By Elizabeth Rogers Kotlowski
As Creator of the universe, God prepared continents and peoples for the spread of the Gospel. Arnold Guyot, a French Professor of physical geography and history at
Guyot stated that God created seven continents, each unique and designed with a specific purpose in mind. He called
Australia is also known as the Continent of Antiquity because it preserves ancient plants and animals, many found nowhere else in the world. It is the most isolated continent, surrounded completely by water. Unlike
On 26 January 1788, a shipload of English convicts, under the charge of Captain-General Arthur Phillip, landed at Sydney Cove and raised the British flag over the mainland of
According to the late Australian historian, Professor Manning Clark, "The early inhabitants of the continent created cultures but not civilizations". The first inhabitants, the Negritos, who migrated from
The Australian Aborigines were not able to protect themselves from invaders because they had not developed sophisticated weapons and other resources, such as suitable seed-bearing plants and domesticated animals. When the Europeans came, the Aborigines were unable to adapt to the white man's ways. While this fact meant that the
Aborigines did not make good slaves, their culture was almost completely destroyed.
What is amazing is that there was no further migration between the end of the ice age and the arrival of Europeans in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Though
In the first century, the Hindu-Buddhists began to colonise the Indonesian archipelago because of population pressure and to search for spices, fragrant woods, and gold, or to win converts to their religion. But, in spite of their lust for wealth and religious zeal, they would not venture beyond the limits of the then known world. The Hindu religion prohibited sea voyages and contact with foreigners because of the belief that there was a giant abyss into which ships would sink if they ventured more than two kilometres out of the sight of land. Mythical stories abounded, such as the following:
This was the story of the tree of Pausengi which stood with its crown above water in the seas south of Java. On its branches there lived a bird, Geruda, shaped like a griffin, which flew by night, taking in its claws an elephant, a tiger, a rhinoceros or any large animal, which it carried to its nest. In those seas the currents from all directions flowed towards this tree, and the ships which were carried along by them were sucked into an abyss, while the crews died of hunger or fell prey to Geruda. For this reason, the Javanese and all who lived on the south coast of the islands as far east as Timor were afraid to proceed more than three miles out of sight of land; on finding the current carrying them southward they abandoned their junks and rowed for the shore in small boats for fear of being drawn into the abyss of Pausengi from which there was no return.
So the south seas were taboo to the Hindus. The advent of Islam ended Hindu-Buddhist colonisation by the middle of the fifteenth century.
The Chinese also believed in an impassable frontier on the map south of
The Muslims also had fantastic notions about the structure of the world. They believed that south of an imaginery line, from Timor through Banda to Macassar in the Celebes, was the dreadful kingdom of the Antichrist (Dedjdal) and the island of Wak Wak on which grew a fruit in the shape of a human skull. When the ripe fruit fell to the ground, a dreadful voice, crying "Wak Wak", came out of the skull. So while Islam spread in a piecemeal fashion from the end of the eleventh century until 1600, the Muslims dared not venture south of the line. Political control followed trade and religion, accompanied by force if necessary. They created the Mohammedan kingdoms in Malacca and Java in the fifteenth century, in the
Thus, the histories and the beliefs of these Asian peoples help to explain why the Hindus, Chinese and Muslims did not cross that imaginary line on the map between Timor and the Moluccas where civilisation ended and barbarism began, and why the first permanent settlement of Australia since the ice age was by Europeans.
All three peoples--the Hindus, Chinese and Muslims-- had invented fearsome stories (of the terrors of Geruda, the kingdom of women, and of the Antichrist or of Wak Wak) that deterred seamen from sailing into unknown seas, so that they were coast-huggers. Thus Providence prevented the spread of civilisation to Australia two or three centuries before the coming of the Europeans. Improvements in shipbuilding, in navigation aids, and in cartography by the beginning of the sixteenth century caused Europeans to scoff at such fanciful stories. Asian colonisation, however, influenced the Europeans. It was while searching for the "islands of gold" south and east of Java, according to a Hindu story, that the Europeans discovered the north coast of Australia.
Like the Asians, the Europeans were in search of gold, spices, fragrant woods and converts to their religion. Like the Asians, they spun fanciful stories about the lands to the south, but in contrast to the Asians, the Europeans speculated about a terra australis incognita,, a southland. The idea was as old as Pythagoras. In addition, the Europeans had the navigational skills to cross the oceans. By 1520, the Europeans had discovered two sea routes to the wealth of the east. The first was by the west coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope , and east to India and the Spice Islands. The second route was discovered by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan. In his famous voyage of 1519-21, he sailed west via the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn and then north west to the Philippines or Spice Islands. All who attempted to sail west after crossing through the Straits of Magellan were driven north by strong winds, so God preserved the east coast of Australia for another 250 years.
