The Online Library of Knowledge


Australian exploration

Routes of major European expeditionsRoutes of major European expeditions Australia has been inhabited by the Aboriginal peoples for 50,000–60,000 years, but Europeans did not sight Australia until 1606. In 1788, Australia's first European settlers arrived, but they did not venture far inland. By the 1840s, men such as Charles Sturt had begun to explore the Australian interior, but the results were discouraging: the heart of Australia seemed to be a vast, hostile desert. That desert claimed many European explorers' lives, including those of the infamous Burke and Wills expedition.

Tasman's ships and a map of the coastline he exploredTasman's ships and a map of the coastline he explored

First European discoveries

The first European to set eyes on Australia did so by accident. In 1606, Dutchman Willem Janszoon sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria while en route to a trading post, Batavia (now Jakarta), in Java.

In 1642, the Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, Anthony van Diemen, sent explorer Abel Tasman on an official mission to the continent. He discovered the large island to the south of Australia, which is now known as Tasmania. He also landed on New Zealand, where four of his men were attacked and killed by Maoris. He made a second voyage along the northern coast of Australia in 1644. However, the Dutch found few trading opportunities in these territories and did little to explore them further.

Janszoon's ship passes AustraliaJanszoon's ship passes Australia
In 1699, Englishman William Dampier set out to explore Australia, sponsored by the British government. His ship anchored in Shark Bay on Australia’s west coast, a barren and inhospitable place. Rather than heading south into what was a pleasant, fertile region, Dampier chose to sail north. He did not find any habitable land and his mission was declared a failure.

Cook's ship, Endeavour, runs aground.Cook's ship, Endeavour, runs aground.

James Cook

William Gosse of the South Australia Survey Department was the first European to see Uluru on 19th July 1873. He named it Ayers Rock after Sir Henry Ayers, the Premier of South Australia.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile