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Trim the Sailor Cat
The remarkable Trim, seafaring cat extraordinaire
Trim sailed around Australia in 1802 on the good ship Investigator, assisting his person, Matthew Flinders, to map the coast
With Flinders he circumnavigated Australia three times, sailed once completely round the globe, survived being shipwrecked, endured being marooned for two months, and was imprisoned as a spy.
Trim was an impressive cat, an exceptional cat, full of energy, agility and daring and he is a great Hero of mine.
Biography of a Sailor Cat
Trim was born aboard the Reliance in 1797.
From the very first month of his life, Trim developed a sure sense of balance and an indifference to the rolling motion and frequent dousings of sea water.
He very quickly learned to mount the gangway steps faster than any other member of the ship's crew and once, as a kitten, fell overboard.
This could have been the end of Trim but, showing early promise of his fighting spirit, he grabbed hold of a rope which was thrown for him and ran up it to the safety of the ship.
I hope I would be quick thinking enough to do the same!
Trim's circumnavigation ofAustralia - Old chart
In 1800 the Reliance sailed back to England via Cape Horn and St Helena, and Trim had completed his circumnavigation of the globe. 'Many and curious were the observations he made in various branches of science, wrote Flinders, particularly the natural history of small mammals, birds, and flying fish, for which he had much taste.
But Trim was uneasy in England, he was a true seafarer at heart, unused to a stationary home on solid ground with no far horizon or promise of distant shores.
So back to the South Seas he went, this time on the Investigator with his comrade captain. Back in his element, Trim made circumnavigations of Australia in each of 1801, 1802 and 1803, accompanied throughout by Matthew Flinders.
Matthew Flinders tells of Trim
In the Captain's Words from the Captain's Log
I can never speak of cats without a sentiment of regret for my poor Trim, the favourite of all our ship's company.
This good-natured purring animal was born on board His Majesty's ship the Roundabout in 1799 during a passage from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay; and was consequently an Indian by birth.
The signs of superior intelligence which marked his infancy, procured for him an education beyond what is usually bestowed upon the individuals of his tribe; and being brought up amongst sailors, his manners acquired a peculiarity of can't which rendered them as different from those of other cats, as the actions of a fearless seaman are from those of a lounging, shame-faced ploughboy.
Peace be to his shade, and Honour to his memory.
[Isle of France, December 1809]
To the Memory of Trim
Best of Creatures
The best and most illustrious of his race
The most affectionate of friends,
faithful of servants,
and best of creatures
He made the tour of the globe, and a voyage to Australia,
which he circumnavigated, and was ever the
delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers........
Trim the Astronomer
Trim took a fancy to nautical astronomy. When an officer took lunar observations, he would place himself by the time-keeper, and earnestly consider the motion of the hands and listen carefully to the ticking.
He would frequently experiment with a musket ball tied at the end of a piece of twine, making it whirl round the deck, probably because of the resemblance to the movement of the moon in her orbit around the primary.
Trim the Research Scientist
He was equally fond of making experiments upon projectile forces and the power of gravity.
If a ball were thrown gently along the deck he would pursue it and, when the gravitating principle combined with friction overcame the impelling power, he would give the ball a fresh impetus, generally to turn its direction into an elliptic curve.
At other times the form of the earth was the object of his experiments, and his ball was made to describe an oblate spheroid.
But the worst was yet to come ...
In 1803 Trim and his companions were shipwrecked 170 km south-west of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland and marooned for two long and difficult months.
In his inimitable style, Trim helped to entertain the men and keep their spirits up until rescue arrived.
After being rescued the voyagers had to put in for repairs at the then French island of Mauritius, but they had been out of touch with world events, and England and France were now at war.
Trim and Flinders were accused of spying and thrown into prison!.
A Tragic End
In the stew-pot?
After only a fortnight, Trim disappeared.
Although a reward of 10 Spanish dollars was offered for his safe return, the gallant cat was never seen again.
Flinders was heartbroken. Poor Trim was effectually lost, he wrote, and it is but too probable that this excellent unsuspecting animal was stewed and eaten by some hungry slave.
Thus perished my faithful intelligent Trim! The sporting, affectionate, and useful companion of my voyages.
A Statue to Trim
During his many sea voyages with Flinders, this remarkable black and white cat took an interest in the practical aspects of the running of the ship, from hoisting the sails to navigating by the stars.
Trim paid close attention to the officers at their navigation, studiously applied himself to his favourite science of natural history and was always first for dinner in the gunroom waiting, not at the table, but on it.
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However anyone who has a Tux for a friend will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that these cats are smarter than others.
In any case, Tuxedo cats are definitely the best-dressed cats. Elegant, stylish and suave in their tuxedos, they have a large fan following worldwide.
Cats Sailed with Ancient Egyptians
Trim is just one representative of a long line of seafaring cats.
Back when the Egyptians took their boats up and down the Nile, cats went with them. These semi-divine animals traveled on Phoenician cargo ships across to Europe about 3,000 years ago and you can see for yourself how far we have journeyed since then.
These ancestors of mine were valued for their ability to adapt to new surroundings, control vermin and most importantly, for their companionship. It's for our companionship that you appreciate us most today. (Of course we can still keep your barns free of vermin.)
Cats and Sailors are Firm Friends
Sailors have a special and unbroken bond with us.
Our ability to get rid of rodents is just one characteristic that made us respected crew members on any vessel. These vermin could seriously damage the ship's supplies, Believe me, the last thing that sailors needed was the food stock destroyed.
Sailors also saw us as good luck charms. They thought we could start storms with magic stored in our tails, this is because we will always lash them when a storm is approaching. As you doubtless know, we can detect the slightest change in the weather, and low atmospheric pressure, a warning of storms, makes us nervous and restless.
You can see this in your own cat companion, although on land this is not a signal to batten down the hatches, but to bring the washing inside.
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