Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The European "discovery" of Australia

In consequence, these same Endes and the Lamacheres Fishermen determined to repeat the voyage, and when they were all about to set out both the Endes and the Lamacheres were overtaken by a fear so great that they did not dare, owing to ignorance, to cross the Sea of Gold.

And it may well seem that the Almighty God desires to entrust this work to Manoel Godinho de Eredia, the Cosmographer, by Order of the most happy Lord Count Admiral, Viceroy of India intra- and extra-Ganges, that the said Eredia may be the instrument of effecting an increase in the new Patrimonies of the Crown of Portugal, and of enriching the said Lord Count and the Lusitanian Nation.

from: Report on the Golden Chersonese or Peninsula and on the Auriferous, Carbuncular and Aromatic Islands, drawn up by Manoel Godinho de Eredia, Cosmographer, 1597-1600. (Quoted by Martin Edmond)
There is some controversy over which European nation "discovered" Australia, the Dutch or the Portuguese. (Bear in mind that Australia had been discovered & settled 40-60,000 years earlier, probably overland, before tectonic drift & climate change made the world what it is today, what it was in the 15th & 16th centuries.)

The two names usually put forward are Cristovao de Mendonca & Willem Jansz or Janszoon. de Mendonca set out in 1521 or 1522 from the Portuguese colony at Ternate, in the Moluccas, with three caravels, either to search for gold or to intercept the Spaniard Ferdinand Magellan, who was rumoured to be sailing to the Pacific via Cape Horn to claim Portugal's prized Spice Islands. He returned in 1524 with, in some accounts, an unspecified number of caravels or, in others, with only two of the three that set out. There are no details of where de Mendonca actually went, but there are two things which, separately or together, are put forward as proof of his being the first European to sight / land on Australia.

The first of these can be found amongst the so-called Dieppe Maps. Presented to the French Dauphin in about 1540, & supposedly copied by spies from a map in the Casa Da India, the Lisbon records office, (which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, and all the records with it) it shows a continent named "Jave la Grande", apparently discovered by the Portuguese, which bears a striking resemblance to Australia. This is also popularly supposed to be the chart that Captain James Cook used in the 18th century when, after his "official" voyage to observe of the Transit of Venus from Tahiti, he continued on under "sealed orders" to explore the southern Pacific

The second is the Australian equivalent of the sightings of Noah's Ark. In 1836, two sealers whose boat had overturned came ashore at a beach near what is today Warrnambool, on the southern coastline of Australia, claimed to have found the wreck of a ship partly buried in the sand dunes. They described it as being unusual in design, & already in an advanced state of disrepair.

There were 26 further sightings, up until 1880, which included descriptions of the ship as being made of "dark, hard wood", "after the fashion of a panelled door", or being made of mahogany, which gave rise to its name "The Mahogany Ship". It has been put forward that these descriptions are strongly suggestive of the design of a caravel, just like those used by de Mendonca. & from this it is extrapolated that this is the missing caravel if only two caravels did return to the Moluccas. Unfortunately, there have been no sightings of the wreck since the 1880s.

The voyage of Willen Jansz is verifiable. He captained the Duyfken ("Little Dove") , a small Dutch ship that sailed from the Indonesian island of Banda in 1606 in search of gold and trade opportunities on Nova Guinea (now Papua New Guinea). It sailed along and briefly visited what he either thought (the British version) was a coast of New Guinea or actually knew (the Dutch version) to be the west coast of what is now called Cape York Peninsula in extreme northeastern Australia. He has therefore been officially regarded as the first European to see Australia.

Now, however, a third player has been put forward, Emanuel Godinho de Eredia, the son of a Portuguese father & a Malayan princess, educated by the Jesuits first at Malacca & then at Goa, the Portuguese enclave in India. It is quite possible, if we assume the ship-wrecked caravel is a flight of fancy, that he was the first European citizen to sight & chart Australia.

When Martin Edmond started his blog Luca Antara I googled the name & discovered the abstract of a paper, Eredia Map 1602. Ouro and Luca.Antara Islands: A Case for determining that Ouro and Luca.Antara Islands shown on the Eredia Map are, respectively, Melville and Bathurst Islands of the Tiwi Islands of Australia by an N.H. Peters & published in Cartography, Vol. 32, No. 2, which went, in part
"Europeans, the Dutch, 'first discovered' Australia in 1606. This paper claims there was probably an earlier Portuguese exploration of the Tiwi Islands in northern Australia around 1600. And it puts forward a novel bearing technique for comparing antique maps to corresponding modern publications. The technique is used to demonstrate that a 1602 map, by Emanuel Godinho de Eredia, then a leading cartographer, probably depicts these islands."
The map was included in a book by Eredia, The Description of Malaca, with the manuscript dated 1613. In it, in a small chapter on Meridional India (South Indies), is a detailed report on an island called Luca.Antara to which a journey was made in 1601.

