So, just who invented Australia in the first place?
Even though the land wasn’t settled by Europeans until 1788, they were apparently aware of it from the time of Aristotle…
Of course, the indigenous Australians were there thousands of years before.
As we approach Australia Day, January 26, I am presenting a number of posts about the history and development of the country.
The name Australia is derived from the Latin word Australis, which means southern.
Terra Australis Incognita (unknown land of the south) was a theorised continent which appeared on European maps from around the fifteenth century.
The idea of a great southland was first floated by Aristotle, and expanded upon by Ptolemy, who reasoned that there had to be a land mass in the south to balance the lands in the northern hemisphere.
Above: Matthew Flinders, the first to circumnavigate the continent.
At first it was thought that the land must be connected to Antarctica, and that New Zealand formed part of the continent. New Zealand was first sighted by a Dutch explorer, Able Tasman, in 1642.
Captain James Cook discounted both theories when he circumnavigated New Zealand in 1770, and then sailing around the world, at times crossing the South Polar circle in 1773.
The continental land mass was explored by the Dutch from the west during the 17th century, who called it ‘New Holland’.
Holland had colonised Indonesia, and from there it was relatively easy to explore the continent.
The first recorded European sighting of the land was by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, who sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606.
The Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines of the continent, but didn’t attempt to settle there.
Captain James Cook’s South Pacific voyages.
Captain James Cook mapped the east coast, claiming it for Britain and calling it New South Wales.
The first British settlement was made in Sydney in 1788 with the founding of a convict colony, following the loss of the American colonies.
Another five colonies were founded, and these joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.
Exploration continued with Matthew Flinders circumnavigating the continent from 1801 to 1803.
The French also attempted to chart and claim the continent, with Louis-Antoine de Bougainville being the first European to sight the Great Barrier Reef in 1768.
In 1772, Captain Dufresne claimed Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) for France.
The Use Of The Name Australia
The first use of the word “Australia” in English was in 1625—the words “A note of Australia del Espiritu Santo, written by Master Hakluyt” published by Samuel Purchas in Hakluytus Posthumus.
The Dutch word ‘Australische’ was used by Dutch officials in relation to the newly discovered land to the south in 1638.
“Australia” was used in a 1693 translation of Les Aventures de Jacques Sadeur dans la Découverte et le Voyage de la Terre Australe, a 1692 French novel by Gabriel de Foigny under the pen name Jacques Sadeur.
The name was popularised by Matthew Flinders in his book ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis’. New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie recommended the use of the name in 1817, and it was formally adopted in 1824.
A picture of modern Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Links, Sources and Further Information:
Celebrating Australia Day, January 26 2008!