Magellan was a man of faith. The main purpose of his voyage was to convert the heathen to Christ. To attain his goal, he endured hardships so severe that his crew mutinied against him. After they rounded the cape (which Magellan named the Cape of Desire because he had for so long desired to see the Pacific), it was only his faith in God, and good weather, that sustained the crew from dying of hunger, as they were not able to take in provisions for another four months. In the words of the priest who accompanied the expedition, "I think that never man will undertake to perform such a voyage".
On reaching the island of Subuth north of the equator, Magellan instructed his men to build a chapel and an altar out of tree branches "for the festival for the Resurrection of Him who has saved us was at hand". The Indian chief, who was pleased with the celebration of divine service, invited the Admiral and some of the officers to eat with him. While feasting on a sumptuous meal of fried sago bread, native bird, and tropical fruit, washed down with a liquor made from the palm-tree juice, Magellan noticed a sick man lying on the floor in the corner of the cabin. After inquiring who he was and what was his illness, he was told it was the chief's grandson, who had been suffering from a "violent" fever for the last two years. Magellan told the man "to be of good courage, that if he would devote himself to Christ he would immediately recover his former health and strength". The Indian immediately "adored the Cross, and received baptism", and the next day he was completely healed, got up and took his meals with the rest of the family. As a result of this miracle, the chief and 2200 Indians were baptised, professing faith in the name of Christ.
The missionary zeal of Magellan brought him close to the discovery of Australia. The significance of his voyage was in opening up a second path to the wealth of Asia and new lands.
I was the first with flying sails
To course the world around;
Under thy guidance, Magellan,
Have we the new strait found:
Victoria is my rightful name,
Sails are my wings, my guerdon fame,
The sea my battle-field I claim.
Other explorers followed. Between 1559 and 1607, the Spaniards based in Lima, Peru, made a series of voyages to the west and south Pacific in search of wealth and to convert infidels to Christianity. A Dutch explorer, Willem Janez, is reported to be the first European to have set foot on Australian soil. In 1606, Janez sailed south from New Guinea in the Duyfken ("the little dove"). The Duyfken was aptly named. Non-assertive looking, like the gentle dove, the Duyfken was a tiny vessel called a "yacht" (about the size of a river ferry) with two or three masts and weighed only 30 to 60 tons. But it was designed to take the brunt of a savage ocean. While searching for a southern route, Janez discovered Cape York Peninsula and charted 200 miles of the Australian coastline, without realising he had discovered a new continent. Discouraged by a shortage of supplies and the death of ten of his men in the Gulf of Carpentaria , Janez returned to Java without ever sighting the rich eastern coast. Like the dove that Noah let out of the Ark, the Duyfken caught glimpses of the land but did not find a permanent home. Australia's time had not yet come. It is interesting that the dove is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. As the gentle dove hovered over the waters of Noah's day, the Holy Spirit brooded over the southern continent, named "La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo" (The Southland of the Holy Spirit) by a Spanish explorer, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros.
In the second half of the sixteenth century, several Spaniards in New Spain--zealous for God, gold and glory, and imbued with a desire to stamp out the heresies of Luther and Calvin--sent out expeditions from Callao and Peru to search for the unknown Southland. Some were more motivated by the love of gold than of God, but Pedro Fernandez de Quiros was different. He was a product of the Roman Catholic Counter-reformation and full of idealism and missionary zeal. In 1606, he sailed as far as the New Hebrides. It is to Quiros that we owe the name of our country, and his vision of a land dedicated to the Holy Spirit has inspired many Australians to look to the future with hope.
Quiros was born in 1565 at Evora, Portugal, but worked most of his life for the king of Spain. He believed he was divinely chosen to bring the inhabitants of the Southland into the true fold of the Roman Catholic Church and that "Terra Australis" or "Southland" would become "Australia del Espiritu Santo ", a country dedicated to the Holy Spirit.In 1605, after obtaining the blessing of the Pope and gaining royal approval for the voyage, Quiros sailed west from Callao, Peru. Five months later, he sighted land and with great celebrations took possession of the Southland in the name of His Majesty and in the name of Jesus Christ. He planted a large cross and read a proclamation:
I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros . . . hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which His [Jesus Christ's] person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race . . . on this Day of Pentecost, 14 May 1606. . . . I, take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of Jesus. . . . From now on, [these islands and lands] shall be called the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost . . . to the end that to all the natives, in all the said lands, the holy and sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly.
