Pedro Fernandez De Quiros

In 1596 Dutch merchants arrived at Bantam, West Java, and expelled the Portuguese. When the (British) East India Company and the Dutch East Indian Company were founded in 1600 and 1602 respectively, there were already between sixty to seventy English and Dutch merchant and war ships sailing the waters of the East Indies. This activity revived Spain's interest in the area.

A product of the Catholic reformation, full of idealism and missionary fervour, Pedro Fernandez De Quiros was born at Evora, Portugal, in 1565. At the age of 30, he had sailed as chief pilot with Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana, in order to colonize the Solomon Islands, which Mendana had previously discovered. Mendana died en route, leaving de Quiros to struggle on to the Philippines. In 1600 he journeyed to Rome for inspiration, and was blessed by Pope Clement VIII. He had come to believe that he was divinely chosen as the one to bring the inhabitants of the southern land into the 'true fold' of the Holy Catholic church.

De Quiros obtained royal approval to search for the southern land in 1603. After acquiring three vessels and a crew, including Luis Viez de Torres as second-in-command, he set sail for Callao, Peru on 21st December 1605 in the service of the King of Spain. De Quiros sailed west until he reached a fertile island in May 1606 that he named Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.

So where exactly was de Quiros' Austrialia del Espiritu Santo?

Until recent times the opinion generally prevailed that the Island of Santo - the chief island of the New Hebrides - was the Great Land discovered by De Quiros, and that Espiritu Santo's Big Bay was where De Quiros set up camp. A map drawn by cartographer Don Diego de Prado of 'The Great Bay of St Philip and St James in Espiritu Santo', published in 1608, is a reasonably accurate representation of Big Bay, however the more detailed descriptions of the locality found in many narratives of the expedition are inconsistent with the Island of Santo and its Big Bay. On the other hand these descriptions are found to accurately fit in with the claim of Port Curtis, Gladstone and the adjoining Queensland coast.

Don Diego de Prado's map of Austrialia del Espiritu Santo

Describing the country he had discovered, De Quiros wrote: "The greatness of the land newly discovered, judging from what I saw, and from what the captain, Don Luiz Vaez de Torres, the Admiral under my command, reported to your Majesty, is well established. Its length is as much as all Europe and Asia Minor as far as the Caspian and Persia, with all the islands of the Mediterranean and the ocean which en-compasses, including the two islands of England and Ireland. That hidden part is one-fourth of the world, and of such capacity that double the kingdoms and provinces of which your Majesty is at present the Lord could fit into it, and this without any neighbourhood of Turks or Moors, or others of the nations which are prone to cause disquiet and unrest on their borders." That sounds more like a description of the Australian mainland than the coasts of Vanuatu.

Chart of Port Curtis, Gladstone, Queensland

Within the bay where the Spanish explorers stayed, they found a splendid harbour, to which they gave the name of Vera Cruz, capable of safe anchorage for 1000 vessels. No such harbour is to be found at Santo Bay. De Quiros and his associates refer to the fine strand connected with this port and extending between the two rivers; and they make particular mention of the heavy black pebbles strewn on this strand, "admirably suited for ships' ballast." Nothing of all this is to be met with at Santo. A remarkable feature of the strand at Port Curtis is that it is strewn with "black heavy pebbles" such as De Quiros describes. Manganese abounds in this district and fragments of this mineral, black and heavy; are strewn all over the shore line when the tide goes out.

Mention is made of the facilities for building which the marble quarries of the newly discovered land would present. No marble is to be found in Santo. Marble, and especially building marble, and limestone are abundant in Gladstone and its neighbourhood, and also in some of the islands off the harbour. The locality is rich in all varieties of this classic stone, from white statuary marble almost equal to the finest Carrara, and the blackest of black marbles, to the most variegated. It is not confined to one spot, but abounds throughout the whole district.

The various species of fishes which were found by the Spanish explorers are set forth in detail. Some of these, for instance the salmon and the pig-fish, are not to be found at Santo, but they have their habitat on the Australian coast.

The Boyne and Calliope Rivers correspond to the two rivers described by De Quiros. Their position "midway in the bay," adjoining the anchorage, and the distance of about 10 km between the mouths of the rivers, correspond to the description given in the extracts. De Torres writes that other rivers also fall into the bay, and here we have the Fitzroy and other smaller rivers.

The expanse of water, including Keppel Bay and Port Curtis, fits accurately his calculated size of 60 miles (100 km), and its circuit along the coast adding at least 24 km to its length. The width of Keppel Bay at its entrance is about 38 km, and that of Port Curtis is 18 km. These measurements correspond in a general way with those that are assigned to De Quiros's discovery. Port Curtis, or as it is at present more generally called, Port Gladstone, is precisely such as would captivate the heart of De Quiros. "A thousand ships could find anchorage here," is his description of the newly discovered port. Hundreds of years later, when examining the coast harbours for the colonial government, officials reported in almost identical words: "The harbour of Port Curtis offers safe anchorage for 1000 of the largest vessels afloat."

