Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Founding of Australia

Today is Australia Day - the 26th of January is the anniversary of the foundation by the British of the penal colony in Sydney, NSW.

But it was not the first connection between Britain and Australia. That wasn't Captain Cook either - it was the less well known William Dampier.

Pirate, Buccaneer, Explorer, Scientist, and Writer, William Dampier was the first Brit to land on Australia and describe what he saw to the world.

You'd think the date of that landing would be celebrated too - 7th August 1699. But no, and you'd have too look hard in the Maritime Museum in Sydney to find his name mentioned. For his descriptions of what he found were not complimentary and so his contribution to Australian history is often overlooked.

There is a family story of a distant connection, and one day I'd like to sail off to follow in his footsteps.

And so Ozzies everywhere remember to raise your glasses on the 7th August to one of your other founders!


tillerman said...

Dampier may have been the first Brit to land on the Australian mainland but that was not the "first connection between Britain and Australia".

In 1620 three British ships sighted the west coast at Point Cloates (near present day Ningaloo, WA).

And in 1622 the English East India Company ship Trial (Captain John Brookes) became Australia’s first recorded shipwreck when it ran onto reefs near the Montebello Islands, off the west coast.

And of course there were many Dutch sightings and landings on Australia in the early 17th century.

In just over two weeks I plan to be sipping a beer in the old penal colony. Happy Australia Day!

JP said...

Ok, maybe he was the first Brit to know he was at this great southern land.

He was certainly the first person who is known to have sailed twice round the world (and thrice)

Enjoy your trip - I'm hoping to convince a client to fund a business trip sometime this spring.

Tillerman said...

I've been reading recently about some of the first ships to sight Antarctica and to chart its coast. It's actually quite difficult to sort out who first sighted a new continent and who first proved it was actually a continent and not just some small island in the middle of an ocean.

tillerman said...

I think you are right that your distant family member may have been the first Brit to actually know he was on a southern continent. There's an interesting site here that makes it clear that the shipwrecked mariners from the Tryal probably didn't know they were so close to a major continent.

Kat said...

(So that's where the great story-telling skills and pirate-tendencies come from! *mis grn*)

I was particularly fascinated to discover that Dampier explored Papua New Guinea, and was responsible for introducing words like barbeque, chop-sticks and sub-species, and inspired the creation of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels.

Here's to 'the Pirate of Exquisite Mind'!

JP said...

Thanks Tillerman for that link!

Yo ho ho Kat me hearty!

Yes, there's a strong Dampier - PNG connection and there's a "Dampier Passage" somewhere out there.

The exquisite mind book is a particularly good one if you want to find out more about him.