Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/99

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LIFE OF MATTHEW FLINDERS

feet exactly opposite to those of Europeans, was too much for some of the scribes who debated "about it and about." The Greek, Cosmas Indicopleustes, denounced the "old wives' fable of Antipodes," and asked how rain could be said to "fall," as in the Scriptures, in regions where it would have to "come up"[1] Some would have it that a belief in Antipodes was heretical. But Isidore of Seville, in his Liber de Natura Rerum, Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, and Vergil Bishop of Salzburg, an Irish saint, declined to regard the question as a closed one. "Nam partes eius (i.e. of the earth) quatuor sunt," argued Isidore. Curiously enough, the copy of the works of the Saint of Seville used by the author (published at Rome in 1803), was salvaged from a wreck which occurred on the Australian coast many years ago. It is stained with seawater, and emits the musty smell which tells of immersion. An inscription inside the cover relates the circumstance of the wreck. Who possessed the book one does not know; some travelling scholar may have perused it during the long voyage from Europe; and one fancies him, as the ship bumped upon the rocks, exclaiming "Yes, Isidore was right, there are antipodes!"

From about the fourth quarter of the sixteenth century until the date of Abel Tasman's voyages, 1642 to 1644, there was a period of vague speculation about a supposed great southern continent. The maps of the time indicate the total lack of accurate information at the disposal of their compilers. There was no general agreement as to what this region was like in its outlines, proportions, or situation. Some cartographers, as Peter Plancius (1594) and Hondius (1595), trailed

  1. The Christian Topography of Cosmas,translated by J. W. McCrindle, p. 17 (Hakluyt Society).