Evidence exists that long before the birth of Christ, an event around which the modern day calendar is structured, the peoples of the European and Asian land masses had an awareness of each other and believed that other worlds lay beyond those boundaries known to them. The Egyptians for instance, recorded their experiences of an Australian eclipse in 232 BC which is recorded within unique cave wall carvings and writings discovered in Irian Jaya which was formally north-west New Guinea. It has been claimed that 12th Century Viking records identified Australia as 'Solar Partistra – the sunburnt land'.

Though the earth was portrayed as flat on the shield of Achilles, centring around Troy and the nearby Greek Islands, the known universe of the Odyssey was a circular disc surrounded by the horizon of the circumferent ocean, the waters of which issued for and recalled the Sun, the Moon and the Stars.

The Pythagoreans of around 500 b.c. put forward the theory that the Earth must be a sphere, and in the following 600 years many Greek mathematical geographers proved the theory and elaborated on its details. Their works culminated in Geography (c.150 AD) by Ptolemy (right) in which the size of the earth had been determined, latitudes and longitudes, however incorrect, assigned, and the theory of an endless ocean beyond the known land replaced by one which included an unknown land mass beyond the known seas. His conclusions are detailed in his map of the world. In theory this land mass would need to be the size of Europe to bring balance to the earth, and would be connected to Asia to the east beyond China, and to Africa in that continent's south, making the Indian Ocean an inland sea, parallel in its shape and position to the Mediterranean Sea, but in the southern hemisphere. Unaware of their existence, the Americas did not figure in the equation. See also Maps of Parthia.

Without any doubt, many ancients were far more advanced in their thinking than those Europeans of the Dark Ages, for they believed in a round earth. In Columbus' time nearly everyone believed the earth to be flat and that to sail too far out to sea would result in falling off the edge of the world into limbo! The Arabs and Chinese of this period however, were far more advanced in their geographical knowledge than their European contemporaries. The land mass beyond the Indian Ocean returned to being little more than a theory to Europe for more than a millennium, and became referred to during that time by the Latin term Terra Australis Incognita, roughly translated as the Unknown (Incognita) Southern (Australis) Land (Terra).

Some early maps, one of which was drawn by Arabian Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi of Baghdad records the Java-Australian region in his book written in 817 – 826 AD which included four maps in which the Australian coastline is recognisable. The only surviving manuscript is held at the Strasburg University, France. It is claimed he drew the maps from the records of Sinbad ten years after his final voyage. Another ancient Ptolemy World map depicts Ceylon/Java/Australia as one land mass called 'Taprobana Infula Mare Indicum'.

As the enlightenment of the Grecian and Roman empires were replaced by the pagan realism during what became known as the dark ages, global cartography, which reached its zenith with Ptolemy, was all but forgotten. it was not until the close of the thirteenth century, when the almost unbelievable exploits of the Venetian Marco Polo, the merchant traveller who visited China and introduced the people of Europe to the cultures of the far east, regenerated European interest in geography, which enjoyed a major revival.

Marco Polo

Marco Polo was born in Venice in 1254. His father Nicolo Polo was a merchant. Marco's mother died when he was just 15 years old. When he was 17, he went to China with his father and uncle. Marco Polo served as a government official while over there. His father and uncle served as military advisers to Kublai Khan. In 1260, he made an overland journey from Bukhoro, Uzbekistan, to China. Two years later, he made a second journey. The route led from modern-day Akko, Israel, to the Persian Gulf, northward through Iran to present-day Amu-Darya, up the Oxus the Pamir to present day Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and finally across the Gobi Desert. They reached Shang-tu in 1275. The Polo's left China in the 1292, they left the country as escorts for a Mongol princess traveling by sea to Iran. They got to that country by Sumatra, near southern India. They then went overland past Tabriz in northwest Iran. They went along the east coast of the Black Sea, and past Constantinople. They returned from China in 1295.

In 1298, Marco Polo served as captain of a Venetian galley that participated in a battle between the fleets of Venice and Genoa. He was taken prisoner by the Genoese. While jailed, he dictated to a fellow prisoner what he saw and heard while he travelled. Marco Polo's book, "The Travels of Marco Polo", first published in French, is probably the most famous travel book in history. It was the basis of the first accurate maps of Asia. The book helped Christopher Columbus in his explorations. Marco Polo died in 1324 when he was 70 years old. When on his death bed, he said "I didn't tell half of what I saw, because no one would have believed me. As copies of the book circulated Europe, a thirst for knowledge and a desire for the far-away riches he spoke about grew among Europeans of all nationalities.

