Page:A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 1.djvu/68

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[Prior Discoveries.


acquired of the North Coast, it will appear, that natural history, geography, and navigation had still much to learn of this part of the world; and more particularly, that they required the accomplishment of the following objects:

1st. A general survey of Torres' Strait. The navigation from the Pacific, or Great Ocean to all parts of India, and to the Cape of Good Hope, would be greatly facilitated, if a passage through the Strait, moderately free from danger, could be discovered; since five or six weeks of the usual route, by the north of New Guinea or the more eastern islands, would thereby be saved. Notwithstanding the great obstacles which navigators had encountered in some parts of the Strait, there was still room to hope, that an examination of the whole, made with care and perseverance, would bring such a passage to light. A survey of it was, therefore, an object much to be desired; not only for the merchants and seamen trading to these parts, but also from the benefits which would certainly accrue therefrom to general navigation and geography.

2nd. An examination of the shores of the Gulph of Carpentaria. The real form of this gulph remained in as great doubt with geographers, as were the manner how, and time when it acquired its name.[1] The east side of the Gulph had been explored to the latitude of 17°, and many rivers were there marked and named; but how far the representation given of it by the Dutch was faithful,—what

were the productions, and what its inhabitants,—were, in a great

  1. I am aware that the president de Brasses says, "This same year also (1628) Carpentaria was thus named by P. Carpenter, who discovered it when general in the service of the Dutch Company. He returned from India to Europe, in the month of June 1628, with five ships richly laden." (Hist. des Nav. aux Terres Aust. Tome 1. 433). But the president here seems to give either his own, or the Abbé Prévost's conjectures, for matters of fact. We have seen, that the coast called Carpentaria was discovered long before 1628; and it is, besides, little probable, that Carpenter should have been making discoveries with five ships, richly laden and homeward bound. This name of Carpentaria does not once appear in Tasman's Instructions, dated in 1644; but is found in Thevenot's chart of 1663.