Port Curtis near Gladstone

De Quiros takes possession

Following the Spanish tradition, De Quiros erected a cross on the beach at and took possession after killing three curious native fishermen who approached him as he came ashore. One of the original handwritten memorials (reports) of De Quiros which are conserved at the Museao del Ejercito del Mar (Naval Archives) records his proclamation thus: "In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Catholic Church, the Order of St Francis and the Order of Blessed John of God and of the Holy Spirit and of His Majesty ... I take possession of these lands and all the parts thereof, in the name of John of God and all the professed brothers of his Order. They are represented here today by Br Lazaro de Santa Maria. He came here under obedience to a brief issued by His Holiness in order to found, administer and maintain all the hospitals that it may be necessary to establish in these lands. They will devoutly and lovingly assist the natives and cure them of their illnesses and carry out other good works." De Quiros then praised the service rendered by the John of God Brothers when he presented the report of his voyage to Philip III in 1610. He petitioned the King to give him more John of God Brothers for his next voyage of discovery.

Another manuscript records De Quiros' proclamation thus: "Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in these hitherto unknown parts, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father and of the Virgin Mary, God and true man, hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which His person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race, being present as witnesses all the land and sea-going officers; on this Day of Pentecost, 14th May 1606.

"In these hitherto unknown southern regions where I now am, I have come with the authorisation of the Supreme Pontiff, Clement VIII, and by order of our King, Philip III, King of the Spains, etc, promulgated by the Council of State, I, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in the name of the Most Holy Trinity take possession of all the islands and lands that I have newly discovered and shall discover as far as the pole. I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of Jesus. I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of St Francis and in the name of all his Order and members of it. I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of John of God and all the professed members of his Order.

"Finally, from this Bay of St Philip and St James and its port of Vera Cruz and from the place where the city to be known as the New Jerusalem is to be founded, in this latitude of full 15-1/3 degrees, and of all the lands that I have seen and I am seeing of all this part of the South as far as the pole. Which from now on shall be called the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost, with all its annexes and dependencies, and this always and forever, in the name of King Philip III, who bears the cost and expense of this fleet with which I came to discover the said lands, on whose power and will shall depend the foundation, government and maintenance of all that is sought both temporally and spiritually for these lands and their peoples, in whose name these flags are flown and I hoist this his royal standard, in the presence as witnesses of the commander, Luis Baez de Torres, and hoist his royal standard and the other flags, being further witnesses on this Feast of Pentecost, and on the said day, month and year.'"

Though De Quiros took possession in the name of Pope Clement VIII, unbeknown to him, this Pope had in fact died on 5th March, 1605, some 14 months earlier. De Quiros wrote numerous versions of his voyage which differ greatly, particularly in the actual wording of his proclamation, therefore it is not possible to say which if any of them is an accurate record of what he actually said. The manuscript held by the John of God Brothers, which is the first version quoted above, is believed to be the most accurate as it was probably written by some of the Brothers themselves who witnessed to the event. In that version, De Quiros called the newly discovered land Austrialia of the Holy Ghost. This was because the day of proclamation was 14th May 1606, which on the Christian calendar is the Day of Pentecost. It celebrates the day when, according to Acts Chapter 2 in The Bible, the follows of Jesus were first baptised in the Holy Spirit. Contrary to popular belief, the name De Quiros used - Austrialia - was not derived from or used by him as a reference to Terra Australis, which was the name commonly used at the time to describe Australia. In fact it honours Philip III of Spain, who was a prince of the House of Austria. There is no connection between the names Austria and Australia - Austria is derived from an old German word 'sterreich', meaning 'eastern empire', whereas Australis is Latin for 'southern'.

As for De Quiros, his religious beliefs were not shared by his crew and fellow travellers who believed he had gone mad, espacially when he set himself up as king and named them all as Knights of the Holy Ghost. They questioned his ability to make clear judgements, and began to panic when he spoke to them about the great contrary winds they would encounter if they sailed south, of how their present position was unknown, how little water they had left and had no meat. Amid hostility from the natives, growing unrest and threats of mutiny from his crew, he suddenly declared that his task of setting up the city called the New Jerusalem was over, and that they would pack up and leave.

De Quiros left the settlement on 8th June, some 54 days after their arrival. The day before he left, he talked about going in search of the South Land, an odd thing to say since he claimed he had already found it, that he was in fact standing on it and had already named it thus. After a few days at sea, on the night of 11th June 1606, the 'San Pedro y San Pablo', aboard which De Quiros was travelling, became separated from the other ships in bad weather and was unable (or so he later said) to return to safe anchorage at Espiritu Santo after having given a command to do so. Two weeks later, after searching in vain for Quiros and assuming his ship was wrecked, his second-in-command, Luis Vaez de Torres, left Espiritu Santo. Torres successfully reached Manila, the centre of the Spanish East Indies, in May 1607, after charting the southern coastline of New Guinea on the way and in doing so sailing through the strait that now bears his name, between Australia and New Guinea.

