Oceania and Antarctica


How did Australia get its name

Long throughout history there remained an assumed, yet completely undiscovered, land called Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown southern land. As early as the fourth century B.C.E. Aristotle believed that an extremely large continent, located in the Southern Hemisphere, lay undiscovered and would complete the symmetry of the land masses. For centuries, this unknown landmass remained a treasured legend and often appeared on maps in varied sizes and shapes. When the territory now known as Australia was discovered in the early seventeenth century, no one believed that this was the famed Terra Australis Incognita. During the early seventeenth century, the western coast of this territory was named New Holland and claimed for the Netherlands; in 1770 James Cook claimed the east coast of this territory for England and called it New South Wales. It wasn’t until 1803 that Matthew Flinders circumnavigated this territory and proved that it was a continent and was the long sought-after Terra Australis Incognita. Finally, in the early nineteenth century, nearly two centuries after having been discovered, this land was finally named Australia.


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