Flinders first sailed to Australia in 1795 for the British Navy aboard a ship called the "Reliance." He and his friend George Bass (the ship's surgeon who had lived in Boston) bought an 8-foot-long boat called the "Tom Thumb" in order to explore the treacherous coastline of southern Australia. They first sailed south of Sydney (to Botany Bay) and rowed up the Georges River. During the years 1795 to 1798, they mapped much of the southeast coast of Australia and sailed completely around the island of Tasmania. Flinders returned to England on the "Reliance" in 1800.
On his way back to England in the autumn of 1803 (on a different ship, the "Cumberland"), Flinders had to make a stop for ship repairs at Île de France (now called Mauritius) in the western Indian Ocean. Thinking he was a spy, the French kept him prisoner for six and a half years and stole his charts and papers (he was released when the British took over the island). He didn't arrive home until 1810, and reached home sick and a forgotten man. He wrote an account of his travels, called "Voyage to Terra Australis Undertaken for the Purpose of Completing the Discovery of that Vast Country," and died the day after it was published.
The bronze statue below, erected in Donington Market Place in March 2006, also features Trim, his cat, which travelled on voyages to Australia with him but disappeared on Mauritius.