A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams. Gilbert H. Grosvenor (1875-1966)
Using journals and many other sources to describe two hundred years of exploration by the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and the English, David Hill tells the gripping story of how Terra Australis Incognita became Australia.
The mountains … were amongst the most stupendous works of nature I have ever beheld, and, at the same time, are the most dismal and barren that can be imagined … as there is no place of shelter upon this coast, it becomes extremely dangerous to approach it … Judging from appearances, the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land is a dreary, and as inhospitable a shore, as has yet been discovered. Flinders, Voyage, vol. 1, p. cxciii
Following the lives of those who risked everything to map unknown territory, and to research, document and preserve the world’s natural history, this is a grand adventure story featuring a large cast of courageous and ambitious explorers including Abel Tasman, William Dampier, La Pérouse, D’Entrecasteaux, Bass, Flinders, Baudin and Cook.
Citizen Baudin … will ascertain whether or not the country, completely new to Europeans, offers unknown species of animals and products interesting to botany and mineralogy. He will make a special search along the mainland coast to discover if there is some large opening to a large river. Plan of Itinerary for Citizen Baudin, Horner, Reconnaissance, appendix II, p. 377
Unimaginable hardships and dangers were experienced on these remarkable journeys including the possibility of shipwreck and the threat of illnesses including scurvy and dysentery. Against the backdrop of war between France and England, Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders had both been sent to explore and map the uncharted southern coastline of Australia and to establish whether the east and west coasts, 4,000 km apart, were part of the same island. Ultimately a story of endurance, it is about the race between two men who met at sea in a chance encounter in 1802 while trying to fulfil the same mission. Highly recommended.
©Paula Grunseit 2013
A version of this review was first published in Inside History magazine Jan-Feb 2013.
Library Lovers Day book giveaway comp — celebrating the romance of adventure
Courtesy of Random House, I’m giving away a copy of The Great Race by David Hill. Tell me in 25 words or less either about your own favourite adventure at sea or your favourite fictional story about an adventure at sea.
Winner will be chosen via random.org and entrants must live in Australia.
Competition closes midnight Sunday 17 February 2013.
This competition is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner is Mary Preston. Congratulations Mary!