Marco Polo's references to lands lying to the south of China are tantalising to the reader: "Sayling feauenteene myles from Iuna, betweene the midday and Solano, or East and by South, you come unto two Ilands, the one is named Sondure, and the other Condur. And beyond thefe two Ilands almoft two hundreth myles, ftandeth the Countrey named Iocathe, great and rich. They fpeake the Perfian tong, and worfhip Idols. They pay no kinde of tribute to any Man, for there is no man that can do them hurt. There is found greate plenty of gold, and a greate number of the small white shells of the Sea, whych is vfed in some places inftead of money, as before it is rehearfed. Alfo, there be many Elephantes. Unto this Ilande there commeth very fewe Strangers, for that it ftandeth out of the way."

No one in Europe quite knew where these regions were, and being recorded very much from hearsay rather than first hand experience, they may well have included places already discovered and known to European traders. Names such as Lucach, Bocach (of which our word beach is a corruption) and Iocathe (Cathay, used for two centuries to describe the Far East, is a corruption of this name) entered the vocabulary and became a source of confusing nomenclature and mistaken cartographic concepts, painting a false image as to what treasures lay waiting to be found in the illusive great southern land. In hindsight, we now know that no one country or area fits Marco Polo's description of this rich, mystical land.

As Marco Polo's travels took him to a latitude no lower than that of the Straits of Malacca, it is more than likely that the lands his journals referred to included parts of India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Thailand and Burma, this being confirmed by the reference to elephants which have never existed in Australia. Why he should report the speaking of Persian remains a mystery. Some historians use this as evidence for the theory that he in fact never got as far as China, only the Middle East.

As travellers of the Age of Discovery became more familiar with the East Indies, many of Marco Polo's descriptions did not seem to fit any of the known places, therefore it became common believe that, as Ptolemy had said centuries ago, there must be another land, further south, still waiting to be discovered that, when discovered and explored, would fit Marco Polo's description. That country was, of course, Australia, but what Captain Phillip's first fleet walked into in January 1788 was a far cry from Marco Polo's Utopia!

This revival of interest in places known and unknown led to the development of the art of cartography. A leader in the field was Gerard Mercator (1512-94), from Antwerp, who was not only an outstanding artist, but also a skilled mathematician, engraver and manufacturer of mathematical and astronomical instruments. Mercator produced some of the first globes and his skills set the pattern for a generation of mapmakers who became responsible for adding the Australian coastline to the map of the world.

Long before Europeans took an interest in the far east, Arab and Indian Muslims had become masters of the eastern seaways from the coasts of Africa to China. The Arab Muslims first arrived in Africa in 641/2 AD, when they displaced the tyrannical rule of the Byzantium Empire in Egypt and northern Africa. Under Islamic rule, Egypt became a major source of wealth for Muslims after they replaced the competitive taxation of Greeks and Romans with a new, fairer system. With the emergence of Islamic law and order in the Near East and North Africa, economic growth began to develop. Responding to their new opportunities, Muslim merchants pushed their ships and enterprises far across the Indian Ocean, establishing trading settlements along the coasts of India, Ceylon, Malaya and Indonesia, down the eastern coast of Africa, and in the ports of southern China They multiplied the old Phoenician links between southern Spain, and reopened channels of inter-continental communications. Old markets were expanded and new ones founded, helping to shape the course of political and religious change. The Muslim influence throughout the south-east Asian archipelago is still evident today.

