James Grant (navigator)

James Grant (navigator)

James Grant (1772 - 11 November 1833) was a British Royal Navy officer and navigator in the early nineteenth century. He made several voyages to Australia and Tasmania, and was the first to map parts of the Australian coast.

Grant was baptized on 6 September 1772 at Forres, Morayshire, Scotland. As a Lieutenant he took command of "HMS Lady Nelson", a new vessel of 60 tons fitted with a centre-board keel, towards the end of 1799 and sailed from the River Thames for Port Jackson on 18 March 1800. A brig of 60 tons, she carried a crew comprising the commander, 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". He sailed into Table Cape, South Africa 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 and Van Dieman's Land. He was to sail through it on his way to Port Jackson, instead of sailing around Van Dieman's Land. Thus his was the first ship to sail through Bass Strait from west to east, charting the then unknown coastline. "HMS 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.

He had been instructed to join HMS "Supply" at Sydney, but she was laid up as a hulk, and Governor King 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 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 conveying Lieut.-colonel Paterson, to consider the question of a settlement there and the probable extent of the coal deposits. On 31 August Grant asked permission to return to Europe which was granted. It is evident that King was not satisfied with Grant's work on his voyage to Bass Strait, and Grant, though an excellent seaman, 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. He reached the rank of commander in 1805, was given a pension in 1806 for wounds received in action, and afterwards was in command of the Raven and Thracian sloops. He died at St Servan, France, on 11 November 1833.

He was the first European to land on Phillip Island and Churchill Island. The south west point of Phillip Island is named after him.

An unflattering fictional portrait of Grant appears in Patrick O'Brian's novel "Desolation Island", part of the Aubrey–Maturin series.


*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=James|Last=Grant|Link=http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogG.html#grant1
*Arthur McMartin, ' [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010431b.htm Grant, James (1772 - 1833)] ', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, MUP, 1966, pp 468-469.

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