In 1798, George Bass and Mathew Flinders sailed the sloop Norfolk from Sydney to solve a riddle – was Van Diemen’s Land joined to the mainland of Australia, or was Tasmania an island. The explorers proved that it was an island by becoming the first Europeans to circumnavigate the island of Van Diemens Land, sailing through was it today known as Bass Strait.

The voyage by Bass and Flinders also explored the theory held by Bass that there may be a strait of water between what was then New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land. At that time, the island was thought merely to be a peninsula of the mainland.

The discovery of the strait which now bears Bass’ name was only one of Bass and Flinders’ major discoveries. Another was the Tamar River. They spent about two weeks in the river, as far up as the Crescent Shore, close to today’s Swan Point. This was the only major river that either Bass or Flinders discovered.

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The modern-day Norfolk is a near replica of Bass and Flinders 35-foot sloop. Work on the construction of the replica began in 1994 and relied on the work of a group of volunteer workers, assisting the shipbuilder.

The replica Sloop Norfolk on display at the Bass and Flinders Centre is built from entirely Tasmanian timbers; Huon pine planking and celery top pine framework and keel.

The oars are made from silver wattle. Traditional boat building methods have been used in its construction, painstakingly replicating the techniques used in Bass and Flinders’ day.

Very knowledgeable staff members and a well set out display. I would not have gone in but my partner thought it would be good and he was right; I found it interesting.

Jay Wood