Page:A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 1.djvu/23

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INTRODUCTION.



The Voyages which had been made, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by Dutch and by English navigators, had successively brought to light various extensive coasts in the southern hemisphere, which were thought to be united; and to comprise a land, which must be nearly equal in magnitude to the whole of Europe. To this land, though known to be separated from all other great portions of the globe, geographers were disposed to give the appellation of Continent: but doubts still existed, of the continuity of its widely extended shores; and it was urged, that, as our knowledge of some parts was not founded upon well authenticated information, and we were in total ignorance of some others, these coasts might, instead of forming one great land, be no other than parts of different large islands.

The establishment, in 1788, of a British colony on the easternmost, and last discovered, of these new regions, had added that degree of interest to the question of their continuity, which a mother country takes in favour, even, of her outcast children, to know the form, extent, and general nature of the land, where they may be placed. The question had, therefore, ceased to be one in which geography was alone concerned: it claimed the paternal consideration of the father of all his people, and the interests of the national commerce seconded the call for investigation.