Talk:Terra Australis

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Why is Terra Australis being described as an "imaginary" continent? There IS a continent where the ancient cartographers theorized there would be, Antarctica. It may not be quite as large as they thought it would be, but it's there. Details of the New World were wrong at first too, but we don't call the regions described by those erroneous descriptions "imaginary." I propose that this article be merged into the article about Antarctica, as part of the history of the exploration of that continent. -- 02:02, 12 November 2006 (UTC)

Terra Australis should be kept separate from Antarctica. They are separate concepts. If we merge the two together, based merely upon some apparent coincidental geographical similarity, then the same rationale dictates we should merge Atlantis with America (or the Azores), or Mu with Tahiti, or Fusang with Mexico. Or how about India with Madagascar because India used to be located where Madagascar is now?

Oppose - Terra Australis is a legendary/theoretical continent, not based on sightings of the real Antarctica, and often located north of Antarctica's location, e.g. in South Pacific/Indian Ocean. Also, it was linked with Australia, not Antarctica early on. --MacRusgail 14:16, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
Oppose I think this page would fit most readers 'line of enquiry'. Fred.e 11:42, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Oppose Terra Australis does not, and has never referred to Antartica for anything other than a geographical similarily of location. It was a theoretical (as opposed to "imaginery") continent thought to exist to balance out the large mass of land north of the equator and has far more in common with modern day Australia than Antarctica, as those who proposed the idea never considered it to be a solely polar region and imagined it to be an inhabitable place with a climate range similar to Europe. Tx17777 15:22, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Oppose. From an Australian educational perspective, we consider Terra Australis to have been in the general location of Australia. It wasn't as simple as that of course, but joining it to Antarctica would certainly confuse schoolchildren in Oz -- and most Australians for that matter. --McManly 04:03, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
Oppose - Let's grant you that Antarctica is in fact Terra Australis for argument's sake. The fact would remain that these are conceptually different things. Are the atoms we speak of today the same as those Democritus spoke of? Perhaps you could argue so but it's clear enough that we have a different concept of the atom then he had. Jimp 05:22, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Origin of the the term[edit]

The article asserts that "The country of Australia was first termed Terra Australis by Flinders when he wrote a book of this title containing the maps he had made on his several voyages, and the name Australia is derivative of the word Australis, which means southern in Latin."

Presumably this book was written after his voyage in 1803.

The assertion that this was the first time the phrase Terra Australia was coined is contradicted by James Cook#First voyage (1768 – 1771), which states that Cook's sealed orders, issued in 1768, were to investigate Terra Australis.

Frankly, I'm inclined to believe the latter as the notion of a counterbalancing southern continent had been circulating for some time before Cook's voyage, and Terra Australis is an obvious name for it. --Saforrest 04:57, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

It states "Incognita" when the term should be "incognito". The term "Incognita" refers to a female person when "incognito" refers to an item. Even tho country names were always named after females this is not the case with the "incognito/incognito" term.

All wrong, Anonymous! Incognito is Italian, from Latin incognitus (which has its second syllable stressed: "inCOGnitus"). That is the masculine form of this Latin adjective. The feminine singular form is incognita ("inCOGnita"), and this is therefore the form that belongs with the Latin noun terra, which is feminine. The form incognita is used by itself also, in which case it is a neuter plural, and means "unknown things".
– Noetica♬♩Talk 07:35, 11 October 2007 (UTC)


The idea that Australia was part of a larger "Terra Australis" was disproved by Abel Tasman who sailed under Australia to New Zealand. This was about 150 years before Matthew Flinders. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:34, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

Abel Tasman did NOT circumnavigate New Holland, which is NW Australia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:56, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

Both the above comments are right. On his first voyage Tasman passed 'below' Australia and visited Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand and Fiji before sailing west again to the north of New Guinea. On his second voyage he explored the western part of the north coast of Australia. Putting the two voyages together you could say he sort of circumnavigated Australia with a very wide berth, but of course that was not the close up, hydrographic circumnavigation later achieved by Flinders. Nargoon (talk) 07:49, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
New Holland was the Dutch name for all of Australia ( of which the extent was then unclear ), and Tasman did indeed circumnavigate it on one of his voyages.Eregli bob (talk) 13:37, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
Yes it was Dutch originally but it was widely used in English in the 18th century, for example by James Cook in his narrative and journal of the Endeavour voyage. Nargoon (talk) 07:37, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

cant remember where i read it now but there is a belief that Marco Polo propergated the existence of a southern continent after returning from China? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:57, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

I don't know what is correct, but the way it is stated now in the article, Matthew Flinders should not be included in the article, because his travel had nothing to do with Terra Australis, because it was already known for 150 years that Australia was not part of it.--EdgeNavidad (talk) 06:43, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Layout of Article[edit]

