Charles Grimes – Survey of Port Phillip

Board 1: Introduction

In 1802 the third governor of New South Wales, Governor King, sent the Surveyor General of New South Wales, Charles Grimes to explore King Island, Western Port, and Port Phillip, then the southern parts of the colony of New South Wales.

Port Phillip was first entered by Europeans in February 1802, by John Murray aboard a ship called the Lady Nelson. He was followed, 10 weeks later, by Matthew Flinders, who did some recording and surveying of the bay. Charles Grimes was sent by Governor King later that year to have a better look at the area.

The significant thing about Charles Grimes’ journey was that he completed a survey of Port Phillip and identified sites for a settlement, mentioning the current site of Melbourne. Many historians are interested in this achievement because it is felt by many that Grimes and his party did not receive proper acknowledgment for the significance of their findings.

One of the party, James Flemming, at the request of Governor King, kept a journal of the journey. This journal gives us some of the first European sightings of land and landmarks that are now very familiar. The party entered Port Phillip on January 20th, 1803 and sailed out of the heads on February 27th on their way back to Sydney.

A group of historical societies celebrated the Bicentenary of that journey in February 2003. Furthermore, you can download Flemings Journal from this website [a pdf copy of the publication, A Journal of the Exploration of Charles Grimes, 1802-1803 – by James Flemming, can be downloaded here: (see board 11) Flemming’s Journal ]. This journal arguably contains the first few sentences in the story of the European settlement of Melbourne. It certainly contains the first European observations of Port Phillip and the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers.