Another nail in Cook's coffin as map suggests he was pipped by Portugal
Charts found in bookshop cast doubt on Britain's claim to discovery of Australia
Thursday March 22, 2007
When James Cook thought he had discovered Australia and claimed it for the crown in the 18th century, he was late to the party. Another English explorer had been decades ahead in sighting the great southern land, while Dutch explorers had been charting the continent even earlier.
But evidence has emerged to suggest that neither the English nor Dutch were the first Europeans to reach the continent during the great era of epic sea adventure and global circumnavigation.
A set of maps unearthed in Australia appear to show that Captain Cook was predated by a little known Portuguese explorer, Cristovao Mendonca, who charted parts of the coastline 250 years earlier. Drawn in the early 16th century, the charts bear a close resemblance to Australia's coastline, and this coastline is marked with locations given names in Portuguese.
An Australian journalist, Peter Trickett, claims he stumbled on the hand-crafted documents while browsing in a Canberra bookshop eight years ago, and says they are an accurate depiction of headlands and bays along the east coast, thus proving that Mendonca navigated the area in the 1520s.
"It was so accurate that I found I could draw in the modern airport runways, to scale in the right place, without any problem at all," he told Reuters, adding that he could recognise all the headlands and bays around Botany Bay. Mr Trickett has published his findings in a book, Beyond Capricorn.
The maps apparently were drawn by French cartographers from a series of portolan maps, or rough navigational charts, either captured from the Portuguese or bought secretly.
However, some academics dismiss the claim that they represent Australia. Several describe a place called "Terra Java" which bears strong similarities to Australia's coastline - except that, at one point, it juts out at right angles for more than 900 miles.
Mr Trickett says this may be because the portolan fragments had not been assembled in the correct way.
"There was something familiar about them, but they were not quite right," he said. It occurred to him that cartographers in France looking at the Portuguese charts may have become confused. Putting together the portolan charts, many drawn on animal hides, would be a bit like composing a jigsaw puzzle. "Without clear compass markings, it's possible to join the southern chart in two different ways," he said. "My theory is, it had been wrongly joined."
Mr Trickett used a computer to play with the maps. When he rotated part of one map 90 degrees, he ended up with a picture that fitted Australia's east coast. The redrawn map, he says, shows a stretch of eastern Australia from Kangaroo island, near Adelaide, to mainland Australia's southern-most point at Wilson's promontory and up the east coast to Botany Bay, Sydney and beyond.
"They provided stunning proof that Portuguese ships made these daring voyages of discovery in the early 1520s, just a few years after they had sailed north of Australia to reach the Spice islands, the Moluccas," he said. He believes the original charts were made by Mendonca after he had set sail from the Portuguese base at Malacca with four ships on a secret mission to discover Marco Polo's "Island of Gold" south of Java.
With Spain and Portugal vying for control of the world's oceans and territories being discovered, both kingdoms kept maps and charts locked up. Many Portuguese maps were lost for posterity when the repository, the Casa da India, in Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.
Australians have long speculated over other clues that point to a European presence well before the British: the remains of a so-called "Mahogany Ship", supposedly discovered on a beach in the 19th century but since lost. The vessel was said to be "dark, hard wood" made "after the fashion of a panelled door". This, say proponents of the Portuguese claim, may be a caravel, or galleon, lost by Mendonca during the voyage.
Some even suggest that the British, when they set out to find Australia, knew Mendonca had been there, and provided Captain Cook with copies of the Portuguese charts.
Mr Trickett believes Mendonca's feat warrants him a place alongside Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan. If he is right, then Captain Cook failed in his stated quest to go "farther than any man has been before me". Yet he remains the European credited with finding Australia, and statues of him can be found as far apart as Greenwich in London, Hawaii, and Victoria in Australia.
Mendonca, on the other hand, retired to run a fort in what is now Iran, and his exploits remain but a footnote in Portugal's rich history of navigation and discovery.
... and I always though the aborigines first "discovered" Oz. :wink:
I reckon occupation of the continent counts for quite a bit! Even if they were a variety of different tribes! :wink:
Portuguese visited New Zealand '250 years before Cook'
Wednesday March 21, 2007
By Nick Squires
A Portuguese fleet searching for fabled islands of gold came to New Zealand and Australia 250 years before Captain Cook, an author has claimed in a new book.
The tiny fleet of four ships left the Portuguese base of Malacca on a secret mission in 1522, sailing down the east coast of Australia, bumping along the bottom of the continent as far as the Great Australian Bight before returning to their home port by way of the North Island.
The thesis has been put forward in Beyond Capricorn, a book published this week by Australian historian Peter Trickett, a former New Zealand Herald and Listener senior writer.
He argues that the Portuguese kept their discoveries secret because of their rivalry with the Spanish.
"My theory is that the fleet was hit by a severe southerly storm off the south coast of Australia and pushed across the Tasman Sea to the North Island," he said yesterday.
It has long been known that Cook was beaten to Australia by Dutch navigators, who sailed along the coast of Western Australia in the 1600s as they made their way to their colony of Batavia - present-day Jakarta.
But if Trickett's thesis is right, it means that Europeans charted the Great South Land and NZ nearly a century earlier than previously thought.
His startling thesis began eight years ago, in a Canberra bookshop, when he stumbled on a portfolio of maps reproduced from the Vallard Atlas, a priceless collection of charts which represent the world as it was known in the 16th century.
The atlas, now kept in a climate-controlled vault in the Huntington Library in California, was drawn up by French cartographers in 1547, based on purloined Portuguese charts.
Scholars had noticed that one map closely resembles the coastline of Queensland, aside from a point where it suddenly veers away at a right angle for a distance of about 1500km.
After studying the chart, Trickett theorised that the French map-makers had wrongly spliced together two of the Portuguese charts they were copying from.
With the help of a computer expert, he divided the map in two and rotated the lower half by 90 degrees.
The chart fitted almost exactly the east coast of Australia and its south coast as far as Kangaroo Island, off present-day South Australia.
The North Island of New Zealand is also visible on one chart, he claims.
"Once the chart is rotated, you end up with a big island exactly where the North Island is on a modern map. I've checked the distances and they work out."
Trickett says his theory is backed up by the discovery of 16th-century Portuguese maritime artefacts on the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, including a cannonball and helmet "of probable Portuguese origin" found some time in the early 1900s in Wellington Harbour.
He also cites the discovery, in the 1970s, of a lead fishing sinker on Fraser Island, off Queensland. Analysis showed the lead was mined in Portugal or the south of France sometime around 1500.
Trickett believes the Portuguese expedition was led by Cristavao (or Christopher) de Mendonca, who was given secret instructions by King Manuel I to find a fabled land of gold south of Java, alluded to by Marco Polo in the 13th century.
He is convinced that more than 100 place names on the maps match actual geographic features on the coasts of New Zealand and Australia, including Botany Bay - where Cook landed in 1770.
"This may come as a shock for Anglophiles, but the map evidence leaves absolutely no doubt that Portuguese sailed into Botany Bay and charted it 250 years before Cook arrived there in the Endeavour," the author says.
"They were probably there in December 1522. Their chart of Botany Bay was amazingly accurate.
"It is so accurate, in fact, that using this map I was even able to sketch in the main runways of Sydney international airport to the correct scale, without the slightest difficulty."
The Portuguese failed to settle the newly found lands because of an acute shortage of manpower and resources, Trickett believes.
"They were a small country of just two million people and they were increasingly over-stretched because of the huge seaborne empire they had built up."
Had Portuguese military might not been compromised by a disastrous invasion of Morocco in the 1560s, New Zealand and Australia could have been very different countries.
"We'd all be speaking Portuguese, I suppose," Trickett said. "And we'd be a lot better at soccer."
Auckland University history professor Jamie Belich said claims that the French and Chinese discovered New Zealand prior to Abel Tasman in 1642 had also been put forward.
"I think there are a number of theories of this kind and all are highly unlikely."
Until historians really find some accurate sources .... there'll be a lot speculations about vague theories.
And publishers will like this :wink:
Walter Hinteler wrote:Until historians really find some accurate sources .... there'll be a lot speculations about vague theories.
And publishers will like this :wink:
I don't think Australians in general carry any doubts that other explorers made it these shores first.
msolga wrote:... and I always though the aborigines first "discovered" Oz. :wink:
Maybe. Our indigenes don't like to speak of the Bradshaw paintings, which predate our aboriginal's arrival.
The issue is, there never was a single governing body for our indigenes. Many scattered tribes do not a nation make, Msolga.
You may never have heard the Kulin nation spoken of Builder. Dont ague with me on this on bloke I"ll tear you to pieces.
Good country, My country,
Keep it up though, Im enjoying listening in.
I can tell ya about Australia when , it, hangin onto Antarctica was stuck on Africas behind like a tick.
At the time of Aboriginal arrival in Australia, the dinosaurs were long dead but Australia had a range of very large and remarkable mammals. These big animals are usually referred to as "megafauna" . They included equivalents of giant rhino-like cows and giant sheep-like animals as well as very large animals resembling giant goannas, emus and kangaroos
For a long time the figure of 38 000 years was the accepted figure for Australia. But then in 1995, the figure was pushed up to 60 000 based on findings from Kakadu in the Northern Territory. Then findings from the Jinmium monolith pushed the figure up to 75 000, then 116 000, followed by a dating of ochre samples from ancient art dating back to 176 000 years ago.