It is Providential that this took place in the same year (1606) that the Duyfken reached Cape York. However, Quiros had not discovered Australia, but only the largest island of what later became known as the New Hebrides. Quiros' vision to press on to the Southland was not shared by the crew, who were near mutiny. Quiros, fearing contrary winds to the south and shortages of meat and water, regretfully turned back to America, submitting himself to what he believed was the will of God. Quiros had a great vision but had not been able to inspire his men. He spent the rest of his life trying to raise the support to return, but, confronted with continual disappointments he died, broken-hearted, in Panama in 1615, on his way to Peru.
However, Quiros' second-in-command, Louis Vaez de Torres, after leaving the New Hebrides, continued on to Manilla via the Moluccas, passing through the strait that bears his name. This is just north of Cape York, the most northern point of Australia, but he made no mention of sighting land to the south. So by the early seventeenth century, Muslims and Roman Catholics had come to the northern gateway of Australia, but no further..i).Explorers, sea:Quiros, Pedro Fernandez de;
It was a Dutch Protestant, Abel Tasman, "the man who made the longest voyage since Magellan"--who was the first European to sight Tasmania and New Zealand. A devout Christian, he sailed from Batavia on 14 August 1642. Instructions to Skipper Commander Abel Jansz Tasman "destined for the discovery and exploration of the unknown Southland" included an enumeration of other famous explorers--Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama--who had preceded him. "What numberless multitudes of blind heathen have by the same been introduced to the blessed light of the Christian religion!" Naturally, the Council at Batavia prayed that in addition to finding heathen peoples, Tasman would also discover some "invaluable treasures and profitable trade connections" to make the trip worthwhile. No matter how mixed the motives, Tasman (and his crew of two ships) was sent out with "the blessing of the Ruler of all things", with the prayer that, in His mercy, He would "endow [him] with manly courage in the execution of the intended discovery, and may grant [him] a safe return".
"May God Almighty", he wrote in his journal, "vouchsafe His blessings on this work". After ten months at sea, he arrived back in Batavia. "God be praised and thanked for this happy voyage", he noted in his journal. Tasman made a second voyage in 1644, when he charted the coast of Australia from Cape York Peninsula west to Willems River in the centre of the west coast.
In spite of Tasman's discoveries, the Dutch shareholders, who were motivated by "uncommon profit" above the treasures of the heathen, were dissatisfied because he did not bring back glittering reports of gold or spices. So Tasman did not complete his charting of the Australian coast, but by the end of Tasman's voyages, the Dutch had charted the Australian coast from the Cape York west and south to the east end of the Great Australian Bight and southern Tasmania. However, their closing statement on Australia was that "there was no good to be done there".
Englishman William Dampier's reports of Australia confirmed this view. After his voyages of 1688 and 1698, he commented: "The land was dry, sandy and destitute of water, and there were no trees that bore fruit or berries".A professional pirate, Dampier was an astute observer and commentator. In his popular book, A New Voyage Around the World (published in 1697), Dampier, knowing well the risks of his trade, recorded he "gave continual thanks to Almighty God . . . for His wonderful deliverance from so many and great dangers". He cautioned the reader not to allow prejudice against the author to stop him from reading the book, which was a description of "the various and wonderful Works of God in different Parts of the World". In spite of Dampier's bleak report of Australia's habitat and inhabitants, the book sustained interest in the southern seas although it was not until the voyages of English Captain James Cook, that there was a change in thinking. In the latter half of the eighteenth century the popular myth of the noble savage transformed the primitive natives of the South Seas into a people who had discovered the fount of human happiness. From that time the inhabitants of the South Seas were sought after and idolised.
Over 70 uneventful years passed from the time of Dampier's explorations until Captain Cook's discovery of "Australia del Espiritu Santo" in 1770. If we look at a map of explorers prior to Cook, we see that while all of them headed straight for the Southland, they all sailed right around it! There are natural explanations--contrary winds and currents, but the author believes it was the Providential hand of God, who, in His sovereign purposes, preserved Australia for such a time that
He might bring the pure Gospel message to the Australian shore, even though it was through a convict settlement. The first sermon preached on Australian soil by the government appointed chaplain, the Rev. Richard Johnson, was the simple unadulterated message of the New Testament.