by Diego Cuoghi
This map represents a large continent called "Terra Australis" (land that lies to the south), around the South pole. But in this case, too - or, we ought to say, especially in this case - it is evident that the continent, clearly separated from the South America by the Magellan Straits, was not Anctarctica but the depiction of a mythical land, composed by mixing what few morsels of information were then available on the recently discovered lands at the extreme south of the known world.
Magellan Strait and the Terra Australis Incognita the in the map of Jodocus Hondius, 1608.
In Finaeus' map the islands of Java and Timor can be clearly seen, and that great continent dubbed "Terra Australis" and thought to extend up to the Magellan Straits to South America might then comprise also Australia, which is just to south-east of Java and Timor. The great gulf depicted in Terra Australis could then be a sketchy layout of Carpentaria Gulf, in which the two islands of Groote and Wellesley are recognizable, or the Bonaparte Gulf, near Java and Timor.
The north coast of Australia, and in particular the region called "Regio Patalis" (the name comes from Marco Polo's writings), to the right of a great gulf, is recognizable also in other maps dating from the middle of the 16-th century and had been surely reached by the Portuguese long before Tasman's travel in 1642 and the "official" discovery by Capt. Cook. On this topic some studies have been recently published among which the more widely known are: Roger Hervé, Découverte fortuite de l'Australie et de la Nouvelle-Zélande par des navigateurs portugais et espagnols entre 1521 et 1528, Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, 1982; Kenneth Gordon McIntyre, "The Secret Discovery of Australia: Portuguese Ventures 250 Years before Capt. Cook." Sydney, Pan, 1977.
Even in maps from the end of 15-th century we find the Indonesian islands (Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes), and surely many travellers knew about a great unexplored land mass to the south, known to the Chinese and rich in gold and shells.
At the beginning of the 16-th century the Portuguese had begun colonizing those islands nearest Australia, that resulted within their jurisdiction. They reached Java and Malacca (1511), then Timor (1515), and probably had also reached the northern coast of a large, and unknown, land. Mendonca's expedition south of Timor dates back to 1522. The sailor left towards the India of the South, cited in many tales of european and chinese voyagers. Cristóvão de Mendonça came to shore in what at the beginning he though to be a very large island. Upon his return in Portugal, de Mendonca kept the discovery to himself, to avoid it to be exploited by the Spaniards, since the actual position of the border between Spanish and Portuguese areas in the Pacific was, at the time, quite controversial.
A large land mass, called "Greater Java", placed south of Java and Sumatra, appears in many 16-th century French maps which quote Portuguese landmarks. They might have been all copied from the same original perhaps stolen from the Portuguese, by the bishop Miguel de Silva. He was accused of illegally smuggling confidential documents: thus maps were considered, since they could supply other nations with vital information for colonial ventures.
Desliens map of 1567. The orientation is inverted: Nord is down.
CORNELIUS DE JODE "Nova Guinea"
From "Speculum Orbis Terraum", Antwerp, 1593.
MELCHISEDECH THEVENOT "Hollandia Nova", Paris, 1663.
The Oronteus Finaeus Map, by Paul Lunde
Minds in Ablation Part Five: Charting Imaginary Worlds by Sean Mewhinney
Web pages about the early discovery of Australia:
European pre-Cook Voyages to Australia and Environs from the 16th to the 18th Century
Journal de bord, Dieppe
How Australia might have been colonised by the Portuguese
The First Portuguese Contacts with AustraliaDOWN UNDER HISTORY TAKES GIANT LEAP BACKPORTUGALPrimeras naos perdidas
Merchants and Bankers From 1500-1550
CARTOGRAPHIC IMAGES HOME PAGEJAMES FORD BELL LIBRARY
MAP HISTORY / History of Cartograph
ODDENS Bookmarks - The Fascinating World of Maps and Mapping
Marco Capurro, "MAPPE DI CITTA' ed altre mappe antiche diverse"
An italian page on the myth of "Terra Australis"