National Geographic : 1943 Sep
Revealing Earth's Mightiest Ocean No mere Australia of reality was envisaged; the Southern Continent stretched, no doubt, from the Indian Ocean to South America and from the East Indies to the South Pole. A decade after Mendafia's first voyage Sir Francis Drake, terror of the Spaniards, had burst into the Pacific, and Quir6s urged his government to conceal its discoveries. So the Solomons became lost for two centuries, being placed hundreds of miles east of their actual location and touched by tradition with the wonder of a mirage. The Solomons Re-identified Several later explorers sighted the Solomons, but without identifying them. Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who had been an aide to Montcalm in Canada and after whom the flowering vine is named, made a scientific ex pedition around the world, partly in search of the Southern Continent. He came near anticipating Captain Cook in exploring the east coast of Australia, but turned away from the Great Barrier Reef. Bougainville was one of the first to see Samoa, and two of the northern Solomons, Buka and Choiseul, were named by him. Bougainville Island, largest in the Solomon group, retains his own name. But, curiously enough, it remained for a French geographer, Buache, a man of the study rather than a navigator, to make the re-identification of the Solomons possible. In 1781 he located them correctly by a process of inductive reasoning. In 1785 the French Government sent out a scientifically equipped expedition under Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse to find them. La Perouse, a brave and gallant naval offi cer, who attended to his crews with care, was given the most detailed instructions, not only how to treat the "savages or natives," but in general how to fill in the geographical blanks left by Captain Cook. He did spend several years successfully exploring the coasts of Cali fornia, Alaska, Japan, and Australia, not to mention the Hawaiian and many other islands. Leaving the Solomons until nearly the end, he sailed from Australia in 1788 to visit them and was wrecked on Vanikoro Island, of the Santa Cruz group. All hands were either mur dered by natives or drowned; fragments of one of his frigates were found years later. Several expeditions were sent out in vain to find La Perouse, and many imaginary ac counts of his voyage have been written. Final identification of the Solomons was not made until 1792-3, when Joseph Antoine Bruni d'Entrecasteaux and his lieutenant, Huon de Kermadec, verified Mendafia's account, re- stored many of the Spanish names, and ex plored the labyrinth of islands that stretches out from the eastern end of New Guinea. Australia, the last of the continents, ex cept Antarctica, to be explored by Europeans, was not discovered by any visionary seeker for Terra Australis Incognita (opposite page), but as a by-product of many voyages by Dutch sea captains seeking the shortest route to Java after rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Hav ing no exact means of reckoning, they some times overran their course and sighted the west coast. They were interested in getting their cargoes to port, not in finding an unknown continent, and naturally failed to settle this waterless land. Anthony van Diemen, who was only an obscure clerk when he went to the East Indies but rose to governor general through sheer ability, did send out several exploring expedi tions to find "islands of gold and silver." One of his captains, Abel Tasman, dis covered New Zealand and Van Diemen's Land (later named Tasmania), also the Fiji and part of the Tonga groups, and was the first to complete the circle around the Australian Continent (1642-44). For many years Australia bore the name New Holland, but the Dutch did not follow up their voyages and eventually lost posses sion through the principle of "non-user." It was left for the English to explore and colonize the east coast. A Robin Hood of Exploration The first Englishman to touch Australia was William Dampier, adventurer, sea rover, and professional buccaneer. An orphan, he left school at an early age, was apprenticed to a shipmaster, went to Newfoundland, fought in the Dutch war of 1673, was made a Jamaica plantation man ager, entered the logwood-cutting trade, and finally joined a fleet of buccaneers. From this beginning Dampier circumnavi gated the earth-his first circumnavigation (he made two) took twelve and a half years when it could have been done in two-serving in many subordinate capacities and on many different ships. When he became too disgusted with the drunkenness, brawling, and bawdy behavior of the crews, he would escape, sometimes by canoe, and join another piratical captain. Always he kept a journal, closely observing winds, tides, currents, details of navigation, animals, plants, and natives. These journals, later best sellers of their time, were clear, urbane, tolerant, with natural eloquence.