de I?Histoire of Mauritius. The bronze monument displays the structure of Matthew Flinders in a simple, stonewalled room marking his detention period and is surrounded by a chest, his flute, his loved cat Trim and a compass. The design of the monument is the work of Madame Szuszanna Szemok. Air Mauritius helped the construction in transporting bronze.
The Matthew Flinders Monument was inaugurated in the year 2003 to honour the 200th anniversary of this English cartographer and navigator’s arrival to the island. His arrival was quite a dramatic one as the poor man had no idea about the war going on between England and France and immediately imprisoned for a period of 6 years!
About Matthew Flinders
The story of Matthew Flinders is indeed a remarkable one. At the age of 15, he went on sea voyage as a part of serving under the renowned Captain Bligh and surveyed different parts of Oceania. Later on in 1801, Flinders followed Captain Nicolas Baudin and traversed the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. In fact, he was the first one to circumnavigate Australia. After being shipwrecked, he paddled for more than 700 miles to find land and save the men sailing with him. As a part of the process, he mapped treacherous coastlines and unexplored territories with high accuracy. He even encountered Aboriginal people who were unknown to the rest of the world. After meeting them, he saw new and strange creatures those were not yet discovered by science.
Flinders in Mauritius
At the age of 29, he was on his return journey back to Britain, highly motivated to publish his discoveries and maps. Nevertheless, because of his leaking vessel, he had to change his course towards Baie du Cap. Since Flinders could not speak French, Governor General Decaen of Mauritius was convinced that he was a British spy and hence, refused to permit him to continue on his voyage. We get to learn more about the detention of Matthew Flinders on Ile de France, the name by which Mauritius was known that time, and how he coped in the two studies by Marina Carter and Huguette Ly Tio. Flinders had to spend two years in detention in Port Louis and an extra four years on parole in the Madame d’Arifat estate near the Mare aux Vacoas. It was then when he started walking to many surrounding areas namely Grand Bassin, Sept Cascades, Yemen, Tamarin, Moka and Mesnil at Eau Coulee where he found La Perouse’s homestead ruins. It was Flinders who was behind the construction and erection of a monument at La Perouse, which is reputed as the first ever memorial to be built in Mauritius. Flinders is credited for providing us with a detailed historical description about the slave hideaway in Mauritius, which was some caves near Flic en Flac.
A remarkable factor regarding Matthew Flinders stay in Mauritius is that even though he was a loyal British naval captain, he managed to develop strong, friendly relations with the French citizens including many naval officers and military, not to mention during a tensed period when both the countries were at war. His thirst for knowledge found a grooming ground in the ‘la Table Ovale’ and ‘Societe d’Emulation’. Flinders was known for his work in hydrography and logs. His academic excellence is exemplified through his publication on the compass errors caused due to iron in ships. It was an important paper for the Royal Society, which led to the development of Flinders Bars. He was also very generous and courteous in his relations with the slave and the free black people. He paid them well in exchange for their work without any discrimination and respected their vast knowledge about the local customs and terrains.