Thomas Forrest (navigator)

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Thomas Forrest
Thomas Forrest
Thomas Forrest (1779)
Born c. 1729
Died c. 1802
Occupation English sailor

Thomas Forrest (c. 1729 – c. 1802) was an English navigator who worked for the British East India Company.


He appears to have served for some time in the Royal Navy, 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 he was on the Elizabeth, 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; and in 1774 took on an exploring mission in the direction of New Guinea. 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, the south coast of Mindanao, Mandiolo, Batchian, and particularly Waigeo, of which his was the first good chart. Forrest reached Dorei Harbour,[1] and returned to Achin in March 1776.

In December 1782 Forrest was employed by the governor-general Warren Hastings, 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; 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, 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. In 1782, Forrest published at Calcutta A Treatise on the Monsoons in East India, a new edition of which was published in London in 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.



  1. ^ Llewellyn Styles Dawson, Memoirs of Hydrography: including brief biographies of the principal officers who have served in H. M. Naval Surveying Service between the years 1750 and 1885 (1883), p. 18; Google Books

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Forrest, Thomas (c. 1729-c. 1802)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.