Did the Portuguese "discover" Australia in the 1520's?

Essay by byointellectUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2003

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Did the Portuguese "discover" Australia in the 1520's?

There is much circumstantial evidence to suggest that a Portuguese discovery of Australia in the 1520's is highly probable. There is much evidence to suggest that it was neither the Dutch nor the British to be the first Europeans to discover Australia, but the Portuguese, around the 1520's. As stated in McIntyre's "Secret Discovery of Australia" it is believed that

"The evidence of pre-Cook, pre-Dutch visits by other Europeans points only in one direction - to the proposition that, in the ninety years before the first Dutch sighting, the Portuguese sighted and visited and charted the Australian coasts."

Though many historians hold these claims to be unsubstantiated or mythical, there seems to be sufficient conditional evidence to infer "some European presence...before the coming of the British."

The major piece of evidence suggesting that the Portuguese did indeed discover Australia in the 1520's is that of a series of maps, known as the Dieppe Maps, which are French copies of early sixteenth century Portuguese charts.

One of these, called the Dauphin Map is said to "depict a southern continent that is thought to represent Australia." McIntyre also argues that

"it must be evident at first sight that this 1563 Map does significantly resemble the real shape of Australia."

At the time the map was drawn, the Portuguese were the world's leading seafaring nation and the only European nation exploring the East Indies . It has been claimed that the Portuguese

"were actuated by a zeal for exploration and discoveries of an intensity never before or since experienced by any nation. They had the ships, the navigators and the expertise that enabled them to sail twenty thousand miles from Lisbon to Timor and back again, and therefore they were quite capable of sailing the...