De Quiros returned to Madrid in 1607 and was criticised for his failure. He spent the next seven years in poverty, wrote fifty memorials of the voyage (only eight of which have survived), and pressed Philip III for funds to repeat the voyage. So that his discoveries should not fall into foreign hands, most of his memorials were recalled. He was despatched to Peru with pretended orders for assistance in further voyages. He died in Panama in 1615 while on route, unaware of the deception.

Torres Strait
Having been left to their own devices, the captain of De Quiros' fleet, Luis Vaez de Torres, his lieutenant Diego de Prado V Tovar and Captain Bernal Camino set sail in their vessels San Pedrico and Los Tres Reyes, expecting to find the wreck of de Quiros' ship. They circled Espiritu Santo and when they didn't find a wreck, they weighed anchor and headed out to sea, hoping to find the coast of Java. In September 1606 and unbeknown to them, they sailed straight into and through the strait that would later be named after Torres, which lies between the most northerly tip of mainland Australia (Cape Yorke Peninsula) and the southern tip of New Guinea. Having followed the New Guinea coast, they were apparently unaware of their close proximity to mainland Australia which lay hidden just over the horizon. Their voyage would later prove that Australia was indeed an island and not connected to New Guinea. According to Prado's journal, passage through the strait took some 34 days because of the many shoals encountered, naming coastal features as they went. They sailed on to Manila when Torres was to stay until his death.

Torres Strait was named in 1769 by the Scotsman Alexander Dalrymple after seeing a map drawn by a Portuguese cosmopolitan, Manuoel Godhino de Eredia, which showed the course of the Spanish navigator Luis Vaez de Torres (right), which included his 1606 passage through Torres Strait. New Guinea had been named by a Spaniard, de Retez in 1545, who saw in its coast a resemblance to the Guinea coast of Africa. Dalrymple was a correspondent of de Brosses and the great French cartographers. In Madras he saw a Spanish manuscript account of the Voyage of Torres and he secured a copy of the memorial of Juan Luis Arias printed in 1640 and became certain there was a strait south of New Guinea. Dalrymple's "An account of the Discoveries made in the South Pacifick Ocean previous to 1764" was printed in 1767 but not published until 1769. It contained a map with Torres' approximate course and names the strait through which he had travelled after Torres. Interestingly, the Abraham Ortelius world maps of 1570 and 1600 and Gastaldi's 1561 world map clearly show a then unnamed Torres Strait, along with Terra Australis, indicating that some unknown navigator had passed through the strait before Torres.

Had Torres sighted mainland Australia, he still would have been deprived the honour of being the first European to record a sighting of it. Just five months earlier, Dutchman Willem Janszoon was in the area aboard the Duyfken (Little Dove) and had sailed south from Cape York along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The map of the newly-discovered land, which was part of Don Diego de Prado's record of the voyage in 1608, was forwarded by Prado y Tobar from Goa as the expedition's map of Austrialia del Espiritu Santoto to the Spanish King on the 24th December 1613. It unmistakably presents to us Santo Island. It is on the evidence of this map that Santo Bay has always been considered to be de Quiros' Austrialia del Espiritu Santo. That Santo was one of the islands discovered by De Quiros is unquestionable. What throws doubt as to whether the map depicts Austrialia del Espiritu Santo is the circumstance under which Prado y Tobar forwarded the map of Santo to the King.

Throughout their voyage, the relationship between Torres and de Quiros deteriorated to the point that, when the expedition vessels separated, Torres took it upon himself to appoint Don Diego de Prado as the new expedition leader. Upon their return, Torres pursued De Quiros with singular venom and undisguised hostility. Torres, in his narrative, finds fault with De Quiros for his leniency in dealing with offenders. Only two members of his company had been punished by him during the voyage, and he only inflicted on them the trivial punishments of transferring them to his ship when they merited the gravest chastisement. One of these offenders was Prado y Tobar. All through de Quiros's subsequent career we find that this offender pursued him with unceasing enmity, providing Torres with plenty of ammunition to discredit De Quiros and his many Memorials detailing his discoveries.

Prado y Tobar produced the map of Santo Island as proof that the statements of the captain regarding his discovery of the great Austral Land were without foundation. The map was not sumbitted to the King to prove Santo Island was Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, but that it was in fact Santo Island they had visited and that Austrialia del Espiritu Santo was just a figment of De Quiros's imagination. The acompanying letter called De Quiros an impostor, a liar, and a fraud, who discovered nothing "but some reefs and small islands," and who should be "wholly discredited in the statements of his Memorials and in his pretence to having found the great Austral Land." The deception seems to have worked, as it has long been accepted as fact that de Quiros' Austrialia del Espiritu Santo was Santo Bay, though the evidence of the various memorials of De Quiros and his fellow-explorers points to Port Curtis and the adjoining coast being the Great Southern Land of their discovery.


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