The Makassans

There is evidence to suggest that Makassan fishermen, who sold the produce of their labours to Muslim and Chinese traders, began annual voyages to the north coast of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland well before recorded visits by the Europeans. It is believed these fishermen, from the island of Sulawesi, commenced their annual visits to Marege, as this part of the northern Australian coast was known to them, as early as the 15th century. They came to exploit the shallow seas for trepang (a sea-slug sought by Chinese traders as a culinary delicacy with aphrodisiacal properties) and for tortoise-shell, pearl-shell and pearls which they later sold to Muslim traders who took them to the markets of Europe. As well as the 'fruits of the sea', the Makassans also cut and took back with them sandalwood and hardwood logs. In Ujung Pandang, there remain today numerous buildings which feature the timbers from Arnhem Land in their construction.
Macassan contact with Australia

The Chinese

It appears ancient mariners from China had a long and perhaps closer relationship with the great south land than previously thought. For instance, ancient Chinese writings record two Australian solar eclipses in 592 BC and 553 BC. The Chinese were involved in trade throughout the eastern section of Asia, their trade routes extending as far as the Philippines and the Moluccas. It is their traders who bought the Chinese delicacy, trepang, from the Makassans. Under Admiral Zheng He (1371-1435 AD) they established trade routes to include India and Arabia, and were known to have crossed the Indian Ocean in their huge junks to trade with the peoples of Africa, where they traded their jars, porcelain, musical instruments and muslin for mace, cloves, nutmeg and black slaves. The Chinese drew their first official map of Australia in 1320 AD. It was part of what is referred to as the Chu Ssu-Pen maps. A porcelain map showing a reasonable accurate outline of Australia is supposed to have been presented to the Chinese emperor, Ying Tsung in 1477, suggesting that the continent had been circumnavigated by Chinese seamen before that date.

Zheng He (1371-1435), or Cheng Ho, is arguably China's most famous navigator. Zheng He died in the tenth year of the reign of the Ming emperor Xuande (1435) and was buried in the southern outskirts of Bull's Head Hill (Niushou) in Nanjing. An eunuch in Ming dynasty, built a total of 1,622 ships and made at least 7 major excursions between 1405 AD and 1430 AD. He travelled more than 50,000km reaching Somalia and probably Europe (France, Holland and Portugal).  In each trip, he led a troop of 27,800 people on more than 300 ships. 62 major ships of this fleet were employed each journey, each about 475 ft long and 193 ft wide, holding 1000 people per ship, dwarfing Columbus' Santa Maria (75 ft x 25 ft) more than 6-fold.  The countries and territories covered and recorded in the official Ming history includes Java, Sumatra, Vietnam, Siam, Cambodia, Philippines, Ceylon, Bangladesh, India, Yemen, Arabia, Somalia, Mogadishu.  As a clear demonstration of his travel to Africa, among the souvenirs he brought back to China were giraffes and lions, indigenous animals of Africa. 

The official history also mentioned "Franca" (which was the territory to describe today's France and Portugal) and Holland. The Hollanders were described as tall people with red hair and beard, long nose, and deep eye sockets. If he did meet with the Europeans in their native countries, then the only way would be to navigate around the Cape of Good Hope before the Suez Canal was a throughway.  In Africa near Kenya today, there are tribes that are clearly of Asian origin. They also consider themselves as the descendants of  Zheng He's crew.

Unfortunately, Zheng He's magnificent accomplishment was later targeted by other courtiers as wasteful.  Most of his records were destroyed and building of ships with more than 3 masts were considered crimes punishable by death. So, a large part of his excursion has no reports. 

Portuguese and Spanish discoveries

But during Zheng He's lifetime, major political changes took place in China. The conservative land-owning class took a stranglehold on the country, banning shipbuilding and restricting trade with their barbarian neighbours. The records of the exploits of Zheng He were suppressed and the Chinese quickly disappeared from the world's trade routes. In their place came the Europeans, led by the Spanish and Portuguese who, having driven out the Moor, began to flex their political and commercial muscles against the Muslims. Spain had the numbers in terms of manpower and ships, but Portugal was at the forefront of scientific development and moved quickly to get its hands on the Indies. Under the patronage of Prince Henry, who became known as Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese gathered together from all over Europe the world's leading geographers, astronomers, mathematicians, instrument makes, shipbuilders and seamen to form the greatest school in nautical science the world has even known.

