On This Day …

Sunday, 21st December, 1817

800px-Mercator_World_MapOur great south land has gone through a few name changes over the centuries. In the 1500s we were known as Terra Australis Incognita — the unknown southern land — and was charted as rather a large blob covering much of the southern hemisphere (see map). It is interesting how much detail is on the rest of the world’s continents in comparison.

When the Dutch came by in 1644, Abel Tasman named our continent New Holland (Nova Hollandia), after his homeland. That name stuck for at least 180 years.

In 1770, when Captain James Cook landed on the east coast, he claimed the land as British and named it New South Wales. This included what is now Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Any land claimed by the British from then on was called New South Wales, the rest remaining as New Holland — basically Western Australia.

Matthew Flinders explored the Australian coastline in the early 1800s. In his notes and charts he used the term Australia based on the original title for the southern land. He published the account of this voyage in 1814, in which he proposed the name change, ‘being more agreeable to the ear, and as an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth.’

Governor Lachlan Macquarie obviously agreed with this proposal and in an official dispatch to England on 21st December, 1817, he recommended the name change to the British Admiralty. Yet, it was still another seven years before it was officially sanctioned.

Personally, I like the name Australia over its predecessors. How about you?

Published in: on 21st December, 2012 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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