Slike strani
PDF
ePub

THE DISCOVERY OF AUSTRALIA AND

NEW ZEALAND.

IT
T is impossible to say who were the first discoverers of Australia,

although there is evidence that the Chinese had some knowledge of the continent so far back as the Thirteenth Century. The Malays, also, would seem to have been acquainted with the northern coast; while Marco Polo, who visited the East at the close of the Thirteenth Century, makes reference to the reputed existence of a great southern continent. There is in existence a map, dedicated to Henry the Eighth of England, on which a large southern land is shown, and the tradition of a Terra Australis appears to have been current for a long period before it enters into authentic history.

In 1503, a French navigator named Binot Paulmyer, Sieur de Gonneville, was blown out of his course, and landed on a large island, which was claimed to be the great southern land of tradition, although Flinders and other authorities are inclined to think that it must have. been Madagascar. Some French authorities confidently put forward a claim that Guillaume le Testu, of Provence, sighted the continent in 1531. The Portuguese also advance claims to be the first discoverers of Australia, but so far the evidence cannot be said to establish their pretensions. As early as 1597, the Dutch historian, Wytfliet describes the Australis Terra as the most southern of all lands, and proceeds to give some circumstantial particulars respecting its geographical relation to New Guinea, venturing the opinion that, were it thoroughly explored, it would be regarded as a fifth part of the world.

Early in the Seventeenth Century, Philip the Third of Spain sent out an expedition from Callao, in Peru, for the purpose of searching for a southern continent. The little fleet comprised three vessels, with the Portuguese pilot, De Quiros, as navigator, and De Torres as admiral, or military commander. They left Callao on the 21st December, 1605, and in the following year discovered the island now known as Espiritu Santo, one of the New Hebrides Group, which De Quiros, under the impression, that it was indeed the land of which he was in search, named “La Austriolia del Espiritu Santo.Sickness and discontent led to a mutiny on De Quiros' vessel, and the crew, overpowering their officers during the night, forced the captain to navigate his ship to Mexico. Thus abandoned by his consort, De Torres, compelled to bear up for the Philippines to refit, discovered and sailed through the strait that bears his name, and may even have caught a glimpse of the northern coast of the Australian Continent. His discovery was not, however, made known until 1792, when Dalrymple rescued his name from oblivion, bestowing it upon the passage which separates New Guinea from

A

Australia. De Quiros returned to Spain to re-engage in the work of petitioning the king to despatch an expedition for the purpose of prosecuting the discovery of the Terra Australis. He was finally successful in his petitions, but died before accomplishing his work, and was buried in an unknown grave in Panama, never being privileged to set his foot upon the continent the discovery of which was the inspiration of his life.

During the same year in which De Torres sailed through the strait destined to make him famous, a little Dutch vessel called the “Duyfken, or “Dove,” set sail from Bantam, in Java, on a voyage of discovery. This ship entered the Gulf of Carpentaria, and sailed south as far as Cape Keerweer, or Turn-again. Here some of the crew landed, but being attacked by natives, made no attempt to explore the country. In 1616, Dirk Hartog discovered the island bearing his name. In 1622 the “Leeuwin," or "Lioness," made some discoveries on the south-west coast; and during the following year the yachts Pera and Arnhem explored the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Arnhem Land, a portion of the Northern Territory, still appears on many maps as a memento of this voyage. Among other early Dutch discoverers were Van Edels ; Pool, in 1629, in the Gulf of Carpentaria; Nuijts, in the “Gulden Zeepaard, along the southern coast, which he called, after himself, Nuijts Land ; De Witt; and Pelsaert, in the “Batavia.” Pelsaert was wrecked on Houtman's Abrolhos; his crew mutinied, and he and his party suffered greatly from want of water. The record of his voyage is interesting from the fact that he was the first to carry back to Europe an authentic account of the western coast of Australia, which he described in any but favourable terms. It is to Dutch navigators in the early portion of the Seventeenth Century that we owe the first really authentic accounts of the western coast and adjacent islands, and in many instances the names given by these mariners to prominent physical features are still retained. By 1665 the Dutch possessed rough charts of almost the whole of the western littoral, while to the mainland itself they had given the name of New Holland. Of the Dutch discoverers, Pelsaert was the only one who made any detailed observations of the character of the country inland, and it may here be remarked that his journal contains the first notice and description of the kangaroo that has come down to us.

In 1642, Abel Janszoon Tasman sailed on a voyage of discovery from Batavia, the head-quarters of the Governor and Council of the Dutch East Indies, under whose auspices the expedition was undertaken. He was furnished with a yacht, the “Heemskirk,” and a fly-boat, the “ Zeehaen” (or “Sea Hen"), under the command of Captain Jerrit Jansen. He left Batavia on what has been designated by Dutch historians the “Happy Voyage,” on the 14th August, 1642. After a visit to the Mauritius, then a Dutch possession, Tasman bore away to the south-east, and, on the 24th November, sighted the western coast of the land which he named Van Diemen's Land, in honor of the Governor under whose directions he was acting. The honor was later transferred to the discoverer himself, and the island is now known as Tasmania. Tasman doubled the southern extremity of Van Diemen's Land and explored the east coast for some distance. The ceremony of hoisting a flag and taking possession of the country in the name of the Government of the Netherlands was actually performed, but the description of the wildness of the country, and of the fabulous giants by which Tasman's sailors believed it to be inhabited, deterred the Dutch from occupying the island, and by the international principle of “non-user" it passed from their hands. Resuming his voyage in an easterly direction, Tasman sighted the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand on the 13th December of the same year, and describes the coast line as consisting of “high mountainous country.”