For centuries it had been assumed that the world was flat, but with the dawning of a new age of scientific study, it soon became obvious to the world's up and coming thinkers that this was not so. Why could you only see the peak of a mountain and not its base when viewing it from a distance? And when ships sailed out of sight, why did its hull disappear yet the masts remained visible? It stood to reason that this curvature would be constant, meaning that the earth was in fact round. A firm believer was Christopher Columbus (right), a Genoese seaman living in Spain, who promoted the theory that, as the world was round, one could reach Japan and China by sailing west as well as east, and that if his calculations were correct, they were actually closer if one travelled west. In spite of predictions that he would sail off the edge of the earth and fall into oblivion, Columbus put up a convincing enough argument to persuade the Sovereigns of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, to equip him with three ships. He set sail in 1492 on what was to be the most momentous voyage in history, a journey which resulted in the discovery of the American continent and the establishment of the colonies of Latin America. This discovery led Spain to develop its trade route to the Indies by sailing west across the Atlantic via the New World. Portugal was left with no other choice but to attempt to reach the Indies by sailing around Africa.

Bartolomeu Dias (right) became the first to round the southern tip of Africa in 1488, proving this a viable alternative to land travel and further forging Portugal's resolve to develop an oceanic trade route via the Indian Ocean. Vasco De Gama became the first to achieve this 13 years later, landing in India and establishing a trading base there from which the strategist Affonso Albuquerque would quickly build Portugal's Asiatic empire, crushing all who dared to oppose him. With the landing of Pedro Alvares Cabral in Brazil and the Spaniards now pushing across the Atlantic, the time of the great colonial wars in the oceans had begun. So fierce was the competition between Spain and Portugal, the Pope arbitrated; he drew a line of demarcation through the then known world, allocating the western hemisphere to the Spaniards and the east to the Portuguese.

The north-south line, established at a Treaty in Tordesillas in 1494, was agreed upon as being 370 leagues west of Cape Verde Islands. In principle the treaty followed the papal bull issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI, which fixed the demarcation line along a circle passing 100 leagues W of the Cape Verde Islands and through the two poles. This division gave the entire New World to Spain and Africa and India to Portugal. However, the Treaty of Tordesillas shifted the demarcation line away from where the Pope ruled it should be to a circle passing 370 leagues W of the Cape Verde Islands and thus gave Portugal a claim to Brazil. There was little accurate geographic knowledge at the time the treaty was signed and it remains a matter of controversy whether the Portuguese knew of the existence of Brazil and that, by moving the line, this part of the South American continent would fall within their territory.

The idea of a demarcation line seemed like a great idea at the time, but was let down by the fact that longitude was difficult if not impossible to determine accurately. What made it more absurd is that the Far East could be reached by sailing west from the line of demarcation as well as east from it, and as both believed their route to the Indies was closest, so each believed they had control of the trade. Spain's belief proved to be ill-founded as it was made on the premise that the islands of the new world Christopher Columbus had found were offshore of Asia. To his dying day, Columbus believed the north coast of Cuba to be that of China, that the island of Haiti, which he discovered, was part of Japan and that the delta of the Orinoco River, which he encountered on his third voyage of discovery, drained into Marco Polo's great south land or one associated with it. On his fourth voyage he was expressed his belief that China lay just over the horizon from Panama.

The ocean trade route the Portuguese developed around Africa and made reality by De Gama (right) brought them into direct competition with Muslim traders who dominated trade in the Indian Ocean. During the whole of the 16th century the Portuguese disputed with the Muslims the supremacy of the Indian seas, and the antagonism between Christianity and Islam became gradually more intense. Trade to the Indies was dominated by the Portuguese and Spanish until 1588 when the Dutch, eager to join the spice trade, formed an alliance with England who dealt a humiliating blow to an Armada of Spanish ships come to destroy their fleet. With the Spanish stranglehold in tatters, the Dutch and English soon followed in the Portuguese's footsteps, pushing them out and establishing their own outposts in the Far East and the Spice Islands. Whilst they saw their primary task as developing the spice and slave trade, the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English never forgot Marco Polo's description of the elusive Java Le Grande and each country embarked on their own secret mission to find this land and establish trade with its native peoples ahead of the rest. The Spanish wasted no time, heading south from the islands of the West Indies to conquer the continent of South America.

