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Matthew Brisbane


1797 - 1833

Antarctic explorer and Falkland Islands settler. Born in Perth (Perth & Kinross), the son of a blacksmith, Brisbane accompanied James Weddell to the Southern Ocean; Brisbane captained the cutter Beaufoy while Weddell sailed the Jane looking for seals while also engaged in exploration. Brisbane reached Patagonia and the pair surveyed the South Orkney Islands in 1823 which had been discovered only two years previously. They sailed south once more and reached 74 15' S on 20th February 1823, a record for the time. Brisbane returned to Britain in 1826, but soon set sail again, this time commanding the Prince of Saxe-Coburg and intent on capturing seals in the South Orkney Islands but was shipwrecked off Tierra del Fuego and rescued after some months by HMS Beagle. He was shipwrecked twice more in 1829; in the Hope off South Georgia and in the Bellville again off Tierra del Fuego. Brisbane then settled in the Falkland Islands, managing fisheries for the German-Argentinian merchant Luis Vernet (1791 - 1871). He was at the centre of conflicting interests as Britain re-asserted its authority over the islands following some years of rule by Argentina. As de-facto ruler of the islands, Brisbane presented himself to Captain Fitzroy on HMS Beagle when it called at the Falklands in 1833, this time with Charles Darwin on board. Brisbane was murdered by Argentinian gauchos and convicts following a disagreement over payments. The exact circumstances were not clear at the time and his brother, John Brisbane, living at 17 John Street in Perth asked the Admiralty to investigate. He was buried in a shallow grave on East Falkland, but reburied with more respect and a grave marker in 1842 by explorer James Clark Ross (1800-62).

His name is commemorated in Brisbane Road in Stanley (Falkland Islands), Cape Brisbane on Henderson Island (Tierra del Fuego) and Brisbane Heights on Coronation Island (South Orkney Islands).


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