Thomas Forrest (navigator)
Thomas Forrest was an English navigator who worked for the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...



He appears to have served for some time in the 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...

, and to have been a midshipman in 1745. Passages in his own writings show that he was employed in Indian waters from 1753 almost continuously. He implies that during part of the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

 he was on the Elizabeth
HMS Elizabeth (1706)
HMS Elizabeth was a 70-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Woolwich Dockyard and launched on 1 August 1706.On 4 September 1733 orders were issued directing Elizabeth to be taken to pieces and rebuilt according to the 1733 proposals of the 1719 Establishment at Chatham, from...

, in the squadron under Admiral Charles Steevens; but this cannot be verified from the pay-book.

In 1762 Forrest had command of a Company ship. In 1770 he was engaged in forming the new settlement at Balambangan, which had been recommended by Alexander Dalrymple
Alexander Dalrymple
Alexander Dalrymple was a Scottish geographer and the first Hydrographer of the British Admiralty. He was the main proponent of the theory that there existed a vast undiscovered continent in the South Pacific, Terra Australis Incognita...

; and in 1774 took on an exploring mission in the direction of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

. He sailed on 9 December in the Tartar, a local boat of about ten tons burden, with two English officers and a crew of eighteen Malays. In this, accompanied during part of the time by two small boats, he pushed his explorations as far as Geelvink Bay in New Guinea, examining the Sulu Archipelago
Sulu Archipelago
The Sulu Archipelago is a chain of islands in the southwestern Philippines. This archipelago is considered to be part of the Moroland by the local rebel independence movement. This island group forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea....

, the south coast of Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...

, Mandiolo, Batchian, and particularly Waygiou, of which his was the first good chart. Forrest reached Dorei Harbour, and returned to Achin
Aceh is a special region of Indonesia, located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. Its full name is Daerah Istimewa Aceh , Nanggroë Aceh Darussalam and Aceh . Past spellings of its name include Acheh, Atjeh and Achin...

 in March 1776.

In December 1782 Forrest was employed by the governor-general Warren Hastings
Warren Hastings
Warren Hastings PC was the first Governor-General of India, from 1773 to 1785. He was famously accused of corruption in an impeachment in 1787, but was acquitted in 1795. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1814.-Early life:...

, to gain intelligence of the French fleet, which had left the coast of India, and evaded the observation of Sir Edward Hughes the English commander-in-chief. It was believed that it had gone to Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

; Forrest found it at Achin, and bringing back the information to Vizagapatam just ahead of the return of the French. In the following June he sailed again to survey the Andaman Islands
Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are a group of Indian Ocean archipelagic islands in the Bay of Bengal between India to the west, and Burma , to the north and east...

, but falling to leeward of them, passed through the Preparis Channel to the Tenasserim coast, which he examined southwards as far as Quedah. In 1790 he made a fuller examination of the same coast and of the islands lying off it, in, as he discovered, a long row, leaving a sheltered passage 125 miles long between them and the main land, to which he gave the name of Forrest Strait.

Forrest is said to have died in India about 1802.


A detailed account of the 1774 voyage, appeared under the title, A Voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas from Balambangan … during the years 1774–5–6 (1779), with a portrait. He published at Calcutta A Treatise on the Monsoons in East India (1782), a new edition of which was published in London (1783).

An account of the first survey voyage came out under the title, A Journal of the Esther Brig, Capt. Thomas Forrest, from Bengal to Quedah, in 1783, later edited by Dalrymple, and published at the charge of the East India Company (1789). The results of the second survey voyage were published as A Voyage from Calcutta to the Mergui Archipelago (1792), with which were included some minor essays and descriptive accounts, as well as a reprint of the Treatise on the Monsoons. This volume is dedicated to William Aldersey, president of the board of trade in Bengal, described as a cousin.
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