Page:A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 1.djvu/26

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to the islands of the Pacific, or Great Ocean: its northern limit is at Cape Tork; and the extremity of the southern Van Diemen's Land, is its opposite boundary.

The various discoveries which had been made upon the coasts of Terra Australis, antecedently to the present voyage, are of dates as widely distant, as are the degrees of confidence to which they are respectively entitled; the accounts, also, lie scattered through various books in different languages; and many are still in manuscript. It has, therefore, been judged, that a succinct history of these discoveries would be acceptable to the public; and would form an appropriate introduction to a voyage, whose principal object was to complete what they had left unfinished. Such a history will not only, it is hoped, be found interesting, but, from the occasions it will furnish to point out what remained to be done at the beginning of, the nineteenth century, will satisfy a question which may be asked: Why it should have been thought necessary to send another expedition to explore the coasts of a country, concerning which it has been said, near thirty years ago,—"It is no longer a doubt, that we have now a full knowledge of the whole circumference of this vast body of land, this fifth part of the world."[1] An expression, which the learned writer could have intended to apply only to the general extent of the new continent, and not to the particular formation of every part of the coasts; since the chart, which accompanies the voyage of which he was writing the introduction, represents much of the south coast, as being totally unknown.

In tracing a historical sketch of the previous discoveries, I shall not dwell upon such as depend upon conjecture and probability, but come speedily to those, for which there are authentic documents. In this latter, and solely important, class, the articles extracted from voyages, which are in the hands of the public, will be abridged to their leading heads; and the reader referred, for the details, to

  1. Cook's third Voyage, Introduction, p. xv.