Aboriginals have inhabited the Australian continent for at least 40,000 years, but it’s a matter of debate which European nationality was the first to ‘discover’ Australia and put it on the map.
Terra Australis Incognita ~ The Unknown Land of the South ~
appeared on Ptolemy’s maps, circa 150AD.
Ptolemy’s 8-book atlas ‘Geographica’ was the source of information upon which maps were based during the age of discovery in the late 1400 – 1500’s. It was with this limited data, which had changed little in nearly 1,500 years that sea explorers set off to ‘discover’ the world.
- Columbus setting off for India across the Atlantic in 1492 when he ‘discovered’ America
- Magellan, the Portuguese born, and Spanish national who’s crew made the first circumnavigation of the world via the Spice Islands in 1522, followed by
- Drake who was the first Englishman to circumnavigate in 1580.
The first records of Europeans landing in Australia include:
- 1606 Willem Jansz, the first recorded Dutchman to set foot on the western shore of Cape York Peninsula.
- 1616 Dirk Hartog, the first Dutchman to set foot in Western Australia
- 1688 William Dampier was the first Englishman to visit Australia, yet…
- 1770 Captain Cook* [Editor’s note: see comments below] has the credit for officially claiming Australia in the name of the British.
The map below is the first map from the western world depicting Australia and was published in 1593, prior to any of these official landings.
It shows the east coast of Australia with New Guinea to the north. The land hosts an archer taking aim at a griffin, which is a mythical creature with an eagle’s head and a lion’s body. A lion and writhing snake also inhabit the landscape.
This map ‘Novae Guineae Forma, & Situs’ was part of a major work entitled ‘Speculum Orbis Terrarum’
It had been initiated by Gerard de Jode (1509 – 1591) a Dutch born cartographer, engraver and publisher who died in Belgium leaving the atlas uncompleted. His son Cornelis de Jode (1568 – 1600) finally published the work 2 years after his father’s death in 1593.
With its whimsical sea monsters, mermaids, sailing ships & sense of discovery,
this would be one of my favourite antique maps 🙂
I am indebted to Peter Reynders whose comments below have drawn my attention to a map held by the National Library that illustrates the first known usage of the word ‘Australia’ on a German map dated 1545
Click here for more details 🙂