James Grant (navigator)
James Grant was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 officer and navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...

 in the early nineteenth century. He made several voyages to Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, and was the first to map parts of the south coast of Australia.

Early life

Grant was baptized on 6 September 1772 at Forres, Morayshire, Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. He was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, under Dr William Chalmers. He entered the Royal Navy as a captain's servant in August 1793 and was appointed a midshipman
A midshipman is an officer cadet, or a commissioned officer of the lowest rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Kenya...

 in May 1794. He passed his board for promotion to lieutenant and was promoted in 1800.

Voyages of exploration

Thanks to his friendship with Captain John Schank
John Schank
Admiral John Schank was an officer of the British Royal Navy known for his skill in ship construction and mechanical design.-Biography:...

, as a lieutenant he took command of Lady Nelson
Lady Nelson
The Royal Navy purchased Lady Nelson in 1799. She spent her career exploring the coast of Australia in the early years of the 19th century. She was the first known vessel to sail eastward through Bass Strait, the first to sail along the South coast of Victoria, as well as the first to enter Port...

, a new vessel of 60 tons fitted with a centre-board (or "Schank") keel, towards the end of 1799 and sailed from the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 for Port Jackson
Port Jackson
Port Jackson, containing Sydney Harbour, is the natural harbour of Sydney, Australia. It is known for its beauty, and in particular, as the location of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge...

 on 18 March 1800. A brig
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and manoeuvrable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries...

 of 60 tons, she carried a crew comprising the commanding officer, two mates and twelve seamen. His instructions were to proceed to Australia to prosecute "the discovery and survey of the unknown parts of the coast of New Holland", although it was always intended that he should hand the ship to Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders
Captain Matthew Flinders RN was one of the most successful navigators and cartographers of his age. In a career that spanned just over twenty years, he sailed with Captain William Bligh, circumnavigated Australia and encouraged the use of that name for the continent, which had previously been...

 and take command of HMS Supply. He sailed into Table Cape, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 on 8 July 1800. Here Grant received dispatches from the Duke of Portland advising him of the discovery of a strait between New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 and Van Diemen's Land
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

. He was to sail through it on his way to Port Jackson, instead of sailing around Van Diemen's Land. Thus his was the first ship to sail through Bass Strait
Bass Strait
Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the south of the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria.-Extent:The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Bass Strait as follows:...

 from west to east, charting the then unknown coastline. Lady Nelson entered the heads at Port Jackson at six in the evening of 16 December 1800 after a passage of seventy-one days from Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...


When he arrived, it transpired that Flinders had returned to England and that Supply had been laid up as a hulk at Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, and Governor King
Philip Gidley King
Captain Philip Gidley King RN was a British naval officer and colonial administrator. He is best known as the official founder of the first European settlement on Norfolk Island and as the third Governor of New South Wales.-Early years and establishment of Norfolk Island settlement:King was born...

 reappointed him to the Lady Nelson. He was ordered to return and survey the deep bay which he had sailed across in Bass Strait, and in fact to make a general survey of the south coast. He left on 6 March 1801, got as far as Western Port
Western Port
Western Port, is sometimes called "Western Port Bay", is a large tidal bay in southern Victoria, Australia opening into Bass Strait. It is the second largest bay in Victoria. Geographically, it is dominated by the two large islands; French Island and Phillip Island. Contrary to its name, it lies to...

 of which a survey was made, and was back at Sydney on 14 May 1801. On 10 June 1801 Grant sailed to the Hunter River
Hunter River
The Hunter River is a major river in New South Wales, Australia. The Hunter River rises in the Liverpool Range and flows generally south and then east, reaching the Pacific Ocean at Newcastle, the second largest city in New South Wales and a major port....

 conveying Lieutenant Colonel Paterson, to consider the question of a settlement there and the probable extent of the coal deposits.

After a particularly unpleasant period of disagreement with the officers of the New South Wales Corps
New South Wales Corps
The New South Wales Corps was formed in England in 1789 as a permanent regiment to relieve the marines who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia. The regiment, led by Major Francis Grose, consisted of three companies...

 in Sydney, Grant asked permission on 31 August 1801 to return to Europe, which was granted. King spoke very favourably of Grant's abilities as an officer and seaman, but it is evident that he was not satisfied with Grant's survey work on his voyage to Bass Strait, and Grant was himself conscious of his want of knowledge of nautical surveying. After his return Grant published in 1803 his Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery which was shortly afterwards translated into Dutch and German.

Later work

He reached the rank of commander in January 1805, and was given a pension in 1806 for wounds received in action while in command of off the Dutch coast. Despite his wounds, he later commanded the sloops and .


He was the first European to land on Phillip Island and Churchill Island
Churchill Island
Churchill Island is a island in Western Port, Victoria, Australia. It is connected by a bridge to Phillip Island. It is the site of the first European settlement in Victoria. It contains a working farm and a homestead, dating from 1872, which is open to the public...

. The south-west point of Phillip Island is named after him.

Grant in fiction

An unflattering fictional portrait of Grant appears in Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian, CBE , born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centred on the friendship of English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen...

's novel Desolation Island
Desolation Island (novel)
Desolation Island is an historical novel by Patrick O'Brian. It is the fifth book in the Aubrey-Maturin series, and is set prior to the War of 1812.-Plot summary:...

, part of the Aubrey–Maturin series
Aubrey–Maturin series
The Aubrey–Maturin series is a sequence of nautical historical novels—20 completed and one unfinished—by Patrick O'Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars and centering on the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin, who is also a physician,...

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