Evidence of Early Encounters

The people living along the northern coastline - the Kimberley, Arnhem Land, Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York - have had encounters with various visitors for many thousands of years. People and traded goods moved freely between Australia and New Guinea up to and even after the eventual flooding of the land bridge by rising sea levels, which was completed about 6000 years ago. However, trade and intercourse between the now-separated lands continued across the newly-formed Torres Strait, whose 150 km-wide channel remained readily navigable with the chain of Torres Strait Islands and reefs affording intermediary stopping points. The islands were settled by different seafaring Melanesian cultures such as the Torres Strait Islanders over 2500 years ago, and cultural interactions continued via this route with the Aboriginal people of northeast Australia. The traditional movement of people between Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia in sailing craft for trade and fishing indicates the possibility of Arab and Chinese traders to the northern islands learning of and then visiting the shores of the southern continent from as early as the 9th century. Early Indian visitors from around the beginning of the Common Era are also sometimes claimed to be the source of the so-called Bradshaw figurines in Kimberly art, although this is also disputed.

Indonesian "Bajini" fishermen from the Spice Islands (e.g. Banda) have fished off the coast of Australia for hundreds of years. Macassan traders from Sulawesi (formerly Celebes) regularly visited the coast of northern Australia to fish for trepang (an edible sea cucumber) to trade with the Chinese since at least the early 1700s (see the main article Macassan contact with Australia).

There was a high degree of cultural exchange, evidenced in Aboriginal rock and bark paintings, the introduction of technologies such as dug-out canoes and items such as tobacco and tobacco pipes, Macassan words in Aboriginal languages (eg. Balanda for white person), and descendants of Malay people in Australian Aboriginal communities and vice versa, as a result of intermarriage and migration.

Dutch exploration

Dutchman Willem Janz is the man history credits as having made ther first recorded encounter of the Australian coastline by Europeans in the Duyfken. Map and books published years before Dutchman Willem Janz sailed down the east coast of Cape Yorke Peninsular in 1606, however, give telltale signs of earlier discoveries and that the Sydney region was perhaps among the first sections of coast to be charted. A Dutch geographer, Cornelius de Jode, published a geographical work entitled Speculum Orbit Terrae. Its frontispiece contained an illustration showing an animal carrying two young in a pouch, quite remarkable since no European is on record of having reached Australia's shores, not to mention having seen a kangaroo as early as 1593, the year in which the volume was published. Cornelius De Jode released a map of New Guinea in 1593 using intaglio printing from a hand engraved copper plate. While no accurate detail of the Australian coastline is depicted, De Jode's map has the land mass located under New Guinea with the coastline slanting NW to SE and the prominent mountainous region parallel to the coast, all characteristics of the Queensland coast.

Recorded European maritime activity in this region in the sixteenth century include Alvaro de Saavedra sent from Mexico by Fernand Cortez in 1527 who reputedly sailed 500 leagues down the coast of Papuas during one of his attempts to return to Mexico. Another vessel under the command of the Spaniard Grijalva spent considerable time exploring the region in 1536. Due to a mutiny very few members of this expedition survived to give an account of what they found. Portuguese exploration along the east coast of Australia in the 1520s are symptomatic of other probable European maritime activity along this coast. These realities mixed with medieval creatures such as a gryphon, mermaids and other sea monsters indicate the antiquity from which this map was produced.

In 1597, Dutchman Cornelius Wytfliet published "Descriptiones Ptolemicae Augmentum", regarded as the first atlas relating exclusively to the New World. Inspired by Gerardus Mercator, it shows the world as it was thought to exist at the end of the 16th century. It includes a map of the world showing Australis Terra. Clearly visible is the northern section of the Western Australian coastline, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Groote Eylandt. Wytfliet says, "Its shores are hitherto but little known since after one voyage and another that route has been deserted and seldom is the country visited unless sailors are driven there by storms." Clearly, Wytfliet knew of voyages that we don't know about. His next sentence is inaccurate in its estimation of Australia's distance from the Equator, but is otherwise spot on; "The Australis Terra begins at about two or three degrees from the Equator, and is maintained by some to be so great an extent that if it were thoroughly explored it would be regarded as a fifth part of the world."

Wytfliet then states, "The Australis Terra is the most southern of all lands, and is separated from New Guinea by a narrow strait". It was hardly a piece of information one would not only guess but guess right, but with no navigator to credit this vital piece of knowledge to, history has had no choice but to record, many believe by default, that Lieutenant James Cook was the man to prove the existence of Torres Strait some 164 years after Luis Vaez de Torres had unknowingly passed through it. Just months before his voyage, Dutchman Willem Janz had sailed close to the same passage of water and made the same mistake as Torres, believing the whar he would later join was a continuation of the same stretch the New Guinea coastline he had been following a day or so earlier. His is the first surviving recorded sighting of mainland Australia by an European. History might then have recorded Torres as being the first had he continued sailing west, meeting it in the vicinity of modern day Townsville, rather than turning north-east when he did some 350km west of the Queensland coast.

