Terra Australis

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{land, century, early}
{theory, work, human}
{god, call, give}
{line, north, south}
{war, force, army}
{area, part, region}
{work, book, publish}

Terra Australis, Terra Australis Ignota or Terra Australis Incognita (Latin for "the unknown land of the South") was a hypothesized continent appearing on European maps from the 15th to the 18th century. Other names for the continent include Magallanica or Magellanica ("the land of Magellan"), La Australia del Espíritu Santo (Spanish: "the southern land of the Holy Spirit"), and La grande isle de Java (French: "the great island of Java"). Terra Australis was one of several names applied to the actual continent of Australia, after its European discovery; it is the root of the continent's modern name (see Etymology, at Australia).

Contents

Origins

The notion of Terra Australis was introduced by Aristotle. His ideas were later expanded by Ptolemy (1st century AD), who believed that the Indian Ocean was enclosed on the south by land, and that the lands of the Northern Hemisphere should be balanced by land in the south.[1] Ptolemy's maps, which became well-known in Europe during the Renaissance, did not actually depict such a continent, but they did show an Africa which had no southern oceanic boundary (and which therefore might extend all the way to the South Pole), and also raised the possibility that the Indian Ocean was entirely enclosed by land. Christian thinkers did not discount the idea that there might be land beyond the southern seas, but the issue of whether it could be inhabited was controversial.

Mapping the Southern Continent

Explorers of the Age of Discovery, from the late 15th century on, proved that Africa was almost entirely surrounded by sea, and that the Indian Ocean was accessible from both west and east. These discoveries reduced the area where the continent could be found; however, many cartographers held to Aristotle's opinion. Scientists, for example Gerardus Mercator (1569) and Alexander Dalrymple even so late as 1767[1] argued for its existence, with such arguments as that there should be a large landmass in the south as a counterweight to the known landmasses in the Northern Hemisphere. As new lands were discovered, they were often assumed to be parts of the hypothetical continent.

Terra Australis was depicted on the mid-16th-century Dieppe maps, where its coastline appeared just south of the islands of the East Indies; it was often elaborately charted, with a wealth of fictitious detail. There was much interest in Terra Australis among Norman and Breton merchants at that time. In 1566 and 1570, Francisque and André d'Albaigne presented Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, with projects for establishing relations with the Austral lands. Although the Admiral gave favourable consideration to these initiatives, they came to nought when Coligny was killed in 1572.[2]

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