Tasman was under the belief that the land he saw was part of a great polar continent discovered some years before by Schouten and Le Maire, to which the name of Staaten Land had been given. He, therefore, duplicated the designation ; but within three months afterwards Schouten's “Staaten Land ” was found to be merely an inconsiderable island. Tasman's discovery thereupon received the name of New Zealand, on account of a fancied likeness to a province of Holland to which it bears not the least resemblance, and by this name it has been known ever since. Tasman sailed along the coast to a bay, and there he anchored. This inlet is known as Golden or Massacre Bay, called by Tasman, Murderer's Bay. Here an unproroked attack by the Maoris on a boat's crew resulted in the death of four of Tasman's sailors. Leaving Murderer's Bay, Tasman steered along the west coast of North Island. Vainly seeking a passage to the east, he passed and named Cape Maria Van Diemen, finally taking leave of New Zealand at North Cape. At the Three Kings Islands he made an attempt to land, but the ferocious aspect of the natives terrified his boat's crew, and the voyage was resumed. Tasman left New Zealand with a most unfavourable impression of its inhabitants. He had been off the coast for some three weeks without landing or planting the tlag of his country thereon, and more than a century and a quarter elapsed before another European is known to have visited New Zealand.

The first English navigator to sight the Australian continent was William Dampier, who made a visit to these shores in 1688, as supercargo of the “Cygnet,” a trader, whose crew had turned buccaneers. On his return to England he published an account of his voyage, which resulted in his being sent out in the “Roebuck" in 1699 to further prosecute his discoveries. To him we owe the exploration of the coast for about 900 miles—from Shark Bay to Dampier's Archipelago, and thence to Roebuck Bay. He appears to have landed in several places in search of water. His account of the country was quite as unfavourable as Pelsaert's. He described it as barren and sterile, and almost devoid of animals, the only one of any importance somewhat resembling a racoona strange creature, which advanced by great bounds or leaps instead of

[ocr errors]

walking, using only its hind legs, and covering 12 or 15 feet at a time. The reference is, of course, to the kangaroo, which Pelsaert had also remarked and quaintly described some 60 years previously.

During the interval elapsing between Dampier's two voyages, an accident led to the closer examination of the coasts of Western Australia by the Dutch. In 1684 a vessel had sailed from Holland for the Dutch possessions in the East Indies, and after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, she was never again heard of. Some twelve

years

afterwards the East India Company fitted out an expedition under the leadership of Commander William de Vlamingh, with the object of searching for any traces of the lost vessel on the western shores of New Holland. Towards the close of the year 1696 this expedition reached the island of Rottnest which was thoroughly explored, and early the following year a landing party discovered and named the Swan River. The vessels then proceeded northward without finding any traces of the object of their search, but, at the same time, making fairly accuratecharts of the coast line.

The great voyage of Captain James Cook, in 1769-70, was primarily undertaken for the purpose of observing the transit of Venus, but he was also expressly commissioned to ascertain“ whether the unexplored part of the Southern Hemisphere be only an immense mass of water, or contain another continent.” H.M.S.“ Endeavour," the vessel fitted out for the voyage, was a small craft of 370 tons, carrying twenty-two guns, and built originally for a collier, with a view rather to strength than to speed. Chosen by Cook himself, she was renamed the “Endeavour," in allusion to the great work which her commander was setting out to achieve. Mr. Charles Green was commissioned to conduct the astronomical observations, and Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander were appointed botanists to the expedition. After successfully observing the transit from the island of Tahiti, or Otaheite, as Cook wrote it, the Endeavour's head was turned south, and then north-west, beating about the Pacific in search of the eastern coast of the great continent whose western shores had been so long known to the Dutch. On the 6th October, 1769, the coast of New Zealand was sighted, and two days later Cook cast anchor in Poverty Bay, so named from the inhospitality and hostility of the natives.

The expedition had thus far been sailing southward. Dissatisfied with the results, and finding it difficult to procure water in sufficient quantities, Cook put about, determining to follow the coast to the northward. He named a promontory in the neighbourhood Cape Turnagain. Another promontory more to the north, where a huge canoe made a hasty retreat, he called Cape Runaway. In the month of November he touched at a point on the coast, where he landed and erected an observatory for the purpose of observing the transit of Mercury-one of the chief objects of his expedition on that occasion. A signal station was erected on the headland from which Cook took his observation, and which is now known as Shakespeare's Head. On the 9th of November the transit of Mercury was successfully observed, and the name Mercury Bay was given to the inlet where the observation was

« PrejšnjaNaprej »