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Ch. 2: Discovery of Australia

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In 1605, subsequent to the settlement of the Spaniards on the west coust of South America, Fernandez de Quiros sailed from Peru in search of the Terra Australia. After discovering several islands in the Pacific, he came to a land which he termed Australia del Espiritu Sancto, which would appear to have been the north or north-east coast. This he supposed to be a portion of the great southern continent; but his second in command, Vaes de Torres, having become separated from the admiral in a storm, on pursuing his researches indepen­dently, discovered the insularity of the northern portion of the country, by passing through the Strait which now bears his name, and so round Cape York into the Arafura Sea. It would almost appear, from his having thus pronounced the country to be an island, that De Quiros had previously cir­cumnavigated, at any rate, a large portion of the eastern coast, or that Torres had obtained reliable information from some one who had preceded him.
This discovery by Torres has only become known at a com­paratively recent period, and the way in which it became known is curious. On the capture of Manilla by British troops in 1762, Mr. Dalrymple found amongst the Government state papers, a copy of a letter from Torres to the king of Spain, who, with the usual jealousy of European monarchs at this period, had kept the secret of his discoveries from becoming generally known. The discovery of this letter, however, places the fact beyond doubt ; and the more so, as it announces that the Spanish navigator spent two months in investigating the intricate navigation of the strait which divides Australia from New Guinea. From the same jealousy of the Spanish govern­ment, we know nothing of the discoveries of De Quiros in this voyage, nor should we have learned anything of those made by Torres, but from the circumstance alluded to. Mr. Dalrymple, on finding the letter, rescued the name of the enterprising Spanish navigator from oblivion, by giving it to the strait which he had discovered. The most singular circumstance connected with the finding of Torres' letter is, that this occurred
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