A map which illustrates the global voyages of Sir Francis Drake (1580) and Thomas Cavendish (1588), by Jodocus Hondius, shows New Guinea as an island separated by a strait from an un-named stretch of coastline whose shape bears more than a passing similarity to that of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Though undated, the map bears the arms of Queen Elizabeth, before the unicorn of Scotland had been placed there in 1603, rather of the dragon of the Tudors, so it must have been drawn at least 3 years before Torres passed through the strait. His map of the world, published in 1595, similarly shows the Australian coastline.

The Dieppe Maps

Between 1536 and 1566, a series of maps of the world were published by various cartographers in the French town of Dieppe, a centre for map production in Europe. The first is known as the Dauphin map as it was given to the the Dauphin, the Crown Prince of France as a gift. Though undated, its time of production has been narrowed down to around 1536 as it contains an Arms of France that were replaced by a new design in 1536, yet it includes sector of Canadian coastline which was first discovered and mapped in 1534 by Jacques Cartier. The section of the map depicting the Far East is the part of interest to us, as it includes a section of coastline that had never appeared on maps of the world before, that of a land mass south of Java called Jave La Grande, right where Australia appears on modern maps. Immediately to the south is Lytil Jave (Little Java).

In those times, as new lands were discovered and charted, the navigators sold originals of their maps to the cartographers who then added the newly discovered coastlines onto their existing maps, creating a newer, up to date chart which they then sold as the "latest model". The cartographer who drew the Dauphin map clearly believed it represented Marco Polo's great south land, as it places the newly charted land exactly where Marco Polo described it as being. These correspond not only with Marco Polo's writings, but also Mercator's famous map of the world dated 1569 which calls the large land mass south of Java "beach" and the nearby island "Petan", the names used in Marco Polo's writings. It also clearly shows the north west coastline of Australia from Joseph Bonaparte Gulf to the Gulf of Carpenaria and Groote Eylandt which had not been officially discovered until some 80 years later.

During the 20 year period after the Dauphin map was published, 10 other maps of the world which appear to be based on either the 1536 Dauphin map or the charts from which the 1536 additions to the Far East sector were made, were published by various Dieppe cartographers. Two of these were published in 1542 by Jean (John) Rotz, a Scot who had moved to Dieppe for his training. His manuscript of 1542 called Boke of Idrography included his 1642 map of the world. A copy of the manuscript and map were given to Henry VIII, the King of England, on the occasion of his wedding to Anne of Clewes, in whose service Rotz worked at the time of the marriage. see also Harleyan's Dauphin Map of 1547.

The eleven Dieppe maps differ in the amount of detail they contain, but the one thing they have in common is the size and shape of the coastline of Java le Grande along with a number of named coastal features, evidence that the new additions all came from the one source. The name Java Le Grande is French, which indicates that it was added by the cartographer and not the navigator, who, being Portuguese, would have called it India Meridional. Other names, like Coste Dangereuse and C. de Fremose, are a mixture of French and Portuguese, which clearly identifies the source of the new information as coming from a Portuguese navigator.

If the section of coastline labelled Java Le Grande on the Dieppe maps can be shown to be that of Australia, then the Dauphin map and those similar to it contain tangible evidence that the coast of Australia was visited and mapped by a Portuguese navigator at some time prior to 1536. Though intricate in detail, at a casual glance the squiggly line does not resemble that of any land mass in the vicinity indicated, or any recognisable stretch of Australian coastline. After studying the projection upon which this Map was constructed, however, and after allowing for such things as the Magnetic Variation of the day and the Erration error which was inherent in the Portuguese system of navigation then in use, it becomes possible to redraw the Dauphin map on some projection with which the reader is more familiar, making due compensation for these calculable distortions. Redrawn on the Mercator Projection, which is the basis of modern mapping, it can be seen how unmistakably this Portuguese map of the sixteenth century portrays the real shape of Australia.