Europeans Discover Australia - Part III - First Contact


Mercator's First Map

The famous map-maker Gerardus Mercator produced this double chordiform world-map in 1538 :

It has a southern continent surrounding the south pole, but no evidence of Australia. It locates 'Locat' in S.E. Asia, calling it a gold-bearing province.

Magellan's passage through the eponymous straights with land on both sides lead him to believe in a southern continent. Contemporary maps show South America close to the southern continent.


Marco Polo and mysterious Locach = Beach

Here is a wonderful map from this period which shows a huge southern continent called 'Terra Incognito' (the Unknown Land) :

The southern Unknown Land is a place of fanciful animals like unicorns, and what even looks like a kangaroo !

Note that on the far right of the southern continent is the name 'TERRA DE LVCACH'. This appears to refer to a place 'Locach' which appears in the writing of Marco Polo - a place which is rich in gold.

Here is a map of Marco Polo's alleged journeys around 1290 :

It is not certain that Marco Polo really made these journeys himself (certain facts do not add up.)

Marco Polo refers to a place called 'Locach' (or Lochah) from Chinese 'Lo-huk', which referred to the southern Thai kingdom of Lavapura, or Louvo (from Sanskrit Lava or Lavo.)

Locach was corrupted into BoŽach, then shortened to Beach (yes, 'Lavo' came down to us as 'Beach') - and it's location was not really clear.


Australia Discovered !

The New World had been divided between Spain and Portugal shortly after Columbus's discovery.

Now in 1529 they extended the division to the other hemisphere like so :

Magellan's ship had just returned from around the world.

The decision to split the other hemisphere suggests that Portugal knew of the southern continent by then.

This map made by Frenchman Jean Rotz in 1542 clearly shows that Australia has been discovered (but perhaps mis-understanding the world's curvature has twisted it somewhat) :

The new land is called 'The Londe of Java' (south of 'The Lytil Java') :


Several map-makers from Dieppe, France produced maps for patrons like Henry VIII of England, and Henry II of France in the mid 1500s.

Here is another example from Guillaume Brouscon in 1543 :

The continent at bottom-left that looks a bit like Australia is actually Sth. America.

Australia is at bottom right - it looks like more information about the size of Australia arrived after the map had been commenced - requiring that odd addition to the map. The northernmost part of Australia is an island labelled 'Java Grande', with the remaining land labelled 'Terre Locach'.

Next is the Harleian-Dauphin map of 1547 :

Much of Australia is now shown, called 'Jave le Grande' (Greater Java), but it still has that odd northern island.

It appears these discoveries were kept secret - it was almost a century before the Dutch caught up to this knowledge of Australia with Gerritz in 1628.


The Unknown Southern Land

A decade later, Le Testu produced this world map in 1556 :

Back to one large southern continent labelled both 'Terre Australis' (South Land) and Grande Jave.

Yet Le Testu also made an odd close-up map of Grande Jave :


Now the 'Typis Orbum Terrarum' (Print of Whole World) of Abraham Ortelius in 1564 :

The 'Terra Australis Nondum Cognita' (Southern Land Not yet Known) mistakenly connects all of :

1) Java Le Grande south-east of Java, 2) Tierra Del Fuego south of the Straights Of Magellan, and possibly 3) Australia south of New Guinea (far left of map.)

Note NW Australia has a label 'Locach'.

(Cicero's Latin quote seems to be about how great works like this help the world progress to greatness throughout eternity.)

Compare with the map of Desliens from 1566 which shows a better shape for Australia, similar to Jean Rotz :

Still twisted around, and called 'Java Le Grande' (Greater Java.)


 to Part IV - The Dutch

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by Kapyong


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