Europeans Discover Australia - Part VI - Australia Complete


William Dampier

 In 1688 the first English sailor arrived - William Dampier. He didn't actually add to the map :

But he did land, and described the local inhabitants unflatteringly : "The poor winking people of New Holland" who are "the miserablest people in the world" differing "but little from ye brutes."

One thing that hasn't changed much since Dampier visited is the flies ! "The eyelids [were] always half closed to keep the flies out of their eyes, they being so troublesome, that no fanning would keep them from coming to one's face, and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off ... they will creep into one's nostrils and mouth too, if the lips are not shut very close."


Here is a Terrarum Orbis from 1689 :



The first recorded Europeans to visit the Swan River (where Perth is now located) were Willem de Vlamingh and crew in 1697, here is his map of the Western Australia coast (turned a right angle to make North upwards) :

Rottnest, Garden Island, and the Swan River inlet are shown at bottom right (and in the inserts.)

He also explored and named Rottnest Island ('Rattennest' meaning Rat's Nest, thinking quokkas were rats.) He described Rottnest glowingly :

"I had great pleasure in admiring this island, which is very attractive, and where it seems to me that nature has denied nothing to make it pleasurable beyond all islands I have ever seen, being very well provided for man's well-being, with timber, stone, and lime for building him houses, only lacking ploughmen to fill these fine plains. There is plentiful salt, and the coast is full of fish. Birds make themselves heard with pleasant song in these scented groves. So I believe that of the many people who seek to make themselves happy, there are many who would scorn the fortunes of our country for the choice of this one here, which would seem a paradise on earth".

Vlamingh sailed north to find Dirk Hartog's plate, left 80 years earlier. It was still there, now fallen to the ground. Vlamingh replaced Dirk Hartog's plate with a new plate containing both the original words, and his own :

Here is what the text says :


Half a century passed ...

In 1753 Bellin drew Australia with an imaginary east coast like this :


Capt Cook

Sailing the Endeavour in the South Pacific to observe the 1769 Venus transit of the Sun, Capt James Cook opened his secret sealed orders - which instructed him south to find the east coast of Terra Australis. He filled in nearly all the blanks (helped with the latest hi-tech device called the plane-table) :

His discoveries on that first voyage contributed much to the map, and in 1782 Janvier produced this world map :

In 1784, H. Roberts of the Royal Navy made this magnificent world map :

Here is the resulting map of Australia in 1787, with the east now named 'New South Wales' :


The First Fleet

No longer able to send convicts to the Thirteen Colonies in North America (due to their war for independence), Britain sailed a fleet of eleven ships to New South Wales :


Here is an interesting southern map from 1789 by Cassini :

All that remains unknown e.g. to Dunn in 1794 is some of southern Australia :


The Baudin Expedition

In 1800 Napoleon Bonaparte sent a scientific exploration team to Australia under Baudin and Hamelin, including Freycinet and Leseur. They mapped the remaining blank coast (naming it Napoleon's Land) in the south, and explored the west coast too.

Freycinet discovered Vlamingh's plate from a century earlier and took it back to their ship. But Hamelin insisted it remain in place and ordered Freycinet to replace it. But a dark desire was enkindled in Freycinet that day.


Matthew Flinders

Meanwhile, Flinders in the Investigator from England was also exploring the remaining coastlines of Australia, and in fact the two expeditions encountered each other in 1802 in Encounter Bay. They exchanged notes and sailed on.

Completing his map, Flinders attempted to return with it to England - but war had broken out again and he found himself imprisoned in French Mauritius for some years.



In 1803, now a lieutenant, Freycinet was given command of a small schooner the Casuarina to continue the French expedition. Passing north again along the west coast, Freycinet stopped at Point Inscription and took Vlamingh's plate. It returned to France where it disappeared.

Freycinet's complete map of Australia was the first to be printed :


Shortly afterwards, Flinder's map was published :


Vlamingh's Plate

During the chaos of WW2, the long-lost plate of Vlamingh was found in France. It was returned to Western Australia in 1950.


 back to Europeans Discover Australia


by Kapyong


 Return Home.

Legal: The author Kapyong asserts all rights under all applicable laws.

Readers MAY reproduce parts of this work PROVIDED attribution is given to Kapyong AND a link to this page is given.