Martin was well aware of Eridia. The book he has been writing this year is based on the 1610 voyage of Antonio da Nova between Malacca and Luca Antara.
"The sole mention of this event is in a letter written by da Nova to cosmographer Manoel Godinho de Eredia and published in Eredia's Report on Meridional India; the recreation of the voyage is necessarily an act of imagination, which will evoke the lost worlds of Nusa Tenggara and the adjacent north west coast of Australia."
He didn't know of the paper until I used it in my post, but he has since corresponded with the author who sent him a copy of it.

At the time that I was writing only the abstract was accessible electronically. Now, however, the full text is available, posted on a website created by Peter J. Grigg "to allow a wider readership of the paper by Noel H. Peters". A Peter Grigg is thanked at the end of the paper; I do not know if they are one & the same or perhaps father & son. I would also like to think that Martin, through his interest & the title of his blog, helped persuade Peter Grigg to put the paper on-line.

It is an intriguing & persuasive paper, which makes use of the "Triple Connection and Gridlock technique for comparing an antique map to its modern counterpart". It also sets out some of the reasons for the secrecy necessary at the time (but which now make verification more difficult).
In essence, Eredia's writings, some twelve years after the event, appear to be a continued, deliberate smokescreen aimed at confusion by deception, subterfuge and secrecy for the protection of Portugal's long-term, political interests. One can more easily understand Eredia's deception when it is realized that from 1595 …and by 1601, no fewer than 14 Dutch fleets (at 3 to 5 ships per fleet) had sailed for the Indies and the United Provinces had overtaken Portugal as the leading trading nation in the East.
I'm intrigued that Eridea felt necessary to resort to a ficcione, specifically leaving his readers to infer that he did not visit these islands, yet he was careful to add his name to his 1602 map; and to another world map, dated 1606, on which he names himself as the descobridor of Luca.Antara in 1601. & I'm also intrigued by the Commission given Eridea, in which he is stated to have "the priority rights to discover (what is now called Australia) at some future time".

I, for one, am convinced by the paper that Eredia was the first European to visit Australia, though I admit to bias in that I would go for the Portuguese over the Dutch every time. & though I applaud these voyages of discovery I am not so enamoured of their purpose for I am appalled by what came after, in almost every country of the world, with the advent of white settlement.

My only caveat to the paper is pure whimsy on my part. The Eredia map was discovered in the National Library in Buenos Aires in 1946. Below is part of the chronology of the life of Jorge Luis Borges, author of Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
1937, named to the post of assistant librarian at a small library in Buenos Aires.
1946, having opposed the military dictatorship of Juan Perón in his speeches and non-literary writings, Borges is removed from his post as librarian and offered a job as a chicken inspector.
1955, Peronist regime overthrown; Borges is made director of the National Library in Buenos Aires


Martin Edmond said...

A lucid & persuasive account, Mark. Love the Borges connection. The only thing I'd add is that some think Mendonca returned with only one caravel, the other having been lost in the Tasman Sea & blown ashore at Ruapuke Beach, south of Raglan, on the west coast of the North Island of NZ, where there is a tradition of the wreck of an antique ship similar to that at Warnambool. The Korotangi, a bird carved out of green serpentine, found on that coast, and a taonga of the Tainui iwi, is said to have come from this lost ship. The serpentine has been traced back to Sulawesi.

Peter J.Grigg said...

Mark - Thank you for the further posting and your pointng me to it- Noel and I are not related - He is from NSW and I am from WA - We had a chance meeting on a cruise ship in the Pacific visting WW2 invasion sites - from this meeting I became aware of the work he has done on the Insulae Moluccae Map and the Eredia Map of 1602 - I found his work of immense interest and encouraged him to submit the Eredia paper for publication in the Cartographer Journal - I set up the website for the purpose of making the paper available to a wider readership - I found Martins Blog from your Pelican Dreaming blog when you mentioned his Luca Antara blog

Peter J.Grigg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mark young said...

You're forgiven for the typo. Am glad you finally found the post through the link, & the pages linked to the post. I'm pleased you have put the full text of Noel Peters' paper up on line. Pieces such as that, which have an element of controversy & challenge popularly-held beliefs, need all the publication they can get, & I'm gratified I could play a small part.

Noel had sent Martin a copy in response to their communication, & Martin gave me a copy when I was over in New Zealand in July. What sort of response was there to its appearance in Cartography? Has it gone any further? E-mail me if you like, there's a link in the sidebar at the right.

Peter J.Grigg said...

Mark - Thank you for placing a link in your blog to Noel's paper - I hope this may help to gain a wider readership - Best wishes

mark young said...

Have put a permanent link to Noel Peters' paper in the sidebar. See post of 23/9/04.

cesar de oliveira said...

never mind research. the portuguese did it! ;)

richard wallace said...

Martin,Did you get your information that the serpentine of Korotangi came from Sulawesi from the book by Ross Wiseman?
Richard Wallace

Clifford Pereira said...

Fascinating, I have just returned from Timor Leste and Meleka and encountered the story of Eridia, Surprised by the Asians and Eurasians involved in Portuguese geography - Henrique (with Magellen), Eridia, Lazaro Luis and fernao vaz Dourado. Would like to know about the Tiwi island theory.