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Bass, George (DNB00)

BASS, GEORGE (d. 1812?), the discoverer of Bass's Strait, was born at Asworthy, near Sleaford, in Lincolnshire. On the death of his father, who was a farmer, his mother removed to Boston, and after being apprenticed to a surgeon there he obtained his diploma in London, and was appointed surgeon on board H.M.S. Reliance. This vessel being ordered to Sydney in 1795, Bass there found ample opportunity to indulge his passion for exploring. In 1796 he sailed from Port Jackson, in a small whaling-boat, to examine the coast of New South Wales southwards, and having observed, after turning Cape Howe, that there was a strong swell rolling in from the south-west, he inferred the existence of a sea-passage at about the parallel 40° S. Next year Governor King allowed him a sloop of 25 tons, commanded by Lieutenant Flinders, in order to 'project' the coast of Tasmania; and in 1798 Bass not only sailed through the important ocean thoroughfare which has ever since borne his name, but circumnavigated Tasmania, thus first proved to be an island, and explored a considerable part of the coast. Two of the principal islands in Bass's Strait were named by him after Governor King and Lieutenant Flinders respectively. Except that he left Australia in 1799 to return to England, nothing certain is known of Bass's subsequent history. He probably died in South America.

[Flinders's Voyage to Terra Australia, pp. cxvii, cxx, and Observations on Van Dieman's Land; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates, 1879.]

R. E. A.