It might just be my monitor, but I noticed the [edit]s for the sections Origin and Mapping the Southern Continent are displaced because of the map pictures to the right. I couldn't think of how I could edit it to fix that, or if it needs to be edited at all. Thanks! --Hendrixjoseph (talk) 05:34, 10 April 2009 (UTC)


Shouldn't the opening paragraph contain areference to the fact that this continent turned out to be either Australia or Antarctica, I don't think it feels right for this information to be located at the bottom of the article. IndridCold13 (talk) 04:33, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Without meaning to, perhaps, this shows one of the things that needs clarifying rather well. I'm thinking of the phrase "this continent". The TA article needs to clarify the distinction between the ancient notion of Terra Australis, which needed to be more or less polar in order to do its world-balancing act, and the modern notion which largely replaced it in the 17th and 18th centuries. In short there were two "Terrae Australes", not one. Re- the modern one, or Terra Australis (B), on the basis of several early modern voyages Europeans started wondering whether New Holland, southern Africa and South America were the only large land-masses in the southern temperate, as opposed to polar, zone. That is what Bouvet, Kerguelen, Byron, Wallis and Cook (first voyage only) were sent to look for by their respective governments in the 18th century and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Antarctica, or Terra Australis (A). In fact they were strictly ordered to remain in temperate latitudes, though Kerguelen, for one, stretched his orders quite a lot. The point being, of course, that another large island or small continent in the temperate zone would have been a great economic and military asset, and possibly much freer from disease than tropical islands were turning out to be. Whereas a new polar continent was considered likely to be pretty useless back then. If Terra Australis (A) did exist and was truly preventing the world from wobbling, as the ancients thought, it would go on doing so whether anyone went there or not. Nargoon (talk) 08:24, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Reverted move[edit]

I have reverted moves of Terra Australis Incognita and Terra incognita to Terra Australis Ignota and Terra ignota respectively. These moves were completely undiscussed, and without prima facie merit. In any case, the talkpages should not have been redirected: they should be kept in place, for discussion of such moves and of the redirect itself.

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 07:48, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Whatever, I cannot understand why you deleted the talk page. I've replaced the deleted edits, headers, etc. Dougweller (talk) 11:37, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

I've undone/reverted the cut-n-paste moves of the article. If you feel the article is misnamed then discuss here. Vsmith (talk) 13:45, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Rationalising several connected articles[edit]

Thanks to Vsmith and Dougweller for fixing the mess I found, which I unfortunately made worse by in trying to fix it. The articles involved are these:

I have replaced the lead of the present article Terra Australis with the following summation, including a link to comprehensive history of terms at Australia:

Terra Australis (or Terra Australis Ignota and Terra Australis Incognita; Latin: "the unknown land of the South") was a hypothetical continent appearing on European maps from the 15th to the 18th century. Other names for the continent include Magallanica or Magellanica ("the land of Magellan"), La Australia del Espíritu Santo (Spanish: "the southern land of the Holy Spirit"), and La grande isle de Java (French: "the great island of Java"). Terra Australis was one of several names applied to the actual continent of Australia, after its European discovery; and it is the inspiration for the continent's modern name (see also Etymology, at Australia).

As things stand, there are links and redirects among those pages. These may need discussion and rectifying, along with suitable changes to the pages themselves. In particular the talkpages are problematic: if a talkpage is moved (and then possibly re-moved), redirected, etc., it can become unclear precisely which page is under discussion, or which is referred to in templated page-headers.

Ignota and incognita mean roughly the same in Latin, but are perhaps distinguishable: ignota "unknown"; incognita "unrecognised, undiscovered, un-learned-about". Non-English-speaking speakers, especially Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, appear to favour ignota over incognita. I suspect there are two reasons for this:

  1. The phrase terra ignota famously occurs in Vergil (less known in the English-speaking world), in a context having nothing to do with any southern continent (Heu, terra ignota canibus date praeda Latinis alitibusque iaces! "You lie in a strange land, given as prey to the dogs and fowls of Latium!" parsed here, but with uninformative gloss for ignota).
  2. The word ignota is closer to forms in those modern European languages than it is to forms in English.

But in the literature (surveyed through properly conducted searches in Googlebooks and other sources), Terra [Australis] Incognita is overwhelming more common: even in old sources, and especially in English-language sources.

I strongly advise that there be centralised discussion at Talk:Australia, briefly noted here, to keep all of this in good order. I have placed this discussion there as well.

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 22:54, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

First to cite antarctica[edit]

Thaddeus Bellingshausen, I believe, cited an island off the coast thus the citing three days later of Edward Bransfield and William Smith in the Williams was the first to see the actual continent Montalban (talk) 23:33, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

The fact you didn't use the proper "sight" makes me really doubt your credibility. SaberToothedWhale (talk) 19:34, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Terra Australis/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Needs references.--Grahamec 04:20, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 04:20, 6 February 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 07:49, 30 April 2016 (UTC)